The mineral iron is vital to the human body for many reasons, but primarily because it makes hemoglobin – a blood protein that transports oxygen to all parts of the body.
If we’re not getting enough iron it results in us not getting enough oxygen in our bodies, and so we become fatigued – that well-known symptom of iron deficiency.
It’s also well known that iron deficiency can lead to anaemia. Symptoms of iron deficiency and anaemia include fatigue, dizziness, weakness and palpitations (though if you suffer from any of these symptoms don’t automatically assume you have an iron deficiency. These symptoms are compatible with lots of conditions so go see your doctor and find out what’s up).
Many people who go back to meat-eating from being vegan say they felt tired and weak and think it’s because they weren’t getting enough iron, believing that ALL the iron is in the red meat.
The sad truth is that many doctors still recommend upping red meat intake to those that are low in iron – I’ve even heard this within the last year.
Unfortunately, most doctors have so little nutritional education, they will advise their patients to eat food that is carcinogenic and full of saturated fat, cholesterol and antibiotics rather than study modern science on how BEST to acquire sufficient iron levels from food safely.
So what IS the truth?
The confusion arises because iron from meat (haem iron) IS more quickly absorbed in the human body than iron from plants (non-haem iron). THIS is why the medical profession will often prescribe red meat or liver to patients low in iron, thinking that this will be a quick cure.
I guess it IS a ‘quick cure,’ but because this haem iron is known to be more quickly absorbed, people think that haem iron is better for us, period.
…This is NOWHERE NEAR the full picture.
That haem iron is more quickly absorbed is not a good thing. It is absorbed by the body quickly WHETHER WE NEED IT OR NOT. It is not a balanced way for the body to receive iron and can result in iron overload. This increases risk of cancer, stroke and heart disease.
Non-haem iron from plant food is slower to be absorbed by the body but is absorbed as our bodies need it (isn’t this clever?)
All the main health advisory bodies – ADA, BMA, WHO, PCRM – concur that iron deficiency anaemia is no more common in vegetarians than it is amongst meat eaters.
And in the UK in 2002; a study of 33,883 meat-eaters, 18,840 vegetarians and 2,956 vegans found that vegans were found to have the highest daily intake of iron.
As we’ve seen, iron overload is just as dangerous as iron deficiency – but we stand far less chance of over-dosing on iron on a plant-based diet.
Great plant-food sources of iron are whole grains, green leafy veg, beans, lentils, nuts and seeds; and vitamin C-rich fruit and veg help us absorb the iron, but really, if you’re eating a varied whole food plant-based diet, you don’t need to stress over it.
It’s actually harder to NOT get enough iron on a whole food, plant-based diet!
As I understand it, the advent of this new fad for eating ALL THE MEATZ, ALL THE TIME started with a surgeon and weight-lifter called Shawn Baker appearing on Joe Rogan’s podcast, announcing that with an all-meat diet he had managed to regain his energy and strength, reduce inflammation in his body, and control his blood pressure and weight among other things.
Since then he wrote a book called The Carnivore Diet, in which he promotes an all-meat diet for the health benefits he has perceived (I should say mostly meat, it seems he will sometimes eat eggs), and other well known figures like Canadian psychologist Jordan Peterson have revealed that they too are on a 90-100% carnivore diet.
It’s not me who will tell Shawn Baker that he’s not feeling better if he says that he is. He’s a grown-ass dude, a surgeon no less, and knows how he feels.
He should also know however, that there could be a multitude of reasons for his health improvement, there is no way of establishing exactly just what the cause is.
It could be as it is with the paleo diet – when people eliminate dairy, refined sugars and processed food from their diets they can experience major health improvements. The science would say that this is more likely to be due to the elimination of these other foods than to the increase in meat.
There are lots of other factors we don’t know. He could’ve had a food intolerance or allergy to anything he was eating previously, perhaps one he didn’t know about, that cleared up on elimination of the food allergen.
There are so many possible other reasons for his health improvements, it’s just not scientific or truthful to categorically state that they were definitively due to an all-meat diet.
And Baker never tried a whole food plant-based, or even junk food vegan diet, so we can’t compare how he felt on either of these to how he feels on an all-meat diet. For all anyone knows, all his health issues could’ve been solved by transitioning to an all-plant diet, he may even feel even BETTER than he does now if he were to try it. We just don’t know. And neither does he… because there’s not any science behind it as far as I can see, his claims all seem to be anecdotal.
On Googling ‘The Carnivore Diet’ I was startled to see many books, not just Shawn’s, with the same or similar titles, all promoting an all or mostly meat diet.
Here are all the reasons why this sh*t is insanity I believe we are not meant to eat this way:
There are so many reasons why eating only meat isn’t the best idea – I’ll stick to 8 so the post doesn’t get too long. I’ll include some obvious arguments and a few less so. I’ve left ethics out of it because it’s blindingly obvious that a Vegan Coach would find a meat-based diet unethical! 🙂
Sustainability. The high quality meat that these human carnivores supposedly eat is not sustainable. It needs much bigger areas of land to be raised and produced. If everyone wanted to eat that kind of meat, we’d need several planets!
