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Breastfeeding, sexy cheese & weight loss: Challenging the vegan food myths

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or broccoli? Photo by chathamcountync/Flickr
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How is eating cheese like having sex? Courtesy of La Torretta Del Lago Resort & Spa
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Places_Food_Chez Rouz_cheese plate

When it comes to nutrition and health — like politics — everyone is an expert and willing to share his or her opinion. I've noticed the same questions, comments and assertions pop up about veganism over and over again. Some are intended as jokes or jabs, others as concerns, while some pose as truths.

And then there's the celeb gossip: Angelina Jolie claimed she almost died from eating vegan, Megan Fox blamed her fast metabolism for her weight loss and abandoned a vegan eating regime and Katy Perry made news for giving into the cravings which she swore off when she was dating vegan Russell Brand.

In lieu of getting all hot and bothered over the misconceptions, let's just face them head on. Shall we? Each matter in question deserves its own article or book. But in the interest of brevity, I'm keeping it simple and focusing on the big picture.

Vegan school is now in session. Pupils, take out your notebooks.

Q: Since you don't eat meat, chicken, fish or dairy, you must not get enough protein, right? Do you survive on peanut butter and beans?

A: Take a sizzling juicy steak on one hand and a bunch of broccoli on the other. Calorie for calorie, which has more protein? 

If you guessed steak, you are the weakest link. The cruciferous veggie has double the amount of the macronutrient — 11.2 grams versus 5.4 grams in 100 calories of each edible. Like broccoli, kale comes in at 11 grams and Romaine lettuce — the crispy green in caesar salad — has 7.5 grams. That's without fat and cholesterol but with a bucket load of fiber.

Let's not forget beans, legumes, nuts, soy and seeds. Protein aplenty.

Q: I could easily be a vegetarian. But vegan? I just adore cheese. I couldn't give it up.

 Isn't avoiding the cheese and hitting the sack a better way to get your oxytocin fix? Make love, not coagulated animal juice. 

A: You say adore, I say addicted.

The fatty tit excretion — that's what milk is — carries oxytocin. The hormone is produced by lactating mammals and released in milk. The peptide promotes feelings of attachment. It's what helps moms bond with babies. It stimulates contentment, calmness and security.

Oxytocin has a naughty side, too. Plasma levels increase during sexual arousal and orgasm.

Who would want to give that up? Isn't avoiding the cheese and hitting the sack a better way to get your oxytocin fix? Make love, not coagulated animal juice. 

Q: Is breastfeeding vegan?

A: Veganism is defined as "the doctrine that man should live without exploiting animals." It begins as a moral compass for living that also embraces diet. Albeit to the general population, vegan is associated mainly with food choices. 
 
Breastfeeding has nothing to do with exploiting animals. As a biological substance "designed" to nurture the young, the decision to use breast milk falls outside concerns of veganism. It's vegan if you do, it's vegan if you don't.
 
Q: I didn't climb to the top of the food chain to be vegan — or vegetarian. Vegan is tribal slang for the village idiot who can't hunt, fish or ride.

A: A most popular cliché in social media channels, this assertion is tweeted out without rest. Yes, there are theories that it was animal protein that propelled homo sapiens away from primates. 

​Take a sizzling juicy steak on one hand and a bunch of broccoli on the other. Calorie for calorie, which has more pr otein?

But I am less concerned with the cause and effect of evolution and more with what science tells me about what's best for me now, and not half a million years ago. Chances are, I will outlive those that get more than 10 percent of calories from animal-derived foods. I'd say it's about living healthier longer, using the food chain to get maximum benefit, and not about seeking world domination.

Q: I think all vegans look too skinny. It's just unhealthy.

A: A vegan diet doesn't ensure health nor weight loss. 

There are plenty of vegan junk and refined foods that can easily shorten anyone's lifespan and expand waistlines. On that list are Nabisco Oreo Cookies, Krispy Kreme Fruit Pies and Cap'n Crunch Peanut Butter Crunch. Add French fries, oils, white flour and sugar.

It's not uncommon to find vegans struggle with body mass alongside omnivores. 

On the robust side, take ironman triathlete Brendan Brazier, tennis master Martina Navratilova, runner Carl Lewis, martial arts fighter Mac Danzig, arm wrestling champion Rob Bigwood, bodybuilder Jimi Sitko and a handful of others recently featured in The New York Times.

It's all tofu, greens and plant-strong protein.

Care to take them on?

Have more vegan questions? Leave them in the comments below or if you prefer, email me at joel@culturemap.com.

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