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Here are a few commonly asked questions about vegan-related issues. We'll continue to update this section. Click on the Go link to jump to the answer, or scroll down the entire page to read them all.

1. That Healthy "Look": If the plant-based diet is the healthiest, why is it that so many vegetarians and vegans look so unhealthy? Go

2. Soy Dangers?: I've seen research on the supposed dangers of soy, particularly where estrogen, testosterone and thyroid issues are concerned. What's your position on soy? Go

3. Youngsters and the Vegan Diet: How appropriate is the vegan diet for infants, children and teens? Don’t they require certain animal products for things like protein, iron and calcium? Go

4. Being Vegan in a Non-Vegan Household: I come from a meat-eating family that has little tolerance or understanding of the veggie ways. They cook what they cook and I'm expected to eat it. How can I be vegan without World War III erupting every time we sit down for dinner at a gathering? Go

5. The Zone Diet?: I recently read an article in a magazine where you were talking about a vegan-based "Road Warrior" diet. Many of the foods you recommended are not only very high-glycemic carbohydrates, but often low in fats and protein. This is in direct conflict with Dr. Barry Sears' bestselling book, Enter the Zone. How about picking up a copy of this masterwork and incorporating some of Dr. Sears' concepts concerning diet in relation to insulin production in the body? The Zone is the cutting edge. Go

6. Weren't We Meant to Eat Meat?: If the vegan diet is superior, what about all of those past cultures who have eaten meat? Take the Native Americans, for example. They ate buffalo and seemed to thrive with excellent health. Go


That Healthy "Look"

If the plant-based diet is the healthiest, why is it that so many vegetarians and vegans look so unhealthy?

There are several factors to consider here:

1. Are they truly vegan? First of all, I'm talking about true veganism here, as many vegetarians indulge in health-compromising dairy products like milk and cheese, as well as eggs. Once you've narrowed it down to vegans, is the purported vegan really and truly following the diet to the letter? Believe me, as far as hardcore vegans are concerned - those who truly follow the 100% plant-based diet relentlessly - there aren't very many out there. (Most people misuse the word and don't understand how far-reaching the lifestyle really is.) I can't tell you how many "vegans" I've encountered through the years who indulge in all kinds of indiscretions, any of which can contribute to ill-health.

2. Are they eating a healthy, balanced vegan diet? This is another area that's not always considered. Simply put, being vegan, in and of itself, isn't necessarily enough. You can follow a completely plant-based diet, but still have an unbalanced, even unhealthy diet. French fries, refined white breads, sodas, too many high sodium, pre-prepared vegan foods, and so forth, can all culminate into a diet that falls short.

3. Where did they come from and how long have they been actively following the vegan regimen? Some people are drawn to the vegan diet as a holistic response to some sort of health challenge. This means that they are often starting at "ground zero" with respect to their state of health, optimal bodyweight and physical appearance. So, when someone is relatively new to the vegan lifestyle, they often enjoy quantifiable improvements where their overall level of health and their appearance is concerned. It's just that, after years of abusing themselves in one way or another, it takes time to return to their natural healthy state. So, you're often seeing a "work in progress."

4. What else are they doing for their health? While a clean, healthy vegan diet is the cornerstone for a superior level of health, it isn't the only component. A steady exercise program is essential in realizing your maximum potential, health-wise. Even a simple cardiovascular exercise program can help with a general level of health. But for that "classic" healthy look (lean and muscular with good bone health, etc.), some kind of resistance program is usually required (unless you're genetically predisposed to an athletic look). So here is where it gets interesting. Although there are many vegans who engage in some sort of at-home type of program, very few actually go to a gym and lift. And this is why there are not more vegans running around with that "look."

This leads us to a final point. We have become such an overweight society that we have developed somewhat of a skewed perception of what a "healthy" look actually is. Assuming that a healthy, six-foot tall vegan male, for example, isn't interested in a bodybuilding-style exercise routine where they are looking to pack on significant amounts of lean muscle mass, then he will probably only weigh in somewhere in the160 pound range and maybe even have a slightly "drawn" face. Why? Because he's not carrying around a lot of excess body fat! In other words, the thicker waists and chubbier faces that we've come to view as normal or healthy aren't necessarily reflective of how our bodies are supposed to look under optimum circumstances. Food for thought...

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Soy Dangers?

I've seen research on the supposed dangers of soy, particularly where estrogen, testosterone and thyroid issues are concerned. What's your position on soy?

