Organic vs. Conventional

Oh Organics, My Organics

“Organics” have arrived. They are more popular than ever, but what exactly is organic food? How does organic farming differ from conventional farming? How does the organic labeling process work? And, what does it all mean to you, the well-intentioned consumer? You might be surprised by some of the answers.

Over the past few decades, organics have moved from the “lunatic fringe” to the red carpet. Literally. This paradigm shift was most evident at the 2004 American Music Awards held in Los Angeles. Each year, celebrities, usually accustomed to receiving gaudy gift bags brimming with fancy fragrances and trendy technology, were instead presented with a more natural offering: “ecogift bags” filled with organic treats like Annie’s Homegrown Organic Macaroni and Cheese, Taylor Maid Farms organic coffee, and organic cotton tote bags from Patagonia.

Organics are not only en vogue among luminaries and de rigueur among foodies, middle America is going organic, too. The 2002 Organic Consumer Trends Report found that thirty-nine percent of the U.S. population uses organic products.

Organic food production is a $16 billion-a-year industry, according to the Organic Trade Association (OTA) – and it is rising precipitously. Even though organic still accounts for a mere 3% of overall food sales, it is growing at a sizzling rate of 17-20% per year as compared to a glacial rate of 2-3% for conventional foods.

“Once you have Kraft marketing an organic product, albeit through another brand, you really can’t be more part of the mainstream than that,” said Don Montuori, editor of Packaged Facts, an industry publication.

More people eating healthier food produced in safe and sustainable ways is all good, right? Well, not necessarily.

Double-digit growth can be a double-edged sword. Organic food production is growing so rapidly that it is straining the system. There are not enough organic farms and organically raised animals in the United States to meet demand.

When demand outpaces supply, things can go awry. For example, in 2006, The Cornucopia Institute, an organic watchdog organization, filed a legal complaint before the USDA against Dean Foods, the largest milk bottler in the United States. The complaint alleged that Horizon Organic Milk came from cows reared in factory farms that violated organic standards. Specifically, Horizon’s dairy cows did not have sufficient access to pasture and were kept in inhumane conditions. The case is still pending.

“As organics become more mainstream, the standards are at risk,” says Ronnie Cummins, a national director for the Organic Consumer Organization. “Mass market and organics aren’t always compatible,” he adds.

First, let’s get clear on the differences between organic and conventional farming –how and why the distinction was originally drawn.

In 1990, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm Bill included The Organic Foods Production Act, which was created to establish uniform national standards for the production and handling of foods labeled as “organic.” The Act authorized a new USDA National Organic Program to set national standards for the production, handling, and processing of organically grown agricultural products.

The USDA National Organic Program now oversees mandatory certification of organic production. The Act also established the National Organic Standards Board which advises the Secretary of Agriculture in setting the standards upon which the National Organic Program is based. Producers who meet standards set by the National Organic Program may label their products as “USDA Certified Organic.”

Here is the technical definition of “organic food” according to the USDA National Organic Program website: “Organic food is produced by farmers who emphasize the use of renewable resources and the conservation of soil and water to enhance environmental quality for future generations. Organic meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products come from animals that are given no antibiotics or growth hormones. Organic food is produced without using most conventional pesticides; fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge; bioengineering; or ionizing radiation. Before a product can be labeled ‘organic,’ a Government-approved certifier inspects the farm where the food is grown to make sure the farmer is following all the rules necessary to meet USDA organic standards. Companies that handle or process organic food before it gets to your local supermarket or restaurant must be certified, too.”

Fairly clear cut, right? Unfortunately, things aren’t so clear. The ability to emblazon a food product with the word “organic” is a valuable marketing advantage. And, when a subtle advantage can be leveraged for financial gain, it’s a breeding ground for situational ethics — and compromised standards.

Organic certification is intended to protect consumers from misuse of the term, and to make buying organics more straightforward. However, as the demand for organics rise, some large food manufacturers are attempting to weaken organic standards. Even the slightest downgrade in those standards can represent a financial windfall to large food companies.

Some believe that the U.S. government is also seeking to undercut organic standards. For example, Congress passed a $397 billion spending bill that contained a buried provision which could jeopardize U.S. organic standards. The provision, which was slipped into the bill at the last minute without debate, would “permit livestock producers to certify meat and dairy products as organic even if the animals had been fed non-organic or genetically engineered grain.” The provision would override the NOP’s requirement that 100% organic feed be used to produce organic meat products.
While many forces seek to soften organic standards, others go above and beyond to safeguard and uphold them.

