Healthier on Plants
HEALTH AND A PLANT-BASED DIET +
The results of an evidence-based review showed that a plant-based diet is associated with a lower risk of death from heart disease, have lower cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure, and lower rates of hypertension and type 2 diabetes than non-vegetarians.
Furthermore, those on plant-based diets tend to have a lower body mass index and lower overall cancer rates. A study in 2018 concluded that those on a plant based diet lower their risk of mortality.
This is a pretty good place to start!
A team at Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University in Medford, MA, found in its study of nearly 30,000 people that the quality of plant-based foods is "more important than the quality" of animal-derived foods when it comes to dietary health.
Their data map an association between making strong dietary choices for healthful, high-quality plant-based foods and a 30 percent lower mortality rate.
This is important to note - just going plant based will not be guaranteed health!!!
You can not expect to give up meat and dairy and replace them with processed sugars or fast food and reap the health rewards… it will only be a matter of time until you get sick! Plant-based diets really can be so healthy - these below studies are a testament to it, but you must eat a variety of whole foods…pretty please. Be a success story! First and foremost, whether vegan or transitioning to eat less meat, for great health and energy we want to make sure we eat the best quality alive foods - load up on vegetables, grains, seeds, nuts, good oils in moderation and fruits. Eat a variety. Eat as organic or pesticide-free as you can. Don't microwave or overcook your food and buzz all the goodness out of it!
Then we want to do what we can to reduce - or learn to cope with or counterbalance- stress in our lives. Meditation, yoga, pranayama, time off your screen, a work-life balance, PLAYTIME - whatever it is you find relaxing and nourishing to your nervous system and mind is not only beneficial to your state of wellbeing, it literally is the best medicine you can give your body. Our state of mind greatly influences what hormones the body produces and in-turn the "running of our system". The more stressed you are, the more nutrients your body uses and therefore requires!
I know the huge majority of us can live a healthy and cruelty-free life if we eat a varied diet of quality plant-based whole foods. In a perfect utopian world all the foods grown would be rich in nutrients and we would absorb all the vitamins and minerals from our food and be bounding with energy with no supplements...
However the truth is, sometimes even when we eat healthy, the soil in our country may be totally lacking a mineral, such as zinc and so therefore so is our food (hello Australia) and with our perfectly imperfect bodies, sometimes we need some support. This is true whether we are eating a plant-based diet or include meat and dairy. When people blame avoiding meat as a cause of feeling tired or illness, I like to remind them that the hospitals are full of people who eat meat in their diet and they are still sick... perhaps, as you will see from studies below, even more so, since research now confirms that plant-based diets actually decrease the risk of many illnesses such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer.
Supplements & Blood Tests
HOW OFTEN DO I NEED A BLOOD TEST? +
Bloods tests can do a few things. One, bring peace of mind and two, flag when there is something of concern - before we have any symptoms so we can address it, and also can help us get to the bottom of when there is an upset with our health to find out perhaps a cause of it. If you are transitioning to a plant-based diet then I usually recommend a blood test before you transition if possible to see your baseline and then one at 6 -12 months. This will be so you can monitor how your body is responding - hopefully confirm it is a healthy option - but if you see results that show nutrient stores decreasing after the second test, it gives you a chance to take some responsibility for what you are substituting the meat and dairy with, and perhaps get some professional support to get you on track!
After that first year, perhaps you can get a blood test yearly for a few years, and then only when you feel either you are curious for a check up or you are experiencing symptoms.
My personal journey has showed my results were always very positive - apart from after my son was born (9 years being vegan)and I was exhausted from lack of sleep, breast-feeding and had stopped looking after myself! ( Any tired parents relate?) I had lower end amounts of iron, Vit D and iodine and my results were good to keep me accountable to focusing on my diet again. Within 6 months of focus and some earlier nights, I felt back to my normal self and another lot of bloods confirmed that.
Then again in 2019, I did them for the first time in a long time, and everything was super high - apart from my B12. Why? I got slack and stopped supplementing over the last year. Perhaps subconsiouly experimenting on myself ( I ALWAYS recommend b12…) I share this, because I want to be open, and my results came back on the low side - still in the recommended scale, but to the low end. And us naturopaths generally like to see them at the high ends! It is a good reminder. Supplement your B12! I got straight onto it, and even have started my B12 injections just to give an extra boost. These are also optional for all vegans, perhaps even once a year to get a good dose!
SUPPORT THROUGH SUPPLEMENTS +
By supplementing with certain nutrients you can support your body to be able to function optimally and give it a helping hand in times of needs! I don't believe we want to blindly swallow a plethora of pills, even when they are herbs and vitamins, without having some understanding of when and why we take them. A Naturopath can help you with a program of herbs specifically for your situation - also helping with an absorption issues and finding good quality brands!
HOWEVER, a good across-the-board look at often-needed supplements in times of need and/or when on plant-based diet include;
We need B12 for DNA synthesis, maintenance of the outer protective layer of nerves, red blood cell production and clearing out excess homocysteine. A deficiency of B12 can show with a foggy mind, memory problems, fatigue and shortness of breath plus other nervous system problems we want to avoid. If you are on a strict plant-based diet, this is the number one supplement you should be taking as it is unlikely you get sufficient, if any in your diet.
Basically if you become deficient in B12, you are going to feel it, and it is not going to be doing you any favours! Yet, you may not even notice you are deficient for a period of time, even years, since the body takes awhile for it to register the deficiency.
In the time, before the symptoms are showing, already there are consequences happening in the body - firstly declining blood levels and cell stores, then increased homocysteine in the blood and then the clinical symptoms that can be;
- brain dog,
- fuzzy memory,
- sleep interference,
- Pernicious anaemia; a second type of anaemia that causes dysfunction of the bone marrow’s ability to manufacture red blood cells and leaves you fatigued,
- tingling or numbness in hands and feet,
- itchy skin.
B12, is made from a bacteria and is found in meat, cheese and eggs - and fermented foods that are fermented with lactic acid bacteria in traditional methods - which means you must supplement it if you are a vegan, but it is not only those on a plant-based diet that need B12 supplementation. Others examples of times you want to up the B12 include anyone who has had gastric banding, when you suffer from Chrons disorder, parasites, or when you drink too much.
But what type of B12? You may have noticed on the back of the bottles there are different ingredients and be wondering what one is the best for you?
The different forms of B12 in supplements are:
Methylcobalamin. This is the most active form in the human body and most readily absorbed
Cyanocobalamin. This synthetic version of vitamin B-12 is created in a lab, which makes it the cheapest supplement option but not the one I recommend.
Adenosylcobalamin, also a natural form but more rarely found in supplements
Methylcobalamin contains a methyl group (carbon and hydrogen) and cyanocobalamin contains a cyanide groups - synthesised in a lab and not found in a living organism such as the bacteria that B12 comes from.
There for I always suggest going for a methylcobalamin form of B12 supplement or in a mix of activated B vitamins.
If you live in the land down under with me, this is another supplement you want to be helping yourself out with because our soil is super lacking in it! Those who eat meat get it because they even have to supplement animals who are killed for their meat with it...