We are not carnivores. Lions and tigers are carnivores. Our bodies and digestive systems do NOT resemble theirs. They have:
Long canines(all the better for piercing the jugular veins of their prey), which we do not.
Very short intestines, so they can digest meat in an effective way and in the correct amount of time. We have very long, narrow intestines, designed to digest fibrous plant food in an effective way, while meat can get stuck in them and can fester and putrefy there for years.
Acid in their stomachsthat can kill any pathogens, to stop them getting sick when they eat raw meat. We have to cook meat to kill the bacteria; otherwise we can get very sick.
Speed. They can run extremely fast to catch their prey. If we were to try and catch any animal other than those that are advertised to us because of their docility and cheapness to feed and shelter – if we were to try and catch a gazelle or an impala for instance, just as other carnivore mammals do, we’d fail miserably. We’d need tools like guns to shoot them. Real carnivores don’t need guns.
Long claws – so they can better kill and then rip their dead prey apart. We have rather pathetic nails in comparison. Again, we’d need tools like knives to achieve what carnivores do with their claws.
Fibre is one of the most important nutrients for our bodies. There is no fibre in an all-meat, or all animal product diet. Fibre is only found in plant foods. We need fibre for healthy digestion, healthy weight loss, heart health, and cancer prevention among other things.
Hormones. Even if you are eating the best quality meat in existence, you are STILL consuming extra mammal hormones. Doesn’t matter if this meat is labelled as ‘hormone free’ – this just means there are no added hormones. But animals, just like us, produce naturally-occcurring hormones. These are over and above what your body needs, and may mess with your own hormone levels.
Blue Zones and Inuits. There is a book by Dan Buettner called The Blue Zones. The Blue Zones refer to all the areas of the world that have clusters of centenarians. Buettner investigates what the determining dietary, social, economical, spiritual and community factors are behind so many living to 100+ in these regions. In terms of the dietary factors, all ate either a 100% plant-based diet or very, very close to that.
(Give yourself the best chance of avoiding – or recovering quickly from – Covid-19 with these plant-based, antiviral immune system protectors and boosters!)
I’m not going to add to the fear porn about the virus here. Nor will I go on about the facts and figures for this illness that most of us are in lockdown for – you’ve already read/heard lots of information on TV and the internet, and there is lots of conflicting, confusing information around. We are not being given full context around figures of deaths from flu this year compared to deaths of flu from previous years; who died OF CV compared to who died WITH it etc, and I’m not going to add to this holy clusterf**k.
However however however….
….all that aside, one thing we can ALL agree on is that we don’t want to contract COVID19 (or any other flu) and if we DO contract it, we want it gone ASAP.
Right. So you should be all aware of your government guidelines on what we can do physically in terms of distancing, hand-washing etc, but here are my expert nutritional tips for giving yourself the best chance possible of avoiding the damn thing, or if you have it already, getting shot of it pronto.
This is a no-brainer, but I’m still gonna say it dammit. Include (more than ever) lots of green leafy veg and plenty of citrus fruit in your diet. Clementines, oranges and grapefruit are all vitamin C bombs, but also powerful is lemon juice. Now you’re obviously not gonna peel a lemon and eat it! Eeeww – I’m making the sour lemon face as I type 🙂 So a great way to ingest some lemon juice is to squeeze half a lemon into a tall glass of warm water. It is thought that the warm temperature is better for extracting the vitamin C than if it were cold. Don’t forget to either drink it with a straw, or rinse your teeth once afterwards, as you don’t want the citric acid sticking around on your tooth enamel.
I’ve been doing this every day for over 2 years now, and I’ve definitely noticed the difference in terms of the reduced number of bugs I’ve picked up. If you need an extra incentive – it’s great for the skin too!
As we learned in this post, keep up the health of your gut, as this is the majority of your immune system. Make sure to eat some fermented foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, miso or plain plant-based yoghurts several times a week; or at the very least, take a non-dairy probiotic every day throughout flu season.
Garlic is your best winter friend. It is good for your immune system by helping keep your gut in order, and on top of that it has anti-viral properties. You can crush it and put it in dishes at the end of cooking, and it will do it’s darndest to prevent you getting sick.
If you’re a garlic hater, first of all – BOO; but don’t worry, you can take garlic capsules.
Another no-brainer, but I know how easy it is to get absorbed in your work and forget to drink adequate water. As well as keeping you hydrated, water is going to keep flushing your system, helping you to all the quicker rid your body of anything undesirable.
If you don’t have a routine for drinking water, now is the time to get into one. Drink several glasses at convenient times throughout your day. Drink more if you’re exercising, less if you’re not. There are conflicting opinions on how much water to drink exactly per day; and it depends on your body size, whether you’ve perspired that day or not, whether you are eating especially dehydrating foods that day or not – but a common suggestion is 2 litres, so aim for that.
We actually know that dietary fibre protects against flu viruses. Like water, eating plenty of fibre is gonna keep your system ticking over nicely and will help you to expediently eliminate that which your body doesn’t need! It goes without saying that a vegan/plant-based diet is gonna give you the most fibre, what with there being ZERO fibre in animal products. Obviously look more to whole foods (whole grains and cereals; lentils; all beans; all fruit and veg) as opposed to refined and processed products, and you’ll be a fibre champ!