“We’re talking about people’s health here,” says Dr. Jack J. Singh, founder of Organic Food Bar, Inc. Health is our most precious asset. Food companies should protect that at all costs! When you run a food company, you are feeding families with children. It is incumbent on everyone in this business to do everything they can to protect people’s health, particularly now as we face a health care crisis in this country.”

What the big companies don’t quite grasp is that unflinching integrity is good for customers – and good for business, too.

  • If you want to eat purely organic food, the label should read: “100% organic” and nothing less. Only products made entirely with certified organic ingredients and methods can be labeled “100% organic.”
  • Products with at least 95% organic ingredients can use the word “organic” and can also include the USDA organic seal. The other 5% can be conventionally-grown ingredients.
  • A third category, containing a minimum of 70% organic ingredients, can be labeled “made with organic ingredients.”
  • In most cases, the word “natural” on a product label means very little because, unlike the designation “organic,” the word “natural” has no legal definition.
  • Whenever possible, buy food produced closer to home. That way, you know your food is fresher — and you know where it comes from! The recent food scare with China, while unsettling, has compelled many Americans to examine the origins of their food. This is good. The fact is that locally-produced food is better for you, it’s better for your community — and, it’s better for the planet.

To learn more about organics, visit The Organic Trade Association at:

For more healthy living tips, visit:

OLM Interviews Raymond Francis

Author of the breakthrough books Never be Sick Again and Never Be Fat Again.

An MIT-trained scientist, internationally recognized leader in health, and called “…one of the few scientists who has achieved a breakthrough understanding of health and disease,” Raymond Francis is on the cutting-edge of biological science and an internationally recognized leader in the field of optimal-health maintenance.

He has proposed an entirely new concept of health along with a simple program for achieving it called the Beyond Health Model. Raymond is chairman and CEO of Beyond Health Corporation, a supplier of highly advanced health education and world class health-supporting products to the public. In addition to being an author of two best-selling books, Raymond Francis is the creator of the internationally-presented Beyond Health Seminar and author of the Pathways to Health newspaper columns. He has been a guest on more than 1,500 radio and television shows.

For more than fifteen years, Raymond has been the host and producer of his own syndicated radio talk show, The Beyond Health Show. Raymond is also the founder and president of the nonprofit, Health-e-America Foundation (HeAF). The foundation’s purpose is to end the epidemic of chronic disease by using revolutionary technology to teach the basics of good health. HeAF is the sponsor of TPED (The Project to End Disease), a growing international movement to teach people how to end disease in their lives.

What was the catalyst that caused you to learn about alternative healing and nutrition?

I took very sick and almost died.  In fact, my death was a medical certainty.  The doctors gave up all hope that I would live but at the last moment, I used my own knowledge of biochemistry to save my life. That event has led me on a quest to learn more about why people get sick, what we can do to make them well, and to share what I have learned with others.

How has your field helped you understand the human body?

An understanding of biochemistry is fundamental to understanding health and disease.

Why do you think most physicians don’t view health and illness as you do?

Physicians have almost no training in biochemistry.  Their education is focused on anatomy, diagnosing diseases, and treating diseases with drugs and surgery.  They have virtually no understanding of the biological processes that cause disease or how to reverse these processes after they happen.  This is why they are so ineffective.  Medicine is about “managing” disease, suppressing the symptoms of disease, not about curing disease.

Most alternative health care practitioners seem to be fairly narrowly focused, yet you have such a broad understanding about health and illness. How did you develop such a broad range of knowledge?

I developed my holistic approach because, as I researched health, it became very obvious that a holistic approach was required.  While what is going on at the cellular level determines health or disease, there are many factors that influence events at the cellular level.  These include nutrition, exposure to toxins, your thoughts, emotions, beliefs, the amount of physical activity you get, the amount of sunshine you get, and even your exposure to electromagnetic fields.

You have written two best-selling books: Never Be Sick Again and Never Be Fat Again. How have doctors responded to the information in your book Never Be Sick Again?

Doctors all over the country, and even in foreign countries, are telling us that they are changing the way they practice medicine after reading Never Be Sick Again. This is because the book provides a fundamental understanding of what causes disease and how to prevent and reverse disease.  It changes the equation from merely managing disease to curing disease. More than a few physicians have called it one of the most important books they have ever read.

Tell us about the “one disease theory”.