Zinc is essential for our immune system, cell division and growth and wound healing. Look out for those white spots on your nails as a sweet little indicators you may need more. A lacking of zinc can show itself as constant infections that are often hard to overcome, over-sensitivity and irritability and acne. If you are a mama to a child who gets angry easily, is a fussy eater, tires easily and is majorly reactive to things like their socks or sounds, they could very well be in much need of some zinc too!
Vegetarian foods that are high in zinc include;
SUNFLOWER AND PUMPKIN SEEDS, WALNUTS, CASHEWS, EGG YOLKS, ALFALFA, FENNEL SEEDS, OATS, BUCKWHEAT, CACAO, BREWERS YEAST, PULSE, MUSHROOMS, SOY BEANS, BLACK BEANS, LENTILS, SEAWEEDS
All beans and legumes offer great amounts of zinc, however, do be aware that they contain a large amount of phytates on their skin, which are meant to protect them in nature. Phytates reduce absorption of important minerals and occur heavily in beans, nuts, legumes, and grains. Be sure you soak your beans, legumes and nuts first to help remove the phytates and make them more digestible.
But if you are looking for a medicinal dosage, or are showing any symptoms of deficiency, including these foods in your diet won't be sufficient, you have to supplement it for a period of time. I recommend seeing a health professional such as a Naturopath to figure out which product is right for you and how much you should be taking.
Zinc is a vital nutrient, for all of us, and especially our growing children. Not having enough can interfere with them being at their potential. Just some of the actions Zinc is required for include;
- CATALYTIC ACTIVITY OF APPROXIMATELY 100 ENZYMES
- HORMONAL PRODUCTION FOR REPRODUCTIVE HORMONES AND STRESS HORMONES. THIS MEANS YOU NEED ZINC FOR GOOD QUALITY SLEEP AND COPING WITH STRESS
- CELL DIVISION
- DNA SYNTHESIS
- DEVELOP AND ACTIVATE T-LYMPHOCYTES, NEEDED FOR OUR IMMUNITY
Essential oils need to be consumed and they are essential for providing the building blocks for cell membranes and acting as raw materials that can be converted to other substances that perform special duties in your body such as hormones.When we are lacking in them we may have hormonal imbalances, arthritic symptoms, learning difficulties or skin problems like dermatitis. Consume foods like flaxseed oil, chai seeds, hemp seeds plus supplement with algae or buckthorn oils. They are even doing liquid form of these supplements if you have children who can't swallow capsules.
Fatty acids have three basic, crucial purposes in your body:
PROVIDING ENERGY PROVIDING THE BUILDING BLOCKS FOR CELL MEMBRANES ACTING AS RAW MATERIALS THAT CAN BE CONVERTED TO OTHER SUBSTANCES THAT PERFORM SPECIAL DUTIES IN YOUR BODY SUCH AS HORMONES.
The best way to consume these fatty acids are by including the whole food in your diet such as flaxseed oil, avocados, coconut oil, hemp seeds, chia seeds etc and aim to avoid processed foods and the unwanted types of tran-fats they contain. When we eat a diet high in processed foods you may be susceptible to a common trait at the moment where you have high amounts of omega 3's and not enough omega 6's. However I don't think it is worth getting paranoid about our exact ratios, I believe just cut out the processed foods that often contain heated oils, that are only omega 6 containing, such as safflower and sunflower oils etc and get the real foods, the quality fats into you.
I believe you can consume a healthy amount of oil through your diet and do not need supplements. However when suffering from conditions, there is a time when I believe supplementation at therapeutic doses is a nutritional way to alleviate disease and there are many studies showing the positive effect that EPA and DHA have on healing.
EPA (Eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid) are what our body converts from linoleum (omega-6) and alpha-linolenic (omega-3) fatty acids. These essential fatty acids pivotal role in health is in regulating inflammatory responses and cell membrane function.
Much of the supplementation you will find on the shelves is in the form of fish oil, with 1 million tons being produced every year-such as cod, krill, sardine. However unless you have been living under a rock, you may realise that we are fishing out our oceans at an unprecedented rate and therefor having the population consume fish oils isn't a sustainable option.
And my motto is if you can live a healthy, cruelty-free, then why not?
You can now get supplements with sea buckthorn oil or algae oil that contain high amounts of omega 3's and 6's.
Algae are what the fish eat to get their EPA and DHA, so can you...
The direct DHA that is found in the algal oil is specifically good for treating issues related to neural membranes in the brain and the retina, since EFA's, and specifically DHA, make up around 20% of the dry weight of the brain and peripheral nerves. It is also great for pregnancy and breast feeding since this is when the babies brain is at great development and requires the DHA.
You don't get the same amount of EPA directly as you do when consuming fish oils, however your body is capable of conversion when you give it the omega oils to work with. (Although Nordic Naturals USA have come out with an algae oil that is high in both which I am yet to try). EPAs are specifically good for inflammation. If you are suffering from a disorder that is inflammatory, then I suggest a plant-base diet of whole foods ( which will decrease inflammation in itself), increasing the omega 3 oils in your diet with flaxseeds, chia and hemp, and then using one of the many other herbal anti-inflammatory options you can get from your Naturopath. You don't need to rely on fish oil. If you do, make sure you talk to a Naturopath to get a high quality oil.
Some disorders that may benefit from increasing the healthy oils in your diet are:
- FEMALE HORMONAL DISORDERS SUCH AS PRE-MENSTRUAL SYNDROME, DYSMENNORRHOA AND ENDOMETRIOSIS OR WHEN PREGNANT OR LACTATING
- MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS
- SKIN DISORDERS SUCH AS ECZEMA, PSORIASIS OR ITCHY FLAKY SKIN
- NERVOUS SYSTEM SUPPORT IN DEPRESSION AND ANXIETY
- LEARNING DIFFICULTIES IN CHILDREN SUCH AS ADHD
We need iodine for a healthy thyroid - which we need for a healthy metabolism! So many more woman are suffering from hypothyroidism these days, with symptoms such as unexplained weight gain, bad skin, tiredness, concentration problems and sensitivity to the cold. (No surprise that iodine is one of the minerals that is interrupted by the Pill and HTR as well as alcohol...)
Iodine is abundant in sea vegetables, such as pulse flakes, nori, wake and kelp, so including these in your diet is important and tasty! Or supplement with Spirulina! If you do an easy urine test with your doctor and are deficient you can also take iodine drops until you are at a healthy level again.
Iodine is a trace mineral that is required for normal thyroid function. It is abundant in our oceans and depending on the location and farming methods, also found in our soils. We do not need to consume huge amounts of iodine to benefit from it essential properties but we do need approximately 150 micrograms per day. Some high sources of iodine are
Seaweed such as kelp, wakame, kombi, nori, dulse flakes (these are the best, dense sources of iodine and you can use them in soups, salads and sushi or even put a dulse flake in your porridge or smoothie and it is almost flavourless)
Iodine is needed by the thyroid as it is a constituent of the thyroid hormones, thyroxine (T4) and tri-iodothyronine ( T3). They regulate the metabolic rate; our growth and use of energy and body heat. When they do not function correctly you can develop and suffer from hypothyroidism, with symptoms including fatigue, depression, increased weight, concentration problems, puffy face, sensitivity to the cold, slow heart rate and development of a goitre ( lump on neck from enlarged thyroid gland.) This can be caused by an auto-immune disease, Hashimotos or is attributed to a deficiency of iodine in the diet.