Much of this kind of research is referring to animal-based studies. One well-known study in particular was done with rats (who have a completely different physiology than humans), where they were fed an insanely high amount of soy to produce the "negative" results. It is literally one of the only such published studies out there, yet many folks refer to the results of it like they were extracted straight from the Dead Sea Scrolls. Meanwhile, Asians have been eating soy for years and outliving us "fat and happy" Americans by a decade or two without any overt testosterone, estrogen or thyroid issues.

Here are a few reliable URLs to put your mind at ease about soy:

Now, having said all this, most soy products are heavily processed, so I suggest limiting one's total soy intake to one or two servings per day. And I say this, not because of the supposed health risks but, because we are better off basing our diets on foods with minimal processing.

Still, I find it so ironic that some people base their entire anti-soy stance on these ridiculous studies done on ANIMALS. Meanwhile, we have an epidemic of heart disease, cancer and a ton of other maladies in our world that are directly and unequivocally attributable to animal product consumption, based on HUMAN evidence. Although I question the ultimate reliability of many human studies, there are some that seem to make the point rather convincingly. Click here for a pop-up that illustrates a few of them.

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Youngsters and the Vegan Diet

How appropriate is the vegan diet for infants, children and teens? Don’t they require certain animal products for things like protein, iron and calcium?

Since this is among the most volatile of all vegan-related subjects, let me preface our discussion here with the following: It is not my intention to criticize, vilify or insult any well-intentioned parent or child-care specialist out there. I recognize that your child’s (or patient’s) well-being is of the utmost concern and you would never knowingly do anything to endanger or compromise the health of any child. With that in mind, please consider the following:

1. There is absolutely, positively, no human requirement for animal products at any time, or any age. Period. The fact that so many people still think there is – even as a number of the most credible sources in the world say otherwise – is a testament to the decades of strategic and relentless marketing on behalf of the meat and dairy industries. In fact, we have had so much repeated exposure to the notion that children need animal products, that it would not be an exaggeration to characterize this bombardment as a sort of media brainwashing. Yet, there is ultimately no quantifiable truth in the notion that animal products offer superior forms of many vital nutrients…not scientifically, and not in practice within the healthiest civilizations on the planet. What is quantifiable, however, is the far-reaching and well-documented problems that youngsters encounter as a direct result of animal product consumption. Which leads us to a second point…

2. Just like adults, children of all ages can enjoy greater levels of health and wellness on a well-rounded, 100% plant-based diet.

Bold statements? You don’t have to just take my word on these critical points. There are a number of other highly-credible sources that lend further credence to the vegan diet for kids. Here are just a few:

The Children's National Medical Center in D.C. recently stated that, "Multiple experts have concluded independently that vegan diets can be followed safely by infants and children without compromise of nutrition or growth and with some notable health benefits."  

The American Dietetic Association, which comprises the largest group of nutritional specialists on the planet, affirmed that well-planned vegan diets “are appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, including during pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence." Here's a page from one of the ADA's dietary practice groups:

The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine says, "Vegetables, grains, fruits, legumes, and nuts are the optimal foods for children. Rich in complex carbohydrates, protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals, they form the foundation for dietary habits that support a lifetime of health." For a great overview page, check out their web site here:

There are also a number of other comprehensive books out there to check out, including Dr. Michael Klaper's Pregnancy, Children and the Vegan Diet. Dr. Klaper is one of the foremost experts on veganism and this book covers every aspect of the topic as it relates to the specific needs of infants and children, as well as pregnant mothers. Also, Simply Vegan (by Debra Wasserman and Dr. Reed Mangels), which is primarily a cookbook, offers a thorough, yet succinct, overview on many of these issues, as well. You can preview this section at the following URL:

And What Does Dr. Spock Say?

For the "final word," look no further than the seventh edition of Dr. Spock's Baby and Child Care. This is literally one of the best selling books of all time and, as you may already know, Dr. Benjamin Spock was recognized as the leading authority on the subject of infant/child healthcare. He was also, as this book reflects, a huge proponent of a vegan diet for kids, as he recommended a 100% plant-based diet for children of all ages, and at every level of their development (except for breast milk for infants).

Dr. Spock writes: "Vegetables and legumes provide a healthy source of calcium, along with many other nutritional advantages, and they really make milk consumption unnecessary. Children who grow up getting their nutrition from plant foods rather than meats have a tremendous health advantage. They are less likely to develop weight problems, diabetes, high blood pressure and some forms of cancer."

