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Mar. 14 2010 - 9:55 am | 4,024 views | 0 recommendations | 24 comments

Thank you Ellen, from one vegan to another

topic_recipesAnyone who has been vegan for more than a few years knows “the look”.   That expression you get from someone after you mention that you’re vegan.  Sort of a confusion combined with discomfort about how one can live without meat… without cheese… without milk and eggs and yogurt and yes, chicken and fish as well. 

Lately I’m noticing a difference.  Not a difference in how most people eat.  But, a change in awareness of what the vegan diet is – and, dare I say it – even some acceptance?

Five years ago the vegan diet was not being discussed in mainstream media.  This past year we’ve seen guests like Kathy Freston, Alicia Silverstone, Dr. Neal Barnard, and Jonathan Safran Foer talk about aspects of not eating meat and choosing a plant-based diet on Oprah as well as Ellen.  

What Ellen DeGeneres has done differently than Oprah, however, is show that the vegan diet is doable. Sure, she has a personal chef and doesn’t need to cook or shop for her own food.  But, she helps to educate her viewers, and invites her chef on her stage to demonstrate that these meals can be prepared by folks at home.  The recipes that her chef has cooked are not complicated, and even use some store-bought meat alternatives to help those transitioning from eating animal flesh.  When Oprah tried the vegan diet for a month, she also eliminated caffeine, alcohol, and gluten from her diet (following Kathy Freston’s cleanse).   This is a daunting dietary overhaul for someone that’s accustomed to eating vegan or vegetarian, let alone someone used to eating meat on a daily basis.

Gordon Ramsay also appeared on Ellen’s cooking stage, and whipped up a vegan stir fry.  I never thought I’d see Gordon Ramsay talk about a vegan meal, let alone prepare one.  While chef Ramsay was somewhat unoriginal in his meal plan (stir fry falls in the category of ‘what vegans must eat all the time’, along with tofu, sprouts, and fruit for dessert), he did infuse some creativity using sake in his dish.   

Ellen has genuine interest and concern for matters connected to consumption of the standard diet.  This past week, Jonathan Safran Foer was a guest on her show for the second time (his first interview is here).  This time he was joined by three viewers of the Ellen show.  One woman, a breast cancer survivor, termed herself a “reformed eater” after watching Ellen’s first interview with Jonathan, and subsequently reading his book.  Another viewer decided to stop eating meat after learning the animal suffering involved in today’s farming practices.   Other interviews with guests like Kathy Freston and Dr. Neal Barnard have also demystified the idea of a vegan diet, showing there is real merit in this way of eating if we want a life that helps preserve our good health, helps preserve our planet, and of course shows respect for all animals (not just companion animals). 

Every week she shares more about the vegan diet, whether through a cooking demo, a guest, a food sample or giveaway for her audience, and through her website.  This is mass-market exposure that the vegan diet has never received (in any positive and productive form, at least).  I’m noticing more people talking about the vegan diet, asking with real interest about aspects of the diet, and some are even experimenting with eating plant-based foods as a result. 

I have always admired and appreciated Ellen, for her humor, talent, resilience, sincerity and her compassionate demeanour.  Now, I am also grateful to her.  Her celebrity is allowing people to learn about a healthful, responsible, and compassionate plant-based diet.  

The vegan population is estimated at only about 0.5%, or 1 million people.  The number of lacto-ovo vegetarians is higher at about 10%.  So, for now, I’m not expecting to see the shopper next to me eschew their cheddar, eggs, chicken breasts, and frozen yogurt for quinoa, veggie dogs, kale, and rice ice cream.  No, I’m not that naive.  But, I am optimistic enough to assume that there will be more acceptance of a plant-based diet as healthy, rather than unwise or dangerous.  I also expect to see more people opting for a meat-free meal a couple of times a week.  And, in another few years, perhaps we’ll see those vegan population statistics rise… and even more significantly in five to ten years. 

I do think a dietary revolution is underway.  We are beginning to examine our food choices and food sources.  What is healthy?  What is sustainable?  And, what is compassionate?  A plant-based diet can answer all those questions. 

So, Ellen, while it’s unlikely that you’ll ever read this, I thank you for bringing veganism into the spotlight.  Thank you for educating people, for helping to initiate dietary change that could one day result in substantial changes to human health and animal welfare.  