Many of us have low iodine levels today due to a variety of inhibiting factors such as;
- alcohol consumption
- the Oral Contraceptive Pill
- not enough iodine containing foods consumed
You can find out if you are low in iodine through a urine test done by your doctor. If you are low then you also should be mindful about eating too many goitrin forming compounds that can block thyroid hormone synthesis. These are found in soy products and the brassica family; cauliflower, broccoli, kale, brussel sprouts, bok chou, turnips, when they are broken down raw. Obviously these foods have extremely good benefits, so I would not stop eating them if I had low iodine levels, I would simply not be having high amounts of them raw, instead I would eat them cooked as it stops the inhibiting process and alternate them with other vegetable types, while boosting my intake of iodine containing foods for a period.
Magnesium is needed for so many functions including nerve and muscle reactions, bone health and energy production. If you are getting the funky eye twitchers (always fun:) or spasms when falling to sleep, you my friend, need some magnesium.
In times of stress or physical exertion, magnesium supplements can be very beneficial. You can always support with magnesium gently through epsom salt baths or even transdermal creams these days. Otherwise some magnesium powder at night before bed will also help you rest well!
FOODS THAT CONTAIN MAGNESIUM -
AVOCADOS, ALMONDS, CASHEWS AND BRAZIL NUTS, BLACK BEANS, TOFU, SEEDS SUCH AS FLAX, PUMPKIN, AND CHIA SEEDS ONLINE, DARK LEAFY GREENS, PEAS, BROCCOLI, CABBAGE, GREEN BEANS, ARTICHOKES, ASPARAGUS, BRUSSELS SPROUTS, RAW CACAO.
PROTEIN, IRON & CALCIUM
CAN I GET ENOUGH OF? +
Ive addressed supplementation above, but still the main questions people are concerned about when transitioning to a plant-based diet are around protein, iron and calcium. Will we get enough without meat and dairy.
The short answer is yes. There is enough iron and calcium in plants for you not to be missing out, if, like I will continue to say, you eat a variety of whole foods and reduce the drinks, smoking, some medications if possible, that excrete them or raise the bodies need for them. When planning a pregnancy, pregnant, or breast feeding it is ideal to be on an iron supplement to support the bodies extra needs. Perhaps when over 50, if you feel you are not consuming enough calcium you can supplement.
Protein is an essential part of our nutrition, making up about 17% of the body’s weight and it is a main component of our muscles, skin, organs and eyes, hair and nails. Our immune system also requires protein to help make antibodies that are required to help fight infections, and protein also plays a role in blood sugar regulation, fat metabolism and energy function.
The human body creates 11 amino acids but must get another 9 from food, which is why we call them essential amino acids. Animal products are complete proteins, meaning they contain all essential amino acids but we must remember that all of these originated from those animals eating plants, or from animals eating other animals who ate plants.
Ultimately essential amino acids are made by plants and then eaten by animals, and we are a human animal and can do the same!
“The world’s strongest animals are plant eaters. Gorillas, buffaloes, elephants, and me.” — Patrik Baboumian, strongman world record holder
The recommended intake of protein for an average adult is set at 0.75g of protein per kg of bodyweight per day. So an adult weighing 60kg needs 60 x 0.75g per day, which is 45g. When you want to “bulk up” you want to be consuming 1.2 grams per kg or if you are highly active. Both are easily achievable.
1 CUP COOKED EDAMAME = 29 GRAMS PROTEIN
1 CUP COOKED LENTILS = 18 GRAMS PROTEIN
1 CUP COOKED BLACK BEANS, PINTO BEANS, OR CHICKPEAS = 15 GRAMS PROTEIN
1 CUP TEMPEH = 30 GRAMS PROTEIN
1 CUP COOKED QUINOA = 8 GRAMS PROTEIN
2 TBSP PEANUT BUTTER = 8 GRAMS PROTEIN
2 TBSP ALMOND OR CASHEW BUTTER =7 GRAMS PROTEIN
2 TBSP CHIA/ HEMP SEEDS = 4-10 GRAMS
1 CUP COOKED SPAGHETTI = 8 GRAMS PROTEIN
1 CUP PLAIN SOYMILK = 7 GRAMS PROTEIN
1 CUP COOKED SPINACH = 5 GRAMS PROTEIN
1 CUP COOKED BROCCOLI = 4 GRAMS PROTEIN
1 SLICE EZEKIEL BREAD (MADE FROM BARLEY, WHEAT, LENTILS, MILLET, AND SPELT) = 4 GRAMS
All vegetables and grains have protein in them, even if it is a gram. So when we eat a variety of food, this is also added to the days total.
To break it down, for me at 60 kg to get enough protein, an example of a day would be
1 slice sprouted bread(like Ezekiel) with avocado, 1 cup mushrooms, tahini and sprouts, approx 11 grams
Protein shake with plant protein, 1 Tbsp hemp seeds, cup spinach, berries, 1 teaspoon spriulina approx 35 grams
Snack of a handful of nuts and apple 5 grams
or hummus (7) and cut up vegetable sticks or seed crackers (5)
Salad w 1/2 cup rice(4), 1/2 cup beans(7.5) and a variety of vegetables(2) approx 13.5 grams
Dinner quinoa(8) curry with 1 cup tempeh(30) and sweet potato(2) approx 40 grams
You can see I achieve certainly enough - as most people easily will if they eat a variety of whole foods, and stock up and use those handy jars of tahini, hummus, seed mixes. But if you were to consume processed food products then you may suffer, but this is not only with protein but on many levels!
I also have a smoothie most days just because I find it an easy way to make it a safety net - I chuck in a whole bunch of nutritious foods and know its wayyyyy better than relying on a coffee for energy. (I love coffee but I TRY not drink them.. as I write this I am detoxing from a little habit that may have formed over the last month with a wonderful coffee shop at the end of the street. Mantra - smoothie not coffee!)
Plant-based protein powders have been shown to work effectively and some research shows when you combine the sources there is a better outcome, such as hemp and pea. You can select from a range such as hemp, pea, rice and soy.
For those wanting to know more specifically about the nine essential amino acids we get from our food, these are below with some plant based sources of each:
- Isoleucine: watercress, chard, sunflower seeds, spinach, kidney beans
- Leucine: alfalfa seeds, kidney beans, watercress, sunflower seeds
- Lysine: watercress, walnuts, peas, lentils, brewer’s yeast, almonds, chickpeas
- Methionine and Cysteine: sesame seeds, seaweed, spirulina, Brazil nuts, oats
- Phenylalanine and Tyrosine: sesame seeds, kidney beans, spinach, peanuts
- Threonine: watercress, spinach, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, kidney beans
- Tryptophan: spinach, turnip greens, broccoli rabe, asparagus, oat bran, kidney beans, watercress
- Valine: mushrooms, snow peas, kidney beans, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds
- Histidine: apples, beets, carrots, celery, cucumber, spinach
As you can see, many of the foods overlap under two or more amino acids, so it’s not that difficult to ensure you are getting a good mix of aminos acids each day. You can also easily add some complete plant sources that contain all nine essential amino acids like quinoa, buckwheat, hempseed, and chia seed. (yes, we didn’t realise they existed decades ago!) Once you get the hang of any new way of eating, and have made the effort to understand protein sources etc, then I always recommend relaxing around your eating habits. Don’t count calories, don’t record your protein intake - unless you are an elite sportsman perhaps… food is meant to be enjoyment and nourishment and it works synergistically. When we break it down into parts, sometimes we forget to enjoy it and that there is still much we don’t even understand that is deeper than just pulling it apart.