This one connects into gut-health too because a high-fibre diet will ensure you have a healthy balance of gut microbiota. So like garlic it’s a 2 for 1 🙂
So it’s great for me, but what if you’re a coffee or a Yorkshire Tea fanatic? Look, no-one is asking you to give up caffeine, least of all me – I love it. But there is plenty of the stuff in green tea honest! All I can say is try it. Try it a couple of times a day, then try and make it your go-to hot (or iced!) beverage of choice. Have it with a slice of lemon, a few mint leaves, some cardamom and agave nectar, whatever you fancy. I quite like Clipper White Tea (same as green – just younger leaves) because it’s quite strong with a nice caffeine hit 🙂
These next two are based on empirical evidence solely. I know they work for me, and that they will not harm you should you decide to try them (as indicated) too.
There is a product (available online or at health food stores) called Citricidal (GSE in the US). It is grapefruit seed extract and is a very powerful anti-viral, anti-biotic, and anti-fungal.
I’m currently taking 5 drops in a double whisky shot size of water 3 times a day as I’ve just recently been on a plane. After 2 weeks I’ll do this twice a day throughout this period. It’s a good idea to dip a cotton bud in the water before you drink it and then wipe it around one nostril while inhaling with your mouth closed, then doing the same with the other end of the cotton bud for the other nostril.
If you want to read up on this product, you can read the US and UK Amazon reviews of it. It’s probably one of the only places you’ll get some truth. There was a campaign to try to discredit GSE a while back, but as you can see in the science I linked to above, the claims were bull. As it’s a natural product, big pharma can’t make money from it, so it’s very possible that might be the reason for the bogus claims.
If I feel like I have the first signs of a cold – the bone-ache, the slightly swollen feeling in the back of the throat etc, then I take half an umeboshi plum. If you don’t know these already, they are salted Japanese plums (available in health stores) and are the sourest little mofo’s you ever did taste – and that’s the point. They are extremely acidic, but they have an alkalising effect once in the body and as you may be aware, the more alkaline your body is, the less disease it can harbour. If I remember to take half a plum in time, the cold-feelings are gone by the next day. Just remember to take a couple of mouthfuls of water afterwards, to rinse excess acid from your teeth.
If they are too sour for you to eat as they are, then you can mash half a plum and stir it into some cooked brown rice. This actually flavours the rice nicely, and kids like it too. They are around ten pounds for a jar (around fifteen bucks in the US?), but if you only take them when you need them, they last an absolute age.
Bonus (non-nutrition) tip:
Avoid rolling news and fear porn
This isn’t technically my remit but just to remind you that fear will reduce your body’s capacity to prevent or fight illness. Fear causes the body to transfer its energy away from the immune system into ‘fight or flight.’ Therefore a great thing you can do for your immune system right now is to throw your TV out of the window (or I guess you could just turn it off, that would probs be more responsible :)). The mainstream news seems intent on giving us bad news and numbers without full context, which only serves to create fear and panic. Bad news is good news for ratings but not for your sanity.
You’re on lockdown. You don’t need the news on. I haven’t had a TV for years and I always end up knowing exactly what I need to know, and not what I don’t. If you get your news from social media as I do, just check the few accounts you trust then leave it alone.
I hope these tips are helpful. Eat plants; stay well; breathe deeply; question EVERYTHING.
There are many tantalising, colourful new vegan products out there now, and ‘dirty’ vegan hipster joints are popping up in East London (what seems like) daily. And this is all good, and harmless to indulge in once in a while. But a new vegan could be forgiven for thinking that this is the stuff vegans eat ALL the time. And the worst thing in the world would be for a new vegan to partake of this kind of food only, and end up feeling so bad that they mistake the fact they are feeling gross to be due to a lack of meat. Or eggs. Or salmon.
Another reason some vegans turn back to meat is because they’ve been influenced by Youtube videos where (slightly crazy imo) people eat 50 mangoes for breakfast, 20 bananas for lunch etc and end up believing that buckets of fruit are the answer to all their health and wellness problems. When they don’t get the desired health outcome they expected from eating all the fruit all the time, they blame it on not eating animal products.
Firstly, none of the problems I’ve ever heard these ex-vegans complain of are because of a lack of animal products.
The one and only time you may NEED to eat meat is if there is no plant-food around anywhere; no chance of you coming across any in the next few days; you are already malnourished and semi-dead of starvation; and an unsuspecting animal walks by. In this scenario, go for it. Otherwise, there is no medical need to eat animal products.
Being a healthy vegan isn’t a mystery, but it’s not about guzzling a fuck-ton of fruit, or buying all the pretty new vegan products. And it’s a good idea to get a blood test done with your GP after a couple of months to check your levels of vitamins and minerals to see how you are going. Then, should you be deficient in any, you may well be able to make up the shortfall through diet.
But for right now – here are 11 helpful tips that should keep you on the straight and narrow health-wise:
1. Whole Foods. I was going to say ‘if its brown, gobble it down’ but that sounded a little…weird 🙂 What I mean is, always choose the whole versions of grains. So – brown or black rice; wholewheat products over white wheat products (whole wheat pasta, whole wheat bread, whole wheat couscous etc); and try using more natural sugars over white sugar – agave and maple syrup are a better choice than white sugar and they don’t spike your blood at the same rate.
