Here’s Why Being Vegan Isn’t Elitist

ethiopianLentilStew_002 from Flickr via Wylio
© 2007 SaraJane, Flickr | CC-BY-SA | via Wylio

An excuse for not being vegan accusation often thrown at vegans is that to be vegan is ‘elitist’; that it’s a white, middle-class, bourgeois thing to be.

Apparently some think it’s a first-world luxury, and a privilege only rich and pretentious types can afford.

This is so easy to ‘out’ as an excuse for, at best, not wanting to go vegan, or, at worst, an uninformed, ignorant jibe, that this post is gonna write itself.

Here’s why this is BS:


1. Is veganism a first world luxury?

Lots of the countries that we call ‘third world’, by default eat very close to a vegan diet. Meat is rarely eaten – maybe at a religious feast or celebration, but is way too expensive to eat on a daily basis.  The RICH people in these countries may eat more meat, but the poor certainly don’t. It’s MEAT that is considered a luxury, not plant foods.

In most of Africa, most of Asia and most of the Middle East, meat is an occasional luxury, and everyday staples are made up of grains, veg, beans, legumes and fruit. The demand for meat is on the rise in developing countries, precisely because people are becoming richer and aspire to live in what they see as a more ‘western,’ i.e. affluent, fashion.

Thus – in most of the world meat equals luxury; beans equal poverty. Veganism would definitely be thought of as a peasants diet by most of the world, so HOW is it considered elitist here?


2. Is veganism a ‘white’ lifestyle choice?

This couldn’t be a more insane point of view.

Being vegan makes even more sense, health-wise, for non-whites. About 75% of the world’s population lose their lactase enzymes after weaning. This mean they are forever after intolerant to lactose and ideally should not be eating anything that contains it. This is especially applicable to the vast majority of Africans and Asians. Only some (very white!) Northern European and some Mediterranean peoples are thought to retain the lactase enzyme into adulthood, meaning they are more able to digest lactose (this DOESN’T mean dairy is good for them, it just means they have less trouble digesting it than others).

MANY people of non-white ethnicities are vegan for ethical reasons. Veganism is a tenet of the Rastafarian religion, Jainism, which originated in India, prescribes a cruelty-free diet; and just check out the work of A. Breeze Harper and Bryant Terry , (whose book Vegan Soul Kitchen has been a favourite in my kitchen for years).


3. Is veganism just for rich people?

Many, MANY of us have written about the fact that it’s cheaper to eat a plant-based diet than a meat and dairy strong diet. I’ve even done it myself. Meat costs more than beans, always has, always will.

So we shouldn’t expect people to spend money on healthy food, but we SHOULD expect them to spend huge amounts of money on healthcare when they get diseases that could have been avoided by buying healthy food (WHICH IS ACTUALLY CHEAPER THAN UNHEALTHY FOOD) in the first place? Have you seen how little beans and grains cost from bulk bins???

This is absolutely frickin’ bonkers.


4. DO vegans think they are better/more superior/of higher status than anyone else?

A few seconds of critical thinking will help anyone see that vegans don’t eat animals precisely because they do not think they are superior to any other living being.

Meat eaters, by the same token, must think they are of a superior status to animals – otherwise they couldn’t have them killed in order to eat them. In truth, it’s meat eaters that are elitist.


5. Is it a luxury or privilege to devote time to thinking about what you’re going to eat?

No. As I’ve said before, if you are healthy, happy and strong in every way, you can better and more optimally serve.

Most diseases can be prevented with a whole food, plant-based diet. If you are ill, you are not able to contribute to, or help others because you are suffering. When you are in pain or discomfort (whether physically or mentally), your focus is inwards, on yourself, because you are hurting.

When you feel good in mind and body, you naturally think less about yourself and more about what you can do for others, even if it’s just exuding joy or radiating positive energy – which can have an amazing effect on those around you.

If you really think that looking after yourself is elitist, you are not seeing the big picture. When you’re sick – someone has to look after you; you’ll take sick days from work, putting more of a load on others; you won’t be able to look after your kids properly; you’ll miss appointments etc.


6. Is it really elitist to care about the planet?

Meat and dairy consumption is the worst thing for the planet. If you think it’s elitist and middle-class to care about this and want to do something about it, I can’t even….you’re crazy, that’s all.




To be absolutely fair, I can see how some might get the idea that a plant-based diet is elitist, with all the instagram pics of smoothies containing the hideously expensive chia, maca and lucuma, and the oh so pricey coconut water and coconut-related products.

But these are just extremely fashionable superfoods right now. While there is no harm in them and they are great to include in your diet if you have a pretty penny or two, there is absolutely no need to include any of them on a healthy, whole food, plant-based diet. My theory about their popularity is that people see them as a quick fix – as the super-quick route to health; they are marketed to us in such a way that we think they will dramatically rejuvenate us and protect us from all evil. It’s not surprising that the world has gone crazy for chia et al.

I can assure you, you don’t need expensive shizz from the peaks of the Peruvian Andes to have an optimal vegan diet.

The less glamorous truth is – long-term health is really built on solid, consistent quality nutrition. That is to say, meals of ‘plain old’ vegetables, grains, beans, legumes fruit and nuts, These are what will sustain you long-term. They are less sexy to be sure, and maybe beans don’t look so hot on instagram, but they will see you right, and won’t drain your bank account.

I’ve NEVER ingested a single chia seed (nothing against chia, I’ll no doubt try it soon), and I wouldn’t know lucuma if it smacked me in the face, but I’m doing great without them.