What about if you are an elite sports person, or someone who values training hard. Can we do this on plants still? A study conducted in 2017, for example, revealed that a non-calorie-restricted plant-based diet burned body fat while preserving muscle—which many professional athletes aim for in their eating methods.
Then there is a host of elite athletes that it is certainly possible, from body builders, to sprinters. These are just a select few of them:
- Venus Williams - tennis
- Lionel Messi -soccer
- Lewis Hamilton -F1 Racer
- Jermain Defoe - footballer
- Sergio Agüero -footballer
- Hector Bellerin - footballer
- Carl Lewis - sprinter
- Peter Siddle - Australian Cricketer
- Tia Blanco - Surfer
- Meagan Duhamel -Ice Skater
- Kendrick Yahcob Farris — weightlifter
- Hannah Teter — snowboarder
- Jack Lindquist — track cyclist
WHO/FAO/UNU Expert Consultation (2007) Protein and amino acid requirements in human nutrition. World Health Organ Tech Rep Ser 935:1–265
Young VR, Pellett PL (1994) Plant proteins in relation to human protein and amino acid nutrition. Am J Clin Nutr 59(5 Suppl):1203S–1212S
We are recommended to have between 8 mg - 15 mg of iron each day, dependent upon a variety of factors such as menstruation and body size/type, with an additional 15mg a day for women who are pregnant.
There is a difference between iron found in meat and plant sources; meat iron consists of 40% heme iron and 60% non-heme iron, whereas the iron found in plants is 100% non-heme. Non-heme iron is not as readily absorbed as heme iron however the clever body adjusts when you only eat non-heme iron sources, such as when you eat plant-based and it increases its uptake to suit its needs. Perhaps this is why studies show that omnivores and vegans share the same percentage of people who are low in iron… perhaps it is also because if we eat a varied diet of whole foods, with a functioning digestive tract, you should be able to consume sufficient amounts.
IRON PER 100 GRAMS
WHITE BEANS 2.7MG
SOY BEANS 4MG
KIDNEY BEANS 3.1MG
CHICK PEAS 2.4MG
SWISS CHARD 2.2MG
CASHEW NUTS 4.8MG
SPINACH, COOKED 3.4MG
DRIED APRICOTS 2.3MG
WHOLEMEAL PASTA 2MG
SESAME SEEDS 9.6MG
Calcium is one of the most abundant minerals in our body and is mostly found in our bones. It is important for our bone health, especially after menopause in woman, nerve transmissions, muscle contractions and cardiovascular health. The recommended amount to consume a day is approximately 1000mg, this amount gets a little higher above 50 years old.
A common misconception, that is widely marketed, is that we must have lots of dairy to achieve bone health and that this is the only thing we need for healthy strong bones. If you do consume dairy, always read the ingredients as so many dairy foods are made with a plethora of fillers, thickeners, flavours and lots of sugar. It is also important to buy organic dairy if you want to avoid the transference of medications including antibiotics from the cows milk.
We need more than just calcium for bone health and there are many plant-based foods that are also high in calcium and are easily absorbed by the body.
For bone health you also need vitamin D, so get some sun every week, avoid smoking and too much alcohol and keep up the exercise including some weight resistance.
CALCIUM PER 100 GRAMS IN PLANT FOODS
BRAZIL NUTS 160MG
DRIED FIGS 162MG
CHIA SEEDS 631MG
SESAME SEEDS 975MG (THINK TAHINI TOO!)
BOK CHOY 105MG
CHICK PEAS 105MG
Reducing Risk of Disease
TO CONSIDER FOR HEALTH +
Stress also comes in the form of what we put into our body. We want to avoid the foods and, when possible, medications that put more pressure on the bodies needs.
Some medications interfere with the bodies need for minerals and vitamins - and while I don't suggest just dropping prescriptions even for a moment - I do nudge you to consider consulting with a naturopath to see if there are alternatives you may be able to exchange the medication overtime with professional support. This isn't possible for every situation, and medicine is a gift we are so lucky to lean on when we need it, but one popular example is with the contraceptive Pill or HRT. Those little pills that hundreds of millions of woman take daily sometimes for decades, interfere with the absorption of B vitamins (riboflavin, B6, B12, and folic acid), vitamin C, magnesium, and zinc. Majorly needed nutrients...
Even if you decide to stay on the medication, you want to be aware of the effects it has so you take empower yourself to then do what you can to soften these. In this case you can take some extra supplementation...
Foods - you know the ones; sugar, processed carbs, soft drinks, too much caffeine, alcohol, artificial flavours and colours - also all put more pressure on our systems. For example tannins (a type of plant compound) found in caffeine inhibit the absorption of calcium, iron, magnesium and B-vitamins. Alcohol inhibits the absorption and usage of vital nutrients such as thiamin (vitamin B1), vitamin B12, folic acid, and zinc. I am all for having a little sweet or enjoying a good cup of coffee - but don't lean on these foods. Cut them down significantly and make sure they are not the features of your diet, rather they are the special occasions!
Lastly we want to really be true with the state of our body - honestly accepting and acknowledging what weaknesses or illnesses you are dealing with. It is important to be clear with what longterm or short-term systems you may be wrestling with. Our bodies shows us signs in the forms of niggles and discomforts or lethargy as a way of COMMUNICATING with us. We are spiritual beings having a human experience, yes, BUT our bodies are so so so intuitively intelligent. The human aspect of our physical selves can often be our greatest teacher... if we are willing to be in conversation with it.
Many serious illness could have been avoided if we were more open to hearing what our bodies are trying to tell us years before with just some annoying little issues. Too many times these warning signs are ignored... I urge you to be in relationship with your body and seek out a professional that can help navigate how to support your needs!
This goes for times such as pregnancy and breastfeeding or older age too - acknowledging our body needs some extra support and love yourself enough to dedicate time and resources to doing this!
REDUCING RISK OF HEART DISEASE WITH PLANT-BASED DIETS +
There's is lots of evidence that vegetarians have a lower risk for cardiac disease. Before I state it, I want to also high light the power of love and peace in the health of our heart. We can eat all the organic vegetables you want, but if you are stressed and stuck in grief or anger, your heart is still not going to be healthy…
In one of the largest studies — a combined analysis of data from five prospective studies involving more than 76,000 participants published several years ago — vegetarians were, on average, 25% less likely to die of heart disease. This result confirmed earlier findings from studies comparing vegetarian and nonvegetarian Seventh-day Adventists (members of this religious group avoid caffeine and don't drink or smoke; about 40% are vegetarians).
In another study involving 65,000 people in the Oxford cohort of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC-Oxford), researchers found a 19% lower risk of death from heart disease among vegetarians.
A study, conducted by University of Toronto researchers, has shown improved health, and lowered risk of heart disease to be associated with a plant-based diet. Researchers saw improvements in the participants' cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and triglycerides. In fact, over half of participants were able to lower their cholesterol by 15 to 20 percent over a six-month period forecast.