The Heart of the Controversy

Because this vegan-diet-for-kids philosophy is so contrary to the “norm,” some industry professionals have expressed concern about it. But these folk’s main points of contention are typically one of the following:

Logistical: Many of these experts feel that it would be too difficult for a parent to consistently prepare the appropriate variety of plant-based meals necessary or for the kid to go through their early years without all of the animal-based garbage that they are typically exposed to at school and in their social lives. But what they don’t know is this:

A) There are easy ways to ensure that their kids are getting the superior form of nutrition through plant-based snacks, smoothies, sit-down meals and a few supplements.

B) There are healthier, equally tasty vegan alternatives for virtually anything a kid could want, including cake, ice cream, candy, cookies, hot dogs and hamburgers.

On both accounts, it just takes a little investigation and advanced planning.


"Of course it takes time and thought to feed vegan children. Shouldn't feeding of any child require time and thought?"

Dr. Reed Mangels,
from Simply Vegan


Nutritional: Unfortunately, this is an area where many industry professionals are still surprisingly uninformed. As stated throughout my (and many other’s) work, every nutrient required by any human being is not just available in vegan sources, but it is available in superior forms in these sources! It is common knowledge that doctors and child care experts have little training in nutrition (unless they’ve taken it upon themselves to study more about it) and what they have learned is often based on the same inaccurate and antiquated mumbo-jumbo that we were all force-fed in school.

So when these experts hear about a diet devoid of animal products, they start chanting the typical “deficiency, deficiency, deficiency” mantra, thinking that certain nutrients fall short in the vegan diet. This is ill-informed. Instead, they should be chanting “toxins, toxins, toxins” at the notion of the typical animal product-based diet that they recommend. Sure, there are some important nutrients to be found in animal products, like B-12, calcium, iron, zinc, vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids and protein. But if you give kids animal products so they’ll get these nutrients, you are also giving them a variety of other fiberless, acidic, toxic components, as well. This is not only unnecessary (since every nutrient they’ll need is available in the plant kingdom), but it is also harmful!

Look around, people. What we’re doing is not working. Animal product consumption is at an all-time high, and so is childhood obesity and illness. It’s not the supposed “deficiencies” of a vegan diet that are making our kids fat and sick, it’s all of the toxins they’re ingesting in the form of refined foods, saturated fats and animal products. This is why I would never recommend that anyone, under any circumstances, have animal products in their diet. And this is advice that I comfortably give to my own flesh and blood, by the way. When each of my parents was diagnosed with cancer, I did not hesitate to recommend a 100% plant-based, nutrient-dense diet for both of them. Likewise, if I had kids, I would never give them any kind of animal products (except for their mother’s milk, if you want to call that an “animal product”) and would always discourage them from indulging in them away from home. At this stage of our evolution, there is simply no reason whatsoever to feed our kids animal products.

Where Do I Begin?

In addition to checking out some of the above mentioned books and URLs, I have a tremendous amount of info for you here at Veggie Zone and in the Nutrition section of my companion site,

Here is an easy, four-step process designed to help you transform your kid's diet toward a healthy vegan one.

1. Understanding the Big Picture: Go to and check out the "Six-S Circle of Superior Nutrition," where I describe the six different steps involved in transitioning into a healthy vegan diet. These steps can work for youngsters, as well. By reading this brief section first, you will get a good idea about how it all works and how you can orchestrate a complete dietary transition for your kids.

2. Snacks: Healthy vegan snacks are often the easiest first step to take in the transition process. They are easily added to any routine and, when the right choices are made, they can provide youngsters with lots of essential nutrients. Fortunately, there are a multitude of healthy vegan snacks to choose from that kids will actually eat! Go here for a comprehensive listing:

You will also find suggestions on how to integrate these healthier snacks into the child's lifestyle, as well as a ton of suggested snacks (including pictures and info on where to find them). Again, this material was written for adults, but all of the suggestions can easily be applied to a youngster's diet and lifestyle.

3. Smoothies: Here is your secret weapon. By creating a "High-Octane" fruit smoothie for a kid, you're giving them a delicious way to get a significant amount of their daily nutrients in one sitting. But, you have to make sure you include all of the right ingredients and prepare it the optimal way. Go here for lots of info on High-Octane Smoothies:

A Few Final Points on Smoothies...

In addition to all of the info at the above Smoothie link, there are three youngster-specific points to consider:

Serving Size: Regarding age, body type, and daily nutritional requirement, every kid is different. So to determine the appropriate serving size for a kid, prepare a full serving, then let them drink until they've had enough. Once you get a feel for how much they need, you can prepare all future smoothies to that size.

Flavor: As discussed at the above link, your High-Octane Smoothie will basically take on the flavor of whatever fruit (or fruits) you use. Experiment with different combinations and, of course, take note on what the favorite recipes are. Remember, the key is to get that magical green powder into their bodies.