How To Navigate Conflicting Information On Plant-Based Diets


So you’re seriously thinking about going vegan, or at least leaning in to a more plant-based way of life.

Something or someone has made you consider all the reasons why you might do this, and one or all of them resonate with you.

Maybe you have dogs or cats and the penny just dropped that all animals are as intelligent and sentient as your furry friends.

Maybe you watched Forks Over Knives and they talked about a health issue you can relate to.

Or maybe you’re a nature lover and are keenly conscious of environmental issues, and just discovered that livestock agriculture is the prime cause of ALL forms of environmental degradation.

So you decide to give this plant-based thing a try and see what happens.


…you tell people of your decision, and they immediately tell you of studies they read that say meat and butter are good for you, and it’s actually wheat that is the devil; or that livestock agriculture is actually GOOD for the planet, didn’t you know?

You dig around on the internet, seeking out more and more information.

This is GOOD, you need to inform yourself. You need as much info as possible to make sure you get the nutrition bit right, and you want to know all about the environmental impact of meat and dairy so you have lots of motivation to sustain your decision through the first couple of weeks when you might experience cravings and get tempted; and so you can answer any questions people might have.

However, though the internet is a beautiful thing in many respects, it is just like people; the more you involve yourself with it, the more conflicting information you come across.

Just who ARE these William Davis and David Perlmutter guys saying it’s actually wheat that’s responsible for most chronic disease? What is the Weston A Price Foundation and why are its members telling you to eat lots of meat? Is butter now a health food? Who is Alan Savory and why is he saying there is an environmentally sound way to farm cattle? Who is Denise Minger and is she right when she says The China Study is rubbish?

If you’re time-strapped, let me help you – it’s all crap.

But…if you have the time, I’d MUCH rather you discovered truths for yourself – they resonate more powerfully that way.

It’s important to know what to do when you come across information that says the opposite of something you believed to be true.

Here’s some things that it’s helpful to consider:


1. Consider the source

For example: Allan Savory, who says he has invented a way to farm cows that is actually beneficial to the environment – is a cattle rancher in South Africa. He has a very obvious financial interest in continuing his farming practises.

The Weston A Price Foundation are behind lots of articles on how meat and dairy are healthy, and that veganism and vegetarianism are bad. They are heavily criticised by scientific institutions as having little evidence for their treaties, and are listed on

Though Weston A Price himself recommended vegetarianism, the foundation now promote a diet containing meat and raw milk, and state that soy is dangerous (which goes completely against peer-reviewed science).


2. Consider who is paying/funding the source

Is the study/article independent of commercial interests that would benefit from the public being aware of it?

Ronald Krauss, the guy behind the recent ‘butter is back’ shizzoula, and the whole ‘saturated fat is now good’ BS, works for the beef and dairy industries, specifically the National Cattleman’s Beef Association and the National Dairy Council. Of course, the mainstream media ran wild with his work and ignored the many criticisms of his studies, because they support the status quo.


3. Consider the bias

Different to ‘consider the source’ as financial gain/loss is not necessarily at stake, but nevertheless you need to find out what the personal motivation could be behind any article or study.

For example; Denise Minger, famous criticiser of the China Study, runs a ‘low carb’, meat-strong, paleo type website. She clearly didn’t want to hear that meat is not a healthful food, as this would not be in accordance with her lifestyle choice, and so she spent what must have been an insane amount of time trying to pick apart Professor T Colin Campbell’s life’s work (she also speaks and writes for the Weston A Price Foundation).

Lest you think that Dr Campbell was biased towards a plant-based diet, his background was very much in animal farming and he grew up believing that dairy and meat were necessary parts of a healthy diet. He believed this until the science he was working on showed him it wasn’t true, and he could no longer believe it.

Just like Denise Minger – the other criticiser of The China Study, Chris Masterjohn works in health and nutritional science, and is particularly interested in cholesterol. He argues that this is not what causes disease. He is also an author for the Weston A Price Foundation.

To make us think his science on animal fats is legit, he says he has a number of peer-reviewed publications indexed on PubMed. You know what? He has – but NONE of them are related to showing that cholesterol from animal fats isn’t detrimental to health! They are on completely unrelated subjects!


4. This is perhaps the most important one – Is the study peer-reviewed or published?

When any study worth its salt is completed, peers of the person who carried out the study will review it, and the study is replicated to see if it produces similar results. If it does, then this study is often published in a reputable scientific or medical journal.

No critique of the China Study has ever been published or peer-reviewed.

Davis and Perlmutters books are not based on any peer-reviewed or published studies.

The Blood Type Diet is not based on any peer-reviewed science.

Allan Savory’s study on cattle farming is NOT peer-reviewed; he has only published the information HIMSELF on HIS website. Hardly science with integrity!


5. Ask yourself (and answer yourself honestly!) whether the study supports a mainstream view (that might support corporate or political interests)…

…and if this could be a case of ‘people wanting to hear good news about their bad habits’?


6. Consider the tone in which an article in written.

If the tone is as neutral as possible, this obviously shows professionalism and objectivity.

If there is any snark in the tone AT ALL – this can only reflect a bias, and any information given in this tone cannot be trustworthy. Even if you are trying to prove that someone as hateful as Hitler was a psychopath, it is more effective if you seek to inform in a neutral, pure fact-stating, manner.

Denise Minger, in many posts and talks, is pretty consistent in using a snarky tone towards Dr T Colin Campbell and the other plant-based doctors. Dr T Colin Campbell in all his mentions of her is fair, measured, neutral and balanced..


