THE IMPOSSIBLE VEGAN

 

To kick-off March, Laura takes a look back at Veganuary and debates how feasible it is for anyone to live a vegan lifestyle.

Every year we are bombarded with new fad diets, and to kick of 2018 we’ve seen the rise of Veganuary, a month where people around the world choose to undertake a vegan lifestyle.  However, just how achievable is a vegan lifestyle?

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Technically anyone who chooses to abstain from eating and using animal products is vegan but some vegans do choose to go the extra lengths to avoid using anything associated with the use of animals. The truth is, it’s virtually impossible to be 100% vegan and live a life that doesn’t involve the use of animal by products. The fact is, almost everything, contains animal products. The rubber soles of your trainers, the steel within your car and even the photo paper you printed your holiday snaps on all contain animal products.

When farmers and others within the meat industry tell you that every part of the animal is utilised they really aren’t lying. The meat is the most obvious by product of animals accounting for approximately 51%  of a cows carcass with the remaining 49% forming a use in our day to day life.  

Shampoos, soaps, cosmetics and even pain relief contain animal by products, from fatty acids, collagen, keratin, lactose, lanolin and even musk.  The dining room table and chairs you sit and eat from will contain animal by products in the glue. The strings on a tennis racket or a musical instrument, plastic or animal gut? Both contain animal by products.

Your car contains animal products? Surprise! Animal fat is used in the production of steel and to vulcanise rubber. Antifreeze also contains animal fats, as does hydraulic brake fluid! Bricks, plaster, home insulation materials and cement mix can also contain animal fats, which make them last longer.

The unlimited use of the animals carcass is amazing.  There is nothing wrong with the choice people make whether to abstain from eating meat or whether you choose to devour a roast dinner every night of the week!  But it really does pose the question, can you ever really be vegan?

 
 

What does it all mean?

 

Cheap meat often comes at a price. Paid for by the farmers, processors, animals and ultimately the environment.  To help you navigate the landscape (and following on from our journal; How to buy the best meat) our resident agricultural expert, Laura, has taken a look at the claims found on packaged meat and reveals what they all mean.

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Organic

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Organic agriculture is about a way of farming that pays close attention to nature. It means fewer chemicals on the land such as artificial fertilisers and the absence of veterinary medicines such as antibiotics in rearing livestock and the avoidance of genetic modification. Organic farming can also offer benefits for animal welfare, as animals are required to be kept in more natural conditions. 

  • Organic farms don’t use chemical fertilisers or pesticides and the routine use of antibiotics is not permitted, organic systems also dictate that the animals must have access to the outdoors for the majority of their lives.
  • Organic standards are defined by law, and farmers and processors must be certified by an approved organisation, the most renowned is the Soil Association. The Soil Association organic logo appears on approximately 80% of organic food produced in UK

Free-range

Free-range allows for chickens, pigs and most recently cattle to be outside for at least part of their lives.

  • Free- range poultry must meet legal requirements. The RSPCA states that chickens must have a defined amount of space (no more than 13 birds a square metre), be 56 days old before they are slaughtered and have continuous daytime access to open-air runs, with vegetation, for at least half their lifetime.
  • A varied environment allows the animals to exhibit more of their natural behaviours.
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Grass fed

Grass fed focuses on the traditional practice of grazing cattle and sheep on grassland as opposed to what is perceived as a more intensive practice of indoor fattening on grains.

  • In the UK, the words grass fed can be used to describe food from animals that have spent the majority of their time eating grass.
  • If you are seeking meat from animals solely fed on grass and forage crops then look for the Pasture-Fed Livestock Logo. It is a farmer-led organisation that promotes the health, welfare and environmental benefits of raising cattle and sheep exclusively on grass and forage crops.

RED TRACTOR

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Britain's largest food label, the Red Tractor, guarantees that products featuring the Union Jack attached to the Red Tractor logo have been born, raised, slaughtered, grown, prepared and packaged entirely within the UK and in accordance with their strict standards. They beleive all animals should have the following:

  • Freedom from hunger and thirst - by ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain the animals' full health and vigour.

  • Freedom from discomfort - by providing an appropriate environment including shelter and a comfortable resting area.

  • Freedom from pain, injury or disease - by prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment.

  • Freedom to express normal behaviour - by providing sufficient space, proper facilities and company of the animal's own kind.

  • Freedom from fear and distress - by ensuring conditions and care which avoid mental suffering

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RSPCA ASSURED

RSPCA Assured is an independent certification by the RSPCA, unlike other labelling schemes they are independent from both the food and farming industries.

  • Their vision is for all animals to have a good life and to be treated with compassion and respect and as such are acknowledged as a higher-level scheme by the UK government.
  • RSPCA go above and beyond the standards of free range but don’t replicate all of the standards laid out within organic certification.

The simplest thing you can do to help raise animal welfare standards is to vote with your wallet. Whenever possible choose the highest standard you can afford. Finally, watch out for the meat in your meals when eating out. Don't be afraid to ask where it comes from and do your research if eating any meat-based product. As a bare minimum, always look for the Red Tractor logo.

