Saturday, May 30, 2009

Vitamin B12 - Just Not That Big Of A Problem

B12. The vegan's nemesis (or so they want us to think). The information is out there on the net in abundance but it can't hurt to have it here as well. After all, the more myths about veganism that are busted, the healthier the planet will be.

Yes - according to the hard facts, you can only get vitamin B12 naturally from animal flesh. There is speculation that there may be other ways of getting it from plant material but the sources are unreliable and when you're messing with the possibility of irreversible damage, unreliable is no good.

The numbers range but the most agreed upon Recommended Daily Intake of B12 in an adult is 2.4 micrograms. The simplest way to achieve this RDI is by taking a daily multi-vitamin (which you should be doing anyway). Check the list of 'ingredients' on the side of your vitamin bottle. Daily, you should be getting 10-100 micrograms of B12. Mine have always contained 100 micrograms, which I believe is pretty much a standard. Another option is to take a B12 supplement of 2000 micrograms once per week, but you're taking the multi-vitamin anyway, right?

Why do you need such a high intake if you only need 2.4 per day? Like anything else you ingest into your system, only so much is actually absorbed into the body before becoming waste product.

What does B12 do? It is needed for cell division and blood formation. Without it, anemia and nerve damage will eventually result. Humans that have switched to a vegan diet in their adult years, and have not fortified their diet with B12, have been know to go 20 years before showing the effects of B12 deficiency. This in an experiment you should not try!

You can get B12 from other sources as well, such as fortified breads, fortified cereals, and fortified soy or rice milk. But, as I'll say a million times over, and believe me I don't get paid to say it a million times over, take a multi-vitamin daily!

Friday, May 29, 2009

2009 Race Schedule

At one point, early in the year, I was considering entering an event nearly every weekend if available. After running a couple, I’ve changed my mind. I’ve realized that position and time don’t mean much to me anymore. The event, location and/or distance have to be unique for me to be interested. I can run an unexciting 21.1km from my front door at any time without having to pay $50-$100 and drive an hour or more to some urban jungle at ridiculously early hours of the morning.

In planning the rest of my season, I’ve picked just one event per month. The events are the most interesting I could find. They needed to be in locations that I would find interesting and could hang around and do some extra sight-seeing or hiking after the main event ended. Distance was a factor as well. I need the runs to be more than 10km and less than the evil 42.2km. I’m certainly no longer a sprinter, so 10km or less hardly gets me warmed up. Anything more than 30km leaves me unable to do any sightseeing after the event. The Pearson Runway Run is obviously an exception because when else do you get to run beside an active runway?

Due to expenses evolving around and the vacation time dedicated to the wedding in November, it was necessary to keep things close to home this year. Hopefully, next year, I’ll get to do something like the NYC Marathon (yes, it is a marathon, but NYC is definitely an exception to my rules), or any of the European races.

For now, here’s my schedule for the rest of 2009:

Toronto Pearson Runway Run – Saturday, June 13, 2009
Distance: 5km
A very rare 5km for me. This event really isn’t about the running so much is it’s about being on a runway at Canada’s busiest airport while aircraft take off and land on the runway next to you. This will be my second year running this race. However, I’m thinking a modern day PR of under 25 minutes is my goal for this one (long gone are the days of the sub-20 for me...). If the hamstring and calf muscles co-operate this shouldn’t be a problem considering how flat and wide open the course is.

Rattlesnake Point Trail Run – 5 Peaks – Saturday, July 11, 2009
Distance: 12.7km
This will be my 2nd race in the 5 Peaks series. I ran Mono Cliffs last summer and was registered for the Albion Hills half-marathon but opted out with a strained hamstring. Rattlesnake is full of hills, located on the Niagara Escarpment. I have no specific time goals for this one since it is a trail run and I don’t know the course at all. This one is all about the scenery and fresh air!

Midsummer’s Night Run – Saturday, August 22, 2009
Distance: 30km
I’ve wanted to participate in this one for a few years. I believe it used to be midweek and shorter. The run takes place on the Toronto Waterfront and the Leslie Street Spit. There is a 15km option but I’m going to attempt to be a man and do the 30km pain free. I always liked the idea of a summertime evening run, especially on a Saturday night in Toronto – the atmosphere should be electric. This is my chance at redemption at the 30km distance. I fell apart in the last 7 or 8 km of the Around the Bay 30k in March and missed out on the 3 hour mark by more than 9 minutes. Considering the flatness of the course, I should easily be able to crack 3 hours on this one.