(And, thank you for teaching people that we pronounce it ‘vee-gun’, instead of ‘vay-gun’. )  ;)  


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  1. collapse expand

    I hate to be upfront, but Mr. Foer is full of it as far as the science, and it’s curious why he hasn’t been challenged. It’s been proven time and again that a vegan diet, rich is carbs, low in fat, and natural fats from fish, etc, and low in protein is unnatural and unhealthy over the long term.

    And there have been studies that show that vegans who overly supplement their protein with plant sources like soy tend to fry your hormones. Ask your vegan female friend if she still gets her period. Soy artificially overloads the system, basically, and a Japanese study has shown that soy actually might cause the actual shrinking of the brain.

    Also, most of the vegans I know eat a ton of sugar to naturally supplement their lack of calories. Ask your friends and see. Sugar is basically a toxin to the liver. Don’t believe me? Watch this long lecture on the scientific facts of sugar’s effects on insulin levels and frying the liver:


    I know it’s anecdotal, but so many vegan friends have had problems with hypertension, dyslipidemia, and hepatic steatosis. And vegan friends who have been vegan for more than 5 years have complained about bone density loss.

    I’m not saying that vegetables aren’t necessary for nutrients, but only eating vegis, grains, and sugar is a recipe for disaster and can not only lead to bone problems, but general deterioration of tissues, and literal brain rot. Especially if one has been raised on a Western diet.

    Now sure, you can make the convenient argument that cows are bad for the environment. It’s obvious. But one should eat for one’s health, not one’s politics. Check out a story of a recovering vegan to see the opposite anecdotal evidence:


    • collapse expand

      I am not familiar with the data that have “proven time and again” that a vegan diet is “unnatural and unhealthy.” I would very much like to read any studies that show it. Would you be so kind as to provide links?


      In response to another comment. See in context »
      • collapse expand

        Well, the footnotes take up about 2000 pages, but I’d like to point you to some good sources, and you can go from there.

        Gary Taubes is the best science journalist who has written a book called “Good Calories, Bad Calories” on the history of nutrition “science” in the past 60 years or so. He’s a good place to start:


        I think I went a little overboard, but my point was that most vegans do not eat just plant matter, they supplement with sugary juices, flour, bread, easily digested starches, and so on. The ideal vegan diet would be simply veggie matter, tons of legumes, and nuts. But you still need Omega fats, and the jury is out on Flax. Best to usually supplement with fish oil.

        In response to another comment. See in context »
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    sunoxen, clearly you don’t support the vegan diet. I won’t change your mind, and I’m not going to try to in this reply. I have just a couple of things to add in response to your comments…

    At no point did I say “consume a lot of soy”. Still, for every article against soy, there is another to support it. Of course there are studies to tear down soy, it is a major threat to the meat and dairy industries.

    The vegan diet has been shown to be healthy in numerous studies, with pure vegetarians at far less risk for various illnesses and diseases. And, I don’t need to ask a female friend about menstruation. I am female. And, I’ve had three babies as a vegan, and have been vegan for 15 years.

    If you feel noone has challenged Jonathan Safran Foer’s work, perhaps you should do so yourself.

    I won’t argue any points further, it’s not why I write cookbooks and do this work. My intention with these posts is to reach out to people that have some interest in learning more about a healthy and varied vegan diet and are looking for information to make changes.

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      I would love to have my mind changed, it’s just the vast majority of the science, and not the whims of a nutritionist or two, has pointed me in this direction. Please point me to these studies you speak of that defend a high-carb vegan regimen.

      Notice that I said an overabundance of soy. It’s a leading indicator for what soy does generally to hormone levels. There needs to be more work on this, but initial studies have indicated this, as well as the neural findings.

      And I’ve never understood the “world is out to get me” mentality of the vegan world. I would argue on a purely conspiracy level that it isn’t the meat industry that runs FDA policy, but grain policy that does. That is what the food pyramid is all about. And soy is one of our biggest crops and exports. And soy is not a threat to the meat industry. We could not even think about growing enough soy to replace meat in our society. We would be more likely to consume insects for protein than soy if meat were to up and disappear.