When you DO buy pre-made products, try and ensure they have minimal ingedients, and that you know what all the ingredients are – no unpronouncable chemical rubbish needed!
2. Watch your oil consumption. It’s very easy to overdo the oil, especially with all the tempting new junk food vegan places around. Even the better plant oils (olive, coconut etc) count as processed foods. Unless you have chronic disease it’s fine to include a little, but restaurant food very often contains a LOT.
Eat at home as much as possible and take your own lunch into work. Eating out occasionally is fine, it’s when you do it constantly that the excess oil can be harmful to digestion, weight maintenance and health in general. If you have to eat out a lot for whatever reason, try and space it out so you’re not doing it on consecutive nights, and eat oil-free meals the days in between.
3. Beans, grains, greens baby! It’s always gonna be your beans and whole grains that will give you the energy and fibre you need to maintain good basic health, with root veg like sweet and white potatoes making a regular appearance too for the same benefits. The greens are a great source of calcium. When you make a meal, try and incude ‘a bean, a green and a grain’ – or a root veg in place of the grain. So that can incude fabulous chilis, curries, pasta dishes, couscous, hearty salads – pretty much most dishes can contain these elements. I know it doesn’t sound as sexy as ‘Sloppy Joes’ or ‘Dirty mac n’ cheeze,’ but it’s not sexy having digestive issues from too much oil either, so… 🙂
4. Eat the rainbow. The colour of each fruit and vegetable represent different nutrients, so try and eat a variety of coloured fruit and veg throughout your week. For example; red – tomatoes, red peppers, red apples; orange -carrots, sweet potatoes, canteloupe; green – um..greens :), kiwi, okra; purple – beetroot; yellow – bananas, yellow peppers.
5. Love your kitchen. Dudes, there’s no easy way to say this and not sound like an authoritarian school head teacher. But you HAVE TO PRIORITISE SPENDING TIME IN THE KITCHEN. You want the health? Good. I want that for you too. Now GET YOUR ASS IN THE KITCH.
If there was a professional goal you desperately wanted, I don’t doubt you would do whatever it took to achieve that. I never understand why people don’t prioritise their health in the same way when health is so basic to happiness and wellbeing. Health, imo, should be a starting point, and everything else comes out of that. If you feel good, you’re gonna be so much more productive – and fun! 🙂
If you make as many of your own meals as possible, YOU can control the oil that goes into your food, and make sure there is no pesky sugar or white flour added. God knows there are plenty of vegan cookbooks and recipe websites out there. Pick one, get a podcast up on the laptop to help you enjoy your kitchen time, and get cooking.
6. Pamper your guts. We now know that gut-health is key to overall health. Your guts contain 70-80 % of your immune system, and bad gut-health can be responsible for all sorts of issues such as leaky gut, IBS, and fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, multiple sclerosis, and mental illnesses such as depression, bi-polar and even schizophrenia. Sugars and white, refined starches feed bad gut bacteria, so yet another reason to avoid or at least minimise consumption of them.
Eat a portion of fermented foods every day. Pick from sauerkraut, kimchi, soy/coconut yoghurt, miso, tempeh, or a drink like kombucha, vegan kefir, water with apple cider vinegar. This will help re-establish the good bacteria your gut needs to thrive. Me? I make my own kimchi, because I’m a hippie that knits her own sandals 😀 But seriously, it’s yummy. My recipe here.
If you have any of the health issues mentioned at the top of this paragraph, think about taking non-dairy probiotics.
7. Face the flax. Try and include 2 x tbspns ground flax seeds in your diet 6 days a week. There are SO many reasons why this is a good idea for overall health. Firstly; they provide masses of fibre. Secondly; they promote great gut health. Thirdly; they are thought to be cancer-protective. Fourthly; they are thought to soak up any heavy metals lingering in our bodies and help them to..er…exit the body 🙂 Fifthly; they will help keep estrogen levels stable, again, by helping your body to excrete any excess. Sixthly; they are a great source of omega 3.
Sprinkle it on oatmeal, soups, stews, salads.
8. Vitamin B12. Supplement with this. No backtalk. Do it.
9. Hydrate! Well yeah, it’s obvious I know, but you’d be surprised how many people still don’t. Hydrate even more if you consume alcohol and/or coffee. Water and single herb teas are the ONLY liquids that count as water.
10. Sleep well. Another obvious one, and not really my remit, but I DO know it’s best to leave 3 hours between your last meal and going to bed. You wanna be resting in bed, not digesting.
11. Move it! Move it! Move it! Exercise is key. Pick whatever works for you and be CONSISTENT. If nothing more, then get out and walk briskly for half an hour every day – you get even more points if some of the walk has an upwards gradient.
In recent months there have been several high profile vegan Youtubers that have gone back to eating animal products; and Twitter, FB et all has had much to say about it.
The one I knew the best is Tim Sheiff, who I followed pretty consistently at the beginning of his transition to veganism. I followed him less over the years because, I don’t know, I just became less attracted to his persona.
I have to admit, I was pretty shocked when I heard he was no longer vegan, because for all of my going off his vibe, I still really thought he fully comprehended all the reasons to be vegan, and thought he understood about health – which was the main reason for him stopping his vegan lifestyle.