Dr John Mcdougall posted this handy infographic below on Facebook this week (very timely for me writing this post!)

He says:

‘Note that this is not a comprehensive overview, nor is it implied that the presence of one of the points noted automatically means that the research should be disregarded. This is merely intended to provide a rough guide to things to be alert to when either reading science articles or evaluating research.’


You know, even though science is most definitely on the side of a plant-based diet in every aspect, if you are still on the fence about meat and dairy due to all the conflicting information, there are nevertheless a couple of things you can’t argue with:

  • The sheer number of people who have reversed both mild and chronic diseases with a plant-based diet, and the number of people who have lost weight, and found a plant-based diet to be the only way to sustain that weight loss. The amount of testimonials out there reporting renewed health and consequent maintenance of optimal health because of a shift to a plant-based diet is overwhelming.

In John Robbins Reflections On The Weston A Price Foundation , he reports that one of the board of directors of the Weston A Price Foundation, Stephen Byrnes, published an article called ‘The Myths Of Vegetarianism’ where in an ‘about the author’ section it is stated that ‘… he enjoys robust health on a diet that includes butter, cream, eggs, meat, whole milk, dairy products and offal.

Stephen Byrnes in fact suffered a fatal stroke in 2004, before he was even forty.

  • A vegan diet will always be better for the animals, and, seeing as how none of us relish the thought of killing animals ourselves, this lifestyle actually allows us to (and is the only way we can) live in accordance with our values of non-violence and compassion towards EVERYone.


Vegan Health Hacks – Easy Ways To Remember How To Get All The Nutrients You Need

Cuban Black Beans and Rice 2 from Flickr via Wylio
© 2010 Brett Oblack, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

If you think there’s a ton of new food rules you’re gonna have to learn and memorise in order to stay properly nourished when you embark on a plant-based diet – relax. It is not so.

People and the internet may scare you into thinking that it’s very difficult and time-consuming to ensure you get all the vitamins and minerals you need; and you’ll read stuff warning you of possible vitamin B12 deficiencies, iron deficiencies, and Lord knows what else.

This is KUH-rap.

These are the voices of uninformedness (is that a word? It is now), and fear (of something different).

You only need a pair of decent peepers (or some good glasses!) to SEE there are plenty of badly nourished meat-eaters amongst us. Obesity and sickness abound.

Even though it IS simple to nourish yourself well on a vegan diet, there are still a few things to remember – but this is the case even if you are on a standard, meat and dairy-strong diet trying to stay healthy. It is not different for you just because you are now vegan. I’d even say it’s EASIER for you as a vegan, because you don’t have to continually be looking for fibre and alkaline foods to counterbalance and compensate for all that constipating and acidy animal food – pretty much ALL your food is going to contain fibre anyway.

On my coaching programmes we cover in detail just what you will need, and I give you a ton of ideas on combining foods to make up a full nutrient quota.

There is a handy hack however (HURRAH!) that will help ensure that you get a good mix of nutrients.

All you have to remember are the following three words – and two of them rhyme so it’s easy:


I’ll explain.

A nutritionally well-rounded meal contains the following:

A whole grain  – brown rice, quinoa, wholewheat pasta, wholewheat bread, wholewheat couscous, buckwheat, brown rice, corn or buckwheat noodles (oats and barley also count – these can be a hearty stew ingredient)

A bean – (um, several beans of course, not just one, this is certainly NOT a starvation diet!) choose from black beans, chickpeas, red kidney beans, soy beans, flageolet, lima beans, pinto beans broad beans, black-eyed peas, any lentils (not technically a bean but has a similar effect in the body).

A green – try for as dark green as possible; kale, cabbage, pak choi, broccoli, collard/spring greens for example

Extras – Any other veg of your choice; any seeds or ground seaweed can be sprinkled on top

The grain, bean and green can be part of a stew, a chilli, or a soup – many vegan recipes will contain all three.

Here is one such recipe from the excellent PPK:

Miso soba stir-fry with greens and beans – you can use garbanzos (chick peas) instead of azuki beans

Or try these two recipes (selected on the basis of good reviews):

Tuscan kale and white bean soup – have some hearty wholewheat toast on the side.

Very simple Red beans and rice – obvs use veg stock instead of chicken stock, and steam some broccoli or kale as a side.


You can just eat your grain, bean and green plain, Buddha Bowl style, with a simple sauce on top (either soy sauce; or whip up a miso-tahini sauce, or a ginger peanut sauce for example).

This is an easy basis for a meal containing the full range of nutrients. Eat this a few times a week, just switch up the grain, the bean and the green each time, and you won’t go far wrong.

What about other veg? As long as you eat plenty of dark leafy greens, you can add as many other veg (and fruit as you like. For optimal nutrition, try and eat a rainbow. Have some carrot or sweet potatoes, some beets, some radish, tomato. Attempt to get a full complement of colours in a week. But you know what? Don’t sweat it. You’re not eating the foods that really do damage, so just do the best you can.

What about legumes, nuts and seeds? A roast squash can make a great basis for a meal too. Wilt some greens, heat some beans and Bob’s your uncle! Add a slice of wholewheat toast and a grilled portobello if you are really hungry! The gorgeous orange of the squash and deep green of the veg (and red of the kidney beans, or black of the black beans, means a great combo, nutrient – wise.)

And you can switch that orange butternut squash for orange sweet potatoes! Bake them or boil and make sweet potato mash, add a green and a bean, and you’re good.