      As I say, and I have skimmed thorough his book, there is no doubt that factory farming is generally grotesque. That doesn’t prove how nutrients are distributed to cells throughout the body. It’s easy to point a finger and go “ew” salmonella and “ew” capitalism like a horror film, it’s another to support local farms and pool together to purchase meat and raw milk.

      I know you’re in the persuasion business, but I’d appreciate actual studies that point in your direction that aren’t sponsored by the “People for Vegan LIfe” or whatever.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
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    sunoxen: Think about what you say before you make such generalized statements. It’s common sense that no diet is foolproof against fighting health problems. However, by mentioning a laundry list of ailments that some vegans may suffer from, you neglect to mention the far more extensive list of health problems caused by an omnivorous diet: heart disease, obesity, gastrointestinal problems just to name a few. Trying to make yourself feel better about your diet by spouting misconceptions is doing a disservice to those actually looking to make a meaningful lifestyle change.

    Anyway, while I rejoice in the fact that veganism has a mainstream advocate like Ellen to generate more interest, I do take issue with her Covergirl endorsement. In my opinion, supporting a company that painfully exploits animals to make a profit is hypocritical and no worse than eating animals.

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      Probably have a point on gastro, but heart disease, and obesity are caused by insulin levels being spiked, not by fat clogging the veins. Look at what Dr. Weil has to say on this. Your argument is 10 years old.

      I dare you to watch the link I put above, and call it a “misconception.” You vegans are like the Christian right when it comes to science. I have a ton of research, hard research, not whims, that prove on a molecular level what happens to food and how the body deals with it.

      I’m not trying to make myself feel better, I’m trying to find answers.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
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    I started off eating gluten-free, very minimal soy and no dairy or eggs and gradually transitioned into veganism (thanks largely to Dreena’s cookbooks!) because I realized the healthiest, tastiest food was plant-based. So go figure, I don’t eat sugar, packaged vegan foods or soy products. I certainly do not eat a diet rich in carbs. I agree with Dreena, there is little point trying to change your mind sunoxen, but I have to state for other readers that the vegan diet is a very healthy choice when it is plant-based. If your diet is full of packaged soy products and carbs it will be unhealthy whether or not you consume meat.

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      I would agree the ideally if one wants to be a vegan, doing so with purely vegetable matter and legumes is the way to go! And nothing make me happier than a good plate of beautiful kale! :)

      However, that is not what I have seen with my friends. Many of them supplement with soy-shaped food items, and sugar, and tons of carbs. That was my point to begin with.

      That’s why I would like to see evidence in studies based on following diets and results in health. Such a study has not been done. Mainly because it would take 5 years to do!

      In response to another comment. See in context »
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    I have a lot of friends who are NOT Vegan and who are not healthy. Is it because they are not Vegan? Maybe, maybe not. Maybe they just eat junk food and don’t look after themselves.

    It’s easy to attack Vegans but there isn’t any science or studies showing that a Vegan diet is unhealthy. It has been PROVEN that a Vegetarian diet is more healthy than a diet with meat. I don’t know if the same has been proven about Vegans, so I wont lie and say that I know that, but I do know a lot of Vegans, including some Vegan athletes. I also know people who have been Vegan since birth and who are in their 30s and are absolutely healthy, and not deficient in anything.

    I have Dreenas Vive Le Vegan cookbook and there is very little soy in there at all!! Nor is there sugar in there either. It is very healthy! My son has been Vegan his whole life so far. He is almost 4 years old, is a little bigger than his friends the same age (but does not consume lots of soy or sugar), can read and write lots of words, and is physically fit. He has passed all doctors visits with flying colours, and that was only routine and to get people off my back, as he is rarely sick. He also doesn’t ever that horrible running nose thing that you see in children his age so often! That is caused by dairy, I believe. I long ago was a meat eater and was overweight and lethargic. Now I’ve started running and someday hope to train for a marathon, and be as fit as these people:
    All Vegan, and they take no more supplements (protein powders etc) than any other athlete does.

