Living longer, beyond the basic protocols

So, I’m a big fan of Dr. Gregor “How not to die“, which is essentially how to fight the big killers of our day with a plant based diet. The premise is rather plausible. Whether you have a cultural aversion or proclivity towards plant based diets or not, the advice for heart disease, diabetes, kidney failure and cancer are all very similar- as if they were one disease. In Japan they call it metabo. The advices you get tend to be don’t smoke, drink booze or eat sugar/white carbohydrates. Eat a wide variety of plants, including whole grains, nuts, seeds, etc.

Now if you survive those on average you’ll live ~13 years longer. In other words, if you follow the protocol right, you die in your 90s instead of somewhere between your 60s and low 80s. To live longer than that without a protocol, you need parents you gave you an unusually excellent genetic structure.

So I now follow such a protocol and I’m reading up on what is going to happen. I should now avoid most typical health crises. [On a side note, I suspect that some countries full of bad habits like smoking and drinking live longer because their public health system helps people get past crises, e.g. surviving heart attacks through better CPR instead of better diet and exercise!] But how is the quality of life doing? Obviously no one wants 13 extra years of Alzheimer’s and disability. [I'm not talking about quality of life in the sense of the joys of smoking, getting drunk and eating meat at every meal- I'm okay with skipping those.]

There is some evidence that a plant based diet will help prevent some version of dementia, i.e. those cause by excessive metals (often derived from animal products), vascular dementias (where your brain vessels fail just like your heart vessels fail in heart disease).

Improving late life health starts to move us into some areas other than plant based diet.

Fasting/Calorie reduction strategies. This TED talk summarized the Fasting Mimicking Diet as a way to trigger alternate metabolic pathways that encourage old cells to die, be replace by new stem-cell derived cells. It appears to be a built-in means for all animals to respond to famine. Us humans can use it to trick our body into post-famine regeneration, except we use it to slow the rate of aging.

It is possible that plant based diets do the same thing as periodic fasting or lifetype fasting. A periodic fast denies everyone of possibly harmful foods, like candy and meat. [Thought experiment, what if our diet was cocaine, heroin and Taco Bell food-- any one week fast would give you body a chance to heal & you'd feel better, not because of fasting, but because you aren't eating cocaine and heroin and if that harm reduction was better than the benefit you got from Taco Bell food, you'd benefit from a fast. On the other hand, merely skipping healthy food might not have any useful benefit]

Also, a plant based diet will restrict your maximum intake of calories (plant based food is just less calorie dense and harder to binge on), restrict your methionine (a protein associated with accelerated aging), metals like copper & iron (insufficient and you are anemic, but too much and it accumulates in the brain- it is harder to overdose on plant based iron).

Heartbeat slowing. The best way to achieve this is by exercise. The downside is that any let up in your exercise protocol sends you back to your pre-exercise levels in about two weeks.

Sleep, Exercise. This is using a cardiovascular exercise program and extra sleep to fight dementia on the theory that dementia is caused when our brain can’t move waste out of our brains fast enough, because our circulation is bad or because we aren’t sleeping enough. Cerebral waste is only removed when your sleeping.

Falling. What kills 90 year olds, aside from dementia and the results of metabolic syndrome  [i.e. diabetes, CHD, etc] is falling in the shower. So if you think you will live to 90 and want to live to 99, you need to have a strategy in place to avoid falling. I notice in my own behavior everyday cases where I do something risky and stumble, but I don’t fall because I got quick reflexes. And if I did fall, I’d just get a bruise. I have to break this bad habit now because when I’m 90, I’m probably going have fully ossified bad habits, like not holding on to rails, standing on one leg in the shower, etc.


Guam Notes

When I travel, I travel for the food. There are two vegan restaurants on the island, both are 7th Day Adventists establishments. It’s good American homestyle cooking. Each one has a special of the day and once a week, the special of the day is Chamorro food. Prices are about 1.5 to 2.5 times more expensive that the similar meal on land, i.e. $15 to $25 depending on if you just get a base meal and drink or if you get a meal, sides, dessert and the works. If you want to avoid the frustration of finding the one sad vegan item at the few conventional restaurants with a vegan item, then just go to Simply Foods and Heavenly Veggies every day– it’s something different everyday anyhow.

You can get soy milk, vegan butter at conventional grocery stores. Simply Foods has a small health-food grocery shop, but it is pricy. Everything else is a nutritional field of landmines, the food groups are salty sacks, sugary deserts and meat products.