The same goes for regular old white potatoes. These are nutrient powerhouses when baked. Add some beans and a green and there you have one of the easiest meals on the planet.

Try and eat a mixture of nuts and seeds a few times a week, as these contain healthy fats. If you keep, say, three types of nuts around – brazils, walnuts and almonds for example, and have two or three of each every two or three days. If you get bored, swap the brazils for macadamia one time, or pecans – surprise yourself!

What about fruit? Knock yourself out. But again, try to mix it up and eat fruits of different colours.

Aside from flax seeds – which I’d love you to take most days (if you’ve followed me for a while you’ll know I’m a stickler for these!), try sesame, pumpkin and sunflower seeds on oats or cereal, or sprinkled over salads or soup.

And don’t forget to hit yourself up with your new drug of choice – Vitamin B12. Take your tablet or your sub-lingual droplets as often as your brand says to take them.

This is a basic guide to vegan nutrition which should serve ANYONE very well – ALL IN ONE BLOG POST.

See? Did your brain break? I didn’t think so.


‘Simple Healing’ Podcast

Check out this podcast I did with Dr Mitchel Schwindt, a longtime A&E physician in Minnesota. Though he’s conventionally trained, he practises and is passionate about functional medicine,  which takes a holistic view of a patient and finds and treats the root cause of their problem by looking at things like diet and lifestyle, rather than just treating the outward symptoms.

He reached out through LinkedIn and I am thrilled to be included in his series of podcasts based on optimising health.

He was easy to chat to and made one of my first podcast experiences relaxed and delightful.

I emphasise – I haven’t done many of these (so don’t judge too harshly!) but I think I’ve just about found my ‘podcasting feet’ and hope to do lots more in the future.

White Flour. Eat It If You Don’t Like Going To The Toilet.


One of the biggest initial challenges when embarking on a healthful plant-based lifestyle is losing the white flour.

It’s not that whole grains don’t taste good; it’s just the sheer ubiquity of white flour in everything.

The bloody stuff is everywhere!

It is even – get this – in WHOLEMEAL bread! It’s like the manufacturers are scared to let the bread be 100% wholemeal. There is a particular wholemeal bread in a UK supermarket, which is sold as 100% wholemeal, but the ingredients say it has white flour sprinkled on top! FTW? Why would they DO this?

White flour is essentially wholemeal flour with the germ and the bran (i.e. THE GOODNESS) removed. If you’re really unlucky, your white flour will also be bleached. What the heck else would you eat bleached??

Why was white flour invented in the first place?

Was it because the millers cared about the health of the people?


Was it because it made the flour cheaper for the people?

No (when it was first invented it was much more expensive than wholemeal flour)

Was there any other lovely, altruistic reason to white up the flour?


This is why it was done.

To give it a longer shelf life, i.e. less waste. i.e.more profit.

Some old miller way back when (there is conflicting information as to when this was) found out you could take out the bran and the germ, and the flour lasted longer – but it still had the wheat germ oil in it from when the wheat had been crushed, and this still meant the flour had limited life.

So, they found a way to strip the germ clean away from the grain, oil and all, and voila – white flour.

Another popular theory, not for the invention of white flour but for its popularity, is the age-old thing of people liking white flour better because it made the bread look purer and cleaner, and made them feel that by eating it they were somehow of higher status than those that ate brown bread.

Yes, people were stupid and vain then, too.

In the years that followed the invention of white flour, there were higher than ever recorded cases of Pellagra – a gross skin disease of malnourishment caused by deficiency of B vitamins. All the vitamins that had been stripped from wholemeal flour, funnily enough.

And THIS is the most crazypants thing I’ve ever heard – instead of stopping dicking around with perfectly good, healthy whole wheat; white flour is now ‘enriched’ with B vitamins and iron – the very nutrients it has been stripped of in the refining process! Isn’t this more energy consuming?

And this still doesn’t make up for the fibre that is lost by removing the bran.

It’s amazing that white flour is still a thing. It does nothing but constipate and spike your blood (as it converts very quickly to sugar in the body).

I completely understand however, that we’ve all been brainwashed into thinking white flour is necessary to make cakes and baked goods, and it can be a challenge at first to find alternatives. I’ve also seen all the ads for white bread, or the ridiculous ‘Best of Both’ (what, really? 100% wholemeal bread would kill you?), where it’s portrayed time after time as what ‘normal’ ‘healthy’ salt-of-the-earth families eat.

White pasta and white snack crackers are the ‘norm’, but there are amazing and readily accessible alternatives to EVERYTHING that would normally contain the nutrient stripped scourge that is white flour! 🙂



Find a good wholemeal bread, like this one (available in Sainsbury’s and Waitrose) in the UK, or this one (available in Whole Foods) in the US. I can’t recommend for anywhere else because I haven’t tried wholemeal bread anywhere else, but basically what you’re looking for is a bread with 100% whole wheat, no sugar, and minimal ingredients. This can be difficult. I know in the US I’ve been surprised to see many breads that look great and are marketed as healthy, but have an ingredient list as long as your arm (with lots of chemicals included), and packed full of sugar. If all else fails, wholemeal pita bread is great. It’s rare that it has more than a few ingredients, and seldom will contain sugar.

It doesn’t take very long at all to get accustomed to the taste of wholemeal bread, and very soon you’ll wonder why you ever bothered with the tasteless white stuff.


Homemade cakes and other baked goods

You do not need white flour to get a light cake sponge.

The best flour for lightness of cake-age, is this one – Bob’s Red Mill All Purpose Baking Flour – and it’s gluten-free too, for any celiacs out there.