I understand that he felt like crap, and that it’s crap to feel like crap. And that his excessive fasts and other slightly outlandish-seeming dietary experiments were in his pursuit of health. I get that. When you feel like shit and you read something that gives you hope, you’ll try it, even if it seems a bit crazy. I’ve been there and empathise with this. A few years back, I discovered I had chronic candidiasis, manifesting in horrible skin….stuff…on my body. I won’t even tell you the most horrendous symptoms because I don’t want to put you off your cocoa 🙂 That’s one of the things I DID like about Tim, he wasn’t afraid to go there with the gross body stuff 😀 Anyway, at this time I would have tried pretty much anything just to feel better.
Thankfully, I eventually found a way to overcome my issues. I went on an anti-candida diet, took grapefruit seed extract, and used apple cider vinegar and manuka honey (yes I know honey isn’t vegan, but it was medicinal. Lots of medications aren’t vegan, so shut up). It was a long, slow process, but I got there.
From the symptoms he described, I believe Tim’s issues were also candida and digestion-linked. He seemed to end up associating these issues with his vegan diet.
I’m not trying to blow my own horn here. Ok, maybe I am just a little, but at no time during my couple of years of candida hell on earth did I think my suffering was because of my vegan diet.
It didn’t make sense that that could have been the cause. And now there is enough research to show that a varied whole food, plant-based diet is the best diet to keep candida at bay (listen to this doctor who is an expert in the field). You may, like I did, need to try a more restricted anti-candida diet at first if you currently HAVE candida, but once you are free of it, it’s a whole food vegan diet that is best.
I remember every time I saw videos of Tim, he was guzzling ridicuous amounts of fruit. I mean, fruit is a snack or a dessert. We are not meant to eat 50 frickin’ mangoes for breakfast FFS. Of course eating fruit in those quantites can contribute to candida overgrowth. That’s wayyyy too much fruit sugar fermenting in your gut! Admittedly sometimes I did see him eating a nutritionally balanced meal, but this didn’t seem to be a consistent thing. It often seemed to be one new food philosophy or another.
The YouTuber Rawvana – the vegan who got caught eating fish – I knew less about. From what I did see, she seemed, like Tim, to constantly be trying new things, whether all raw food, or water fasts, or whatever it may be. Her health issues seemed similar too – yeast and digestive issues. She thought that eating fish and eggs would be the answer to her health problems.
Although it’s disappointing that these people amassed huge profiles and thousands of followers by proclaiming how vegan they were, and personally profited from this – then stopped – thereby probably causing a significant amount of their followers to stop too, my reason for writing this is not to judge Tim or the others (even though if I’m honest they do piss me off a little. Hey, I’m human). I’m not interested in anyone’s path except my own (she says trying to sound grown up and shit :D).
But seriously, my point in writing this piece is as follows:
1. To reassure you that a whole food vegan diet is suitable, health-wise, for everybody at any stage of life. No ifs, no buts. To also assure you that animal products in the diet are not a cure for anything. Unless you are dying of hunger on a desert island and there is no vegetation anywhere, just the proverbial cow… That’s it. Some people may need to avoid certain plant foods in the case of intolerances or allergies – but this is the same with a non-vegan diet. For example, I am highly allergic to eggs. So, um..it’s a good job I’m vegan.
2. To encourage you to watch whoever appeals to you on social media. We all follow people for a wide range of reasons. Sometimes I’ll follow an absolute moron just because they make me laugh. BUT, if you are following a vegan on a particular platform for the sole purpose of learning how to be a healthy, happy vegan, PLEASE make sure they refer to science (peer-reviewed if possible). If you’re not sure how to do this, you can just cross-reference what your new vegan hero is saying with the works of the eminent plant-based doctors – Dr’s T. Colin Campbell, Michael Greger, John McDougall, Caldwell Essylstyn, Michael Klaper, Neal Barnard – they all have plenty of resources online.
Make sure your new vegan gal/guy is consistently eating/cooking (and advising you to eat) a diet rich in whole grains, beans, lentils, root veg, leafy greens and other veg, fruit, nuts seeds, herbs and spices. If they start talking about fasting or being 100% raw, or eating 50 mangoes for breakfast – throw your phone or laptop in the garbage instantly and run as far away from it as you can 😀
This subject keeps coming up again and again in my professional life.
I do feel we are (VERY) slowly but surely getting the message across that we don’t need meat for protein.
But there’s another, very much related, almost AS pervasive myth that seems to be sticking around and is not in any hurry to dissipate. And that is – we need meat for energy.
I am guilty of making the mistake of thinking we are WAY past believing that we need meat for energy. But unlike so many people, I have not been exposed to the whole Paleo/Atkins/ketogenic deal; and I guess it’s true that not everyone has their eyes glued to the peer-reviewed science-filled websites of Dr’s McDougal/Greger/Barnard/Klaper all day! (For those that may not know, independent ‘peer-reviewed’ science is the most objective, credible way of doing science that there is. It is the closest to the truth that you can get). There is precisely NO peer-reviewed science on Paleo/Atkins/ketogenic/any other high-fat, low-carb diet you care to mention that concludes that these diets are healthy long-term.