    So maybe the friends that you know have been sick, but maybe they simply weren’t eating well, just like anyone else who doesn’t eat well, whether they be Vegan or Meat eaters. If you eat junk, you’ll be unhealthy. I personally have not met an unhealthy Vegan and I know a lot, and perhaps they are out there, but just don’t try the old “science proves this or that” because it’s crap, really. Science is based on truth and real life, and in real life there are thousands of thriving Vegans!

    The thing is, you don’t have to be one, and if someone else is not eating meat, it shouldn’t harm your or offend you so much. I mean really, it shouldn’t. We are not harming any body by not eating meat.

    I am wondering though, since you were on a bout sugar a lot, if someone is to turn Vegan but not consume too much soy or sugar, would you agree with it?

    I hell of a lot of non-Vegans consume a lot of sugar. I agree that it’s not good for you!

    I see that you have a link about a ‘recovering Vegan’. Hmm.. well it still comes down to whether you are going to eat well or not, whether you are a Vegan or not. If you simply cut out all meat eggs and dairy from your diet and don’t change your diet at all to include really healthy whole foods, then you’re going to get sick.

    I actually agree that you should eat for health (and meat is not healthy, nor is dairy). But I actually am Vegan because of Animal Rights. I also happen to benefit from a healthy diet at the same time, and a free conscience. But that is my choice, and I’m not harming you by living this way, so you can try to argue your point but it certainly wont change my views. I love my lifestyle (obviously, because I still continue despite hearing this kind of “you are not healthy” bs on a regular basis!).

    • collapse expand

      Excellent points Kara. But on science, please watch the video. You will see that it’s not arbitrary the way sugars are processed in the liver. That’s fact. And though everyone is different, and some people’s livers are more efficient, there is a direct correlation between insulin levels and obesity and diseases that range from that.

      And yes, as I said above, the ideal vegan diet would be eating a ton of legumes for the protein you need, and rich dense vegi matter like kale; Staying away from fast absorbing and insulin spiking grains like rice and flour.

      This does concern me, as I work for politicians, and I have worked on nutrition policy and childhood obesity. I hate the bad science that has been practiced over the past 50 years that has shaped public policy. It is generally why I am a little uptight. It’s nothign against vegans. It’s just generally against choices made on arbitrary basis.

      Yes, I would generally stay away from dairy, and the lactose, but I would love if you could explain to me why meat, a substance humans have been consuming for hundreds of thousands of years is unhealthy! Humans have been consuming Olestra for 10 years. It’s probably not a food idea to eat it evolutionarily speaking ;)

      In response to another comment. See in context »
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    Great post, Dreena. My husband (who is a family medicine M.D.) and I just wrote a book that was released last month entitled “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Vegan Eating for Kids.” Perhaps sunoxen and anyone else who has concerns about the validity of the healthfulness of the vegan diet might have a more complete picture if they read our book, or read the policy statements released by the American Academy of Pediatrics or the ADA, stating that well-planned vegan diets are a healthy choices for anyone, including kids like yours and mine. Keep up the good work. I agree with you, a change in the way people view veganism and food issues in general is in the air. People, esp parents, are tired of the Standard American Diet (SAD, which is truly is!).

  7. collapse expand

    We don’t have a “world is out to get me” attitude, but we do get a bit on the defensive when we’re told that we’re not healthy. We also are so passionate about what we believe in because simply put: Some of us regard all animals as our friends, just like you would regard dogs as your friends. But not just dogs or cats, but also pigs and lambs and even kangaroos, for example. We don’t like to see people harming and killing, and then eating the things that we really care about. So some of us go out there and really try to stop this from happening to our ‘friends’. Others are more quiet and just stick to our non-animal diets, and don’t try to push our view on others.
    BUT, and this is a big ‘But’, it is when we are told that we are doing the wrong thing, and that we should be eating our friends, that we get pretty peaved off. I think this is rightly so.

    I think that if we were raising puppies at home, and then eating them and telling you that you are not healthy unless you eat them, then you would be horrified and pretty peaved off too.

    It sounds extreem but it’s not really. Especially when pigs are as intelligent and as loyal as dogs are. Yes it’s been proven. They just taste better, apparently. So dogs are pets and pigs are food, but not in my world. They are equal. I hate seeing them cut up on a plate. It really upsets me. To me it is no different from seeing a cat sliced up on a plate. Think about how sickening that is, and that is how I feel.