It’s made of garbanzo bean (chick pea) flour, tapioca flour, fava bean (broad bean), and sorghum flour. Don’t worry; it doesn’t taste of any of those things! It’s white-ish in colour too. No-one will know your goodies are not made with white flour, and it’s healthy as heck!

And it’s available everywhere, and online – hoorah!

As it’s quite expensive, if I’m making a cake I’ll use half Bob’s Red Mill, and half organic whole spelt flour.

IMG_4975Spelt is an ancient form of wheat (it’s what the Romans used!), and has more nutrients than regular wholemeal flour.

Otherwise, it acts pretty much the same as wholemeal flour, and gives the same kind of texture.

I personally don’t mind the denser texture of these whole wheat flours, but if you want more lightness use whole spelt or wholemeal flour for half the recipes recommended amount, and IMG_4976Bob’s Red Mill for the other half – or just use all Bob’s Red Mill and get a super light consistency.

If you are making your own bread, either the whole spelt, or wholemeal flour will give you a rustic, dense, delicious loaf.

There are other flours – buckwheat, brown rice etc – which are gluten-free and you may want to look into these if you’re celiac so you have other options than the Bob’s Red Mill – but they are not as easy to bake with, so if you’re not gluten intolerant, I’d stick with the three already mentioned.

And gram (chick pea/garbanzo) flour or coconut flour etc, are great whole flours to use if a specific recipe calls for it, but again, whole spelt, wholemeal and Bob’s Red Mill All-Purpose should cover your main flour needs.



Wholemeal pasta is cheap and available everywhere. You’ll get used to it so quickly. You got used to the taste of white pasta when you first started eating that, and you’ll get used to whole grain pasta in exactly the same way.

If you struggle at the beginning, keep reminding yourself of the vitamins and minerals and fibre that your body is getting. IT wants the whole stuff even if you don’t!


Rice crackers are a great alternative to white flour crackers, and there are lots of speciality crackers out there now that have whole ingredients and do not use white flour.  Try these, or make your own!


Just B (12) Yourself! (Why Supplementing With Vitamin B12 Doesn’t Mean A Vegan Diet Isn’t Natural)


There are those who love to chirp about how a vegan diet cannot be natural because it needs supplementing with vitamin B12.

Little do they know.

Vitamin B12 is a bacteria that used to be found naturally in soil and water. It is not PRODUCED by animals or plants. Animals can absorb vitamin B12 from their intestinal tracts. Humans also have it in their intestines but can’t absorb it efficiently from here, so they either acquire it from animal products, or preferably(!) take a supplement.

Vitamin B12 is vital for a healthy nervous system, and to ensure the proper formation of red blood cells.

In years gone by we would have obtained plenty of it from the soil our veg and fruit were grown in. Now however, our topsoil is not of the same quality and doesn’t contain the same level of nutrients; and as we sterilise everything to the max, we just can’t guarantee getting enough from plant foods without supplementation.

We would also have acquired B12 from water in the past. Excessive chlorination put paid to that, so water is no longer a source either.

Should anyone lay the old ‘it’s not natural to be vegan blah blah blah B12’ chestnut on you, you can hip them to THIS fact: Meat eaters are just as likely to be deficient in B12 as vegans these days and oftentimes more so, by virtue of the fact that someone who hasn’t questioned their diet and just eats whatever they’re given or whatever is advertised to them, is not going to be aware of their B12 needs, and even less aware of how to fulfil them. Vegans, on the other hand, tend to be well-educated folk (they have thought about how their dietary habits impact the world outside themselves) and have likely read up on how to get the nutrients they need. That’s why, these days, lots of dieticians advise meat eaters to take a B12 supplement too!

As a nutritional therapist, I would definitely advise anyone transitioning to, or already following a vegan diet, to take a quality vitamin B12 supplement daily.

It is thought that there is vitamin B12 in fermented foods such as kimchi and miso. These are great foods that are ideally part of a healthy diet anyway, but I would NOT rely on these.

You MAY be getting some on your veg and fruit, but the amount is unmeasurable and it’s unlikely that you’ll be getting enough. Better be safe than sorry – take it.

The doctors I often refer to who are experts in plant-based nutrition recommend a minimum of 250mcg per day.

There are three forms of B12. The most common – and probably the one you’ll find in your health shop is cyanocobalamin, and this is fine.

It IS important to take it. You may be fine for a very long time without taking it but the symptoms of B12 deficiency, if and when they hit, are NOT cool. They include fatigue, rapid heartbeat, uneven moods, easy bruising, bleeding gums, numbness in extremities, and sometimes even dementia.

Don’t worry about OD’ing on B12. I mean, don’t go crazy with the tablets, just take one a day, but don’t fret that you could be overdoing it if there might be any already in your food. It is very difficult to experience B12 toxicity – you’d have to take a ridiculous amount to suffer this, and your body will probably excrete what it doesn’t need anyway.

The brand I take is GNC B12 tablets. When in the US I buy Whole Foods own brand B12 sub lingual tablets. B12 is inexpensive – so there is no excuse for skipping it!

Taking your one B12 supplement every day is best practise, though if you DO forget to take it occasionally, don’t sweat it. B12 can store up in the body, so if you’ve been taking it for a while, you probably have enough to see you through. Just make sure you take it most of the time.

And if you buy organic veg and fruit from a farmers market, don’t be too fastidious about washing them. I mean, get rid of huge globs of soil and bugs of course! But don’t over scrub them. It’s always great to get a bit of B12 the way we were meant to get it!