A study from the Netherlands looked at almost 6,000 people; the team found that those who ate a high ratio of plant-derived protein to animal-derived protein were at lower risk of developing coronary heart disease later in life. The research was led by Kim V.E. Braun from the Erasmus University Medical Center, in Rotterdam.
A Brazilian study looked at around 4,500 people and concluded that people who had a diet rich in plant-based protein were 60 % less likely than people who had a diet rich in animal-based protein to develop a buildup of plaque in the arteries of the heart.
Compared with their nonvegetarian peers, South Asian vegetarians exhibited:
smaller waist circumference
lower amounts of abdominal fat
lower blood sugar
lower body mass index (BMI)
They were also less likely to gain weight and had a lower mortality rate.
A study done in Hong Kong, showed long-term vegetarian diet is associated with markedly higher fasting plasma AA concentrations and lower concentrations of TAG, UA, and hsCRP. Long-term vegetarians have a better antioxidant status and coronary heart disease risk profile than do apparently healthy omnivores. Plasma AA may act a useful marker of overall health status.
Dr. Dean Ornish, a graduate of Harvard Medical School, completed a similar study with consistent results.
“An optimal diet for preventing disease is a whole-foods, plant-based diet that is naturally low in animal protein, harmful fats and refined carbohydrates. What that means in practice is little or no red meat; mostly vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes and soy products in their natural forms; very few simple and refined carbohydrates such as sugar and white flour; and sufficient “good fats” such as fish oil or flax oil, seeds and nuts. A healthful diet should be low in “bad fats,” meaning trans fats, saturated fats and hydrogenated fats. Finally, we need more quality and less quantity.” Dr Dean Ornish
Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr., MD, a physician and researcher at the best cardiac center in the US, The Cleveland Clinic, treated 18 patients with established coronary disease using a whole food, plant-based diet. Not only did the intervention stop the progression of the disease, but 70% of the patients saw an opening of their clogged arteries. This program continues with great success.
It is important to note, that strokes are very often caused from either or all - hypertension, atherosclerosis, or atrial fibrillation. These can all be improved with plant based diets, as increasing intake of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and minimizing or avoiding intake of meat and processed foods decreases prevalence of obesity, the heart diseases mentioned including hypertension, dyslipidemia, and diabetes.
REDUCING RISK OF CANCER WITH PLANT-BASED DIETS +
There is now a clear body of evidence that bowel cancer is more common among those who eat the most red and processed meat. Processed meat consumption has also been strongly linked to a higher risk of stomach cancer.
The World Health Organization has classified processed meats – including ham, salami, bacon and frankfurts – as a Group 1 carcinogen which means that there is strong evidence that processed meats cause cancer.
Red meat, such as beef, lamb and pork has been classified as a ‘probable’ cause of cancer. These classifications do not indicate the risk of getting cancer, rather how certain we are that these things are likely to cause cancer.
Processed meat was classified as Group 1, carcinogenic to humans.
This category is used when there is convincing evidence that the agent causes cancer. The evaluation is usually based on epidemiological studies showing the development of cancer in exposed humans. In the case of processed meat, this classification is based on sufficient evidence from epidemiological studies that eating processed meat causes colorectal cancer.
The strongest, but still limited, evidence for an association with eating red meat is for colorectal (bowel) cancer. There is also evidence of links with pancreatic, mouth and throat cancer and prostate cancer.
In 2015, 15,604 new cases of bowel cancer were diagnosed in Australia. The risk of being diagnosed by age 85 is 1 in 11 for men and 1 in 16 for women. In 2016, there were 5375 deaths caused by bowel cancer in Australia. This represents the second highest number of cancer deaths in Australia.
In the USA there are 101,420 new cases of colon cancer per year and is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in men and in women, and the second most common cause of cancer deaths when men and women are combined. It's expected to cause about 51,020 deaths during 2019.
Note- Processed meat has been classified in the same category as causes of cancer such as tobacco smoking and asbestos (IARC Group 1, carcinogenic to humans), but this does not mean that they are all equally dangerous. The IARC classifications describe the strength of the scientific evidence about an agent being a cause of cancer, rather than assessing the level of risk.
*But we need to realise they are actually a risk to our health!
Eating a diet high in fibre and vegetables is also a good way to decrease the risk of cancers. I do not way say this is the only reason cancer is rampant today. There are many risks in life in 2019 - stress, radiation, pesticides, plastics and chemicals found everywhere, air pollution etc…. BUT there is empowerment in doing what we can. *
Vitamins, minerals, enzymes and phytonutrients found in plant foods, support your body’s ability to repair, regenerate, detoxify and heal. You can have these in high doses in supplements, and even infusions, but long-term, real whole foods, high in these vitamins and minerals are needed for a healthy body. Include a range of greens, garlic, herbs, cruciferous vegetables, seaweeds, berries, beetroot, sprouts - and really just lots of vegetables. Studies show the majority of us are not getting enough!
There have been many stories - including my own father and his long-term partner - who have reversed their cancers from changing their diets high in meat and processed food, to a plant-based diet. I must stress, this does not work for everyone. We also know two lovely friends who did this, and did not overcome their cancers… like many friends who went through traditional cancer treatments - some found it worked, others sadly, did not…. all we can do is explore options based on a range of research, get professional support, and then follow what feels right to us… and prey… then it is my belief, it is up to the Gods.
Bouvard V, Loomis D, Guyton KZ, et al. Carcinogenicity of consumption of red and processed meat. Lancet Oncol 2015; 16: 1599–600.
Cross AJ and Sinha R. Meat-related mutagens/carcinogens in the etiology of colorectal cancer. Environ Mol Mutagen 2004; 44: 44–55.
Zalatnai A. Pancreatic cancer - a continuing challenge in oncology. Pathol Oncol Res 2003; 9: 252–63
REDUCING RISK OF TYPE 2 DIABETES WITH PLANT-BASED DIETS +
Type 2 Diabetes is a progressive disease, but is highly correlated with lifestyle. You can slow the progress or even sometimes have success in reversal of the symptoms with lifestyle and diet changes. Eating diets low in refined carbohydrates, cutting out your processed sugars and alcohol, taking up regular exercise and mediation, and it may surprise some people, that yes, cutting out meat and eating a diet of whole plants also is shown in studies to have a positive affect, not only on reducing the risk of diabetes 2 but also reducing the symptoms.
In studies of Seventh-day Adventists, vegetarians' risk of developing diabetes was half that of nonvegetarians, even after taking BMI into account. The Harvard-based Women's Health Study found a similar correlation between eating red meat (especially processed meats, such as bacon and hot dogs) and diabetes risk, after adjusting for BMI, total calorie intake, and exercise.
Many of the studies done over time have the consistent results that increasing red meat consumption over time is associated with an elevated subsequent risk of T2DM, and the association is partly mediated by body weight, with results also showing added evidence that limiting red meat consumption over time confers benefits for T2DM prevention.
