Today I had the pleasure to lunch with an amazing, compassionate and very well informed 12 year old vegan, named Sophia, a.k.a. ‘Coconut-Hippie’. The setting: The Naam a vegan/vegetarian landmark that has been in Kitsilano, Vancouver, B.C., since 1968. We both ordered the delicious plant based tempeh reuben sauerkraut sandwich made with Daiya cheese, served with the ever popular, and anti-oxidant rich, shredded beet and carrot salad, drizzled with a yummy vinaigrette.
On with our interview;
K: Sophia; do you realize how fortunate you are that your parents are okay with you switching to a vegan diet? I wanted to give up meat and chicken when I was six years old and my parents/nanny said “NO!”.
S: Yes my parents are very supportive. I have a friend that wants to go vegan and her parents won’t let her.
K: Did you know that the strongest man in the world is a German vegan? I thought you might find that interesting because you are German and a Vegan! Patrick Baboumian of Berlin holds the world record for carrying 1,216 pounds 10 meters.
S: No! (smiles, looks impresssed).
K: What was your inspiration for switching to a vegan diet?
S: I accidentally discovered some videos and documentaries on YouTube: Cowspiracy, What the Health, Food Choices and others that made we want to go vegan.
K: Do you know the Bite Size Vegan (www.BiteSizeVegan.com)? She posts informative short educational videos covering many vegan topics and backs up all her information with very detailed footnotes of the research and peer reviewed studies she cites. She even interviews vegan doctors!
S: Yes, I’ve watched several of her You-Tube videos.
K: I have seen every educational video she ever made and she was the driving force behind switching my cats to a vegan diet. Did you know that cats could be vegan?
K: Hardly anybody does. There’s this term coined in the pet food industry and taught at Veterinarian School, called “Obligate Carnivore” which states that cats must eat meat or die. Obviously it’s incorrect as vegan cats have led healthy lives for decades and my cats have been vegan for 3 years.
S: There’s a lot of misinformation regarding nutrition because of big corporations giving us advice when they want us to buy their products.
K: It’s a conflict of interest isn’t it, when the dairy industry tells us that Milk is good for us?
S: Yes, sometimes the information is untrue.
K: So what was it exactly in the videos and documentaries that made you want to give up eating all animal products?
S: I saw some videos of inhumane treatment of animals. I didn’t want to be a part of that. There was also conflicting information about what types of food are good for us and what we really need.
K: How did that make you feel?
S: It made me feel guilty (for contributing to the exploitation and mistreatment of animals). I went vegetarian first for a month and then gave up dairy and went vegan.
K: How do you decide what is true and what is false, when you see conflicting nutritional information on the internet, in books and from people who give you their opinions.
S: I keep searching and researching for more information to get more answers, then I make up my own mind.
K: Good for you, for digging deeper and coming to logical, science based conclusions. Knowledge is power.
K: Have you heard of Collective Consciousness?
K: It’s when there is a uniform understanding or agreement of social norms in society. Unfortunately some of these norms that are not very nice (cruelty to animals and destruction to our planet) are accepted without independent thought by the majority of the population. (Like the term Obligate Carnivore, which hasn’t been questioned by many people). In other words: many people accept what has always been, follow the crowds, and don’t question whether a traditional practice is morally right, or is the best practice anymore. I see it in the general public perception of consuming animals and their secretions (ie: dairy) as food, being okay. It explains why only about 1% of the world’s human population is vegan. When people like you and me, start asking questions, things can change for the better.
K: What did your parents think when you started eating vegan?
S: My dad was worried that I wouldn’t get all the nutrients I needed.
K: This is another example of Collective Consciousness. I learned in University (graduated June 2017) that not only can we get all our nutrition from plants but that it’s healthier than getting it from animal products. What did you do/say to him?
S: I educated him a bit and told him what I learned on the internet. Then we went shopping for chia seeds, beans, tofu, chic peas and other vegan protein foods. I also took some vegan cookbooks out of the library and my dad and I are going to make a vegan mushroom stroganoff dish together.