The Guam Premiere Outlet mall has a Mongolian Barbecue that will let you pick veggies, tofu and sauce to be fried up. We tried to find a vegan friendly Vietnamese restaurant because the Mrs had fond memories of spring rolls wrapped in lettuce leaves and rice, sort of like a “vietnamese taco”, but alas, it was frustrating finding restaurant staff that understood the question and weren’t outright hostile to a vegetarian request.

For cell phone service, we got a sim card for the unlocked phone we had. Two other phones in our travel group didn’t work with the sim card because they were locked. It works out to $20 a week, which is not bad. If I use my regular sim card, it would be international phone rate all the time. Surprisingly, because I use T-mobile which uses wifi when connected to wifi, I didn’t get charged extra for wifi calls.

What’s up with all the massage shops? There are more massage shops on Guam that seems to be economically viable. Legit massage is for people with back-pain, athletes and rich people who want a quiet meditative experience while on vacation to contrast with their chaotic work life in the office. But there is a massage shop in every shopping center, many offering 24 hour service. Clearly these are massage/sex shops, a bit of googling confirms it. The Mrs won’t let me do further investigative journalism. As far as I can tell it is officially illegal but tolerated, I suspect because it is mostly non-local sex workers. It is too bad the local government doesn’t go ahead and legalize it. As long as it is illegal, there is serious risk of labor law abuse.

Hotels. The luxury hotels on Guam are architectural and engineering marvels. They are 20+ stories have to stand up to typhoon winds, earthquakes and depending on location, flooding. We are staying with family for 1/2 a month, but will be going to the Westin for a night. We have kids, so we had to get our room by talking to a human. We finally got a single king size bed for the four of us (two adults, a toddler and a baby), for $250. If you try to reserve online, it says a room for the same costs $850 and demands that the toddler and baby get their own queen beds, which is just stupid.

Climate and exercise. I can last about 15 minutes outside doing virtually sedentary activities before I start to sweat profusely. I try to do calisthenics when I can in the house and walk in the morning. Some neighborhoods are entirely walkable with sidewalks. Some neighborhoods are entirely unwalkable because of the lack of sidewalks and extremely heavy car traffic.

Activities with Kids. You can do the beach, but in short bursts, because of the extreme heat and intense sun. If you go to the beach you might want so called “tabi” shoes, which allow you to walk in the water without fear of cutting your feet on the sharp coral, shells and rocks. There are three malls, so you can do mall walking, but it isn’t a very authentic or novel experience. There is a kids’ train you can ride on at Micronesia Mall.

Playgrounds exist, but in full sun, you don’t see any kids. In other neighborhoods, there isn’t even a playground. There is an indoor play area we haven’t tried yet “Playport” and one of the malls has a play area for the five-or-so and under kids.

Buying Authentic Stuff. Guam’s non-government, non-military economy is entirely tourism service oriented, so not much appears to be produced on the island. This doesn’t stop shops from slapping the letters g-u-a-m on all sorts of things from German wine to Wisconsin beer to Hawaiian macadamia nuts to African coffee. Some of the most authentic stuff is the deserts, pickles, breads, tortillas that you buy in the convenience stores.

I happened to need a haircut and there is a haircut shop at every shopping plaza. I got a military cut and the son got a haircut despite him freaking out.

City-vs-Jungle. On one half of the island, it is all low density urban. One half is essentially jungle, where you see wild pigs darting about and if you wait long enough monitor lizards, brown tree snakes, cane toads and other invasive monsters.

Coffee. Authentic coffee is canned coffee at the convenience store. There are Starbucks-like coffee stores, but few people know how to pull an espresso shot, invariably you get a barely tamped puck and overdrawn by a factor of two or three. I’m hoping I can find the competent espresso shop so I can say, “so and so” has the best coffee on the island. I’m planning to get some whole bean Kona coffee before I head home.

One good thing to get is Boba tea, a popular Taiwanese drink. There are several authentic Boba tea shops where you can get a combinatorial explosion of different variations on tea. Many of them are powdered flavors, but if you are clever you can get brewed tea, non-powdered soy milk, tapioca. I liked the red-bean Boba milk tea which they said was non-dairy and it very well might be.



Using FourSquare to (softly) Advocate for V*gan Restaurants

So I’m kind of bummed out by typical vegan advocacy on Twitter & Facebook:

Shop of horrors memes
Logical argument memes
Preaching to the choir
Pointless arguments with people unlikely to go veg

Foursquare is a venue where you can do “bellweather” advocacy. A bellweather is a sheep that leads the flock around, but if you weren’t paying attention, you wouldn’t notice and maybe the sheep don’t notice who the bellweather is either.

