Summertime … and living vegan is easy.
As the warmth of the season wraps around us like a soothing blanket, a purring cat or an 83-pound lap dog, more and more of us are getting on board the vegan peace train. We are becoming aware of the profound effects this lifestyle has on our health, the environment and the awakening of our compassionate souls.
Those who come to me for vegan coaching just want to know how they can make this transition easier and do it in a healthful way for themselves and their families. After the litany of questions about protein, soy and vitamin B-12 are addressed, some coaching clients speak in exasperation when they say, “But Sande, I don’t think I could give up cheese.”
My answer is usually, “I understand why it is so difficult. You are addicted to cheese … literally, physically addicted.”
A passage in the book, “Main Street Vegan” by Victoria Moran, sums it up perfectly. She tells us that, “Casein, one of the proteins in milk, crosses the blood-brain barrier and becomes something called casomorphins. Yes’m, that sounds a lot like morphine — because casomorphin is also an opiod. Nature designed it that way so young mammals would enjoy nursing, come back for more and live to reproduce themselves. Human milk has only 2.7 grams of casein per liter. Cow’s milk has 26. And because it takes, on average, 10 pounds of milk to make 1 pound of cheese or ice cream, you’re looking at a lot of casein and resultant casomorphin. Dairy is a major opiate addiction.”
But let me reassure you — you can live without cheese. It is not oxygen. It is cheese. And now there are so many alternatives that are really tasty, that melt beautifully, that are healthier and unquestionably kinder than cow’s milk cheese, which requires cruelty, deprivation and the ultimate slaughter of beautiful and gentle animals. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine offers steps to ending cheese addiction here: http://www.pcrm.org/health/health-topics/cheese-facts-and-alternatives.
My personal favorite vegan cheeses are Chao original, Kite Hill, Follow Your Heart and Miyokos Kitchen. There are cookbooks that teach how to easily make your own cheese, too. I make my own ricotta cheese that tastes incredible in lasagnas and baked ziti dishes. Cashews can be used to make Alfredo and other creamy and cheesy sauces. I have served these to my not-yet-vegan friends, who couldn’t tell the difference between my healthy and compassionate recipe and the recipe calling for cow’s milk cheese, chicken’s eggs, butter and cholesterol-ladened cream.
Nutritional yeast adds a cheesy flavor to whatever you sprinkle it in or on (think popcorn, vegan cheese sauces, vegan pizza and casseroles). It is not the kind of yeast we would ordinarily think of, and is not at all related to conditions such as Candida. Nutritional yeast is made from a single-celled organism, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, which is grown on molasses and then harvested, washed and dried with heat to kill or “deactivate” it. It has many health benefits. Nutritional yeast improves immunity, lowers cholesterol and has antibacterial and antiviral properties. It is a great source of protein, vitamins and phosphorous. Vegans sometimes refer to it as “nooch” and rely on its great cheesy, nutty taste to season food. For more information on this notable vegan kitchen staple, visit http://draxe.com/nutritional-yeast/.
Food manufacturing companies are also getting on board. They see profits to be made in a growing market of those who are paying attention. Hellman’s mayonnaise is now making an eggless, vegan version to compete with the already wonderful vegan mayos, such as Follow Your Heart and Just Mayo. Ben & Jerry’s has just introduced three new flavors of vegan ice cream, trying to compete with the already amazing vegan ice creams available, such as Larry & Luna, So Delicious, Amy’s, Pure Decadent, Rice Dream and Tofutti. These ice creams use almonds, cashews, coconut milk, soy, rice and other natural foods that take nothing away from an animal — and offer healthier, more kindhearted choices to an ever growing market. The sweet creamy taste of these ice creams will astonish you and keep you happy all summer long.
Even fast food giants are cashing in on compassion. Taco Bell, Chipotle, Subway, Cheesecake Factory and Panera Bread are a few chains that are now offering vegan options on their menus.
Big box stores like Target are carrying many vegan food products such as Gardein. Gardein has a phenomenal line of plant-based “meat” substitutes that are delicious and will not leave your taste buds disappointed. Beyond Meat is a company that makes a plant-based grilled “un-chick’n” strips that tastes so good — my friends accuse me of lying when I tell them it’s not real chicken. You will never see me serve a meal consisting of a once-living being in my “Karuna Kitchen.”
As more new products emerge to replace the ingredients of our Standard American Diet (also referred to as SAD), we can all get on board this vegan peace train and live life according to our values of compassion and mercy. We can heal our bodies by nourishing them with whole plant-based foods from the earth. We can stop the cascade of environmental destruction that animal agriculture is predominantly responsible for.
So, this summer, why not let the warm sun shine a light on your compassion, your health and our world? Step into your own Karuna Kitchen and onto the vegan peace train. You don’t need a ticket — you just get on board.
Sande Nosonowitz is a Certified Vegan Lifestyle Coach and Educator as well as a certified yoga and meditation teacher. Contact her at her Sundara website:www.sundarajewel.com; firstname.lastname@example.org