Happy Herbivore Blog

September 28, 2013

This Week's Q&A: Using a Pressure Cooker Without Oil, Vitamins (Yay or Nay), Testosterone, Defining "Processed," and the Veg Adjustment Period

You've got questions...

Q: I recently read your blog about cooking beans in a pressure cooker and since I cook dry beans all the time, I decided to take your advice and get one. I wait to use it! However, the instructions said to pre-soak the beans and add vegetable oil. Do I have to soak? Is the oil necessary?

A: I can't speak for all pressure cookers, but I was under the impression that soaking was optional. (Not needing to soak is why I was drawn to my pressure cooker in the first place — I'm a terrible bean planner). 

If the instructions say soaking is necessary, I would defer to them. As for oil, my manual says to add oil, but I never have. I haven't had any foaming or sticking issues with beans, greens or potatoes — which is all I use it for. I don't like how my PC does grains (makes a mess when I relieve the pressure), so I use my rice cooker for my grains, but I do beans/veg/greens without oil in my PC every day. 


Q: We started our Herbie journey last October/November to get off cholesterol meds, which I did. Now I'm 35 lbs lighter and feeling mostly better but I have low testosterone. I am prescribed AndroGel, but it's super expensive and I get super itchy when I take it — so I don't.... Are you aware of a Herbie-friendly way to boost testosterone? 

A: My first question is, is your testosterone just "lower" than what it was before, or are you being diagnosed as being low compared to the medically based standard of what a normal range for testosterone is?

There is some evidence that testosterone levels go up in men with their cholesterol and body fat, so your reduction in both weight/cholesterol could certainly explain a drop. So, if your T level is lower now than it was a year ago, as long as it was still within the "normal range," I wouldn't be too concerned (unless your doctor was, in which I would defer to him or her).

This article by Men's Health suggests eating fat (like nuts) at breakfast to boost T levels. Though if you're still trying to lose weight, have heart disease or a risk for heart disease/T2, this wouldn't be a great solution. It also mentions other foods like broccoli and also making sure you're getting adequate vitamin D (which you can be deficient in, regardless of diet, if you aren't in the sun much).

(FYI, I tend to take MH's advice with a grain of salt. So often their articles are wrong or it seems like they're getting financial incentives to advise in a certain way. In the above article, for example, they claim soy raises hormone levels, which isn't true. Annoying when magazines spread misinfo!) 

A few of my plant-based body building friends are really into eating celery or juicing it. They eat 7-8 stalks a day. I haven't read any scientific literature on it, but they swear it works (and that confirming science exists). Admittedly, this isn't a topic I spend a lot of time researching or reading about, so they could be right and I just don't know.

I also found this article on vegan foods that will boost testosterone and while I generally don't trust websites like Livestrong for health/nutrition info, the article seemed to reference some actual medical journals, so maybe if nothing else, finding those actual articles (in the journals) could be helpful for a read.

All the websites online seem to make the same food suggestions: banana, broccoli, garlic, and brazil nuts.

Q: I am torn between Dr. McDougall, who recommends only B12, and Dr. Fuhrman, who recommends several supplements (B12, D, Omega 3 or DHA, iodine, and a multivit). I am talking about preventive supplements, not supplements as treatments for specific deficiencies or symptoms. I just also read "Whole," and it seems that Dr. Campbell would come down with McDougall but I don't think he says so directly.  What do you think about supplements? I know you're not an MD, so not asking for medical advice — just trying to get "unconfused" about this issue. Thanks!!

A: Dr. Campbell, Dr. McDougall, and Dr. Essy all suggest B12 for preventive measures, but no other supplements unless you've been diagnosed with a deficiency (at least, that is my understanding of their position. I don't like to speak for other people :)). I think Fuhrman urges supplements because he sells them and stands to make a profit. Just my two cents. ;)

I do agree with you, though, after reading Whole, and Food Over Medicine by Dr. Pam Popper, I'm leery of supplements and vitamins (absent a true medical need such as diagnosed anemia). "The apple is greater than the sum of its parts," as Dr. Campbell says.

Q: I was always told that any food that is not in it's natural state, for the most part, is processed. So how do you eat unprocessed?

A: While that's technically true, I think of processed foods differently — fast food, TV dinners, potato chips, and junk foods are what most people think of as "processed foods." While applesauce is technically "processed," I don't consider it unhealthy (unless it was loaded up with sugar). Similarly, while unsweetened almond milk is technically processed, I still consider it a healthy, "unprocessed" food. I talk about my feelings on the terms 'processed' and 'unprocessed,' and what they mean to me in this post.

Q: Did you have an adjustment period going vegan?

A: Not really. I was a vegetarian for most of my life, so there is that, I suppose, but I went straight to no oil, whole foods, plant-based as soon as I learned of the benefits. Once I understood just how bad animal products, processed foods, oil, vegan junk foods, etc. were for me, I never saw them as an option again — I saw them as poison. (I drove four bags of unopened cans and boxes from my pantry to the food bank the very next day!) That's not to say I don't indulge and have a vegan hot dog or a vegan cupcake at someone's birthday from time to time, but for me, I had to rip the bandaid off. Fast and quick! I find the 180 approach seems to lead to the happiest people and the best results with my clients as well. Getting two numbers right on the lottery ticket doesn't get you the jackpot!

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