    So that is why we Vegans (some are for just health or just environmental reasons, so I don’t speak for them), come across like we do. Atleast that is my take on it.

    • collapse expand

      I am so sympathetic Kara. I am an animal lover, and I would never harm an animal. But again, my politics is not my body. I would ask you to listen to the link I gave from the recovering vegan, She is very level-headed, and had the same concerns as you. I would really love to know your point of view on her comments, as I don’t have your POV.

      I am not saying that a vegan lifestyle is wrong, I am saying that a high carb, low fat, low protein lifestyle is destructive to the body. If one can manage a vegan lifestyle that doesn’t spike insulin and provides enough fat through flax and seeds and enough protein from legumes to keep you healthy, then great! My point was that it is not usually the reality with most vegans.

      And on the environmental effect, I would merely say that the decision to destroy and sterilize the earth began when we decided to become an agricultural society. It’s why we invented poison, harmful fertilizers that poison the water table, et al. That’s just a fact. Our existence causes a footprint, the question is what kind of footprint should we encourage. A footprint of corn and corn derivatives, gluten, and flours is literally killing us.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
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    sunoxen, you seem like someone who’s interested in both anecdotal evidence and scientific study, so I’d like to share my story with you, and then some compelling research.

    I used to feel tired all the time, suffer from chronic digestion problems, have a fat belly that went beyond “baby weight”, and suffer from regular acne.
    I’ve been vegan for nearly 4 years now.
    I can’t even remember what my stomach aches used to feel like. My stomach is flat for the first time in my life. I have energy all day long. My skin only breaks out when I put something strange on it. And on top of that, my allergies to dogs, cats, and fruits have vanished. My doctor tells me she’s jealous of my health.
    By the way, I eat very little sugar: maybe 1 teaspoon a day. I consume no high fructose corn syrup or artificial sweeteners either.

    You mentioned the liver. Perhaps you’ve heard of the link between animal protein and liver cancer? That discovery lead Dr. Colin T. Campbell to research animal products and cancer extensively. You should read his book for some solid science on the myriad health catastrophes caused by eating animal products. It’s called The China Study and is available in paperback at all major booksellers. Good luck to you in your journey toward truth!

    • collapse expand

      Firstly, The China Study is a little wobbly to base a house on. Their trails were not conducted correctly, their age ranges weren’t diverse enough, and there was a metric ton of supposition based on a thesis that was prescribed from the beginning. If you want me to go on about it, I could literally write a book on the flaws in the study.

      I think one of the more compelling studies lately has pointed to genetic differences when it comes to low fat vs. low carb diets. Much more work needs to be done, but there may be a genetic propensity that you might have more towards a low fat diet, and you can more efficiently compensate.

      Yes, you are right to cut out the sugar. It’s literally poison. I am happy that you feel better.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
  9. collapse expand

    I’ve thrown That Look at vegans, and I have to tell you it’s not because they don’t understand the diet; it’s because they live in fear of the lecture that always seems to accompany any mention of food in the vicinity of a vegan. I used to live with a raw vegan chef and while his food was delicious, I’d have loved to choke him to death with it from time to time.

    “Can we skip the discussion of Chinese goose feces, at least until we’re finished our salads?”

  10. collapse expand

    sunoxen, I am not in the “persuasion business”. Goodness. I’m a mother of three. THAT is my business. I happen to write vegan cookbooks and blog about my experiences because I have a love for it.

    It’s ironic that this post began as one about gratitude, and has sparked such hostility. Also ironic to read: “I am an animal lover, and I would never harm an animal.” How do you not harm that animal in the process of killing it and eating it? Do you visit the farm that kills these animals to see how ‘humanely’ it is being done, or do you do the killing yourself?

    I won’t continue to debate with you, because you are making assumptions about the vegan diet that are largely untrue. Most vegans as they evolve with the diet consume a variety of legumes, nuts and seeds, vegetables, leafy greens, and whole grains – and these become the foundation of their diet.

    Kara, you said it beautifully with this “science is based on truth and real life, and in real life there are thousands of thriving vegans”.