Findings come from the Singapore Chinese Health Study, which recruited 63,257 adults aged 45-74 years between 1993 and 1998, and then followed them up for an average of about 11 years. The study found a positive association between intakes of red meat and poultry, and risk of developing diabetes. Specifically, compared to those in the lowest quartile intake, those in the highest quartile intake of red meat and poultry had a 23 per cent and 15 per cent increase in risk of diabetes.
More than 11% of US adults aged ≥20 y (25.6 million persons) have diabetes; the majority (90–95%) suffer from T2D,4and 1.9 million new cases of diabetes occur each year.
Diabetic peripheral neuropathy occurs in up to 60% of individuals with type 2 diabetes1 and is associated with significant morbidity, including gait disturbances, amputations, anxiety, depression and reduced quality of life. The condition manifests with damage to the terminal branches of peripheral nerves and usually first affects small fibers that are responsible for translating pain, light touch and temperature. As neuropathy progresses, large fibers responsible for reflexes and muscle tone are affected, leading to balance and gait problems. Most patients with diabetic peripheral neuropathy present with pain, numbness, or abnormal, spontaneous or induced sensations in the lower extremities. Pain occurs in 15–30% of cases.
Plant-based dietary interventions typically improve glycemic control and other factors associated with type 2 diabetes and its complications. In a study of 99 type 2 diabetes patients comparing a low-fat plant-based diet with a more conventional diet, in an analysis limited to participants making no medication changes, HbA1c (percent hemoglobin A1c) fell by 1.2 points in the plant-based group, compared with 0.4 points in the control group. Glycemic control appears to have a key role in the risk of complications. In intervention trials using plant-based diets, improvements in glycemic control, blood lipid concentrations7and blood pressure have been consistently observed, and diet acceptability is similar to that of other therapeutic diets.
In one study improvement in neuropathy pain in diabetes 2 suffers improved greatly after only 20 weeks on a plant based diet.
It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases.
Why would meat cause type 2 diabetes? Several reasons: animal fat, animal-based (heme) iron, and nitrate preservatives in meat have been found to damage pancreatic cells, worsen inflammation, cause weight gain, and impair the way our insulin functions.
FAKE MEATS FOR HEALTH? +
Fake meats and dairy products have come a LONNNGGG way over the last few years, and like any food product there are some much better than others in terms of health. These food products can be a helpful "quitting" meat tool, just as puffing on fake cigarettes can help giving up smoking, or as a fun, now and then ingredient. But in general, the majority of them are not something you want to include in your diet all the time, long-term because they are not whole-foods. It comes down to the fact that many of them are heavily processed foods that generally include a large number of ingredients including processed wheats and soys, sugars, synthetic flavours, and huge amounts of salt to make them taste good.
Eat them on occasion, or find the cheeses and fake meats that have the least amount of ingredients. There are many nut cheeses out there that are tasty and healthy - but these are not the ones that look like melted cheddar in general. I do not mean to put down the healthy subsitute options that do exist out there - but do want to raise awareness that you need to look at these products carefully. Just like “gluten-free” or “fat-free” does not necessarily equate to health product, neither does “meat-free”… (It does however mean free of animals :)
INGREDIENTS RED ALERT
There are high amounts of salts, binders and sugars but my primary concern with fake meats is the main ingredient in most which is Textured Vegetable Protein. Textured Vegetable Protein (TSP or TVP as its made from soy or wheat) looks like small, rough, odd-shaped yellow granules that are dry and hard, but if you squish a bigger piece it almost powders itself. It is the substitute for "mince meat" and to eat it, you constitute it with boiling water and add it to recipes or it is used to further make the main ingredient in veggie sausages or patties.
TVP (or TSP) is a factory-made food. TSP is a "defatted soy flour product", made by extracting soybean oil and separating the protein from the whole soybean. This process often requires the use of hexane, a solvent that is actually a byproduct of the gasoline refining process.
"During this process, a slurry of soybeans is mixed with an alkaline solution that removes the fibre, which is separated from the protein in a large aluminium tank through an acid wash. The final product is a curd, which is then spray-dried at high temperatures. This results in a protein powder, which is put through a high-temperature and high-pressure process in a machine called an extruder. The result is TVP."
Soy, especially when processed or GM, can mimic oestrogen in the body and consuming large amounts of soy can really confuse our hormonal system. Therefore I think you need to be conscious when looking at your overall diet of how much you are consuming (and preferably be having it in the organic and whole or fermented forms).
If TVP is made from wheat, then you end up eating a large amount of gluten protein in a highly processed form which studies have shown to be highly inflammatory to our system.
Raising Healthy Children on Plants
can we raise them to thrive without any meat at all? +
When we bring our children and their health and diets into the mix, it can stir emotions. So it should. With over half the children obese now in USA and Australia and many suffering from ADHD and even anxiety, their diets (that WE feed them) are less than supportive for these innocent little ones and directly affect their health. Too much sugar, artificial flavours, colours, hydronated fats, and too much factory farmed meat. I believe we can get rid of all of that…
But can we raise them to thrive without any meat at all?
This is what I know.
Billions of Indians are Hindu are vegetarian (not vegan) and raise many many children and continue to do so, without meat in the diet.
I have met at least 30 adults in my life, who have been raised either vegetarian or vegan, and all of them are healthy.
There are not a lot of studies done on vegan or vegetarian children in particular that I could find but three years ago, through their own research the Dieticians association gave them a tick of approval.
According to the American Dietetic Association: “Well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood and adolescence, and for athletes.”
I raise my own children vegetarian.
I choose not to raise them vegan. Why not?
My children eat a lot of vegetables and fruit, very little processed foods BUT they are not keen on legumes. My son also is not keen on many nuts… or sea vegetables, or herbs…and I simply do not trust he gets enough of what he needs without these things.
I feed them organic, pasture raised eggs and they eat organic cheese on their pizzas. Yes, I know this supports the dairy industry - and therefore the killing of male calves and male chicks - this doesn’t feel good. However, intuitively I stick by my decision. I do it with wide open eyes.
Eggs are healthy (from healthy chickens) Cheese, well, thats probably me just being lax…it is once per week for them.
I’ve had both their bloods tested and we did stool samples recently too - as I wanted to check everything as my daughter comes into teenage hood, and my son since birth has had digestive issues….(with gut issues children and adults can experience lower levels of vitamins and minerals!)
We supplement them with zinc, my daughter with iron and both of them with probiotics. They also have my super smoothies all the time, with rice/hemp/pea protein powders, avocado, coconut oils, chia seeds, green powder mixes, nut butters, berries etc…
I share this to be transparent, and to share that it is not always black and white. I STRONGLY believe in being CRUELTY-FREE. But not at the cost of our health. Which is why I am SO passionate about educating those plant-based or moving towards that way, to make sure we take responsibility and do it in a healthy manner. (*Please note, I think this is the same for all parents, for all our children’s diet, meat or not - we need to have a little understanding of nutrition so we can teach them - it is equally, if not more, important that maths, or English, as it will affect their longterm health!)
With our children, it IS possible to raise them vegan and vegetarian - but we must do so with understanding of nutrition and making sure they get what they need for their growing bodies through what plants they do eat, and perhaps supporting them with supplementation in the right areas that they need individually.
I have never wavered in my belief that raising them vegetarian is a healthy option.