Color: Although green Kool-Aid, green popsicles and green candy are generally acceptable to kids, they somehow tend to freak out at the notion of anything that's green and healthy...especially a "health drink." One initial suggestion would be to offer them a "Blueberry/Banana Smoothie," while leaving out the detail of what all is in it. Blueberries are just about the only fruit whose color actually overrides the green in your High-Octane Smoothie, even when you're using the suggested Ultimate Meal smoothie mix. This could provide a good non-biased initiation of the High-Octane Smoothie to your kids, since the rich, blue color is usually somehow more palatable than green. Then, once they get used to them, you'll more easily be able to "go green" on them with out too much flack!

4. Meal Ideas: Right here in Veggie Zone, we have a very comprehensive section on vegan meal ideas. Click here, where you will connect to the What To Do section of Veggie Zone. Scroll down to the index and check out the various sections: Food of the Gods (which is a good overview to vegan meals), Lunch/Dinner Foods and Breakfast Foods. Within each of these sections, you will find a variety of meal options. A number of the suggestions have accompanying photos so you can more easily identify them at the local grocery store or market. Many of these suggestions are remarkable in their similarity to the animal-based and/or overly-refined items that they've been created to replace. (There are also some tasty snack and dessert ideas in the index, as well as suggestions for dining out.)


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Being Vegan in a Non-Vegan Household

I come from a meat-eating family that has little tolerance or understanding of the veggie ways. They cook what they cook and I'm expected to eat it. How can I be vegan without World War III erupting every time we sit down for dinner at a gathering?

I know this can be a tough one. My recommendation for implementing vegan foods into this potentially "hostile" environment is as follows:

Do not engage them in a big philosophical discussion about it. This is all about you making choices for you and, to some extent, what you choose to eat is your business. So, at family dinners where you're having to look out for yourself, simply bring some kind of microwaveable entree and heat up your own main dish, then eat whatever side dishes they have that are acceptable to you. As for an explanation, simply say that you are experimenting with a new eating regimen that you've been reading about and you want to see how you feel on it. That's it. Keep your responses brief and do not argue with them.

I went through a considerably milder version of this kind of thing with my family early on and, believe me, after a few of these get-togethers and a few, "What? Are you still on that crazy diet?" comments, they'll get the hint, so long as you 1) consistently stay on it and, 2) extend to THEM the right to eat what they want. Eventually, my family just got used to it...even though a few of them might have occasionally made their obligatory "How about a big, fat cheeseburger, Bobby?" remarks. Before long, they even gave up on the comments...especially when I would remain defenseless about it all. In fact, my dad switched over to a strict veggie diet back in '96 and he still follows the regimen to the letter, enjoying excellent health. So, nowadays, my family goes out of their way to accommodate me and my dad's eating preferences.

But the truth is, you might not ever "convert" them. So what? Family is family and we will always love them unconditionally. And yet, evolution is the byproduct of "the way it should be," which you are longing to exemplify, not "the way that it's been," which most people are locked into. This is all about you living by your own standards, not those imposed upon you by the well-meaning, but uninformed. No one ever said that evolution was easy. Just ask Lincoln, Gandhi or Martin Luther.

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The Zone Diet?

I recently read an article in a magazine where you were talking about a vegan-based "Road Warrior" diet. Many of the foods you recommended are not only very high-glycemic carbohydrates, but often low in fats and protein. This is in direct conflict with Dr. Barry Sears' bestselling book, Enter the Zone. How about picking up a copy of this masterwork and incorporating some of Dr. Sears' concepts concerning diet in relation to insulin production in the body? The Zone is the cutting edge.

I'm quite familiar with Barry Sears' controversial "Zone" diet. I say controversial because, while it's obviously been a hit in the commercial marketplace (and what diet wouldn't be that allows its participants to eat bacon and ice cream), there are a lot of puzzled experts scratching their heads over many of Sears' contentions. Although the book is replete with what appears to be impressive research, when you actually set out to connect the dots from the hormone-related studies with which he builds his premise to their relation to diet and soon find yourself in the "Twilight Zone," trying to make sense of it all.

Even the book's co-author, Bill Lawren, has publicly discredited the work, ultimately admitting (in an interview for Los Angeles Magazine - Feb. 97) "(Sears) never sent me several key studies I asked for..." and "The diet game is wide open...just about anybody can say just about anything. If there's any evidence at all, then you can make a statement and build a system on it."