Marathon Oasis de Montreal – Sunday, September 13, 2009
Distance: 21.1km
I can’t go to Europe to run this year, so Montreal is the next best thing. I thought briefly about doing the full marathon but quickly decided against it. There is so much else to do in Montreal and a full marathon would leave me pretty much useless. Plus, I’ve personally outlawed the distance anyway. Can I beat my PR 1:45:00 at this one? Not likely! I set that mark several years ago on the relatively flat Toronto International course. I do want to crack 2 hours, something I wasn’t able to do at Mississauga in May. This race is about the culture and atmosphere – it should be a blast!

Vulture Bait Trail Race – Saturday, October 17, 2009
Distance: 25km
This run will act as a homecoming of sorts. I always love to run in London, there’s a warm bed to sleep in at my parents house and I know the running routes inside and out. This run will be especially fun for me since I used to work at Fanshawe Park where this run takes place. Oddly enough, my job for that summer so long ago, was maintaining and constructing trails. There is a 50km option, consisting of 2 loops around the lake instead of just one. The course is quite flat and should be a lot of fun. Having never run the 25km distance specifically in a race before, this should be a PR! Under 2:30:00 will make me happy as of right now but it’s still several months away…

Monday, May 25, 2009

Recipe: Curried Chick Peas (Curried Garbanzo Beans!)

I believe that a major part of my success at Veganism is the fact that I’m a very adventurous cook! What sets me apart from the average Joe is taking a recipe, half-assed following the measurements and substituting or adding ingredients because of availability or simply because I think it’ll taste better.

The following is a recipe that started out as simple curried chick peas. I added in fresh tomatoes and sautéed onions and created what has become one of my favourite quick meals.


1 can of chick peas
2 small or 1 large tomato, diced
1 medium cooking onion, chopped
1 heaping tablespoon of curry powder
1 heaping tablespoon of ground cumin
1 heaping teaspoon of paprika
2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil


Set your frying pan on the stovetop at medium/low (on my stove it’s setting 4). Peel and chop onion (being sure to compost what you’ve discarded!) and sauté in olive oil. Stir onion often so it does not burn, turning down the burner if necessary. When onion is softened up, opaque and yellow, stir in tomato. Stir in spices and cover for a few minutes until tomato has softened up. Stir in chick peas and cover for another 5 minutes on low.

That’s it! You’re ready to go. I usually dish mine out on top of a few pieces of whole wheat bread and go to town. From start to finish, the whole meal might take 20 minutes to cook and eat. I don’t really have a name for this one, but since it is a bastardized version of ‘Curried Chick Peas’, I’m going to go with ‘Curried Garbanzo Beans’ since Garbanzo is the cooler and lesser used name for Chick Peas.

In fact, if you want to have some fun, see how many stock boys at your local grocers know where to find the Garbanzo beans. Then try the produce boys for scallions (green onions…).

What you’re getting (nutrients contained that are 25% of your RDI per serving, as per

Chick peas – fiber, protein, iron, folate, phosphorus, copper, manganese.
Tomato – vitamin a, vitamin c.
Onion – vitamin k
Olive oil – vitamin e, vitamin k
Cumin – iron
Paprika – vitamin a

Friday, May 22, 2009

My Current 5 Favourite Questions or Statements

In the near future, I am going to do a full FAQ for Vegans. Today, for fun, I’m going to list my favourite 5 questions or comments that I receive from omnivores.

1. No meat? Aren’t you worried about your health? Aren’t you? Do you really think eating dead pieces of one or more different kinds of animal with a large portion of deep-fried potatoes and a minute portion of other vegetables is healthy?

2. Are you gay? What? What you’re really thinking is ‘boy, this guy is a femme.’ Well, why don’t go come do a triple with me (a triple being, workout with weights, run 10km+ and play an hour of ice hockey to boot – all in the same evening – then get up the next morning for work…) and we’ll see who’s the bigger man. Besides, most every gay guy that I’ve had the honour of meeting tends to be tons of fun and a pleasure to be around – kind of like the original meaning of the word – so, it’s not really an insult…

3. We’re having a staff BBQ, should we get you veggie burgers? Thank you for the good intentions. A. I am repulsed by the thought of eating meat so why would I eat something that is faked up to look and taste like meat? B. No offense, but it would be soaking in animal fat that you have failed to clean off the grille while you cook it. Note: I do eat veggie burgers the odd time at home. They’re quick and easy and really don’t taste as horrible as everyone makes them out to be. The animal fat reason above is the biggest reason for not wanting them at BBQ’s…

4. Aren’t you afraid of your bones breaking and your teeth falling out? No. Aren’t you afraid of the every present risk of heart attack and/or cancer?