Of course it didn’t help when ex-vegan bloggers declared very loudly that they’d stopped being vegan because they felt they ‘needed’ meat, and that when they took their first bite of meat they felt like the energy was flowing back into their bodies again.
I can’t comment on what may or may not have happened to make them feel unwell on a vegan diet – there could be lots of potential reasons; just as there could be lots of potential reasons for someone feeling unwell on a meat and dairy-centric diet. But, I can say that it is NOT the meat that gave them their energy back.
Optimal energy comes mainly from carbohydrates.
Meat contains little in the way of carbohydrates. If you used meat for carbohydrates, you’d have to eat SO much of it to get the carbs your body needed it really wouldn’t be healthy in terms of the amounts of saturated fat and cholesterol you’d also be consuming (not to mention hormones and antibiotics).
So which carbohydrates specifically should energy come from?
Any tubers, root veg and starchy veg (potatoes, sweet potatoes, squashes of all description)
I implore you to memorise this list if you suffer from fatigue; the dreaded 11 or 3 o’clock slump; or just generally feel you don’t have enough energy.
These are the foods you should look to for your everyday energy. Not meat or any animal protein. Not even nuts, or fruit and veg.
Just to be clear; nuts and seeds contain little carbohydrate, and you’d have to eat a ton to get any decent levels – which would mean you’d be consuming way too much fat.
And fruit and veg, although they contain more carbohydrates than the previous items mentioned, it’s still too small an amount per calorie to give you substantial fuel for the day – unless you eat a bucket of them – but who really wants do that?
If anything, many people report meat making them feel lethargic and ‘weighed down,’ not full of energy. But thanks to paleo et al, carbophobia is an epidemic right now of proportions it is hard to comprehend. Lots of us seem to have lost the innate knowledge that previous civilisations held – that it is grains, cereals, beans and starchy veg that give us fuel.
In case you were wondering; whole carbohydrates will not make you put on weight. They are FULL of fibre, and will fill you up before you can overeat.
Meat, on the other hand, does not fill you up and contains zero fibre. If you are concerned at all about weight – it’s the meat you should be ditching.
The reality is that we should all be clamouring for whole carbs to power us optimally through our busy lives.
The main source of vitamin D for everyone is sunlight (aim to get 5 to 15 minutes of sunlight on your face, legs or arms every day between 10am-3pm. Go for the full 15 minutes if you have darker skin). It’s also found in fatty fish and eggs, but even omnivores don’t eat fatty fish and eggs every day, so, as with most deficiencies, vitamin D deficiency isn’t just a potential vegan problem, but a potential ‘everyone’ problem.
Depending on where we are in the world, or whether you work outside or not; we all have different exposure to sunlight. If you’re in southern California or some tropical paradise; or you are always outside during daylight hours – you’re likely getting enough. Those in more northerly regions or who aren’t often outside at prime sunlight times may not be.
What to do if you feel you are deficient
If you feel you MAY be deficient in Vitamin D, the first thing you should do is have your blood tested by a doctor.
If the test shows you ARE indeed low, then unless you can escape to sunnier climes pronto – supplementation is probably the way to go.
It used to be that Vitamin D3 was purely animal-based (from the lanolin in sheep’s wool), and vitamin D2 was plant-based (from yeast and fungi); but I hear that now it’s possible to get vegan vitamin D3 supplements, so either D2 or vegan D3 is what you’ll want to look for.
Some would argue that Vitamin D3 is more effective than vitamin D2. However, I had low levels of vitamin D which manifested each year as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). I started taking 1000 IU of vitamin D2 (1 capsule daily), and I no longer suffer from this each winter, so I personally found it to be effective.
Do you feel like you have little energy and often feel fatigued?
Assuming there is no underlying problem (which, of course you’ll already have checked out at your doctors, right?), then this post can help you get back to being the perky, peppy, zestful YOU.
So, there’s not a list of energy foods for meat eaters and another for vegans – it’s all the same for everyone.
Meat eaters, this is for you because you may find that what you thought to be the best energy food actually isn’t.
And vegans – its ace that you’re vegan, but vegan doesn’t necessarily mean healthy and full of energy, so this is for you, too.
Let’s bust a few myths first shall we?
The best source of energy is CARBOHYDRATES.
Where are carbs NOT found?
Not in meat
Meat contains very little carbohydrate, so is NOT the best energy food. If anything, it can weigh you down and make you feel sluggish.
Our bodies have a hard time digesting it what with us not having the stomach acids to properly break it down, and what with it containing ZERO fibre, and what with us having really long intestines reminiscent of a herbivores. If our bodies are trying to digest meat, our energy is being used up for this.
However, because our bodies can digest plants easily without all the extra effort, when we eat plants we get energy from them.
Not in dairy products
The only carbohydrate in dairy is in the lactose. Only a very small percentage of the world’s population can digest lactose. If you can’t (which is most of us!) your body cannot utilise the carbohydrate in dairy for energy.
Not from green leafy veg
Now don’t get me wrong, green leafy veg are vital to our diets for lots of nutrients – but not to give us energy. They do not contain enough calories to be efficient energy givers.
Green leafy veg are the side to a dish, or a PART of a stew/soup/salad/stir-fry/curry/chilli/pasta dish. They are NOT the main event.