 

How to buy the best meat

 

A once hallowed ground, free from marketing skulduggery, the meat aisle at your local supermarket is now laden with choices, set to bamboozle and potentially mislead. This means that it is more difficult than ever to decipher the "fake farms" from the real ones and make the best choice for you and your family. Thankfully, our latest recruit, Laura Talbot is here to help.

START LOCAL

Go Local! One of the many things we are passionate about at Fori HQ is sourcing locally. Buying directly from a local farm shop, butchers or farmers market comes with a higher guarantee of a short supply chain. It can also mean higher British welfare standards, not only this, but it can help to keep the cost down, by cutting out the middleman. In these uncertain times, it’s more important than ever to help support local businesses and keep British agriculture thriving.

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Local may not always mean local

Don’t be afraid to challenge where you shop and ask where the meat comes from. Whilst we like to trust our small butchers it’s important that you still ask the question. What we perceive to be local may be different to the reality. We've been duped before, buying meat from a local Welsh butcher, only to discover the heard lives in Aberdeen! An absolute travesty, given the Welsh heritage for producing some of the UK's finest cattle and sheep.

THE CHEEK OF IT

Some of the tastiest cuts of meat are also the cheapest and we’re seeing them make a comeback. Next time you’re in the kitchen cooking up a storm give slow cooked beef cheek a try, it won’t disappoint.

Buying from a farm shop isn’t always the most practical solution, in which case it’s important to know your labels. Keep tuned for our next journal post from Laura, in which she takes a closer look at the labels adorning the meat on the supermarket shelves...

 

What is the Paleo Diet?

 

You may have noticed our bars say; Paleo inspired. So the two obvious questions are, what does Paleo mean and why are our bars just "inspired"?

The Paleo diet (we hate the term diet - but that's for another journal post!) is built on the belief that the human body is better suited to the diets of our Paleolithic ancestors. Although this logic is questionable the diet has been largely popularised by CrossFit athletes. However one thing that is not questionable is that the Paleo diet has thankfully focused attention on avoiding eating processed foods. Something that is not as easy as you would assume.

It’s speculated that our modern, post agricultural revolution diet, featuring grains, dairy and processed foods is more difficult for our bodies to digest and consequently comes with some pretty hefty side-effects; obesity, diabetes and heart disease. In general, Paleo diet(s) follow these principles; eat more nutrient rich whole foods like meat, fish, vegetables, seed and nuts. Meanwhile avoid grains, sugar, dairy, legumes and processed foods. For a comprehensive list check out this blog by Paleo Hacks.

So why would you go Paleo, sound’s hard right?

The major benefit for us, is that it challenged us to question what we were putting in our bodies and to focus on real food first. Is that protein bar really necessary? Do I need another shake? After all, healthy eating is ignoring the “diets”, the “industry” and listening to your body while getting back to basics with whole, real food.

The Paleo diet isn’t as restrictive as it first seems and with a bit of culinary creativity you will quickly find yourself filling in the gaps left by dairy and processed foods. Once you've mastered the recipes, the major Eureka moment is the realisation that not all calories are created equal (again - another time, another journal).

Here are a few sites we use for RECIPE inspiration:

Our Paleo Principles - Paleo INSPIRED

Our raison d’etre it to smash the idea that you need an over processed, artificial or sugar infused snack to get you through your day and to replace it with natural nutrition. The inspiration for creating the Fori bar was the Paleo diet, primarily for it's focus on eating real food. However, we soon discovered the greatest challenge to eating real food is snacking. So we set ourselves the mission to provide superior sustenance in a convenient format without compromise.

Inspired by the Paleo diet, we follow the principles however we don’t preach the virtues and strongly believe that you can achieve the same results through exercise and a balanced healthy diet. For us it’s a lifestyle choice rather than a diet.

Our bars say Paleo inspired because that's exactly what they are. The ingredients match the Paleo diet guidelines but if challenged we'd struggle to argue the case that our bars would have been available to even the most commercial of cavemen.

Finally, it’s important to note that there are no long-term clinical studies about the benefits and potential risks of the Paleo diet.

 

Not All Protein Bars Are Created Equal

 

If you are interested in health and fitness it’s likely you have, or will at some stage consider purchasing a protein bar as a snack, an alternative post-workout recovery option or just a practical meal replacement for times of need. Given the popularity of protein bars at present, the market is awash with different options. But which do you choose?

We've picked the brains of expert performance nutritionist Matt Jones to help debunk the myth that all protein bars are created equal. Protein is more than just a number.

A key consideration when purchasing a protein bar is obviously going to be the protein content of the bar. In opting for a protein bar over it’s chocolate relative it’s likely you are already aware of the health and body composition benefits of protein. It is also likely that you have purchased it in an attempt to maximise muscle growth and repair.