All so-called diseases have a common root. All disease is the result of malfunction at the cellular level—so there is only one disease—a malfunctioning cell.  The many different symptoms produced by these malfunctions have led to the belief that there are many diseases.  This confuses our physicians and leads to a chaotic approach to treating disease. There are not many diseases, only many symptoms produced by one disease—cellular malfunction.  For example, mercury toxicity can cause cellular malfunction producing various symptoms including allergies, asthma, arthritis, depression, high blood pressure, and osteoporosis.  Your doctor will diagnose you with six different diseases and prescribe drugs for each disease.  The diseases will remain chronic and the drugs will damage your health and produce many unpleasant side effects.  However, once you understand that these six “diseases” are merely symptoms of cellular malfunction, you can then look for the true cause of your cellular malfunction, get rid of the excess mercury, and get well.  All these so-called diseases will simply disappear.  There is only one disease—cellular malfunction.

Medicine is about “managing” disease, suppressing the symptoms of disease, not about curing disease.

Will readers be able to cut back on their prescription drugs by following the advice in this book?

If they follow the advice in the book and get well, they will be healthy and have no need for drugs.

What are your feelings about typical store bought vitamins?

As an expert in vitamin chemistry, I call tell you with confidence that most of them are junk.  They are not worth what you pay for them, and some even have toxic effects.  When I was struggling to save my life and restore my health, all the vitamins I took made me sick.  Now I know why, and I have my own brand of vitamins, the Beyond Health brand that is the highest quality obtainable.

Never Be Fat Again has been called the “first diet book worth reading.” What makes it different?

What makes it different is that it is the first weight-control book that allows you to lose weight—permanently.  It is scientifically proven that diets don’t work.  Just look around you for the proof.  If diets worked, few would be overweight.  Never Be Fat Again is different.  It is not a diet book. It is a cause and effect breakthrough that gives readers the knowledge to reverse the causes that created the weight in the first place.

Why do you refer to being overweight as a disease?

Because it is a disease.  Overweight is not a cosmetic problem.  It is a serious, chronic, degenerative disease.  If you are even five pounds overweight, we can begin to measure damaging biochemical abnormalities in your body.  This is why overweight people have more of all kinds of diseases, die younger, and suffer more disability than people of normal weight.  Fat doesn’t just sit there and look back at you in the mirror.  Fat cells are biologically active, producing a flood of dangerous, health-damaging chemicals, including excess estrogen that contributes to breast and prostate cancers.

What do you see as the biggest problem with most approaches to weight loss?

The biggest problem is that most approaches are aimed at losing weight.  This is a mistake.  Excess weight is only a symptom of this disease.  Almost anyone can lose 5 to 10 percent of their weight on any number of popular diets.  However, almost everyone will gain the weight back, usually gaining more than they lost. The only real solution is to cure the disease, and then the weight (the symptom) goes away automatically.

How does toxicity cause one to be overweight?

There are two control centers in the brain that control your weight.  One is the appetite control and the other is the fat-storage control.  Certain environmental toxins, such as artificial sweeteners and flavor enhancers (glutamates) will jam these controls and keep you hungry and storing fat, no matter how much or how little you eat.  In fact, toxins are a major cause of overweight disease.

What can the average person do right now to lose weight?

Buy a copy of Never Be Fat Again and learn how to eat a good diet, avoid toxins and improve your health so you can feel better, have more energy, think more clearly, lose weight, and enjoy a higher quality of life.  Since overweight is a disease, the only way to lose weight permanently is to improve health and get well.

What are the three most common things people do to make themselves sick?

1.  They eat poor diets consisting mainly of factory produced, processed foods that are low in nutrition and high in toxins.

2.  They needlessly expose themselves to dangerous environmental toxins that are avoidable.

3.  They put needless stress on themselves.

What are the first steps that most everyone can take to get well?

First understand that health is a choice. Then determine what is necessary to achieve it.  This means learning how to get adequate nutrition, to avoid avoidable toxins, to get regular physical activity, to get adequate sunlight, to learn to manage stress, and have a positive mental attitude.  Even if you are willing to do only one thing, get the sugar out of your life. It will have a tremendous positive impact on your health.

Raymond Francis is an MIT-trained scientist, internationally recognized leader in optimal health maintenance, and author of the breakthrough books: Never be Sick Again and Never Be Fat Again.

Raymond makes free health reports available to the public on his website:


Raccoon Eyes

Do you know of any herbs, vitamins, minerals, etc. to get rid of dark under-eye circles?

I started having them when I was a pre-teen and they got darker over the years. I’m in my early 20’s now. The circles are so dark, they look like bruises. I did have many blood tests done and everything turned out fine. I eat healthy and get plenty of sleep. I tried virtually every department store cream and they didn’t work. Now, I want to try the natural approach to get rid of these silly things! Your help is greatly appreciated. Thanks.


