I love saying ‘a grain, a green and a bean,’ when I’m asked what an optimally healthy meal is. Party because it rhymes and it’s rhythmic, and partly because it’s mostly true. You can use other starches (sweet potato/white potato/squashes) instead of (or as well as) the grain to nutritionally round-out a meal, and of course you can add plenty of other veg that aren’t green. But it’s just an easy, fun way to remember how to get a full complement of nutrients in a meal.
Of course you don’t have to eat the full trifecta for every single meal either. It’s just something to aim for on a reasonably consistent basis.
With this in mind, here are 6 great ways to utterly rock the holy trinity that is the gorgeous grain, the glorious green and the beauteous bean! 🙂 :
This recipe is from isachandra.com – Post Punk Kitchen that was. I remember watching Isa’s videos that she shot with her friend in her tiny apartment in Brooklyn, like, a million years ago. I’ve made several of her recipes and she knows her shit. Make.This.Now. Ooh, and serve it over brown rice!
I’ve used fatfreevegan.com several times, always with delicious, yummy success. Don’t forget to use wholewheat pasta! Also, Susan (the recipe creator) says you can use pinto or borlotti beans if you can’t find cranberry beans(phew – I’d never heard of these!)
I make a version of this, but to be honest, this recipe from emilieeats.com has a couple more flavours than mine. And Emilie is a Louisiana dude so knows what’s what when it comes to Cajun beans, so I’m using her recipe here. You can wilt a little spinach into it for your greens, or just have any steamed greens on the side.
Much like the blogger over at profoundhatredofmeat.com , Ethiopian food is easily my favourite. This year I discovered Shimbra Asa (pronounced ‘shimbrassa’), a dish I hadn’t yet tried in all my years of visiting Ethiopian restaurants, and it blew my teeny-tiny mind. It’s like a berbere stew with chickpea balls in it, and it is heaven. It’s soul food. When you eat shimbra asa, you know damn well you’ve been fed.
I haven’t yet tried to make it (I’m scared I’ll f**k it up) but this recipe looks legit. Your ‘grain’ is the highly nutritious teff used to make the injera bread, your ‘bean’ is the chickpea flour, and your green is the cabbage in the atakilt wat.
The presenter talks about the upsurge in ‘clean eating’ blogs and personalities – some of whom I referred to in this post, and explores their correlation with an increase in orthorexia (orthorexia is a state of worrying about eating the ‘right’ things to the point that it impinges on quality of life).
There is a legitimate argument to be had here. No-one is denying this. But it becomes very clear, just a few short minutes into the show, that its main aims are to discredit veganism, and eating healthily.
There is no difference made in this programme between veganism, and those who are purely eating more plant-based for health reasons. In fact, some of the blogs mentioned aren’t even plant-based, espousing bone broth, eggs and ‘happy meat’ as they do.
How they can be lumped in with veganism when veganism is at core based on ethics and social justice is some lousy-ass journalism on the part of the researchers of this programme.
It happened continually throughout, however. The agenda was practically waving at you.
The presenter decides to try…well…I’m not sure whether she decides to try veganism, clean-eating, a plant-based diet or what.
At one point she pulled everything unhealthy out of her fridge, then whined that there was no ‘joy’ left in there.
The thing is, her fridge was full of crap. There was barely one unprocessed thing in that entire space. If her fridge had been full of fresh produce, great bread, yummy leftovers from the dinner she made the night before, cool dairy alternatives and homemade treats, that fridge would’ve still been full.
She then went to a branch of one of the most expensive health food shops in London (one at which, in 27 years as a vegan, I have NEVER purchased anything), pointed at a bag of £5 kale chips, and declared healthy eating to be expensive and for the middle classes.
Uh…I shop mainly at Asda. Since when did beans and rice cost more than meat and dairy???
A dietician is interviewed and leads us to believe that it’s unwise to cut out dairy as you’ll forgo a good source of calcium.
This in fact, is the science on dairy; and this page gives you lots of great plant-based calcium sources. Both these pages are run by doctors. If I know where to get this information as a humble nutritionist – why the hell doesn’t this dietician?