Research to date has clearly indicated that a dosage of 20 – 30 grams of high quality protein is sufficient to maximally stimulate muscle protein synthesis, which is essentially the creation of new proteins within the muscle. Imagine a factory within your muscle, responsible for producing protein. When you eat a protein source at meals or snacks that protein is broken down to its constituent amino acids, which serve as building blocks that the factory uses to generate new muscle. When the amount of protein consumed is between 20 – 30 grams and the amount of leucine present is around 2 – 4 grams then the factory works at maximal capacity, full guns blazing. So a protein bar containing 20 – 30 grams of protein is obviously a good start.

Look out for Leucine

However, note that the research mentions “high quality”. The quality of a protein refers to the concentration of amino acids within the protein, particularly the essential amino acids, more specifically the branched chain amino acids and even more specifically than that the amino acid leucine. Leucine is a key player in the muscle protein synthetic process, in fact to date it is considered the trigger. It is well known that animal proteins, including meat, fish, dairy and eggs are of the highest quality as a result of their high concentrations of leucine. Animal proteins have a higher concentration of leucine, roughly 9 – 13%.

PLANT BASED PROTEIN

Plant based protein is a good source of protein, but not as high quality as the aforementioned animal protein, with only 6 – 8% concentration of leucine. The concentration of leucine is slightly lower, thus the required dosage to maximise muscle protein synthesis is likely greater than the 20 – 30 grams mentioned previously. Plant based protein is generally cheaper than animal protein, as it can be produced is larger quantities and takes less manufacturing. It is therefore common for companies to include plant based protein in their protein bars as a means of cost-effectively bumping up the protein content, while also enabling them to include the words ‘high protein’ in the branding. Which is fine, but if you are investing in a bar to serve a purpose, it better had serve that purpose.

Another factor worth considering is the vitamin and mineral content of the bar. Not only can a protein bar serve as a great stimulant of muscle growth and repair but it may also provide other nutrients, vitamins, minerals and fibre valuable to health. For instance a ‘natural’ protein bar such as a Fori bar will provide a host of vitamins and minerals as the bar is close to its natural form. Where other bars have often been highly processed leaving little more than the protein, meaning many companies have to fortify the bars, essentially re-adding synthetic vitamins and minerals to the bar prior to packaging.

Please be aware that not all protein bars are created equal. To get the biggest return on your investment simply look for a natural bar, made of animal protein with around 20 – 30 grams of protein. Consume this as a snack during the day, between meals or post-exercise for the greatest effect.   

 

NUTRITIONAL ADVICE IS A MINEFIELD - Tread CAREFULLY FOLKS

 

You wouldn't be reading this journal unless you cared about what you eat. However, how do you really know if what you're being told is true or not? When it comes to making your way through the minefield of nutrition and food, here are a few rules to get you started.

RULE 1 - DON'T BE SOLD TO

Firstly, don’t take nutritional advice from someone who is trying to sell you something – or a vested interest that is up for convincing you that you shouldn’t eat something.

Agendas and nutrition are not a good mix. The source of the information is crucial – ah, you say “the blogs I read and the guy in the gym I get advice from are nutritionists, so I have that covered”. Well, that’s a partial yes - there are properly-educated nutritionists that know what they are talking about; but the other extreme is also there.

RULE 2 - NOT ALL NUTRITIONISTS ARE EQUAL

Here is the definition of a Dietetics from the Association of UK Dieticians:

“Dietetics is the interpretation and communication of the science of nutrition to enable people to make informed and practical choices about food and lifestyle, in both health and disease. A dietitian will have trained in both hospital and community settings as part of their course. Most dietitians are employed in the NHS, but dietitians also work in the food industry, education, research and on a freelance basis. It is necessary to have a Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) recognised degree in nutrition and dietetics to work as a dietitian and to be registered with the HCPC if working as a dietitian. The title dietitian is protected by law, anyone using the title must be registered with the HCPC.”

And here is their definition of Nutrition:

“Nutrition is the study of nutrients in food, how nutrients are used by the body, and the relationship between diet, health and disease. Many nutritionists hold a nutrition degree and are on the UK Voluntary Register of Nutritionists, but this is not a mandatory register.”

However, many nutritionists don’t hold a nutrition degree. Bottom line, folks, is that a dietician does what it says on the tin, and a nutritionist could be – literally – anything from a PhD in nutrition to a few months online course. A quick search of the interweb will reveal online courses for less than £100 (print off your own certificate), if you fancy having a go yourself.

The real problem is that a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing; so, armed with the very basics and an “I know nutrition” attitude, our nutrition warrior will then read the paper, or surf the interweb to fill in the very large gaps with the kind of pseudoscience and people with agendas that we are all aware of.

RULE 3 - REALITY

And it’s not just the internet – there is very robust evidence that up to 50 per cent of research in scientific laboratories can’t be reproduced. This is most prevalent in biology and the life sciences.

It’s a swamp out there, folks, just bear that in mind the next time nutritional experts (real or otherwise) make definitive statements online or on paper.

Over the next few months we will crush a few myths and dispel some rumors, offering advice from experts, without an agenda.  Join us for the journey and some healthy debate!