5. Humans were meant to be Omnivores. Really? There is only one small item that us humans cannot get from plants and that, of course, is vitamin B12. I will be doing a post on B12, but needless to say the amount we get in a multi-vitamin or a glass of fortified rice or soy milk is much, much more than enough.

Of course, the real responses I give to these statements and questions is usually very politically correct and hopefully informative and never, never condescending because being an asshole only changes the world in the short term (right, Hitler?)…

Thursday, May 21, 2009

In The Beginning...

November 4, 2008. The day I decided to change my life for the better and forever. Although it has only been 6 months, I can’t really remember what I was thinking or feeling on that day. I just know it was an absolute decision and one that I would never turn back on.

Actually, I was reading through a new (new to me) Anthony Robbins book at the time and I think that might have had a big part in the decision. However, I’d toyed with the idea of, if not Veganism, vegetarianism for a long time. I’d eliminated red meat for long periods of time. I’d limited meat intake to one meal per day. My Achilles heel, though, was cheese and eggs.

At 40 (my birthday was in October), I knew I had to make some fairly drastic changes if I wanted to continue to be physically active. I found that the food I was eating wasn’t in any hurry to leave my stomach. I would go for a run and I would have heart palpitations. I was experiencing acid reflux. For the last few months I contended with a dull headache that just never seemed to go away.

The changes were instant. I lost 10 pounds in 2 weeks. I was able to eat to my heart’s content. My headaches completely disappeared. I felt awesome. The only problem I had was how to tell those around me and how to get them to support me in what I was doing. I decided to stay silent and provide for them the illusion that I was still a raving omnivore. At least, for the first two weeks.

For that short period of time, I would rush to the kitchen to be the first to commit to cooking dinner. With everyone safely out of the kitchen, I was free to let the Vegan inside me run free. I was challenged once at my fiancé’s parent’s house where I scraped off as much hamburger as possible off her mother’s lasagna and then complained about the stomach pain I’d endured most of the day (wink, wink).

Then came the major turning point in my veganism. My fiancé, my two sons, my sister and her husband and I travelled to Cuba for a week’s worth of all-inclusive vacation. It was perfect. Buffet’s every meal. I could stuff my plate so full of veggies and just say the meat was underneath if anyone asked. But, I was soon to come out of the closet (or crisper?). On the first night, we met up with and did some heavy drinking with a pair of travelling companions from Toronto. I found out that they both did not partake in the eating of the flesh. They shared with me some of their wisdom and gave me the self-confidence boost I was looking for.

I didn’t come right out and announce it, but at dinner on the second evening, my youngest son asked me point blank at the dinner table whether I was vegetarian or not. I didn’t go into the specifics of being Vegan vs. being vegetarian but I did tell my little world that I was indeed off the meat forever.

Since then, it has gone very well. I still get teased in a friendly way by my fiancé, but her and her family are very understanding. Since that time, I now say with pride that I am Vegan and simple shrug off any negative comments anyone has for me. People almost always ask me if I’m tempted to eat meat. The answer is simple. No. It was a choice I made. I studied the facts and debunked the myths. I made the right decision and I know absolutely that my life will be so much better (and longer) because of it.

Thank you Dwight and Carolyn for your support in Cuba.

Thank you Angie, Joshua and Justin for your support at home.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Myth#1 - Calcium (aka-Calcium, not just from cows anymore...)

One of the bigger questions that new vegans have for themselves and have to field from well-wishers and skeptics alike is: “How can you possibly get enough calcium if you don’t ingest dairy products???”

Everything the dairy boards, in collaboration with all the governments of the western world, has forced into your mind since you were a child is nothing but a big, fat lie. Most of their products are in fact killing you. But, this is for another post and is probably something you’re already aware of and is a reason why you’re going vegan in the first place.

1000mg per day. This, for the most part, is the agreed upon daily standard intake of calcium for adults. Sound like a lot? Not really at all. I am not a supplement junkie but I’ve always taken a standard 1-a-day vitamin. I would never stop this ritual simply because of the B12 that is included. What is also included in my 1-a-day that I currently have a year’s supply of is 200mg of calcium. Right off the bat, first thing in the morning, before my eyes are even fully open, I’m already 1/5th of the way there.

