Therefore, the more animal foods you eat, the more chance you have of being constipated.
The OTHER constipating villain(s) you have to look out for is WHITE, REFINED GRAINS such as white rice and any product containing white wheat – white pasta, white bread, cookies and cake made with white flour etc.
White flour is wholewheat flour with the bran and the germ taken out – the very elements that contain the fibre. White rice is brown rice with the fibrous elements removed; not exactly ideal for easy transition out of the body.
When I hear (and I DO hear this) that a relatively young person has been prescribed prunes (EFFING PRUNES!) for constipation by a doctor, and the doctor hasn’t even recommended a diet rethink; I get a bit crazy.
Nothing wrong with prunes, they are a delightful fruit. But it’s the most root-cause-dodging, short-term remedy ever. Do you have to buy prunes for the rest of your life? What happens when you stop eating the prunes?
And doesn’t this tell us that a whole food, plant-based diet is how we are meant to eat for our bodies to perform correctly?
If you can’t eliminate all the constipating animal products and refined starches at once, then add two tablespoons of ground flaxseeds to one of your meals every day (adding it to breakfast oatmeal is probably easiest!)
Try also to eat more bean, whole grain and legume-based curries, stews and soups. These are also full of fibre, and will fill you up so you will hopefully consume less animal products.
Don’t you know at least, like, 6 people that have it?
I know I do.
What’s more, I used to be a chronic sufferer myself – twofold, in fact.
What on earth do I mean by twofold? Well, I had good ol’, plain ol’, regular standard asthma; and I also had chronic atopic asthma as an allergic reaction to fur.
Yes, you SHOULD be jealous – I had ALL the fun.
If you’ve never experienced asthma, let me tell you that it can be horrific. Breathing in oxygen is our most basic need, and when you can’t do this effectively it’s frightening. Try breathing through a straw. A VERY THIN one. Sometimes it’s just like that. Sometimes it’s worse.
In the nineties sometime, I heard that eliminating dairy products might help my asthma and eczema (eczema is closely related to asthma in terms of its causes). This knowledge has clearly been around a long time.
I had suffered enough to want to give this a try.
If you’ve read my ‘about’ page, you’ll know that I succeeded in ridding myself of asthma by going vegan. To be more specific; my ‘general’ asthma has completely gone since going vegan – I haven’t had an inhaler in years.
My atopic asthma as an allergic reaction to fur has also significantly improved, and I can enjoy a visit to the house of a friend that has a dog or cat, which I couldn’t before. The allergic reactions haven’t completely gone, I still have to wash my hands thoroughly in hot water after stroking any furry animal, otherwise they itch like crazy; and if, say, I’m visiting a house with a cat or dog in winter, with all windows closed and heating on; I’ll start sneezing and my lungs will definitely let me know THEY KNOW there is an allergen in the vicinity. Some allergies I believe are too systemic to completely disappear.
However, this is a vast improvement on before – and I just avoid putting myself in the ‘hot, stifling house with fur’ situation, so I’m asthma-free all the time!
I personally know of two other long-time asthma sufferers that had always used inhalers. They went vegan fairly recently and after a while no longer needed medication and now consider themselves asthma-free.
So that’s my personal story and some anecdotal evidence – but what happened when actual scientific studies took place?
Incredible huh? (BTW – if you haven’t already subscribed to NutritionFacts.org, you really should. Dr Michael Greger is an expert on all things plant-based and health related).
And in this article on Dr T Colin Campbell’s nutritionstudies.org website, we see that dairy consumption is linked to many diseases, including asthma. The original article was written in 1997 and updated in 2015 – so again, this information is NOT new!
Seemingly, even Hippocrates back in 370BC knew cow’s milk wasn’t the universal health elixir it is cracked up to be:
‘Hippocrates first observed and wrote about negative reactions to cow’s milk around 370 BC, since when, the prevalence, awareness and understanding of this allergy has increased. Milk allergy is one of the major allergies in infants and is caused by the proteins present in cow’s milk’ ~ The Food Safety Hazard Guidebook, by Richard Lawley, Laurie Curtis, Judy Davis, 2008
No-one ever got asthma by eating broccoli. Or brown rice. Or apples.
Disappointingly, on the NHS website you have to click through to the last menu option ‘living with asthma‘ and right down at the bottom it does mention that cow’s milk (along with other animal products like eggs and shellfish) can be a trigger for asthma.