Foursquare has two parts, Foursquare and Swarm.  Foursquare is a restaurant directory like Yelp. I use it constantly when I travel or when I’m looking for new restaurants at home.

Swarm is a way to keep track of your real life friends checking in at restaurants– it creates more opportunities for serendipity. Unlike facebook, odds are your real life friends don’t use Swarm. But if they do, why not, at least it shows your friends you haven’t fallen off the wagen with respect to vegetarianism.

Follow Vegetarians
You can find them by looking for tips on vegetarians restaurants.

If you follow vegetarians, their endorsements shows up on all the search results when you search for a restaurant. If people follow you back, they will see all your endorsements of your favorite vegetarian restaurants.

Rate Vegetarian Restaurants
Non-vegetarians will go to a vegetarian restaurant if it has a good reputation.

Leave Vegetarian Tips
If you know how to goose a given restaurant into being vegetarian friendly, leave the tip. Most restaurateurs (or front line staff) are unaware of what vegetarianism is or what the point is. Learning the magical words necessary to goose them into compliance is gold. As vegetarians, we’ve all heard about the vegan who aggressively tells the waitress and chef how to cook vegan items that aren’t on the menu. But if you are them, what the magic word is to get them to leave off the f*ning cheese is a life saver. Does it work better to tell them you have a dairy allergy?

Mark your account as vegetarian.
It’s a checkbox in the profile. It seems to be used to improve recommendations & all restaurant profiles start to show “x out of y vegetarians like this place”

Come on, do you want to live forever?

Well, yes actually. On my mom’s side, just about everyone got a stroke. So I decided I should pay some attention to strokes. The data from the low fat crowd is pretty interesting. So I tried to find a chart on blood cholesterol and stroke. And I find every crackpot and opposing view possible…

So, lots of arguments about dietary fat. I think the pro and anti fat camps can only agree that it appears to be a key nutrient.

So if you are vegetarian or vegan, you can still eat a high fat diet [can as in, nothing preventing it], except it will probably have less cholesterol and saturated fat. But the new thinking is possibly all fats make the arteries unhappy. So that means you’d need to cut out all the fat, except 10%

Interestingly, if you have fantastic arteries, you can abuse other parts of your body. And probably vica versa. If you don’t smoke, don’t drink, but do everything to abuse your arteries, then you might last longer than you’d expect looking at your fat consumption alone. I think this explains the wild cross-country differences for fat intake. For example, some parts of Russia are low fat consumers (I find this hard to believe, you can’t go any where to eat anything without it being accompanied by meat), and they die at a high rate. I think this is probably more likely a reflection of the collapse of public health after the fall of the Soviet Union. They couldn’t get consumer products to everyone, but command and control authoritarians made sure everyone got basic health care and vaccines.

Also, you are going to die from something. When you switch to being a veg*n, you have a clear conscious and clear arteries, but something is going to kill you. Now you might get a new kind of stroke driven by homocysteine– which is treated by upping your vitamin B intake. Let’s imagine we did that. As soon as you fix that, something else is in line to break.

Take sugar for example. Back when I was casually following a low fat diet because it was a fad, I notice fat in *packaged goods* got replaced with sugar and other carbohydrates. So if you fix your arteries, you might be stressing out the pancreas.

And the plants are trying to kill the herbivores  and the farmers are trying to kill you and the bugs with pesticides, veg*n may need to watch out for stomach cancer.

But even if you eat organic and avoid things that are trying to kill herbivores (bitter plants for example), you still are going to die from something.

I bet I’ll follow all the advice, and get cancer and someone will do a study on me and say, “Well, healthy living is correlated with cancer, lets just binge on cookies, cakes, pop and greasy frozen TV dinners” At least you won’t live long enough to get cancer.


Homemade, vegan, soy yogurt

Okay, I have a salton yogurt machine. It’s just a plastic bucket with a heating element that *very* slowly heats and warms a bucket of yogurt.

So at the co-op, it appears that the nation’s biggest soy yogurt company has production problems or is out of business altogether. So here I am, making my own.

To make vegan yogurt, you need a high protein fake milk. So that pretty much limits you to Eden’s high protein soy milk, which is 12 grams per serving. If you use anything else with less protein, to get it to solidify, you’ll have to thickeners as if it were a sauce (starches, agar agar, gums, etc). I haven’t tried thickeners. If I want to make a vegan custard pie, I’d do that. (Hmm, that gives me an idea, how about vegan-yogurt-custard pie?)