The Healing Power Of A Plant-Based Diet, Part 3 – Fibroids

One of the commonest health issues facing women of child-bearing age is uterine fibroids.

If you don’t know, they are exactly what they sound like – pesky fibrous growths that develop in the womb.

Fibroids are not usually dangerous. It’s exceedingly rare for them to turn cancerous. Because they can be small (pea-sized) they can even be pretty well behaved and not cause any problems at all, to the point where you might not even know you have one. However they can also grow to be grapefruit sized, and wreak quite a bit of havoc.

From excessive blood loss when menstruating, to constipation, fertility issues, pelvic pain, bloating, pain during sex, increased urinary frequency, and backache, they can sure make their presence felt.

Caused by an excess of estrogen, the good news is, there’s a lot we can do, diet wise, to improve and even eradicate them.

While I have not personally suffered from fibroids, I did have several fibro adenomas in my breasts years ago. These are smaller fibrous lumps, but have the same causes as fibroids. They are fibroids of the breast, if you will. After a couple of years of eating a whole food, plant-based diet, I realised these fibro adenomas that I’d had for ages, were all gone.

Be sure to consult your medical practitioner if you think you have fibroids; and if you are diagnosed, be sure to get their advice on all your options for treating them.

As a vegetarian and vegan nutritional therapist, my advice is usually centred on how to nourish and heal your body with plant-foods. Meat and dairy contain hormones, and fats that can stress the liver, so it is a good idea to at least minimise your intake of animal foods as much as possible, and boost your veg, fruit, legume, bean, wholegrain, nut and seed intake to ensure lots of fibre. However, even if you are not veggie or vegan, my advice still very much applies to you.

There are three KEY dietary changes I would recommend any client with fibroids to make:


1. Eliminate or DRASTICALLY reduce sugars. Sugars mean, well – sugar, alcohol, any product either processed or home made that contains sugar. Sugar causes insulin levels to rise to a point that can inhibit your body from being able to bind and break down excessive estrogen. For times when a sweetener is needed, a touch of maple syrup, or a squirt of brown rice syrup does the trick.


2. Eliminate refined carbohydrates. This mean white flour, white rice, and any product that contains these (bread, pasta etc). White flour and rice are white because they have had the bran and the germ (the goodness) taken out, and consequently they have a similar effect to sugar once in your body. They are easily replaced with wholemeal or whole spelt flour (or one of the many gluten free flours on the market), wholemeal bread and pasta, and brown rice.


3. Ensure an adequate intake of phytoestrogens. These are plant estrogens, which when ingested are believed to have the effect of regulating the body’s estrogen levels, with excess estrogen being eliminated in the urine. Flax seeds and whole grains are excellent sources.


Aside from these dietary recommendations, incorporate some enjoyable exercise into your daily routine if you haven’t already, drink enough water, and supplement with selenium and vitamin E.

Fibroids tend to improve or disappear after menopause, as estrogen levels drop. If this is a long way off for you – take control and fight fibroids with natures own plant power!


The Healing Power Of A Plant-Based Diet, Part 2 – Cancer

k3839-3 from Flickr via Wylio
© 2013 U.S. Department of Agriculture, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

From first hand experience of healing myself of several conditions through diet and exercise, I can say that It feels amazing to be able to take power back into your own hands and control your health destiny and wellness as much as possible.

Because when you first get diagnosed (or as in my case, slowly realise through multiple symptoms and exhaustive research that you have a particular disease), you can feel helpless and powerless.

And prevention will of course, always be better than cure, and we really can drastically reduce the chances of being chronically ill with a whole food, plant-based diet. But it makes sense that the same foods that can prevent a disease can also fight it.

If you have a chronic disease, then consult with your medical practitioner about the best course of action for you. I am not against western medicine. When it’s used responsibly it can be very effective. We know that it tends to treat the symptoms of a disease, which in some cases may be necessary.  But you can also make a plan of action for yourself to treat your whole being, so that you can fight the disease more effectively. If, through diet, you can make your body an environment that doesn’t accommodate disease; that is hostile to it; then you stand the best chance of stabilising, reversing, or even healing it.

Honestly, it’s difficult to choose which disease to focus on, as a plant-based diet is effective for damn near most of them. But for now, as with last week’s post, we’ll focus on a common chronic disease; one we hear an awful lot about and have possibly been affected by in some way already.

It’s this hot potato:



We should really discuss prevention and healing together, as the same foods apply to each, but a here’s a little bit about prevention first.

You know what’s coming but I’m gonna say it anyway – a whole foods plant-based diet is the ultimate cancer prevention diet.

This is the conclusion of a recent academic study:

‘…[a] Vegan diet seems to confer lower risk for overall and female-specific cancer than other dietary patterns’

‘But I have terrible genes,’ you cry, ‘everyone in my family died of ‘x’ cancer, even if I eat a plant-based diet my genes will get me sooner or later, so I may as well stick to my sausage rolls.’

Now, you may well have some dastardly genes, but lordy, please don’t feed them sausage rolls.

Even if you know you have inherited cancer genes, the truth is that they need never be expressed, and a whole food vegan diet has the power to stop them playing out. Here’s the study regarding prostate cancer and gene expression. Here and here is some info on breast cancer and gene expression.

Dr T Colin Campbell, author of The China Study (the conclusion of which was that cancer can be switched on with animal protein, and off with plant protein), states in this excerpt from his most recent book. ‘Whole:’

‘…I am suggesting that nutritional inputs are the primary factor in gene expression, and that in the vast majority of cases, the vast majority of the time, good nutrition has a much greater impact than anything else – including the most complicated and expensive genetic intervention.