Given the amazing results of the Swedish study in the video above, you think they’d mention this on their asthma homepage.
They also put links to the Asthma UK website where I eventually found an option called ‘asthma triggers’ (really not obvious to find at all in amongst a tonne of other options), and then had to click on ‘food’ (again, this was in among 17 other options; it wasn’t even the first one). I clicked on food, and it DOES cite milk and dairy products at the top of the list of food triggers, but is not very positive and encouraging about avoiding them, and gives FALSE information regarding the impact of dairy on calcium intake and bones!
Milk and milk products – You may have heard there’s a link between dairy foods and asthma, but only a very small percentage of people are allergic to milk products. For them, eating these foods may result in wheezing. Dairy allergy is more common in children but they often grow out of it as their digestive system matures. Calcium-rich dairy products are essential for healthy bones, especially for children and adolescents. And people with asthma can be at higher risk of bone disease osteoporosis (which causes thinning, brittle bones and increases risk of fractures) because of the use of steroid medication. So you should only avoid dairy products if necessary, ensuring you replace them with other sources of calcium under the guidance of your GP, nurse or a dietitian.
Again, the results of the Swedish study conflict drastically with this.
It seems that as well as avoiding dairy, including lots of fresh fruit and veg in your diet also helps reduce asthma symptoms; so we can easily surmise that a whole food, plant-based diet would be your best bet for improving asthma, and maybe never suffering from it again.
If you’re an asthma sufferer and haven’t tried avoiding animal products yet in a bid to improve your condition – what are you waiting for? Why suffer needlessly? I mean, why?
I know parents of children with asthma who, despite me passing on the above information, are reluctant to take dairy out of their children’s diets.
Now, when parents are advised to do other things to treat disease in their children, they DO it – like giving them antibiotics for example.
Antibiotics have side-effects, while avoiding dairy only has benefits, so why wouldn’t you want to treat your kid in a non-harmful, plenty-beneficial way?
The only reason I can think of is that they genuinely fear their child would miss out on nutrients, or maybe just not be receptive to the idea.
If your child has asthma and you’d like to make their diet more plant-based but don’t know how open to this they would be, maybe this post will help.
If you need more reasons (besides just curing yourself of asthma) to give up cow’s milk and dairy, read this.
You know what? If you don’t think you can do it long-term just commit to three weeks. See how you feel then and re-evaluate.
Life is waaaay too short to lose any of it to wheezing and spluttering and feeling like your lungs are about to explode. Take back control over your windpipe and lungs! Don’t let the dairy and animal agriculture industries commit you to a wheezy, hacking, breathless future.
Last week, in this post, I gave all the reasons your folks might’ve been a tad wary when you told them you were going vegan – or why they are still wary since you became vegan.
Now, I’m not promising that the following suggestions are going to turn your parents vegan overnight; but they may help to keep peace, relieve tension around your new lifestyle, and just make them comfortable with it.
If, right now, you’re thinking that it’s not up to you to keep the peace and that they should be automatically accepting of your choices because they are YOUR choices – read my post from last week again.
Think of it this way; the more your parents feel secure that your new lifestyle will not change certain things they hold dear, and the more they are convinced that you are healthy and happy; the more peaceful your life will be, so you’re really doing this for YOU!…If you see what I mean.
If your parents are totally cool with you being vegan and if your dad just made you a soy matcha latte to wash down the quinoa and black bean soup your mum made you? Good for you! You are one lucky mofo – be grateful!
This post is for the rest of us whose parent(s) have not yet been enlightened to the benefits and joys of plant-based living!
When you tell your parents you’re going vegan, what first hits them may be sub-conscious fears that they aren’t able to fully verbalise. Sometimes irrational fears crop up just because something is ‘different’, (which veganism is, in their eyes), and they can be difficult to express. If you think it might help, show them my post from last week to see if they relate to any of the fears I listed.
On the other hand, they may realise exactly what they are feeling which might make them defensive. Depending on their generation, they may not be comfortable with ‘the feels’ and would rather be defensive than talk about how you going vegan is affecting them.
However they react – you can cleverly pre-empt any negativity and neutralise it with your stun gun of reason!
Exactly like that.
Use whatever within the following information applies to them and what you think will resonate most:
I talked about food memories last week, and how your parents have many memories of you that relate to food; whether celebratory food, or of you all eating a beloved family dish etc.