They generally are strong and healthy, but like all kids, had their share of infections (especially in that 3-5 year old stage) but now it is a cold once a year. My daughter is tall, my son is short. Does this have anything to do with their diet? Not in my belief. My brothers both ate meat, one is tall, one is short. Do some people like to blame my son’s diet on the reason he is short. Probably. Do I buy into it?
I had a moment where I considered it- and it is when I reached out to my friend, Dr Leila Masson - who is a respected paediatrician. We did some blood work, went through how he was feeling, and I got that reassurance (that sometimes we need as mothers) that it has nothing to do with it. She did help me work though his long standing GUT issues - which is important if your child is vegetarian or not!
If your child wants to be vegetarian, I believe we need to honour this deep calling to not harm another being - but always with the responsibility of substituting the meat for other high protein foods. Get support from a Dr or Naturopath or Nutritionist who is supportive and educated in this area! It does no good to go to a GP who has studied a lot - but not nutrition - and not plant-based nutrition! Getting support from a knowledgable and supportive professional is also helpful as it gets YOUR beliefs out of the way, to focus with clarity on the child. Sometimes we are simply too close to see…
Don’t give them a hard time if you are a family of meat eaters… it will cause the child to feel shame and feel unheard.
Perhaps you can even support them but doing Meat Free Monday as a family.
To raise a child without meat and dairy the same key points apply;
- *Varied Diet of Whole-foods. Less from a package. More from the Earth. Lots of vegetables!
- Reduce foods that cause the body need for more support - that is limit or remove sugar, soft drinks, processed and packaged foods, artificial colours and flavours
- Make what they do eat count - try for pesticide free, fresh where possible.
- Use pastes such as hummus, tahini, nut butters to get extra protein in sandwiches or wraps.
- Snacks of mixed nuts, veggie sticks and fruits, not biscuits and cakes.
- Don’t just rely on tofu; try all sorts of beans, lentils, grains, seeds etc to substitute meat
- Plant-based protein smoothies are a safety net
- Consider supplementing where needed such as zinc, iron, Vit D, B12.*
What does a typical day look like for my kids?
Oats with plant based milk, chopped banana and some flaxseeds sprinkled on the top/ My hubby’s awesome pancakes he makes with eggs, buckwheat flour and bananas/ Rye or sourdough toast with avocado and sprouts/tomatoes/ mushrooms/ baked beans/Granola with coconut yoghurt and some fruit
Cut up fruit/ vegetable sticks of cucumber, carrot, capsicum, celery with some sort of dip/ tamari roasted nuts/ rice crackers with Vegemite (my son… ) or nut butter/ roasted seaweed/wraps with yummy fillings
Rice/pasta/soba noodles with tofu/tempeh/ beans and 3 vegetables either steams, sauted or raw(we mix it up how it is presented such as friend rice, bimpbimpab bowl, all spread out separately on a big plate, stir fry - but it is all the same in a different look:)
Roasted vegetables/lasagna/vegetable mushroom pie/vegetable soup/mashed potatoes/steamed greens/rice paper rolls/vegetable burgers/risotto/ Mexican burritos or ‘quesadillas’/home made pizzas/ kitachi/curries (not spicy)/dumplings/sushi
This happens maybe once a week at the most as we are conscious of sugar in our home. Sorbet is the winner around here.
https://www.uptodate.com/contents/vegetarian-diets-for-children/abstract/14 https://www.uptodate.com/contents/vegetarian-diets-for-children/abstract/95 https://www.pcrm.org/good-nutrition/nutrition-for-kids
GUT HEALTH +
This is the new big area of study in recent years and for good reason. Dysbiosis and inflammation of the gut have been linked to causing several mental illnesses including anxiety and depression, which are prevalent in society today. Gut health also affects our immunity with certain cells in the lining of the gut excreting massive quantities of antibodies.
Plant foods help shape a healthy intestinal microbiome - something we need for a health gut. The fiber in plant foods promotes the growth of “friendly” bacteria in our guts. On the other hand, fiber-poor diets (such as those that are high in dairy, eggs, and meat) can foster the growth of disease-promoting bacteria.
A diet rich in microbiota-accessible carbohydrates can affect the microbiota directly and indirectly. Bacteria that thrive on fiber will increase in number and robustness but so will groups of microbes that thrive on the byproducts of fiber degradation. Diverse microbiotas are associated with better health, while low diversity and dysbiosis is associated with chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes, inflammatory bowel diseases, rheumatoid arthritis, and asthma. Lack of plants leads to a mucus-degrading microbiota, allowing greater access to the epithelial cells by pathogenic bacteria - which is when you start seeing problems such as leaky gut.
In 2012, Rob Knight, Ph.D., from the University of California (UC), San Diego, Jeff Leach, Ph.D., the founder of the Human Food Project, and Jack Gilbert, Ph.D., who is the faculty director of the Microbiome Center at the University of Chicago in Illinois, set out to found the American Gut Project. The project counted 15,096 samples provided by 11,336 people across the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, and 42 other countries and the results also concluded the same - that a more diverse plant-based diet makes for a more bacterially diverse gut.
Specifically, those who consumed more than 30 different types of plants each week had much more diverse microbiomes than those who consumed only 10 or fewer types of plant weekly. Interestingly, the results demonstrated that people who reported mental health issues had more bacteria in common with other people who reported similar problems than they did with the controls…. as we know - our gut microbiome is very important to mental health… but we are still learning more and more about this. A key study, conducted by De Fillipo and colleagues examined the gut bacteria of European children, and compared with kids who grew up in rural Africa. The diets of the two groups were quite different; European children consumed more processed or ‘Western’ foods compared to the largely plant-based diet of the African children. Amazingly – and perhaps not surprisingly – the bacteria living in the guts of these children were completely different. The African children were found to have more types of bacteria overall, many of which are anti-inflammatory, meaning they help to combat harmful inflammation that increases risk of disease.
Diet is one factor but it isn’t everything and I do like to make sure people realise this—genetics, parasites, aging, stress, and antibiotic use are others factors that can lead to dysbiosis.
Even on a healthy vegan diet, you can experience issues with dysbiosis with the digestive system. If this happens, then I highly recommend going to see a Naturopath, who will work with stool samples, herbal treatments and diet tweaks until you GIT is back in healthy balance!
Lloyd-Price J, Abu-Ali G, Huttenhower C. The healthy human microbiome. Genome Med. 2016;8:51.
Donovan SM. Introduction to the special focus issue on the impact of diet on gut microbiota composition and function and future opportunities for nutritional modulation of the gut microbiome to improve human health. Gut Microbes. 2017;8(2):75-81.
Xu Z, Knight R. Dietary effects on human gut microbiome diversity. Br J Nutr. 2015;113 Suppl:S1-S5.
Chassard C, Lacroix C. Carbohydrates and the human gut microbiota. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2013;16(4):453-460.
Dinu M, et al. Vegetarian, vegan diets and multiple health outcomes: A systematic review with meta-analysis of observational studies. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2017
You can totally be gluten-free and plant-based.
Gluten is a family of proteins found in grains like wheat, rye, spelt and barley. The two main proteins in gluten are glutenin and gliadin. Gliadin is responsible for most of the negative health effects, which studies show range from all types of digestive disturbances, to skin problems, tiredness, mental and emotional instabilities, headaches etc. If you experience these symptoms don’t assume it is gluten, but it is good idea to cut it out for 2 weeks and then eat a slice of freshly baked bread, or eat a bowl of pasta, and observe how you feel. It isn’t hard to do, and you might find you are someone who is sensitive!