So I made this once and it came out closer to yogurt than kiefer. When I use cows milk, I never know what I will get, sometimes I get yogurt flavored milk, sometimes Kiefer (runny yogurt), sometimes solid, custard-like yogurt.

Some general yogurt tips:

Don’t forget to heat the milk first. Too cold and the bacteria take forever to multiply.
Don’t overheat the bacteria. If it is really hot it kills the bacteria.
Use 1/2 cup of yogurt from the store as a starter. Pick the yogurt with the most different kinds of bacteria listed. I used a brand that listed 6 species of bacteria. If one can’t survive and thrive, maybe one of the others can.
I ran the yogurt machine for about 8 hours before refrigerating the yogurt overnight.

If you are using a plastic Salton yogurt machine, you might want to cover the machine with a cloth bag, or enough towels to surround it. I figure that during the winter, the machine could use some extra insulation. I imagine in the summer it isn’t so important since the ambient temperature is already close to the right temperature.

Cost wise, this is much cheaper than almond or coconut yogurt and probably at least competitive or cheaper than store bought soy yogurt, which I mentioned before, is strangely absent from the shelves.

Food Stamp Diet: Prep week

Tried to use up existing materials. Had some wheat cereal (boils up like oatmeal) Experimented with soaking chic peas. I under estimated how much time from the time I soaked them to the time I turned them into fake-fish sandwich material & curry. Next time, soak the beans on Saturday, turn them into lunches on Sunday.

Got pepitas and sunflowers for making milk. The organic sunflowers were raw. I dry blended them to a powder and added boiling water. What I got was a very gritty milk with a lot of solids that sank to the bottom– not at all a good drinking milk. I know I could have used a nut bag to filter our the solids, but I don’t like wasting a half cup of seeds to get seed flavored milk. Today I’m using the sunflower seed milk to make a pudding pie and a pie crust. So far so good, haven’t eaten it yet though.

Back on the topic of breakfast cereals– steel cut oats are a double waste of money. The resulting oats taste like boiled wheat berries– hard and chewy. Since they were stale I looked up how long grains keep. Optimally, grains are kept in the fridge, ground at the last moment within 4 to 6 months. This implies that farmers that depended on grains to get through the winter were eating stale tasting bread, flour and grains by spring.

Continuing to shop for vegan oils. Other than canola, there is palm, palm kernel and chocolate butter. The palm oil is a bit controversial– it appears rainforests and habitats of orangs, elephants and tigers are being cleared to make way for palm oil plantations. So cocoa butter at $12 to $16 a lb might be a more ethical vegan solid oil, but amazingly, it is really hard to find.

Poor Vegan and Post Apocalyptic Vegan

If veganism & vegetarianism is right, it needs to be right in a variety of circumstances, not just in upper middle class white America.

Poor Vegan
Inspired by some of the ideas of challenges posted to try to live for a week on the money a poor family gets for food stamps or the cash the urban 3rd world poor have to survive on, I thought, “Gee, could I do that and still stick to my principles?” This isn’t entirely academic, college students if they are living on their own earnings are pretty poor vegans.

The meal plan would have to be subject to:
Money constraints. $35 – $50 a week. So vegeburger, tofu, seitan, frozen TVP products are going to be out.
Ethics constrains. Dairy (if any) & food should be organic.
Time constraints. 1/2 a day for cooking, with 2 hours per day for cooking on weekends.

1st pass ideas for staples: rice & beans. Homemade peanut milk or sunflower seed milk.

Post Apocalyptic Vegan
I’ve been an environmentalist since college, but I’m so constrained by the decisions of the herd when it comes to sustainability. So my sort of pessimistic about the future. I figure that there will be a series of collapses in key things like long distance trade and petroleum based agriculture. If veganism is the right thing to do, then it should be the right thing to do when food is being sourced from the surrounding few hundred miles.

Local foods only. So a hypothetical Post Apocalyptic Vegan/Vegetarian book would have to have a section for each region of the US/world.
Maybe constraints on technology & processing. Cooking with blenders, dehydrators, freezers… I know that when civilization collapses the know-how won’t disappear, but the machinery and parts will be harder to come by.
Potentially growable by amateurs. Already you can see large urban cities abroad with food insecurity begin to rely on small urban gardens to supplement their food.
Potentially storable over the winter. And if food supplies are unreliable, they will be especially so during winter. So there has to be some strategy for keeping food over a winter without freezing it.