Remind your parents that the most important part of these memories is not the food. It’s being together WHILE eating the food; it’s the communal participation in something. Often, the food in question isn’t necessarily even LIKED by all of the party; it’s purely about being together. For example, even before I was vegan, I haaaated pretty much all Christmas food. Christmas pudding, turkey, Christmas cake, the lot. I’d rather have had a curry any day! But I loved being AT Christmas dinners. Why? Because we were all together, laughing and joking, being Christmassy, pulling crackers etc…But, food-wise, it wouldn’t have mattered if I was vegan or not for the amount of food I ate, it wouldn’t have been noticed. What mattered was the being together and celebrating.
Reassure them that you will still participate in celebratory family meals to come, and you’ll either help by suggesting and helping make fabulous plant-based dishes with them, or you’ll bring some with you for everyone to share. Paint an exciting picture of all the new memories there are to be made.
The best way to stealthily attract people (even parents!) to veganism, is to lead by example.
Explain to your parents carefully WHY you’re doing what you’re doing. Be sure not to say that you think they should do it too, just say that you’ve discovered this information, and it’s made you want to try it, and you’d appreciate their support. Breathe, be calm, and don’t talk over the top of them. I know it can be difficult (God knows I do!) but this is for the long-term benefit of everyone. If they see you are calm, focussed and reasonable, they’ll have more faith in your decision.
Involve them. Sometimes parents might get weird and feel judged if you start living your life differently to how they do. The best thing to do is to get them involved. Go shopping with them, make fun dishes with them, and let them see that you are eating amazing, healthy, vibrant food. Buy them a copy of your favourite vegan recipe book (make sure it’s one with lush, mouth-watering pics!).
Did you used to go fishing or hunting with your dad? Did you used to bake something at an annual event with your mum? (I know – this is sooo gendered, but it still happens!)
There are plenty of new bonding plant-based activities you can ritualise. For example, if I visit my dad’s house in winter, he’ll always roast us some chestnuts. Nothing better than cracking open freshly roasted chestnuts on a cold day. This is something we did before I was vegan, and luckily this didn’t need to change. Yay for chestnuts!
It doesn’t matter what the bonding activity is, if it’s gentle and meditative and leaves room for talking AND shared silence, then it’s effective. If you went fishing with your dad, it wasn’t really THAT much about the fishing, was it? It was more about being in nature, sitting quietly, mulling things over, being contemplative, and having a feeling of achievement if you caught something. Well you can get all that with many different activities that DON’T involve animal cruelty.
You can go foraging for mushrooms and wild herbs, picking berries etc. How about vegan beer or vegan wine tasting?
The same with cooking a particular dish in the kitchen if this is a family ritual. It doesn’t matter what the dish is. Maybe you could just veganise whatever it was?
Assure your parents you are well informed on the nutrition side of things – show them my protein post if they try and pick the old protein argument! Assure them that it’s as simple as making sure you eat a range of different coloured veg, fruit, beans and legumes, with lots of energy-giving whole grains and you’ll be fine – BETTER than fine in fact!
This is a good one! Remind them that there are (depending on their generation) plenty of things their parents ate that they now wouldn’t dream of eating. For example; my grandparents would’ve eaten lard, bread and dripping (I have no idea either!), spam, and they cooked everything in animal fat. My parents wouldn’t eat any of this now because they’ve learned that these foods are unhealthy. People DO better when they KNOW better. This is all you are doing – which as you’ve just shown them, is something they have done themselves.
Bottom line – keep talking. Keep making them (or showing them how to make) tasty food. If you find a great vegan restaurant, take them. If they have health questions, email them facts from reputable websites (anything by Dr T Colin Campbell, Dr Michael Greger, Dr John Mcdougall, PCRM). Talk with them, share information with them (you don’t have to share everything, just anything you think they might relate to; if one of them has a cholesterol issue for example, you could explain how it’s only animal products that contain cholesterol and that plant foods don’t contain any), and involve them.
You’ll soon get those walls down – and you never know what might happen. It might end up being THEM whining about all the Tofurky being sold out at Christmas!
It’s a turkey (a wild one!), and it’s in the snow so it has to be cold – d’yageddit? Am I trying too hard?
There’s a lot of debate as to whether it’s best to go vegan gradually, or to jump in head-first.