Genes are the starting point for health and disease events; they are the ‘nature’ part of the equation. But it is nutrition and other lifestyle factors, the ‘nurture’ part, that control whether and how these genes are expressed. The influence of nurture (i.e. nutrition) has far more influence on health and disease outcome than nature (i.e. genes).’

The reason a varied whole food, plant-based diet is effective at cancer prevention, is the same reason why it is a good idea to adopt it if you have cancer. This article explains the science, but in a nutshell, this is why:

  • It makes it easier to maintain an appropriate weight, and we know that being overweight is a cancer risk factor.
  • It is full of protective vitamins and minerals and anti-oxidants.
  • It is full of fibre. This helps food travel through the body in a healthy amount of time, and takes toxins with it.
  • It contains phytoestrogens. These are plant estrogens that have a very different effect to animal estrogens. They stop our levels of estrogen getting too high (a risk factor for the reproductive cancers). It’s explained here.
  • It is widely believed (and science points towards this) that cancers do not thrive in alkaline conditions. If we reduce the acid’y’ foods we eat, and maximise the ‘alkaline,’ we have the best chance of stopping cancer from appearing, or growing if we already have it. The most acid’y’ foods are meat, dairy, eggs, alcohol, coffee and refined starches. The most alkalising foods are veg, whole grains, water, most fruits, nuts and seeds.


A plant-based diet to treat or help treat (along with conventional medicine) cancer should contain an abundance of green leafy veg, the darker green the better – kale, cabbage, brussels sprouts and broccoli are all great choices. Beta-carotene rich foods such as carrots, sweet potatoes, apricots and red peppers are protective. Calcium rich foods are also needed, such as green leafy veg, sesame seeds, tofu and seaweeds. Whole grains, oats, pulses and fresh fruits provide excellent fibre sources, and water and herbal teas ensure optimal hydration. A daily serving of ground flax seeds are important, for their lignan (lignans are anti-cancer) and super-fibre content.

It may also be advisable to supplement with selenium and vitamins C and D.

Processed foods and sugar should be removed from the diet, and salt should be kept to an absolute minimum.

Don’t forget, exercise and relaxation techniques also play a vital role in cancer prevention and treatment.

This is just an outline. If you are considering making the life-affirming change to a cancer prevention/cancer fighting, ‘taking back the power,’ whole food plant-based diet, We can help you on your journey to your best health.


The Healing Power Of A Plant-Based Diet, Part 1 – Diabetes and Heart Disease

The Gift of Life from Flickr via Wylio
© 2007 Melissa Johnson, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

“…The idea that whole foods, plant-based diets can protect against and even treat a wide variety of chronic diseases can no longer be denied…now there are hundreds of detailed, comprehensive, well-done research studies that point in the same direction….” T. Colin Campbell, The China Study


So, exactly what diseases can a vegan diet heal, reverse, or improve?

We need to be really specific about how we define ‘vegan and ‘plant-based’ here. As we discussed in last week’s post, a junk-food vegan diet is not an optimal healing diet, so, for the rest of this post, when I say ‘vegan’ or ‘plant-based,’ please know that I mean a whole-foods vegan diet – the diet I mostly coach on my programs. As well as no animal products this also means no refined carbohydrates and no processed crap; just good old veggies, fruits, nuts, legumes, beans, whole grains, seeds, and minimal oil.

There are not many diseases that a plant-based diet won’t have a beneficial effect on. In my experience and studies, it is ALWAYS a good idea. As there are so many other elements at play (such as how active a person is, their emotional state, how toxic their environment is/has been, and even their spiritual state (apol’s for the ‘woo’) there are no guarantees that a plant-based diet will cure terminal cancer. However, fuelling your body with clean, whole, nutritious food while you are ill can only have a positive impact, even if it just extends the timescale of a terminal prognosis, or eases digestion and regulates metabolism and weight, thereby making life more comfortable.

If you are not already plant-based then always get the ok from your medical practitioner before changing your diet to treat, or help treat (along with conventional medicine) your illness. This diet can have positive effects very quickly.  If you have a chronic disease and are on specific medications, you may need to reduce them, as regular doses may start to be too much. This is why it is important to do this with the knowledge (and supervision with regard to any medication) of a doctor.

Also:  Prevention prevention prevention! Don’t wait till you’re good and crook to change your ways. The animals and the planet need you to go vegan asap, so jump right in! You can think of your ‘reward’ as getting the best protection there is from most illness. What better upside could there be?

Anyhow, let’s kick this off with a couple of biggies:


Diabetes Type 2

Firstly, this disease is easily PREVENTED with a plant-based diet.

Secondly, there is a small possiblity that you have genes that make you more susceptible to diabetes than others, BUT, on a whole-foods plant-based diet, these genes need never play out.

If you already have diabetes type 2? The good news is it can be reversed with a plant-based diet. You can become symptom and medication free. Seeing as how I’m not a doctor, I’m gonna let someone that is, talk and explain the specifics:

If you want Dr Barnard’s book on reversing diabetes, you can find it here.

This disease is unnecessary, it is a lifestyle disease – no-one has to get it. There is no need to suffer.

Some doctors know about this way of reversing diabetes, some don’t (most doctors don’t know much at all about nutrition, it simply doesn’t play a big part in their training). Some doctors may have read about reversing diabetes with a whole food vegan diet, but don’t believe their patients will agree to trying it. However, doctors that have given their patients the option of following a plant-based diet to reverse their diabetes have proved this wrong; most people are only too glad to help themselves.