K: Sounds delicious. That’s so nice that you are going to cook together.
K: Did you know that I hold my e-Cornell University, Executive Certificate in Plant Based Nutrition from The Colin T. Campbell Centre of Nutrition Studies, New York? I’ve completed well over 150 hours of accredited courses in earning my designation. I also spent an almost equal amount of time, reading all the bonus materials and links provided to me by my teachers of Plant Based Nutrition. What I loved about this program was it was 100% science based, with no conflicting opinions like we see on the internet.
I did a little research on 12 year olds before our interview. Do you know how many grams of protein you need in a day?
K: Well, because you are still growing you need between 1600 and 2000 calories a day. Do you know what % of calories from protein is ideal in the human diet?
K: It’s between 4% and 7% of calories, so for you, we could round it up to 10% which would be 200 calories per day from protein, divided by 4 which equals the number of grams you need in a day. That would be about 45 grams.
That tempeh patty in your sandwich has about 22-25 grams of protein and the bun has probably 2 grams, the mushrooms and salad might have another 3 grams so that brings you up to around 27 grams. You’re more than half way there with just one meal!
K: Most people get too much protein because they are led to believe (by the corporations that want us to buy their high protein foods) that we need 30% or more! The reason many people get diseases(such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer) is because of too much protein from animal products. A protein deficiency is practically unheard of. A good way to get all the protein, fat and carbohydrates from a vegan diet is to eat unprocessed plant foods until you get enough calories each day. If you get enough calories you will get enough protein, One of the courses I completed at e-Cornell university was “Diseases of Affluence”. It was fascinating. What do you think about the consumption of dairy products?
S: I heard that cow’s milk contains 10 times more protein than we need and one of my teachers at school told me that I should drink 2 glasses of cow’s milk a day.
Side Note: According to the Dairy Council of California: Cow’s milk contains 8 grams of protein per cup, whereas human breast milk provides 1.36 grams of protein. Sophia brought up a good point; human breast milk is best for human babies and cow’s milk is designed for baby cows. Once humans are weaned, they shouldn’t drink breast milk anymore, not from any species.
K: How much plant based nutritional education have you received at school?
S: None, the teacher that told me to drink 2 cups of cow’s milk a day, was a French teacher.
K: Have you heard of Dr. Michael Greger of www.NutritionFacts.org?
He’s an independent nutrition researcher, MD, FACLM, who published an article on Sept. 8, 2011 called: How much pus is there in milk? The answer is: approximately 80,000 cells/microliter. That may not seem like much, but why would anyone every want to consume ANY food that contains ANY pus, pasteurized or not? Just a few drops of pus a day is no big deal right? Well add up the amount of pus consumed in a week, month, year and then decades and that’s a LOT of pus. Yuck. The article goes on to state that: “The cows, are considered to be ‘productive’ for only two years (the lifespan of a normal healthy ‘free’ cow is 25 years) and are slaughtered for hamburger when their profitability drops, typically around their fourth birthday, a small fraction of their natural lifespan.” That’s sad and whether people know it or not, when they buy dairy they are supporting this exploitive industry. Imagine if our life was ended when we had only lived 25% of our life expectancy.
K: With all of the science based research available on the internet today; why do you think less than 1% of the world’s population is vegan?
S: The food industry is very deceptive. Big corporations are telling people that they need to eat meat to get the nutrients and protein that they need.
K: But we know that this isn’t true. When presented with the facts, why do you think so many people continue to eat meat and dairy products?
S: They are addicted to meat and dairy and have been brought up to think that they need it, when really they don’t. It’s hard to change the way they think. They don’t want to change. My dad was brought up to eat lots of meat.
K: What are you looking forward to most, about being a vegan?
S: The number of animal lives I will save.
K: That is so sweet. What a compassionate answer. How many animal lives do you think you will save?
S: I heard it’s 100 a year.