Talking of which, online nutritionists are of course disparaged. It’s pointed out that some of these bloggers became a nutritionist with online courses of just 20 hours.
The presenter then enrols in a course that costs just £29. Of COURSE this is a BS course. Twenty-nine pounds??? I only wish I’d found one that cheap when I did mine! This doesn’t mean all nutrition courses are BS.
And sure there are bad nutritionists; but there are bad doctors; bad lawyers; bad teachers etc, all of whom have studied for years. I’ve personally suffered the consequences of a string of bad doctors. I certainly suffered bad teachers. And bad dentists? How long ya got?
At some point near the beginning of the programme, a sentence that mixes veganism, plant-based eating and clean eating all together says that these diets are not based on science.
Why weren’t the plant-based doctors interviewed? Dr’s Greger, McDougall, Barnard, Klaper, Campbell etc. These guys would have told a totally different side.
No actual plant-based expert was interviewed at all. There was no balance or fair reporting on the health benefits of a whole food, vegan diet.
Nothing is mentioned of the fact that the prime way to stop all forms of environmental degradation is mass adoption of a plant-based diet. You’d think they’d stick this in somewhere wouldn’t ya?
The conclusion to this shambolic shit-fest came from a dietician who bleated, as you might expect, ‘…eat a little bit of what you fancy; eat in moderation; eat food that looks like food.’
How fuzzy and ambiguous is this advice? People fancy all sorts of unhealthy foods all the time. We know that moderation kills (I wrote about moderation here); and bacon looks like food to lots of people, yet it can do this.
A staff member at an eating disorder clinic said it was dangerous to cut out food groups, but never mentioned which ones! We know it’s actually optimal for health to avoid animal products and replace them with whole foods, but the positive side of eliminating certain foods was never mentioned.
I don’t even know which part of this programme was the most bullshizzy. Whoever in the BBC let this tripe go out must be absolutely TERRIFIED of vegans.
All I can say is this effort was manipulative, misleading, misrepresentative, biased, unbalanced, and seemingly went out of its way to be deliberately confusing.
Also, as Dr John McDougall says, people LOVE to hear good news about their bad habits, so I can imagine lots of people rubbing their hands together with glee after this programme aired.
It just worries me that because it’s the BBC, some people WILL believe this garbage to have credence.
Let’s not forget. The BBC is publicly funded, so they want to keep their funders happy. Most of the public are not vegan. The BBC possibly figures that making vegans look wacky, extreme and unhinged will make the general public feel warm and fuzzy and better about NOT being vegan. They will then have positive associations with the BBC and keep funding it willingly.
As someone who doesn’t tolerate sexism or anti-vegan propaganda, I fell out of love with the BBC ages ago having witnessed both from them often. But it worries me that because it is widely believed that the BBC are trustworthy when it comes to presenting information, some people will suck this shit up.
I’m extremely proud to declare that not one single penny of mine funded this excuse for a programme.
I don’t care if it’s the BBC, NPR, PBS or whatever other ‘well-meaning,’ ‘educational,’ ‘impartial,’ channel. Always question; look for the peer-reviewed science, and do your own research.
Dr T Colin Campbell in his book ‘Whole’ talks about how PBS (a reputable American channel known as being educational and impartial) didn’t end up interviewing him about his findings on diet and cancer despite showing initial interest, because they probably realised how unpopular his views would be and didn’t want to risk a funding backlash.
It would seem that no mainstream media outlet, however supposedly ‘respectable,’ is immune to this.
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.
Several foodstuffs constitute sugar; that’s to say, they act the same as sugar would once inside your body; but to keep it simple, I’m just gonna talk about plain ol’ sugar here. Sugar that is sugar before it goes in your body; sugar once inside.
Now I know YOU KNOW this post is not gonna be good news about sugar; but before sugar, the absolute best first thing you can do for yourself in terms of all aspects of your health is to stop eating animal products. This is the most important dietary change you can make.
I want to talk about sugar however, because it too has some extremely egregious health effects you need to be aware of.