Hmmmm. I can see it from both sides. I’ve known several people who have cut out a few meats, then all meats, then milk, then other dairy, then eggs, and finally cheese (Ha! It’s often cheese that’s last!).
This definitely works for some. It’s kind of what I did, though my trajectory was really just vegetarian for a short while, then vegan.
The real answer to the above question is – do whatever’s right for you.
BUT BUT BUT…
The opinions of Dr Neal Barnard (founder of PCRM, author of Reversing Diabetes) , and Dr T Colin Campbell (Professor Emeritus at Cornell University, author of the China Study, Whole, and contributor to the documentaries Forks Over Knives and Plant Pure Nation), which make sense and which I tend to agree with, are as follows –
Giving up animal products can be likened to giving up smoking in the following sense; we know it’s better to go cold turkey than to cut down and try and gradually reduce the amount you smoke…
…If you have even a little bit of nicotine in your system, this is going to want to be ‘fed’ – you are always going to crave more. This is borne out by the fact that if someone attempting to quit smoking cracks and has one cigarette, they often just give up and just relapse back into smoking habitually.
As I’ve written about previously, cheese, and to a lesser extent, other dairy products are addictive due to the opiate -like effects of the casomorphins they contain.
If you have even a small amount of dairy in your system, then just like tobacco you’re always going to crave more at some point.
Yet if you quit all dairy at the same time, your body may at first kick up a bit of a fuss while it detoxes from mucous-forming cow’s milk products (don’t worry if it does, this won’t last long), but then it will adjust to not having it and will become accustomed to the new foods you are consuming.
As your body acclimatises, you’ll realise how much lighter and clear-headed you feel, and maybe other things as well, like better digestion, better skin, your weight will be maintained easier – in fact a whole host of benefits may occur.
Obviously these benefits come quicker if you give up all dairy at once.
Now we all like rewards and pay-offs, and even though the knowledge that you are not contributing to animal cruelty, environmental damage and world hunger may be the prime reason for your lifestyle shift, it doesn’t hurt to have good health benefits as a pleasant side-effect to keep you extra full of positive feelings about your new path.
The other reason it may be better to dive straight in, is because animal products have different tastes, textures, and ‘mouth feel’ to plant foods. It takes approximately 21 days to break a habit and acquire a new (better) one. If you are still eating some animal products, you’ll still be eating a certain amount of fat and certain types of textures. Plant foods tend to have different textures and ‘mouth feel’ to animal products. If you eliminate the animal food textures, you’ll get used to the new ones quicker.
This, by the way, is also the answer to the question – do I need to be 100% plant-based to achieve optimal health i.e. perhaps 95% plant-based is enough (there’s no evidence saying that if you have some tuna once a fortnight you’ll have lesser health than someone who is 100% plant-based), but it’s maybe easier to do it 100% so you don’t keep craving animal products and so your body gets accustomed more rapidly.
Once you are used to the beautiful and varied tastes and textures of plant foods; animal foods will seem heavy, fatty and cloying. If you were to try meat or dairy after a 21 day period of not eating it, chances are very high it would taste disgusting.
– If you can, go 100% plant-based straight away.
– If you can’t go cold turkey, then give up either meat OR dairy.
Then, when you’re ready, give up the other. This is a more effective measure than giving up SOME meat and SOME dairy, as your body will acclimatise quicker to the elimination of a single animal-food group if it’s eliminated at once, rather than gradually.
– If you want to move towards a vegan diet but can’t do either of these things, don’t let this stop you. As I mention at the top of the post, plenty of people have done it little by little in a way THEY feel comfortable with, and succeeded. This could be you, too.
I’ve been blogging for almost two years on all things vegan and I’ve never yet written a post on protein.
Because SO many excellent vegan educators have written on it before me, and I genuinely thought we were past that. I thought there was enough info out there with the truth on how much and what sort of protein we actually need and how we’ve all been led to believe a shedload of garbage concerning this.
I was wrong. The protein issue is still coming up frequently.
I’m still seeing comments under vegan articles like ‘we need animal protein or we get weak and tired,’ or ‘I’ve never seen a vegan that didn’t look pale and sickly.’ Never mind the fact that there are plenty of healthy and strong vegans out there (including these ultra-strong guys); the oft-spouted ‘pale and sickly vegan’ shizzle comes from the belief, as erroneous as it is deeply entrenched, that we need a certain amount and certain sort of protein (i.e. meat) for strength.