There are quick lists throughout the internet (just Google ‘calcium in vegetables’ and you’ll get a few hundred thousand hits) with vegetables and the amount of calcium they contain. The on-line nutritional bible, (the ones that make the labels that are on all the food packages), lists 17 pages at 50 items per page of the top vegetables or vegetable products that are highest in calcium. That’s 850 items! A sample of a handy condensed version is at

Most vegetables, plain and simple, contain calcium. Plenty contain more than 50mg per 100 gram serving. It doesn’t take long to add up to that magic 1000mg number. Some of the best and still realistically available and edible are beet greens, radishes, beans of all kinds, spinach (duh!), cabbages of all kinds, celery (!), and broccoli. The interesting thing about broccoli is that the stalk contains more calcium than the florets by about 10mg per 100g. When I cook broccoli, I always include the stalk, sliced fairly thin.

It is not difficult to keep up with the recommended daily intake of calcium at all. Stick to a wide mixture of fruits and vegetables in your day from start to finish. If you still have some concerns, take in some fortified soy or rice milk as well as a multi-vitamin and you’ll get more than enough.

Remember, if people give you a hard time about you practicing your right to not consume dairy products, remind them that humans are the only creations in the known universe that drink milk after they are a baby.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Boyne Provincial Park / Bruce Trail - a 5-hour hike

I took a week off to recover from the Mississauga ½ Marathon. The half was Sunday, May 10, 2009. I finished and was able to walk the 8km back to my car, but I fought with cramping in both calf muscles and a little soreness in my right hamstring. I had been training pretty hard for the past 3-4 months and had run a 30k and the half within 6 weeks. With the week after May 10 ending with the Victoria Day long weekend and no race in sight for about 3 weeks, it was the perfect time to put the running shoes away and put the beer drinking hat on!

Unfortunately, there was still work to deal with from Monday to Friday and, of course, Wednesday night featured the duo of Ultimate Frisbee and late night pickup hockey. So, it wasn’t totally a week off…

This morning, with the whole day ahead of me to myself, I felt like easing back into things and welcoming spring back to the trails. I headed up to Boyne Valley Provincial Park, which is a tract of land just North of the intersection of Hwy 10 and Hwy 89. For those that aren’t one of the 40,000 or so that live in Dufferin County, Ontario, that intersection is about 20km north of the town of Orangeville, Ontario, where I happen to live.

Boyne is an unmanned park with no comfort facilities. That alone is a feature because it keeps the weekend crowds from Toronto away. Since the Bruce Trail runs through the middle of it, obviously it’s a fair bit hilly due to the good old Niagara Escarpment. You can follow the Bruce for quite a distance before the single track gives up to country roads – today, I walked close to 2 hours from where I parked along the side of the road, just north of Primrose (10&89), before having to turn around because I ran into civilization.

There are a few different side loop trails that help add on the mileage while staying within the park. For the most part, the trails were in good condition. There were still a few muddy sections and not all the fallen trees had been cleared yet. The temperature was a cool 4 or 5 degrees when I started out but rose to the low teens near the end. The sun shone the whole time and the air was clear enough that the CN Tower could be seen from the highest point in the park (called ‘the pinnacle’).

My fuel for the hike? I started out the day with a mix of fresh vegetables sautéed in olive oil with marinated artichoke hearts mixed in. Along the trail, I drank from my 800ml bottle of water and snacked on a ‘Special K’ bar – kind of like a granola bar but make with ‘Special K’, I guess – on sale at Price Chopper this week!

This was the unofficial first event of the unofficial series of events taking place this summer, involving only me and known by only me (and you). The name that sticks in my head is the ‘Because I Can’ series. I want to bike the rail trails from Cambridge, ON to Hamilton, ON and back which would constitute a 160km ride or a century ride (100mi). I also want to walk from home to Bellfountain via as many trails as I can and back – this would be about a 40-50 km walk depending on the route. Those are the only two unofficial events that I’ve thought of so far, but the training alone for those two events will keep me pretty intense along with the more boring legitimate events that I may enter.

As I end this post, I am getting ready for an intimate hour alone with the weights. So, yes, it is very possible to put in a 5 hour hike (25-30km) and do weight training on the same day on a vegan diet! In fact, I also mowed the lawn as well, which can be a bigger chore than the other two combined!

Spare the animals. Save yourself.