Sears' "system" was built around three scientist's Nobel Prize-winning research on hormone-like fatty acids (prostaglandins) and their relationship to various natural processes like blood pressure and metabolism. Incredibly, though, the research had no correlation with diet or nutrition. Nonetheless, Sears constructed a philosophy based around this 40-30-30 formula, stating that every meal or snack should be 40% carbohydrates, 30% fats, and 30% protein because a diet with a higher carb ratio will create an unbalanced amount of insulin in the body and send you out of "the zone." (Insulin imbalance? What about the well-documented hazards of many of the foods Sears recommends?) But again, there are a number of studies that are completely in conflict with this and many other of the Zone's theories.

For starters, Sears often blurs the lines between complex carbs (like whole grain products) and other refined carbs suggesting that these starches are metabolized similarly, all creating this supposed insulin imbalance. This is a blatant, scientific inaccuracy: the body processes quality complex carbs slower, which is why they are ideal as a longer-term energy source.

Another problem with Sears' 40-30-30 formula is that, if you stay within his suggested caloric parameters, you're virtually undernourished, particularly if you're expending the kind of calories inherent to a hectic touring schedule. (His suggested number of calories for me is less than half of what I need...hence, its effectiveness as a weight-loss system.) Yet, if you apply his formula to your present "maintenance" amount of calories, you're likely ingesting way too much protein and fat.

As for the Zone's flagship contention that eating similar amounts of protein and carbohydrates at every meal lowers insulin levels, many would argue that there is simply no evidence of this. According to Dr. Gerald Raven from Stanford University, "Protein - when eaten alone - increases insulin secretion. I see no reason in the world why it would be any different if protein were eaten with carbohydrate." (Nutrition Action Newsletter July/Aug 1996).

Remember, the "Road Warrior" dietary philosophies are all about dealing with what's typically available in a touring/traveling situation, and many of the restaurants you'll encounter may be completely devoid of quality "high-protein" foods. In those instances, I believe you're better off with the kind of "carb-heavy" meals I've suggested; your body will welcome this kind of fuel. Yes, protein is important, but it is radically overrated in terms of how much we actually need. You do not have to rely on animal sources or even large quantities of plant-based proteins (beans, tofu, soy products, etc.) to get enough, and you certainly don't need anywhere near 30% per meal. I can't imagine someone reaching peak performance levels with the kind of protein-to-carb ratios advocated in the Zone. When someone tells me they feel better on this program, I'm very curious as to what exactly they were eating before. In any case, when a diet comes along giving beef and pork a green light over bananas, carrots and even apple juice, I would start asking questions...

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Weren't We Meant to Eat Meat?

If the vegan diet is superior, what about all of those past cultures who have eaten meat? Take the Native Americans, for example. They ate buffalo and seemed to thrive with excellent health.

First of all, you must keep in mind that man has been created to survive through the ages on whatever happens to be available. You mentioned the Native Americans and their eating buffalo. On the Great Plains, there wasn't much else available but buffalo. Vegetation was not always easy or practical to grow, plus the Indians moved around a lot. I believe eating buffalo was more about their survival, and less about buffalo being the optimal food of choice. Even still, it's safe to assume that weren't subsisting strictly on buffalo meat. It was no doubt a supplement to an otherwise plant-based meal.

Remember, every nutrient you will ever need comes in its purest form from the earth, via plant-based foods. That's where the animals get them, and by us eating the animals, we are getting a second-hand version of these nutrients, encased in a "delivery system" (their flesh) that is devoid of ANY dietary fiber and usually replete with artery-clogging saturated fats and protein ratios that make our blood acidic. I say, let's just eat the fiber-rich, largely alkaline plant-based foods instead and enjoy the optimal assimilation of these nutrients.

As for the longevity issue, look no further than those societies whose diets have been largely plant-based, like the Okinawans and the Himalayans. They are among the only societies whose people would routinely live to be 100-plus.


Aren’t Plants Living Things?

You talk about having a diet where you avoid killing any living thing. But what about plants? Plants are living things and you kill them.
Scientifically speaking, a plant-based food is not a sentient being, does not have an innate, emotional inclination to avoid bodily harm or death, does not have a nervous system, and, therefore, does not actually feel pain.
Philosophically speaking, it’s safe to say that Mother Nature, in her infinite wisdom, would never bestow upon a living creature the capacity to feel pain without also giving it the ability to engage in a fight or flight response to the imminent threat or actual experience of pain.
Practically speaking, I've yet to see any irate celery stalks or bell peppers jump up from the cutting board and run out of my kitchen lately! Such is clearly not the case with the 50 billion farm animals around the world who meet their fate in the slaughterhouse every year.

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