Admittedly, I DO live in a bit of a vegan bubble, and I reckon I underestimated just how profoundly ingrained the whole ‘YOU NEED PROTEIN FROM MEAT OR YOU WILL DIE’ thing was.
If you are a new vegan and wondering where you’ll get your protein, or more likely, if you are coming up against this question from concerned friends and family, this is for you.
What’s the deal with ‘complete’ and incomplete protein?
Protein is an essential macronutrient and we need it, this much is true.
It is composed of amino acids that are essentially building blocks for every function in our bodies
There are 20 amino acids, 8 of which are essential to our bodies – i.e., they cannot be synthesised.
Some people may tell you that meat is a ‘complete’ protein (i.e. contains all the necessary amino acids), and that plant protein isn’t, and think they’ve won the protein argument.
It is true that plant food doesn’t always contain all the amino acids, but it’s also a fact that we don’t need to eat complete proteins.
We can eat foods that contain the amino acids separately, and our bodies are clever enough to put the pieces together themselves. Rice and beans combined, for example, are an excellent way to get the full complement of amino acids, (lots of world cultures have known this forever, think of chana masala and rice in India, or rice and beans in Cuba); beans and wholewheat works great too – think beans on toast, or wholewheat pasta dishes that contain beans. See? It’s as simple as that. And the steamed broccoli you have on the side? Well that actually contains more protein per calorie than beef!
Just remember, it serves the meat and dairy industries well to have us believe that we need as much protein as possible.
We actually need about 10% of our daily calories to come from protein, a little more if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or an athlete.
Considering that around 11% of the calories in brown rice come from protein, 40% of the calories in leafy greens come from protein, and 5% of the calories in a banana come from protein, it’s not difficult to reach your daily protein needs.
It’s actually harder to NOT reach them than it is to reach them!
How best to get that protein?
It also serves the meat and dairy industries to have us believe that there is only protein in animal products.
Some people even know there is protein in plant foods (food scientists and dieticians for example) yet they still believe (thanks to meat and dairy industry advertising) that animal products are the BEST source of protein.
Just look at the food plate the United States Department of Agriculture and the US government (who subsidise the meat industry) use for dietary recommendations to the public.
This plate graphic does not represent the fact that there is plenteous and sufficient protein for us in vegetables, grains and fruit without needing the meat. To be fair, in the text on the USDA website they do include nuts and seeds as protein, but many people don’t read the information on the website. They just focus on this graphic and think that ‘protein’ means meat – which was very possibly the intention.
This graphic does little but perpetuate the idea that protein = meat and meat only.
Those with interests in livestock agriculture have, quite frighteningly, well and truly achieved making this belief mainstream.
As we’ve seen above, protein is in all whole foods.
Getting enough protein on a vegan diet is NO PROBLEM AT ALL!!!!
As well as the brown rice, bananas and greens mentioned above, other protein superstars are beans, lentils, legumes, nuts, seeds, tofu, tempeh.
Just eat a variety of whole foods and you’ll be good.
Look, I really need convincing – is there any chance at all of becoming protein deficient on a vegan diet?
Anyone heard of kwashiorkor?
Yet you’ve surely heard of cancer, heart disease and diabetes. This is because these are diseases of excess – which are the majority of diseases we suffer from in the western world.
Kwashiorkor is the medical term for protein deficiency. You haven’t heard of it ‘cos it doesn’t happen where you are. It is a disease of ‘lack’ as opposed to ‘excess.’ It can happen to emaciated children in parts of Africa, or in singular cases of seriously neglected children here, but that’s it.
I can bet you don’t know anyone who’s had it.
Yet there are millions of vegetarians and vegans NOT suffering from kwashiorkor. There are all the HUGE herbivores – cows, gorillas, elephants, horses etc – all NOT suffering from kwashiorkor.
To the people who say ‘well, I was vegetarian but I felt weak and tired all the time so I had to go back to eating meat and the first time I bit into a steak I burst into tears of joy as I could feel the strength returning to my body’ – if you were feeling weak as a vegetarian or vegan, this was NOT a protein issue, but something else; very likely an iron issue. Possibly not enough energy-giving complex-carbohydrates were consumed; or maybe it was the fact that they just weren’t eating enough nutrient-dense food. If you just take the meat out of your diet and don’t replace it with nutrient-dense whole foods, you may have energy or strength problems, but this won’t be because of lack of protein.