Not from nuts
Nuts are healthy fats and are another vital part of our diet for lots of reasons. A couple a day when we’re peckish can help BOOST our energy, but they should not be the main source of our energy – you’d have to eat too many, and they are too fatty to eat them in bigger quantities.
legumes (pulses in the UK) – chick peas, red kidney beans, black-eyed peas, lima beans, cannellini beans, peas, lentils (all varieties), black beans, pinto beans, fava (broad) beans etc
Fruits as dessert are fantastic, but should not be the main dish; regardless of what some YouTubers would have you believe.
2. Eat breakfast
Well duh! I hear you say, and you’d be right – but you’d be surprised how many people don’t.
A breakfast containing whole grains (oatmeal, wholewheat toast, wholewheat bagel, brown rice) will set you up for great energy all morning.
3. Limit sugar and caffeine
By sugar I mean actual sugar; and white refined carbs (white bread, buns, bagels etc; white pasta and white rice).
Though both sugar and caffeine give us energy in the short term, it’s not really worth it for the energy slump that ensues.
Let’s be realistic. Even though it’s possible to eliminate caffeine from our lives, we might not all want to do that – me included. I have two cups of green tea per day and my energy is great. But when I have more than that, it’s definitely negatively affected in the long run. Have one or two cups of whatever caffeinated beverage you love per day, maybe one if it’s coffee, or two if it’s tea (tea has less caffeine).
Similarly, with sugar, I’m not suggesting you eliminate all sugar from your diet, but rather:
– Choose whole grains over refined white starches, and minimise actual white sugar as much as possible. Pay attention to where it could be lurking – ketchups, chilli sauces, relishes, shop bought pasta sauces etc. You may not think this is a big deal, but sugar adds up over the course of a day.
– Try and buy products that don’t contain sugar. You have to practise label scanning, but you WILL find brands that don’t use sugar, and then you’ll remember them for next time.
– Use agave and maple syrup to sweeten things. They are not a health food either, but they don’t spike your blood as much as sugar.
It sounds like it wouldn’t work but it does. Sometime you gotta expend energy to GET energy! Ever laid in bed for longer than you should and just got tireder? Exactly!
If you do nothing else, a brisk half an hour walk every day is a great, easy inclusion into your daily routine. It’ll get the blood flowing round the body, increase your heart rate and (if you are following the other tips) set you up for great energy for the rest of the day.
Dehydration is such a common problem.
While water in and of itself doesn’t give you energy, dehydration can leave you feeling drained (Literally! Geddit?) and weary.
While you don’t necessarily need to rigidly drink eight glasses a day if you are eating a whole food, plant-based diet (as much of your food will have a high water content); listen to your body and drink water as soon as you feel thirsty. If your pee is almost clear with just a touch of colour – you’re good. If it’s darker, get your H2o on!
Please note: This post is intended to give tips and advice for best emotional health through nutrition. If you have been diagnosed with depression, or feel you may be suffering with this or any other mental illness, please consult your medical practitioner, and follow their advice. Do not stop taking any medication without the supervision of a doctor.
Are you a moody SOB?
I’m not judging, it’s perhapsmaybepossible that I was once.
Ever thought that what we put in our body could play a part in this?
Don’t even think for one second that it can’t!
But because what we eat affects us this way, the GOOD news is that if we start yamming the right stuff into our faces – we can improve, and even stabilise our moods and emotions.
No more meltdowns. No more unexplainable freakouts. No more random ups and downs. Sound good?
Of course it is no surprise that the same diet that is best for obesity, heart disease, and diabetes, is also best for emotional health.
A whole food, plant-based diet is already superior to a diet rich in animal products in terms of maintaining good mental and emotional health. It is more alkaline and anti-inflammatory, as opposed to acidic and inflammatory, and so promotes more vitality and overall health – which in turn affects mood. In fact, depression is thought to be a disease of inflammation. So if you’re vegan and eating healthily, you’re already on the right path to great mental and emotional health.
But, there are certain foods that are especially helpful in achieving a balanced state of being.
Here are 4 foods (and 2 vitamins) to include in your daily diet to avoid experiencing the woohoos and the blues in the space of five minutes:
Most plant foods, not just whole grains, are rich in tryptophan, which your body needs to produce serotonin – a neurotransmitter that is largely responsible for us feeling wellbeing and happiness.
Whole grains, being unrefined carbohydrates, are an excellent source of tryptophan, and as such, they can serve to regulate serotonin levels, elevating them if they are too low.
The OTHER reason whole grains are at the top of my list is because they maintain steady blood sugar – which also serves to stabilise your moods.
Refined grains such as white flour act as sugar in the body and thus spike your blood and affect your moods negatively. Just think of when a child is given sugar – they become hyperactive and bounce off the walls until they crash and become cranky. We do this too if we eat white flour and white sugar. There may not be walls involved but we get the same wired feeling before we crash!
Whole wheat is an easy way to get your whole grains (as long as you are not celiac). Think whole wheat toast, whole wheat pasta and noodles, whole wheat bagels, whole wheat couscous etc.
2. Nuts and seeds
(ALL nuts and seeds are great, but especially flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and walnuts)
So many reasons why we need the ol’ nuts and seeds, but stable moods is an important one.