K: I heard that it’s 95 a year for a vegetarian and even more for a vegan. I’ve been vegetarian for 37 years and vegan for 5 years so….(using the 95 per year number) I’ve saved 3,990 animal lives. It includes: cows, pigs, chickens, turkeys, lambs, fish, etc…I saw a t-shirt that showed a picture of all the animals that would be spared in a year. Imagine if I tried to put them all in one barn (with a fish tank), that would be a crowded party!
Have you noticed any changes in yourself since you went vegan?
S: I used to have this redness on my face, which I thought was normal. But it started going away and is almost completely gone now since I went vegan.
K: Wow, that’s great. Anything else?
S: I feel more connected now to the animals. There’s a cat in our neighbourhood whose owners go away a lot and leave the cat to fend for itself. When I see the cat I feel more connected and compassionate towards it. I also feel that a real burden has been lifted off my shoulders because I am no longer contributing to the poor treatment of animals.
K: I can relate to that. I love to call over and pet the cats I see, walking down the sidewalk.
Can you guess what the average number of hours of nutritional training medical students get before they become a doctor?
S: Seven? I think I heard that in the documentary “What the Health”.
K: Yes, I think that’s about right and it likely contains little or no Plant Based Nutritional Information.
It’s kind of scary to think that the first person people tend to ask for nutritional advice, is their doctor, who could actually know even less than them.
K: If a friend asked you the difference between a Vegan and a Vegetarian, what would you tell them?
S: There’s a big big difference! Vegetarians are not much different in health than meat eaters.
K: Yes, I agree. I remember a Power Point illustration that Dr. Colin T. Campbell showed in one of my Plant Based Nutrition courses. A peer reviewed scientific study was carried out that concluded:
“OUR WORK SHOWED THAT CASEIN IS THE MOST RELEVANT CANCER PROMOTER EVER DISCOVERED”. One of the courses I took was all about how cancer is initiated, grows and spreads and dairy was the worst culprit.
K: Would you tell me what your top 3 reasons are for going vegan in the order of most importance to you?
1st is for the animals.
2nd is for the planet (reducing the environmental pollution created by animal agriculture)
3rd is for my health and there is a fourth reason…
4th is that I don’t think God would want us to eat food that is bad for us.
K: Good points. I also think that God wants us to be good stewards who take care of the animals and not abuse them and be cruel.
What do you think some of the biggest challenges are for new vegans?
S: I wanted to share the new information I learned about going vegan but people got mad at me and said I was annoying.
K: Well I can certainly relate to that. It’s frustrating when the people you love the most, and want to help the most, can completely disregard your information. It took my husband 15 years to go vegetarian! Then about 2 years later he went 90% vegan. It’s just when he’s out that he’ll eat foods sometimes that have butter in them (pastries usually)! and he puts cow’s milk in his coffee usually. I keep telling him that if asks Tim Horton’s for almond milk, enough times, they’ll start carrying it!!
K: If you were invited to a birthday party and knew there would not be vegan cake, would you:
a)bring a dozen vegan cupcakes to share with your friends
b)announce that you’re vegan and therefore won’t be eating the cake
c)something other than the above?
S: just not eat the cake.
K: What do you think the most annoying question that vegans get asked:
S: Where do you get your B12?
K: That’s funny because it’s not even an animal product. It’s a bacteria that we can get if we don’t clean the dirt off of food. It’s easy to take a B12 supplement and we only need to take about 5mg twice a week of methylcobalamin.
K: What advice would you give to new/prospective vegans?
S:1)Be kind to yourself. Be self correcting, but don’t beat yourself up if you mess up
2)Know why you’re vegan. Maybe write it down on a piece of paper and put it up on your fridge or in your room, then when you’re feeling vulnerable just look at all the reasons why you’re vegan.
3)Share it with others in a kind way. You don’t want to scare others away from the idea, or contribute to a stereotype that vegans think they are better than everyone else.
4)Educate yourself. You need to know what is going on in the world (8 billion animals are unnecessarily killed and eaten in the U.S.A. each year, for one thing) and what is going on in your body.
K: Thank you so much Sophia. You are an inspiration to me and I think you will inspire others to try veganism too.