Some people are gluten sensitive, others may have a more serious issue with gluten. Celiac disease is the most severe form of gluten intolerance. It affects about about 1% of the population and is an autoimmune disorder, and involves the body treating gluten as a foreign invader. The immune system attacks the gluten, as well as the lining of the gut. To find out if you have celiac disease, there are several blood tests that screen for antibodies. The most common one is called the tTG-IgA test. If that is positive, a tissue biopsy is usually recommended to confirm the results.
Cutting out gluten on a plant-based diet simply means you will choose other grains to eat. If you only slightly sensitive, a bowl of oats in the morning will be fine!
Try amaranth, buckwheat, rice (brown, white, wild), millet, quinoa, sorghum,
You can still eat all the plants, fruits, legumes you want and therefore will still be able to get a sufficient amount of nutrients to thrive!
IBS/CHROHNS/ LOW FODMAP DIETS +
Crohn’s Disease and ulcerative colitis are life long gastrointestinal disorders that are collectively known as Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), the conditions are an emerging global disease, with Australia having one of the highest prevalence in the world.
IBD is an autoimmune disorder. An autoimmune disorder occurs when a person’s immune system mistakenly attacks their own body tissues.- in this case, the gastrointestinal tract. In many ways IBD has more in common with other autoimmune disorders – such as rheumatoid arthritis (which affects the joints), psoriasis (which affects the skin) and lupus (which affects the connective tissue) – than IBS.
Unlike IBD, IBS does not cause inflammation, ulcers or other damage to the bowel but can cause symptoms. Sufferers of IBD are often put on anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive drugs and may find themselves in and out of the hospital getting segments of their intestines surgically removed - this is not the case for IBS. For both, factors such as emotional stress, infection and some foods can aggravate the condition - and therefore with attention can help soothe the conditions.
Can you be plant-based when you suffer from IBS or IBD?
With every disease and recommendation - we are ultimately individuals and respond accordingly. For those who suffer from symptoms from particular foods, it can be scary at the thought of changing their diet once they have found what works for them.
If you are still experiencing symptoms I highly recommending working with someone to see if you can tweak your diet to take the edge off! With no doubt, what you eat will affect these diseases; GLUTEN, Caffeine, alcohol, sugar, processed carbs, artificial flavours and colours, dairy - for most people, all these will aggravate and you will be a more peaceful person with out them.
What about meat? Red meat does cause inflammation in the body. This is something to consider when looking at reducing your inflammation to help your disease. Factory farmed meat and fish are never something I recommend for healthy options - because I do not believe eating meat from an animal kept in those horrible conditions, fed unnatural diets and medications, is a healthy option.
Small amounts of organic raised meat and more sustainable fish is for your own consideration and as far as I could find, not linked to making symptoms worse. I do promote plant based eating, but I also acknowledge that small amounts of meat and fish is high in nutrients for the body. The key to making it a healthy option from what I have researched is where you get it from and the amounts consumed. Quality over quantity.
There was an interesting study where, Japanese researchers took a group of Crohn’s patients in remission, either because they just came out of surgery or because they were able to beat it back with steroids. And for two years half of them ate a semi-vegetarian diet, meaning in this case vegetarian except for half a serving of fish a week, and half a serving of other meat once every two weeks, so less than one serving of meat per week.
200 days into the study all of the patients told to eat more of a plant-based diet were still in remission, but about 20% of the group not told to eat anything different relapsed. After a year 100% of the semi-veg group still symptom free, but the disease re-emerged in half of the standard diet group. And at the end of two years, 92% of the patients told to eat a more plant-based diet remained without disease, whereas the majority of those not given that advise relapsed back in the cycles of drugs, hospitalizations and surgery.
The researchers are exploring the benefits of plant based eating for Chrohns further.
Yet the tricky part in plant-based eating for those with severe digestive diseases comes when they are reacting badly to foods high in FODMAPS.
FODMAPs are short carbohydrates which are found in abundance in healthy plant-based foods. The acronym stands for 'fermentable oligo-saccharides, di-saccharides, mono-saccharides and polyols'. Overall FODMAPs are highly beneficial, acting as important 'pre-biotics', food for our healthy gut bugs which help us to build a rich and diverse microbiome. While the benefits of a diet rich in fermentable fiber are evident, it's a diet that can be problematic for some patients with IBS or Chrohns due to the fermentation (which is good when you have a working GIT but not so fun when you do not!)
You don’t need to eliminate these foods completely, and it is possible to reduce your FODMAP intake while still maintaining a healthy and diverse plant-based diet. Firstly you need to see if you DO react to them - this is when you get support from a Naturopath or Nutritionist who knows about these things, where they will support you through an elimination phase of the low-FODMAP diet to two weeks - 6 weeks, to assess whether they're FODMAP sensitive and then how you can slowly repair your gut to handle them down the track.
If you suffer from these diseases, but want to go plant based, get support from a health professional who supports your decision but also be kind to yourself and while you are doing low FODMAP, make sure you are uber focused on making what you eat count! Take your power back by figuring out what triggers you and then make the best choices you can with the options available.
The following are some:
HIGH FODMAP PLANT-BASED FOODS:
RUM, WINE, TEAS:CHAMOMILE, FENNEL, COCOA POWDER, CAROB
APPLES, BOYSENBERY, CHERIES, FIGS, MANGO, PEARS, TAMARILOS, WATERMELON, GRAPEFRUIT, NECTARINE, PEACHES, PEARS, PLUMS, PRUNES
ARTICHOKE, ASPARAGUS, SUGAR SNAP PEAS, GARLIC, LENTILS, RED KIDNEY BEANS, LEEKS, SHALLOTS, SOYBEANS CAULIFLOWER, MUSHROOMS, PUMPKIN, SNOW PEAS
PLANT FOODS LOW IN FODMAPS:
ROCKET, BEAN SPROUTS, BOK CHOY, LETTUCE, CARROTS, CHIVES, CAPSICUM, CUCUMBER, FENNEL, GREEN BEANS, KALE, EGGPLANT, POTATO, TOMATOES, RADISH, SPINACH, SQUASH, TURNIP, ZUCCHINI
BANANA, BLUEBERRIES, MANDARIN, COCONUT, GRAPES, HONEYDEW MELON, KIWI, LEMON, LIME, ORANGE, PASSIONFRUIT, PINEAPPLE, RASPBERRIES, ROCKMELON, PAPAYA, STRAWBERRIES
CORN, RICE, QUINOA, BUCKWHEAT, MILLET, AMARANTH, RICE RICE MILK, OAT MILK, COCONUT MILK
ALMONDS, MACADAMIAS, PINENUTS, PUMPKIN SEEDS, SESAME SEEDS, SUNFLOWER SEEDS, CHIA SEEDS, FLAX SEEDS, BRASIL NUTS
Plant-based diets are becoming more popular world wide.
A 2017 report found that 6 percent of people in the U.S. now identify as vegan, compared with just 1 percent in 2014.
Australia has 12% of the population identify as vegetarian.