Are there any dangers in consuming too much protein?
Pharmaceutical companies make billions a year from sales of statin drugs.
Over the years I’ve witnessed many people who reach a certain age and BAYUM! They are all of a sudden put on statins at their next doctors visit.
If you didn’t know better it would be easy to think it was a rite of passage, or just ‘something that happens as you get older.’
It seems that many otherwise healthy patients are being given statins as a preventative approach when they get to a certain age, and if it’s also assumed from their current (meat and dairy heavy) lifestyle that they may end up with high cholesterol.
When you really get informed about the causes of high cholesterol you realise this is crazy. And who wants to take drugs if they don’t have to?
It seems that statins are massively over-prescribed.
Fun fact: There is NO cholesterol in plant foods. It is ONLY IN ANIMAL FOODS.
Every mammal generates cholesterol in their own body. It is manufactured in the liver, and is necessary for the production of hormones and cell membranes. An ideal range for a healthy human is below 150mg/dl.
That’s all we need – our own cholesterol.
Of course, when we eat animal products, we take in the cholesterol from the animal too, and our levels rise. Nothing complicated to understand here. The more animal products we eat, the more our cholesterol levels rise.
Of course, we also have good (HDL) cholesterol, which helps keep bad cholesterol levels down.
Dr Neal Barnard, in his book ‘The Power of Your Plate: A Plan for Better Living Eating Well for Better Health’ says we can think of good cholesterol as a dumper truck. It exists to carry bad cholesterol out of the body. Therefore, if you eat lots of animal products, it’s best for you if you have decent levels of good cholesterol to take the crap out!
Vegans and plant-based eaters may have lower levels of good cholesterol – because they don’t need it. They are not ingesting any excess (bad) cholesterol so nothing needs to be gotten rid of.
I must also state here that it’s actually a little more complicated than the party line we’ve been led to believe, that is : High cholesterol = high risk of heart disease.
Dr T Colin Campbell reports that it’s actually the protein in animal products which is far more significant and has more of a degenerative effect on humans when ingested,
Dietary cholesterol may help to clog arteries but this condition accounts for only a small fraction (~10%) of coronary heart disease events. Far too much attention has been given to cholesterol as if it is a major cause of disease. Such focus diverts attention away from the much more reliable evidence showing that a diet rich in animal protein, which represents multiple risk factors, is the main dietary cause of heart disease….
This suggests strongly that with regard to heart disease the focus has purposely been put on cholesterol being the baddie, in order to sell cholesterol-lowering drugs.
Based on the latest research, Dr John Mcdougall (who, alongside practicing conventional medicine, has, for 22 years, successfully treated a huge amount of patients with a plant-based diet) now prescribes statins to those who have high cholesterol and have previously been through heart surgery, or have a family history of heart disease and strokes. He will ALSO prescribe a whole food, plant-based diet, as the optimal way of combating high cholesterol.
In those with high cholesterol but NO previous heart disease or history of heart disease in their family; a whole food, plant-based diet is all that is prescribed, it being the most natural and effective way to bring cholesterol down to normal levels.
There seems to be no reason at all to prescribe statins as a prevention measure to a healthy person without high cholesterol. The BEST preventative measure in this scenario is absolutely a whole food, plant-based diet.
I’ll leave the last words to Dr John Mcdougall. He says:
To answer the question, “Who Should Take Cholesterol-lowering Statins? Everyone or No One?” My response is slightly more complex than all or none. The decisions made primarily depend upon what a person chooses to eat. Eat meat, dairy products, eggs, and other unhealthy foods and you may benefit from taking statins (a little). Eat a starch-based McDougall Diet [this is a whole food, plant-based diet] and any benefits from statins for an otherwise healthy person vanish, and all that is left are side effects and costs.
Lack of profit is the primary reason for lack of acceptance of this simple, safe approach. Consider that the most popular brand name statin, Crestor, purchased at a discount pharmacy like Costco or CVS, costs about $6 a day. Comparatively, a starch-based diet costs $3 a day for all of the food (2500 calories).
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 quackwatch.com.
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.
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!)
‘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.’
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 ‘… heenjoys 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.
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:
– GRAIN, BEAN, GREEN.
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.
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.