Sunday, July 6, 2008

When natural isn't better



I just got back from the vegetarian/vegan Mecca, NYC. We had great meals at Angelica Kitchen, Red Bamboo, and Two Boots Pizza. I can highly recommend all eateries. I'd wanted to try Angelica for several years and it did not disappoint. I had soup and a salad and HS had a seitan burrito. Red Bamboo has an extensive ecletic menu. This time we both had seitan; a sandwich and a skewer plate. Two Boots is my new favorite pizzeria, and they have a hearty vegan slice. They just need to put their jalapeno pesto on it (not really a pesto, more of a puree, and I'm sure it's vegan) and it would be perfect.

I have a letter to the editor in Natural Health magazine this month. My letter is in response to an article about sustainable sandalwood products. I say that sandalwood has been pushed to the verge of extinction due to the perfume industry, and that it's better to buy products with synthetic sandalwood, which smells exactly the same but uses only a fraction of the resources that sandalwood tree production (sustainable or not) does. It's important to replant sandalwood, of course, but I think it's a mistake to always prefer "natural" scents. In some cases it takes a ton of flowers, leaves, etc. to produce a gallon of essential oil. It just reminds me a bit too much of meat production in its resources in/ product out ratio.

Another way that I don't prefer natural is in regards to sweeteners. Actually, just one sweetener, agave. I figured out a few years ago (it involved tequila; don't ask) that I'm violently allergic to cactus derivatives. I can stay away from tequila but agave is more pernicious, often masquerading as a "natural sweetener." It rules out a lot of energy bars or vegan sweets for me. I'm writing about it because there is next to nothing on the 'net about agave allergies/reactions. (My reaction is horrendous stomach pains.) If you know anyone who's also allergic to agave, holla back so I know I'm not alone!

10 comments:

Theresa said...

I don't think I'm allergic to agave, but I wouldn't know because I've never tried it. It's shocking, I know, but in Australia I'm blessed with the fact that *no* sugar is processed with bone char. So although alternatives may be healthier or something, I go with convenience!

Allergic to tequila... that rules out margaritas? How sad! (Not that I'm a major lush, I just like the taste of margaritas sometimes!)

sarah.lawrance said...

hmm... i know next to nothing about agave, but, speaking of natural sweeteners, i'd love to hear your thoughts on stevia.

also, speaking of natural, reading your thoughts on spirulina would be interesting! i'm really getting into spirulina these days as an alternative to my multi-vitamin-- which, incidentally, was giving me some annoying nausea!

Glad you had fun in NYC! I have yet to enjoy that city myself...

Vegetation said...

I'm not allergic to agave exactly but I'm sure you've heard me moaning on my blog often enough about fructose and agave is 99% fructose (or something equally scary for me) and I get the same thing. Horrendous stomach problems so I feel your pain (literally!). Sadly it also rules out most other fruit and some vegetables and even wheat if I bother to get a dianosis and find out that I do actually have a problem with fructose.

ChocolateCoveredVegan said...

My sister's allergic to cactus! (Not that she has had it very often, but the one time she did, it didn't go over so well.) So maybe she's allergic to agave too... I don't know, but I'll warn her to not try it.

Vivacious Vegan said...

I never thought about the natural scents that way before. Thanks for showing me a different point of view.

robotslingshot said...

Angelica is my favorite! Glad you enjoyed nyc.

re said...

I think I might be allergic to agave also. horrific stomach pains, but no problem with tequila. went to doc's did all kinds of testing then I saw the bottle on the counter and thought hnmmmm. then googled it and here u r, like a gall bladder attack, but gallbladder gone, almost like a heart attack too.

re said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Whitney H. said...

I am definitely allergic to agave - I also discovered this with tequila, especially higher quality ones. One sip and my lips and mouth start to tingle and swell just a little. The skin on my face, ears and neck get scorching hot and is covered quickly by red splotches. I also get a very rapid heart beat. I am not a big drinker, so it took me a while to figure it out. If I even have one sip of a margarita, I'm miserable. Oddly enough, the cheapo-cheap kind that is served in the frozen ones at Mexican restaurants doesn't bother me. I hear that's because the agave content is either very low or non-existent. I don't touch those anymore just in case. I'll keep a look out for the sweeteners - I hadn't really thought of that. Good luck and best wishes for you continued good health!! :o)

xoxnic said...

I seem to be violently allergic to Agave. Two hours after ingesting, I begin vomiting and have diahrrea, accompanied by severe lower abdomen cramping and it continues until it is gone from my system. This has happened three times, all after eating desserts sweetened with agave. YIkeS!