DR. SHILLINGTON ANSWERS: You need to do some serious liver and gallbladder cleansing. Dark circles are indicative of a poorly functioning liver. Ignore the common belief that dark circles are hereditary. This is simply not true. Handle your liver and the dark circles will disappear.

In health, freedom, and love



I am looking to purchase a juicer. Any suggestions? I am looking for one that will not “heat” the juice. Ease of use and cleaning are also important. I do not mind paying a little more for a good machine.


DR. SHILLINGTON ANSWERS: The ultimate, best juicer is the Norwalk. Not only does it get all the nourishment out when it comes to juicing, it makes an awesome press for making tinctures. Of course it costs 2,500 bucks so it’s one of those “you get what you pay for” top-notch goodies. Try and pick one of these up on e-Bay or at a yard sale, and you can get a smoking deal sometimes.

I own a 60-year-old Norwalk that weighs 400 lbs. and stands four feet off the ground with a six-ton press on it. You can run three humongous carrots through the grinder at a time and it doesn’t even slow down. I bought it from a little ole lady for $25 without even knowing what it was (discovered it was a Norwalk after I cleaned it up), and discovered it was worth about $25,000 after the President of Norwalk offered me two brand new ones in exchange for this one. Seems as if this was Norman Walker’s original line and even the company didn’t have one in their museum. The thing is you can find these at yard sales, estate sales, garage sales, etc. and most go for a song when you do find them. They are few and far between, though. But they’re out there.

But rather than waiting for that to fall out of the sky, I would recommend a Champion. You can pick these up brand new for anywhere from $250 to $350 depending on where you buy them. They will warm up a bit with continuous use, but the temperature will not go above 105 degrees, which is the temperature at which enzymes start dying in abundance. The Champion is all motor and will last forever. You’ll be handing it down to your grandchildren. You can also find these at yard sales for a song. I saw one last week that went for $5 and it was in perfect condition. The Green Power is also supposed to be good, but I’ve never used one so cannot speak from personal experience here. Hope this helps.



Are herbal remedies the same as homeopathic remedies?

DR. SHILLINGTON ANSWERS: No. Homeopathic medicine is a field of alternative medicine all its own and is the leading alternative therapy in France. It uses tiny doses of herbs, minerals, and poison in a theory called the law of the similar. Its premise is that if large doses of a certain substance can cause a problem, a minute dose can help the same problem.

In health and love,


Email your questions to questions [at] Questions may be edited for clarity or length

What Does Organic Really Mean?

Most of our readers have a pretty good idea what they’re looking for when they go into their grocery store to buy organic foods. But what does organic really mean?

Webster defines organic (in reference to organic food) as follows:
“Of, relating to, yielding, or involving the use of food produced with the use of feed or fertilizer of plant or animal origin without employment of chemically formulated fertilizers, growth stimulants, antibiotics, or pesticides.”

Organic is better for the environment and better for us. When we purchase organic foods, we are buying foods that have not been genetically modified or poisoned with manmade chemicals. The organic label stands for a commitment to agriculture that achieves balance with our ecosystem. The soil is healthy. It retains a higher concentration of minerals. Animals are treated humanely (at least in comparison to non-organic methods). The groundwater runoff doesn’t poison our streams. The plants are able to naturally reproduce.

If you’ve never noticed the difference between organic and conventional foods, buy two organic apples and two conventional apples.

On day one, do a taste test. Which apple tastes better? Does one taste more alive? More full of energy?

On day two, eat an organic apple for breakfast (and nothing else) and notice how you feel. How long does it take for you to feel hungry again? What do you crave for lunch? How is your energy level?

On day three, repeat this process with the conventional apple and ask yourself the same questions.

Now the bad news. Organic standards as defined by the USDA are under attack and have been since their inception. Large companies and big agriculture want to make organic foods less expensive to produce, because they know the organic market is growing. They don’t care if the label is meaningless.

The phrase “all natural” now means little to health-minded, educated consumers. If big business has their way, you can expect the same erosion of the organic label.

Various organizations like the OCA wish to protect standards and keep the word organic synonymous with health and environmentally sound practices. Please visit their website to learn more about this issue and to help protect organic standards.

17 Reasons to Eat Organic

There are lots of reasons to eat organic. here are 17.

1. It’s Healthier

Organic foods contain considerably higher levels of vitamins, minerals, and cancer-fighting antioxidants than their conventional counterparts.