A little info on diabetes type 1 (I focussed on type 2 here as it is more prolific). Diabetes type 1 can likely be prevented with a plant-based diet if you are vegan from birth, as there is very strong evidence to suggest it is caused by too high a consumption of dairy in childhood. Though a diabetes type 1 patient will always have to take some level of insulin, the amount can often be greatly reduced, and all the usual diabetes type 1 complications can be minimised by adopting a plant-based diet.


Heart disease

It has been known for at least the last thirty years, that a whole food plant-based diet prevents and reverses heart disease. Another lifestyle disease just like diabetes, it has been described by Dr Caldwell B Esselstyn (the author of ‘Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease’) as a ‘toothless paper tiger’ i.e. a disease that need not happen.

So why is it our biggest killer? Because most people are brainwashed into thinking that our standard diet rich in animal products is healthy, when in fact it is the cause of most chronic disease. Most doctors will just come out with ambiguous suggestions like ‘eat everything in moderation’ or ‘eat lots of veg and fruit and low fat proteins.’ Advice like this is not helpful. Who can define moderation? According to Dr Esselstyn, ‘moderation kills.’ And the second piece of advice is useless as it ignores the fact that protein is in vegetables too – it makes it sound as if protein is ONLY in meat and dairy, and it does not even touch on whole grains versus refined grains.

As with diabetes, there are doctors who do have this information, but are loathe to suggest it to their patients:

‘Why don’t more cardiologists employ this simple and successfully proven method? The stock answer is “My patients won’t follow such a diet.” That is indeed hard to accept when entire cultures without heart disease have preferred this way of eating for centuries and thousands of heart patients have accepted this technique. A more honest answer would be there is much less financial reward for the caregiver. The hope is that insurance carriers will appreciate this less expensive and more reliable approach and reward lifestyle counselling which will accelerate momentum and acceptance. Dr. Esselstyn now treats invasive cardiologists who seek his counsel when they have the disease. Viewing a broader landscape for the health of America is imperative.’   – Dr Caldwell Esselstyn

As for the how and why a standard diet causes heart disease and how a plant-based diet reverses it – take it away Doc:

The fact that these diseases can be reversed is incredible, but I can’t stress enough – prevention is key.

If you suffer from either of these diseases, or are interested in avoiding them – go plant-based now. If you need any help – I can guide you through the transition, and make it easy and fun. You know where I am!


A Vegan Diet Isn’t Always Healthy…

Being a long-time vegan, I am thrilled that a plant-based diet has received so much media attention in recent months, and delighted that people are waking up to the health benefits the lifestyle has to offer.

The thing that bothers me, is that too many times I’ve read/heard some version of this phrase: ‘A vegan diet is the best thing you can do for your health.’

It’s true, it can be the healthiest diet on the planet, and it’s also true that just by going vegan you have done your body a blinking huge favour, but a lot more information needs to be given.

Yes, it’s very likely that just by eliminating meat, dairy and eggs you will experience better health. After all, you’ll be forgoing all non-essential cholesterol, and most forms of saturated fat. You may well lose some weight, have more energy than before, and improve a few health niggles.

However, the words that are often missed out when referring to the health promises of a vegan diet are ‘whole foods.’

Bottom line – to experience everything a vegan diet has to offer health-wise, try to swap refined carbs and sugars for whole grains. Refined products were once ‘whole,’ but they had the goodness (including the fibre) stripped out, mainly to make them white and more neutral tasting. They therefore do nothing but spike your blood, constipate, and promote heart disease and cancer.

It’s very simple to switch from white rice to brown rice, but the most ubiquitous refined products we use are white flour and white sugar, and you’d be surprised how many products contain them.

From bread (including regular sliced, bagels, veggie burger buns, baguettes, paninis, matzo), to cookies, cakes, and white pasta, there are many ways white flour is sneaking into your body.

As for sugar, not only is it in obvious places like candies and cakes, but also in ketchup, jam, canned beans, chilli sauce (most shop-bought sauces, in fact), and you’d be surprised how much it is used in restaurants – even in main dishes.

Avoiding refined products like white flour and sugar does require a certain amount of label reading at first, but after a while you get to remember which products contain them and which don’t. I think of it this way – how much refined starch goes into your body needs to be controlled by you, not huge food corporations, whose only interest is to keep you addicted to their product.

Wholewheat, whole spelt or gluten free flour can be used in place of white in baking; wholewheat or brown rice pasta are good alternatives to white pasta, and there are many quality pre-made products in health shops that contain only whole grains.

Try quinoa and buckwheat in place of brown rice sometimes.
To replace sugar? Maple syrup or brown rice syrup are a much healthier option for those times when you just have to sweeten something up a little, and they are also great for baking with.

It’s ok to adopt new habits little by little. Just as you may have given up one animal product at a time, you can sub whole grains for refined products one by one if that is easier.

(I should add here that complex carbohydrates are a massive part of a healthy vegan diet – please don’t ever fall for the low-carb nonsense. I’ll talk about this in another post).

It is so important to not misrepresent a vegan diet, saying it is the healthiest way to live without being more specific about how this is achieved.

Fries, coke and white bread can all be vegan – but good luck trying to thrive on that!

With a varied diet made up of whole grains, veggies, beans, nuts, seeds, fruit and legumes, with sugar kept to a minimum, you’ll soon start to reap the benefits other vegans have been shouting about.