1st pass idea for staples (Washington DC area): corn, potatoes, sweet potatoes, cabbage. Homemade pecan, hazelnut or peanut milk– no clue if this could be feasibly done without a blender.

Why I am vegetarian

So I was thinking of getting a shirt from COK Ask me why I'm vegetarian T shirt, but I don’t have a ready speech.

I believe that participating in harm to other sentient beings cause harm to yourself. The habituation to death, violence, and taking advantage of the weak makes you into a worse person, a person you’d rather not be. Turning the living into animate objects by thinking of them as that, ignoring the value of all life leads to you thinking the same of your own life.

I believe, based on the totality of available knowledge about the limits of the global ecosystem that a diet of grain and chicken-shit fed beef, fish-meal fed chicken and antibiotic and corn fed fish is a diet for ecological collapse and the end of all modern civilization everywhere. The coming famine will make the great famine of China look like a feast. I can’t stop it, but I don’t want it on my conscious.

I believe, based on all currently available knowledge, that a diet high in animal fats is a diet for a short life. Unless your parents were hunters and gatherers from the artic, you and your family have been eating primarily vegetarian diets for the last 4000 years. You digestive system has evolved the ability to cope with gluten, lactose and lost the ability to cope with unlimited quantities of animal fat. I’ve never met a diet fad I didn’t like, so if you still want to be a paleo, you can still be a vegan– you would have nuts and seeds, starchy tubers at the base of your diet, a diet which depending on the season is what real world hunters and gatherers depended on.

However, I also believe that diets are incredibly stable. People are willing to engage in all sorts of irrational thought to cling to their current ways. I would encourage them to stop eating corn fed beef, which makes the cows sick, to eat farmers market chicken and pork so that they aren’t eating the diseased bodies of animals raised in disease guaranteeing conditions, and to stop eating fish– it’s all mislabeled and your are probably eating the unsellable mercury and heavy metal laden poison. Food from local farmers costs more, but you will be giving work back to local farming communities who are being ravaged by meth addiction and desperation as job dry up when another factory farm puts another community out of business.

If you found any of this persuasive, don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. You don’t have to switch to being a vegan (i.e. no meat, fish, milk or eggs). You can just cut out the meat that was tortured to death from your diet and eat humanely slaughtered meat. You can switch to farmers market meat. You can skip meat on Mondays. You can eat low on the sentience chain, i.e. mollusk instead of beef.

Eating disorders and vegetarianism

I’ve read more times than I care to remember that eating disorders and vegetarianism go together and shallowing-thinking journalists seem to like to think that people get the idea of vegetarianism into their head and then become anorexic– i.e. develop a generalized aversion to food.

I think the direction of causation is reversed. People with an aversion to food for reasons unrelated to the principles of vegetarianism label themselves as vegetarians because vegan and vegetarianism have some degree of acceptability and merit, while anorexia is rightly condemned as a mental disorder.

When it comes to making basic changes in fundamental areas of lifestyle, people are so resistant to change that they are willing to entertain all levels of logical lapses and nonsense to keep eating what they ate yesterday at all costs.

And on the topic of food aversions and food phobias, we should remember episodes like the draconian measures taken in England to deal with mad cow disease– where entire herds were slaughtered for fear of a disease that was probably less common that other food chain problems like salmonella or e coli. So if we accept that fear of food is a phenomena, then it shouldn’t be surprising that some percent of people who fear food in general end up as vegetarians. After all, I can leave out a vegetarian entrée on the counter overnight and eat it the next day and not have to worry much, but I’d worry to do the same thing with a pound of pork or fish. It’s just a lot harder to screw up vegetarian food to the point where it’s not safe to eat.

Seitan Advice

These are my notes gathered researching making seitan at home.

Watch the you tube videos before you start.

Use either gluten flour (70% gluten), or some hard winter wheat flour, or white whole wheat (15% protein).

Obviously, don’t try to use a low gluten or gluten free flour.

Knead the dough until springy before putting it in the water.

Keep the water, let it sit, the starch sinks and you can use that starch for stuff like gravy, or discard it because we get enough starch in our diet already.

Spelt has gluten, but it’s gluten is highly water soluable so you probably don’t want to use that.

Refined grains without the bran are probably OK, because in the washing, everything but the gluten is disolved and washed away.

 Put seitan in a bag to boil for cooked seitan.  Or bake the whole lunp.  Or boil it without the bag to make a  seitan soup.