2. No Unnatural Additives, Preservatives, or Flavors

Organic foods do not contain hydrogenated fats, artificial colors, artificial flavors, preservatives, artificial sweeteners, or monosodium glutamate (MSG), all of which can cause health problems.

3. No Pesticides

More than 400 chemical pesticides are routinely used in conventional farming. Pesticide residues are present in non-organic food. The average conventionally-grown apple has between 20-30 artificial poisons on its skin, even after it is washed.

4. No Genetic Modifications

Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are not currently allowed under organic standards. GMOs pose significant health risks and environmental hazards.

5. No Antibiotics or Hormones

Antibiotics and hormones given to farm animals cause health issues in humans. For instance, hormones in milk and meat are believed to be the reason children are reaching puberty at earlier ages than ever before.

6. Organics Aren’t Really More Expensive

Conventionally produced foods have hidden costs, including billions of dollars in federal agriculture and energy subsidies that favor big business. Chemical regulations and testing, hazardous waste disposal, environmental damage and cleanup, and illnesses and hospitalizations are other hidden costs to our non-organically grown foods. We pay for these subsidies with taxes.

7. Protect Your Children

Children are often more vulnerable to toxins than adults. Children should be fed an organic diet and taught how to resist our junk-food culture. It may take years before ailments associated with chronic or episodic contact with toxins become acute. Good food choices have a substantial effect on a child’s future health.

8. High Standards

Organic food usually comes from trusted sources, companies that are more likely to care about your health.

9. Care for Animals

Animal welfare is taken very seriously under organic standards. The appalling treatment of the majority of our farm animals is not acceptable under organic standards.

High Standards

Organic food usually comes from trusted sources, companies that are more likely to care about your health.

10. Care for Animals

Animal welfare is taken very seriously under organic standards. The appalling treatment of the majority of our farm animals is not acceptable under organic standards.

11. Better for the Environment

Organic farming does not pollute the environment through pesticide runoff or contaminate other crops and seed banks with GMOs.

12. Top for Taste

Organic tastes so much better! Fruits and vegetables are full of juice and flavor. Try them yourself. A side-by-side taste test allows you to easily taste and feel the difference.

13. Support Small Scale Local Farmers

Organic farms are more likely to be small and independently owned and operated. By buying locally produced foods, you help insure local farms are viable. Huge corporate agribusiness is significantly less efficient than the small farmer.

14. Save Energy

Buying organic and whenever possible buying from your local farmer, saves energy. You won’t be contributing to the environmental and social costs of the worldwide transport of foods and fertilizers. Fertilizer is naturally occurring; it isn’t shipped from across the nation. Crops travel fewer miles from farm to market and save energy in transport. You won’t be supporting a system based on the exploitation of third world labor.

15. Promote Biodiversity

Many large scale agricultural businesses practice mono-cropping, planting large plots of land with the same crop year after year. This practice strips nutrients from the soil and causes farmers to become more and more dependent on fertilizers. It also upsets nature’s pest control. The more bugs found on a farm, the higher the percentage of beneficial insects in the population. Solid blocks of one crop attract pests who like to eat that particular crop. Increased genetic resistance to pesticides has caused crop losses to double in the last 50 years. Organic growers practice crop rotation, cover cropping, and composting. They work with Mother Nature, not against her. Clearly more biodiversity is necessary in farming, and buying organic supports this movement.

16. Prevent Soil Erosion

Conventional farming has extracted wealth from the land at the expense of our topsoil, causing a worldwide topsoil crisis. Across North America, soil is eroding seven times faster than it can be replaced. Cornell University reports erosion costs at about $44 billion a year. Organic sustainable farming practices ensure nutrient rich soil and healthier crops.

17. Protect Farm Workers’ Health

Farm workers are exposed to extremely high levels of agricultural poisons, higher than any segment of the population. The devastating effects on them and their families are well documented. These are the people who tend and harvest our food, and they deserve better. You can help farmers by supporting a safe work environment and voting with your pocketbook by purchasing organic foods.

The Vegan Bodybuilder

Interview with Robert Cheeke, Vegan Bodybuilder and President of Vegan Bodybuilding & Fitness

Growing up in Oregon, I lived on a farm and had many farm animals as pets. I always had a love and appreciation for animals, and from an early age, I was concerned about their well-being. However, it wasn’t until December 8, 1995, that I decided to give up consuming meat. My older sister, Tanya, was organizing Animal Rights Week at my high school. I decided out of respect for her (a vegan since about the age of 15) that I would become a vegetarian for the week. I attended lectures, listened to speakers, read literature about animal cruelty, and watched videos about factory farms and animal testing. That week of becoming vegetarian has lasted for the past twelve years and continues today as I go on my 13th year of following a pure plant-based (vegan) diet.