Harmful effects of sugar
OK, so I’m pretty sure you know about the link between sugar and tooth decay. (My mouth wishes I’d known sooner).
And you probably have a good grasp on the whole ‘sugar spikes your blood’ dealie. We know that sugar causes energy rushes that soon turn to crashes – not the best way of achieving consistent, long-lasting energy.
So far so blah.
But one of the worst effects in my experience (because I and many others I know have lived through this), is that sugar is candida food.
If you don’t know, candida is a yeast that lives in your gut naturally. Due to various influences disrupting the balance of gut flora (antibiotics* being one, but there are MANY others), it can multiply and proliferate and cause a whole host of awful symptoms.
Sugar, which is candida food, helps this beast grow out of control.
Why is candida so bad? What’s the big deal?
Candida is linked to soooo many diseases and conditions.
You may be surprised to know that candida is even linked to mental health – YES, that’s mental health – the extent to which we are only just learning.
There is also a connection between candida and cystic fibrosis, though this link needs to be investigated more.
It is linked to lots of cancers indirectly, as candida suppresses the immune system – an ideal situation for cancer to develop; but it is also thought to be linked to lots of cancers in a more direct way, though there isn’t enough scientific evidence as yet to prove the links conclusively.
There are many more diseases that candida is thought to be linked to, but there haven’t been enough studies carried out as yet to prove this without doubt.
There seems to be a lack of will to fund studies. Possibly this is because candida can be cured with cheap remedies and a change of diet. Therefore, it wouldn’t be accurate to think that just because there isn’t sufficient evidence, that there isn’t a link between a disease and candida.
Bottom line – Stop feeding the candida beast!
Don’t forget that sugar has addictive properties similar to those found in street drugs. It’s all the more surprising then (or is it?), that food manufacturers want to feed our addiction!
How do I avoid sugar?
We KNOW there’s gonna be sugar in cookies and candy etc. But where are all the hidden sneaky places sugar can be found?
You’re not going to like this – it’s blinking everywhere!
Plant-based yoghurts (even plain ones!)
Chilli sauces (except Tabasco and Cholula, woohoo!)
Indian restaurant food
Chinese restaurant food
Cans of baked beans, refried beans etc
Plant milks (One popular brand I just looked at had sugar as the second ingredient – before the almonds even!!!)
Soft beverages in bottles, cans or cartons (including most healthy-looking ones)
You can very easily see how over the course of a day your sugar intake can creep up – and that’s without you even knowingly USING sugar.
It’s worth noting none of these foods NEED sugar to taste good, or as a preservative. It’s almost as if it’s in someone’s interest to keep us full of candida-fuelling sugar!!
What can you do?
Though the ideal solution is to completely eliminate sugar from every source, it’s very difficult seeing as how we clearly live in a sugar-saturated world.
The best thing you can do is just KNOW when you are eating something containing sugar. That way you can monitor your intake and make sure it is minimal.
Make your own food as much as possible of course; but when you DO buy pre-made products, just take an extra second to scan the ingredients list on the label. If you’re vegan you’ll be checking to see if there are animal products anyway, so just take an extra second to check for sugar. If the product contains sugar – pick a brand that doesn’t contain it.
It may be a pain in the butt initially, but you’ll quickly get to remember which products contain sugar and which don’t.
*I am not against antibiotics when they are truly needed; just against the over-prescription of them.
I see so many people trying to lose weight (especially now it’s nearly summer and all the hideous ‘get your bikini bod so the menz on the beach don’t find you disgusting‘ ads are everywhere) and my heart goes out to them.
Seemingly each month a new diet trend comes out. Each frickin’ day there is this green smoothie weight loss challenge or that juicing weight loss challenge.
Even if people want to lose weight because THEY want to – rather than because society is pressuring them to; so much contradictory information is out there about weight loss it can be hard to know which route to take.
How is anyone meant to know what is effective and what’s not? And even if it’s effective – is it healthy? Is it sustainable? Will the weight just pack all back on at the end of the challenge or will the weight loss last this time?