Nuts and seeds contain magnesium, which has been shown to alleviate depression and irritability.
They are also rich in zinc, which is crucial for mental health, and omega 3, which – HELLO! – is the brain nutrient!
A lack of adequate omega 3 can result in depression. Try adding 2 tablespoons of ground flax seeds to your cereal or soup every day, or grabbing four walnut halves as a snack.
We now know that just as gut health is massively linked to our immune system; it is also linked to mental health.
It is vital, more than ever thanks to deleterious elements that kill off our good gut bacteria such as antibiotics, chlorine in water, and hidden sugars (that feed bad gut bacteria); that we consistently replenish the good bacteria in our guts.
It’s a good idea, as well as incorporating some of the above foods into your diet, and especially if you’ve taken antibiotics for long periods of time (for acne, for example), to take a daily non-dairy probiotic.
(Black-eyed peas, red/white kidney beans, black beans, lima beans, cannellini beans, butter beans, haricot beans, fava beans etc – dark leafy greens; kale, collards, bok choy, broccoli, spinach etc)
Lots of depression sufferers have been found to be low in folic acid. Beans and greens are your best way to get this stuff!
Think bean chillies, bean stews or bean curries (on brown rice with steamed greens on the side – WAY to get three mood foods in one meal!); soups containing beans and veg, salads full of beans and spinach, couscous with beans, or you know what? The great British culinary delight that is beans on (whole wheat) toast!
5. Take your vitamin B12!
It’s been known for decades that poor mental health is often associated with low levels of folic acid (eat your beans – see above!) and vitamin B12.
Vitamin D deficiency is linked to depression, especially in areas of the world that don’t get a great deal of sunlight, so get your levels checked at the docs, and supplement if you need to – either with plant-based vitamin D2, or vegan vitamin D3.
So, you’ve probably heard of omegas 3 & 6, and that you need them to be healthy.
You actually need a pretty even amount of both these beauties:
Omega 6 is inflammatory – which sounds bad, but it helps clot the blood soooo….useful if you have a wound you need healing for example. Omega 3 is anti-inflammatory and an anti-coagulant, so it thins the blood. They compete with each other for the same enzymes in the body, and too much omega 6 can inhibit omega 3 – hence the need for an equal-ish amount of each.
MANY people’s ratios are way skewed however, sometimes by as much as 30:1 (i.e. too much omega 6 to too little omega 3). You need to know that this is NOT a vegan problem, this is a universal problem.
As a plant-based superstar (or plant-based superstar wannabe!) you’re most likely getting plenty of Omega 6 through veg, fruit, grains, nuts and seeds, so it’s really omega 3 we want to make sure we get enough of, to balance out the ol’ 6.
It’s sometimes easy to get too much omega 6 through added oils; like safflower, sunflower, cottonseed or corn oil; so ideally stay away from these or use VERY sparingly.
We need omega 3 for basic cell function. And according to PCRM, adequate intake of omega 3 can mean a reduced chance of strokes and heart disease; reduction of menstrual pain and joint pain, relief from ulcerative colitis symptoms, and there is evidence to show it can also mean reduced breast cancer risk.
A deficiency of this nutrient can lead to health consequences that include kidney and liver abnormalities, dry skin or decreased immune function.
Omega 3 comes in three forms.
The main one is ALA (alpha linolenic acid) and this is the only ESSENTIAL omega 3, so this is the one you want to make sure you are getting.
Your body cleverly converts the ALA into the two other forms of omega 3; EFA and DHA.
We’ve all been sold the bill o’ goods that the best sources of EFA and DHA are fish and fish oils, but this is not true. The best sources are our own bodies! Yay for our bodies!
In any case, the fish themselves do not make EFA and DHA in their bodies; they obtain it from the algae and seaweed they consume.
Even though EFA and DHA are not essential nutrients – there is no RDA (recommended daily amount) prescribed for them – it’s possible you may need to up your levels if you are pregnant or elderly. But – you can do like the fish and eat sea vegetables (fancy phrase for seaweed; try nori or wakame for example), or take supplements made from algae. Aim for 250mg of DHA/day. You’ll also be avoiding the yucky contaminants found in fish this way!
So, how to get the main dude, the ALA?
Oh Em Gee this is soooo easy.
ALA can be found pretty abundantly in plant sources. Flax seeds, walnuts, hemp seeds, black beans, red kidney beans, winter squash and edamame are all great sources.
One easy way – the way that I do it in fact – is to have two tablespoons of ground flax seeds on my oatmeal most mornings. There are a gazillion other great reasons for having flax seeds, but ALA is one of the main ones.
You could have two or three meals a week (stews or soups or casseroles or chillis) with red kidney beans or black beans in; and grab three or four walnut halves a few times a week.
But is it HARDER for vegans than for omnivores to get adequate omega 3?
What? You haven’t already surmised the answer to this question?
Though plants contain little fat, they contain enough to help the conversion process in our bodies of ALA to EFA and DHA. The ingestion of higher fat levels (like those found in a meat and dairy rich diet) make this process more difficult. SO, to have great levels of these three forms of omega 3; an overall low fat whole foods, plant-based diet is optimal.