Ten months after becoming vegetarian, I became vegan. Ironically, two years after giving up animal products, it was Me who organized the Animal Rights Week at my high school in Corvallis, Oregon. I also became active in an environmental awareness group at school called Students for Peace through Global Responsibilities (SPGR). I was active in promoting veganism for a long time, and I still am through my fitness company. I have been able to promote vegan bodybuilding on a worldwide stage through articles in major magazines, TV appearances, my vegan fitness documentary, and my through my five websites.

I love being vegan and knowing that I am having a positive impact on the environment and society. I have more energy than most people I know, and I very rarely suffer from any illnesses or fatigue. I eat a vast array of natural and organic foods that keep my bodyfat percentage low, protein intake high, energy levels high, keep my bones strong, and allow me to put on quality muscle. I believe that an animal-free diet is one of the best things you can do for your health, and the well-being of our environment.

What is the difference between vegan and vegetarian?

Vegans abstain from all animal products, anything derived from an animal and veganism is often a moral or ethical decision. Veganism is not just a dietary preference, but a compassionate and cruelty-free lifestyle (or as cruelty-free as possible). Vegetarians avoid eating meat and vegetarianism is often a health choice for most people, rather than a moral or ethical choice. Vegetarians often use leather and other animal by-products, and are not as concerned with issues such as animal testing. For most vegetarians, becoming vegetarian is a food preference. Vegetarians who want to eliminate animal products from their lifestyle, go vegan.

How much protein does someone need a day to have a body like yours?

A common standard is to consume 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight for athletes, and 1.5 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight for bodybuilders and other athletes interested in bulking up and adding mass. Eating consistently throughout the day makes it easy to consume that amount of protein if a variety of foods are consumed. Most people get more protein than they need but I do believe strength athletes require more protein daily than the average person.

How do you get your protein without meat?

I pay special attention to protein and my main protein sources come from hemp, rice, pea, soy, tempeh, nuts, beans, lentils, grains and a variety of powders and bars including complete meal replacements, adding up to 100-300 grams per day. A normal day for me totals around 180 grams of protein from a variety of sources. Tofu, a soy product, typically has 10-20 grams of protein per serving. Soy also has a Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score (PDCAAS) of 1.0, which is the highest protein rating for a food to have, and it scores higher than beef protein. Hemp is one of the best sources of protein, period. It is a complete protein meaning it contains all essential amino acids, it is alkalizing, rich in chlorophyll, naturally contains essential fatty acids, is packed full of nutrients, and is grown from the most sustainable methods, making it arguably the best resource. We often hear about protein combinations to make a complete protein. This is an accumulation of essential amino acids. Combining sources such as hemp, rice, and pea provides a powerful amino acid profile for enhanced biomechanical efficiency, assimilation and absorption. Taking in large quantities of protein can be taxing on the liver and kidneys so it is important to drink a lot of water when you’re on a high protein diet. Drinking water helps your body’s organs process large amounts of protein. In addition to the high protein foods, I also eat a significant amount of fruits and green vegetables, and I eat raw and organic foods whenever possible. Raw sources of protein can be found in nuts, seeds, seaweed, broccoli, spinach, kale, and other veggies and are some of the most potent and most beneficial sources of protein available on the planet.

Bodybuilders have pretty much always relied on meat as their primary source of protein and protein is widely considered the most important aspect of bodybuilding nutrition. Most people think bodybuilders must consume large amounts of meat to gain muscle and get bigger and stronger. Too many people confuse protein with meat; they think meat is the only source. There are plenty of muscular vegetarian and vegan bodybuilders who prove you can get just as big and strong on a plant-based diet. It is indeed possible and quite easy to do. You can view dozens of vegan athlete profiles on

What other kinds of food do you eat?

The bulk of my diet consists of fruits in the morning; protein sources such as nuts, protein drinks and bars for snacks; green vegetables, beans, tofu, and other protein and calorie-rich foods for lunch, and a variety of fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes, and grains for dinner. A typical meal for dinner may include a lentil soup with chopped veggies, steamed or raw broccoli, tofu, and brown rice. Potatoes, tempeh, beans, and nuts are also staples of my diet and are often consumed around dinnertime. I typically just drink water before and after meals, but for dinner I may include soymilk, almond milk, or natural fruit juice. I also eat a lot of sandwiches and burritos because they are so heavy and packed full of calories and protein which areimportant for me as a bodybuilder.