I personally couldn’t give a crap what someone looks like – but in terms of health, wellness and longevity; a weight that suits our frame is ideal.
I’ve been overweight – not massively so, but enough that I know what it is to feel heavy, unfit and lethargic. The joy I get now in moving my body and having it work optimally for me is priceless (I do handstands every day, and love hiking and climbing), and it’s worth it for me to maintain a healthy weight.
The good news is that this is easier than we’re led to believe.
I’ve already written about how a whole foods, plant-based diet is the healthiest and most sustainable way to lose weight. But, just to recap, this means 100% plant-based (no animal products); whole foods (no refined foods like sugar, white flour, white rice etc, but the whole versions); minimal added oils (because these are processed, extracted fats); and minimal processed foods.
To get an idea of what whole food, plant-based meals look like – I highly recommend the Forks Over Knives Recipe resource.
Exercise is also part of any weight loss plan obvs, but I’m gonna stick to talking about the food here, as that’s my bag.
Here are my FIVE KEY components for successful weight loss:
1. Enjoyment of your food
For the love of all that’s holy, you NEED to enjoy your meals…I was gonna say even if you’re losing weight, but you need to enjoy your food ESPECIALLY if you are losing weight. How else will your new habits be sustainable?
If you delight in your food you won’t feel deprived and like you’re being punished. If you see what you’re doing as a delicious permanent lifestyle shift rather than as a temporary diet, you’re more likely to be successful.
If you’re on a diet where you’re drinking shakes or smoothies instead of having meals; I mean, really? Even if the shake tastes ok, you really want one for every meal?
If you are used to eating refined or greasy foods, you may notice a difference in taste eating whole food plant-based – but you’ll lose NONE of the flavour. And, after a while your taste buds will adjust and PREFER the whole, lower fat food.
If you’ve made the change from omnivore to vegan, you’ve already experienced your taste buds acclimating to plant foods from animal foods – it’s the same thing here but you’re adjusting to whole foods.
Get cooking and get creative.
If you are like me, you need to feel satisfied at the end of a meal. I like my stomach to KNOW it’s been fed, not in a ‘aaarrrrghhhh I feel so gross and bloated’ kind of a way; just in a warm, cosy, pleasantly satiated kind of a way. A green smoothie for dinner ain’t gonna cut it. Don’t kid yourself. Even if you do this for a few days, it’s not sustainable.
Foods that fill you up (like whole grains and beans) will STOP you reaching for crap later, or stop you dreaming of crap. And who’s got time to dream of crap food all day long?
If you’re full of beans and grains – there just ain’t room for anything else! Your belly and your brain are content!
3. Stop counting stuff
I don’t believe food and its components should ever be counted (unless you have a condition where your doctor has recommended you count measurements of foods etc).
Some people think vegans are no fun – but don’t seem to question the funlessness of counting calories, ‘syns,’ fat content etc etc.
On a whole food, plant-based diet (and if you’re conservative with the ol’ added oils) NO COUNTING IS NEEDED.
4. Consistency in the day to day is key (rather than sporadic detoxes, crash diets, or ‘challenges’)
Forget the detox and the challenges. What’s the point of a detox or a challenge, only to go back to old habits and have to do another detox a few weeks or months down the line?
No one is suggesting you should never eat vegan junk food again as long as you live; but on a daily basis consistently choosing tasty, whole food dishes will stop you wanting the junk regularly.
Make the junk an occasional treat. Junk always tastes better if you feel it’s a cheeky treat 🙂
If you’re a busy bee, prepare as much as you can in advance. It’s all about putting measures in place to prevent making less than great food choices.
Slow cookers are great for having a meal ready when you walk in the door; you can make extra soup and stews and freeze what you don’t eat for later in the week.
Even if you can’t prep a whole meal in advance you can chop veg once you’ve bought it and keep it in the veg box or freezer.
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 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 primary source of energy is CARBOHYDRATES.
Where are carbs NOT found?
Not in meat
Meat contains very little carbohydrate, so is NOT an energy food. If anything, it weighs you down and makes 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.
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.