    • collapse expand

      Yes, actually, I do visit the farm in which I get my beef and milk from. If killing an animal is necessary to my well-being, I am more than happy to have a farmer raise and kill it for me. I support that wholeheartedly. Especially if they take care in raising their livestock. Again, my diet has nothing to do with politics or the care for my animals. There is no irony at all in that. Killing animals for food is not cruel, and has been done for hundreds of thousands of years.

      Yes, anecdotal evidence can prove anything.

      Science is not based on truth and real life, it’s based on repeatable results. You’re right, though. You can’t have an intelligent discussion based on scientific facts with vegans usually. It’s like arguing religion. Which is pretty pointless, I agree. Sad, really. You have not argued anything at all. You have just dismissed, and there is a difference.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
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        I’m sorry, we’re the sad ones? You’re the one whose trolling (although under the guise of academia). If this post had ANYTHING to do with veganism’s nutritional benefits, then I could see why you might want to post your opinion (and I emphasize opinion). However, because the post is simply about a talk show host that happens to be vegan, than you really have no business posting here in the first place. You claim that arguing with vegans is “pointless”, and yet that was clearly your purpose for commenting. Why wouldn’t we dismiss everything you say, considering that you compare us to religious zealots, claim you’re an animal lover even though you kill animals unnecessarily (you claim your “politics” are separate from your body, that’s BS, because you said so yourself that a diet of vegetables, legumes, and healthy fats is perfectly healthy). Killing animals for food IS cruel when you have no concrete reason for doing so, and if you have any knowledge of history you’d know that “it’s been done for hundreds of thousands of years” is certainly no excuse for continuing a practice that is inherently wrong. I know you must be lonely, but I suggest you go away and comment on blogs more akin with your interests. I suggest “Animal Lovers in Denial”. Peace out.

        In response to another comment. See in context »
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          Well, if you want to go down that road, I could easily argue that the advent of agriculture has killed more creatures than any other human development. Destroyed natural habitats, etc. In order to grow your precious vegetables many animals and insects have to die and the land has to be sterilized and fertilized and poisoned, leaking chemicals into the water table, etc. So spare me the hypocrisy argument.

          Animals raised for food, and raised in a sustainable way has nothing to do with cruelty. Your evolutionary development is easily attributable to the fact that your ancestors killed and ate animals. It’s undeniable. And you think you are morally above your genetic propensities? That’s denial and arrogance on a major scale.

          I am not lonely at all. I don’t understand what I said to open myself up to such a pathetic personal attack, but I think that says more about your character.

          My only point this whole time is that there seems to be no scientific, testable basis for advocating a vegan diet. I dare you to produce one. All that seems to be said is that “It’s good for you.” And then silence. Is it too much to ask for a verifiable fact? If that’s a “guise of academia” that guilty as charged.

          In response to another comment. See in context »
          • collapse expand

            HAHAHAHA do you know how many times I’ve heard the “you’re still killing animals” argument? Well chew on this: Your killing animals by eating vegetables, killing animals by eating meat, and killing animals by eating animals that eat vegetables. In case you can’t do math that means veganism is extremely effective in reducing the amount of animals that have to suffer by our consumption, especially when you consume mostly organic, sustainable vegetables. Animals raised for food, even in a “sustainable” way (which has nothing to do with welfare btw) still suffer from birth to death. Our ancestors may have had to consume meat (although they certainly didn’t imprison and torture them first), it is morally wrong for us to continue to do so when we now have the ability to survive without it. As for my other arguments, like your “body politics” being bs, you have yet to refute them. And as someone who used to be an omnivore, I don’t need proof to tell you that the vegan diet is superior because my health has increased dramatically.
            If you aren’t lonely at all, then why do you continue to troll on vegan blogs? Every reply you give makes it more and more obvious. Don’t bother replying to this, because I’m not coming back to this thread. I think I’m going to take my own advice and get a life. Why don’t you?

            In response to another comment. See in context »
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    About Me

    I am the author of bestselling vegan cookbooks including "eat, drink & be vegan". I am a stay-at-home mom of 3 young children, and find time to cook, bake, create recipes, and blog somewhere in the day between feeding the kiddos, diapers, nursing babe, laundry, cleaning dishes, cleaning house, cleaning, cleaning, and more cleaning... school drop-offs and pick-ups, and activities. Nap anyone?

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    Contributor Since: June 2009