Fruits are by far my favorite foods. I prefer to eat more raw foods but also enjoy the warmth of cooked foods. I lean towards organic foods and have learned a lot about whole food nutrition from my Professional Vegan athlete friends and co-stars in my documentary Vegan Fitness Built Naturally, Brendan Brazier and Tonya Kay.
What supplements do you take?

When I am on the run and don’t have time to prepare a meal, I take a complete plant-based whole food meal replacement called Vega. Formulated by Brendan Brazier, a professional Ironman triathlete and fellow vegan, Vega is a quick and easy way for me to get quality nutrition. It contains many of my favorite foods, including hemp, pea, flax, rice, chlorella and maca. I especially like the fact that it contains five sources of quality protein, ensuring a balanced array of essential amino acids. I also snack on Vega raw energy bars before and after workouts for an extra boost. Even when I’m not on the run, I keep these foods around because they are some optimal sources of nutrition.

As mentioned above, keep in mind that a high protein diet can be taxing on the liver and kidneys so it’s important to drink a lot of water (I personally drink over a gallon a day when possible) to help the body’s organs process the large amounts of protein. The great thing about plant protein is that it appears to be much easier to digest and assimilate than animal protein, making the body’s job easier and providing a greater nutritional yield. I also recommend eating smaller meals more frequently to ensure your muscles will always be fueled and nourished, providing the best opportunity for recovery, growth, and achieving your desired results.

How often and long do you train?

Everywhere you look you will find different ways to train—different training principles, and techniques used to accomplish the same goals. Everyone has their own style, but I will go over some of the styles that are most common in bodybuilding and fitness, and my own personal approach to training. The routines are different, depending on what your goals are. For example, bodybuilding for mass will require you to lift heavier weights with fewer repetitions and longer rest periods between sets.

The first thing you need to do is establish what your goals are, what you want to accomplish through your fitness training.

Based on what you come up with, you will decide how many days you want to train per week.

I will use bodybuilding since it is what I do and it determines how I train. I lift weights fives times a week, working a different muscle group each day. In a calendar week, my training schedule might look like this: Monday-chest, Tuesday-back, Wednesday-rest, Thursday-arms, Friday-legs, Saturday-shoulders, Sunday-rest. Working with weights five days a week is effective and gives you an opportunity to rest after two or three consecutive days of heavy training. It is also easier than four days per week, because in five days, you cover all the major muscle groups on a different day and don’t have to combine two muscle groups like shoulders and arms, for example, in the same day.

Many pro bodybuilders workout with weights six days a week, but it is not something that I would recommend for a natural bodybuilder. Your body needs rest and recovery time. I wouldn’t even workout with weights more than four days in a row. Pros can get away with it because they have been bodybuilding for 10-15 years and know how their body will react to their training. They are usually also using drugs that help their muscles recover and grow faster than someone who is not using any anabolic bodybuilding drugs. I personally have tried lifting weights six days per week, and although I achieved some great results, I suffered three injuries and was often fatigued from overtraining. Therefore, weight training five days a week with two rest days worked very well for me, and I continue to train that way, as I think it is the most effective approach to natural bodybuilding.

The amount of time you spend in the gym is an important factor. There are many myths out there about bodybuilders training eight hours a day to look the way they do. That is complete nonsense and a ludicrous idea. If more were better, we would be in the gym 16-hours per day, but that is not the case. Sixty to ninety minutes in the gym is a perfect amount of time to spend weight training. Any more than that can be counter productive. Fitness activities like running, soccer, and basketball, are okay to do for a longer period. With weight training, you put a lot of stress on your muscles and joints. After an hour or so, they become fatigued and can inhibit further progress.


How do you train?

Before I get to the gym, I already have a plan of attack that includes what muscle group I will be working and a specific routine I wear athletic pants and a sweatshirt to stay warm and lower the risk of injury. I always begin with a 10-minute warm-up. For the first five minutes I usually use a stair-stepper to begin sweating or I do a variety of other warm-up exercises that get my muscles ready for the workout. The next five minutes are spent on warm-up exercises for the muscle group I will work. The sets are light and consist of around 20 repetitions followed by stretching the muscle I will be focusing on. Once I am warmed up, stretched, and ready to go, I begin with my working sets. My workouts change each time. I will not do the same chest exercises or same number of reps, or same weight, week after week. Sometimes I use mostly barbells, other times mostly dumbbells, and other times machines and cables. On top of that, there are flat, incline, decline, supersets, drop sets, pyramids, and other variations to target the same muscle group.

I train with lots of intensity and rest 30-90 seconds between sets depending on the exercises. I usually train alone, but I enjoy training with a partner, too.

What kind of exercises would you recommend to people who do not compete, but do want to look and feel their best?

I suggest people do a full-body workout or focus on full-body training, incorporating resistant weight training as well as cardiovascular training into their program. The key is to take action and make it happen. Be accountable and be consistent with the exercise program and adaptation and improvement will take place and lead to success. Ease into it and start with just a few days a week, leading up to five days a week of weight training.
What is your favorite exercise?

I have a bunch of “favorite” exercises. Some of my favorites include: flat bench press, decline bench press, deadlifts, leg presses, machine bicep curls, squats, and any exercise involving training the back. I think the “Big Three” are keys to success: squats, bench press, and deadlifts. If because of injuries you cannot do those exercises, find ones that train the same muscles such as machine chest press or dumbbell press instead of bench press; leg press and lunges instead of squats; or good mornings, hyperextensions, or a variety of rows instead of deadlifts.

What is your least favorite exercise?

I don’t really have least favorite exercises. I used to say lunges, but they aren’t too bad. I guess I’d have to say cardiovascular exercises. I prefer training with weights over doing cardio.

Do you usually cook for yourself, or have someone else cook for you?

I’ve been vegan for over a decade, but I don’t cook! I’ve never been into cooking, although I used to do some baking back in high school. My roommate prepares a lot of food so I often eat what he is having. Living in Portland, OR I’m spoiled with dozens of vegan-friendly restaurants that I frequent as well. When I do prepare some of my own food it is usually very basic and includes preparing potatoes, yams, rice, or making my own sandwiches.

What is your favorite vegetable?

Broccoli, potatoes, and spinach are my favorite vegetables, but I like many of them.

What is your least favorite vegetable?

I don’t really have a least favorite. I’m not a huge fan of iceberg lettuce.

How have you done in body building competitions?

I have competed in seven bodybuilding competitions as of the winter of 2008.

I entered my first contest in 2001 and have competed ever since. I typically compete just once or twice a year and sometimes take a full year off from competing. In the seven contests, I have placed 1st, 2nd a couple of times, 3rd, and 4th on two occasions. I won the 2005 INBA Northwestern USA Natural Bodybuilding Overall Novice Championship and was runner-up at the 2005 INBA World Natural Bodybuilding Championships. I’ve competed in California, Oregon, and Washington. Currently, I plan on taking a break and may not return to the stage until 2010.I’m working on a National Speaking Tour and more documentary projects that are keeping me busy. I’m still training though, and I’m bigger than ever right now.
Do you and have you ever used steroids?

I have never used steroids and have never been interested in taking them. I believe they are dangerous and should be avoided.

Robert Cheeke is the Founder and President of Vegan Bodybuilding & Fitness and is available for speaking presentations around the world.


An Apple a Day…

Apples come in all sizes and flavors and all shades of yellow, green, and red. We choose from three or four varieties at the grocery store, ten to twelve at the farmers market. A shame really, as there are 7,500 varieties grown worldwide, 2,500 of them in the United States alone.

The wild ancestor of today’s domestic apples originated in Kazakhstan and can still be found in the mountains of Central Asia. The only apple native to America is the crabapple. We can thank the colonists in the early 1600s for bringing apple trees to North America.

Apples are in season in North America from late summer to early winter. They are now available year round because they keep well in cold storage and we import apples from the Southern Hemisphere.

If you peel your apples, you miss out on many of the benefits of this incredibly healthy food. Unpeeled apples are high in fiber, both soluble and insoluble and they contain pectin, flavonoids, phenols, and vitamin C. They promote regularity, lower cholesterol levels, remove heavy metal toxins from the body, reduce risk of heart disease, help prevent free radical damage, and bolster the immune system. Studies also link apples with decreased risk of cancer, asthma, and Type 2 diabetes.

Choose firm, unbruised apples. Fully ripened fruits have the most antioxidants. Whole apples are much better for you than juice, and juicing yourself is better than store bought since laws in most states now require pasteurization, killing off nutrients and enzymes. If you do choose to buy your juice, don’t buy it clear; buy it cloudy for a higher flavonoid content. You’ll neutralize more free radicals. Do buy organic. Conventional apples are one of a dozen fruits and vegetables shown to carry the most

Although we are sharing recipes to cook this versatile fruit, we recommend you eat one raw apple every day to reap its full health benefits. Remember that old saying?