It seems like vegetarianism and veganism are more and more on everybody’s mind and that the movement is starting to get a real voice around the world. Some cultures more than others know very well what a plant-based diet is, India for example.
Veganism is both the practice of abstaining from the use of animal products, particularly in diet, and an associated philosophy that rejects the commodity status of animals. A follower of either the diet or the philosophy is known as a vegan (pronounced VEE-gən). This means that vegans not only don’t eat meat or animal by-products (like dairy, eggs, and honey) but also refuse to purchase products tested on animals or with leather, silk, gelatin, fur, and so on – as far as practically possible.
The just-released “Vegetarianism in America” study, published by Vegetarian Times shows that 3.2 percent of U.S. adults, or 7.3 million people, follow a vegetarian-based diet. Approximately 0.5 percent, or 1 million, of those are vegans who consume no animal products at all. This number is constantly increasing and we couldn’t be more excited about it.
But why is veganism such a hip lately?
Well, the reasons are many; I have the feeling that, initially, people are interested in veganism for health and wellness reasons – from having more energy, better skin, losing weight, to stopping hair loss. However, the ethical and environmental reasons that influence this lifestyle shortly kick in too. From not wanting to hurt animals, to limiting the wastage of resources to feed, kill and transport animal products and by-products, these are all good reasons to change what’s on our plate.
Like any other diet (low-carb, Paleo, high-protein, high-fat), vegetarian and vegan diets also require careful planning to ensure our bodies get all the nutrients required to function properly, be healthy, and grow. It is important for vegetarians to consume plenty of nutrient rich fruits and vegetables, and rely on unrefined starch and whole grains instead of their processed counterpart. Junk food should, obviously, always be avoided.
How to create a healthier diet?
The first thing to look out for when researching information on the internet about healthy diet is the source of information; for example, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (which sounds legit) is part of the American Society for Nutrition, and have the following companies as their Current Sustaining Partners:
Dairy Research Institute
Egg Nutrition Center
National Cattlemen’s Beef Association
Nestle Nutrition, Medical Affairs
The Coca Cola Company
The Dannon Company, Inc.
The Sugar Association
Trusting any of the researches published by this kind of organisation, which receives money from large meat, dairy, pharmaceutical, or agrochemical corporations, or companies that have ties with them, will definitely not be in the consumer’s interest.
Always look for independent studies. I recommend you follow Dr. Michael Greger, MD and Physician, and his fantastic YouTube channel to get the summaries of the most unbiased researches on nutrition published so far.
Then, create a diet plan that is balanced in macronutrients, carbohydrates, fats, and protein, whilst avoiding animal products.
Here for you some easy tips and guidelines:
Make sure your carbohydrates are complex – this means unrefined and wholesome vegetables (like broccoli, eggplants, peppers, greens, root vegetables, potatoes), and starch (like brown rice, oats, buckwheat, wild rice) – and do not rely heavily on flour-based products like pasta and breads (even if whole-wheat).
Did you know that potatoes are actually not empty calories, as commonly thought? They are one of the most complete foods and people can survive on a potato-only diet. It was even in a sci-fi movie called The Martian; the director did his research well for sure!
According to Dr. John McDougall – one of the most renowned M.D. who has dedicated his life to promote a healthy eating lifestyle, helped thousands of patients reverse serious illness, and guided people to get in the best shape of their life – people think of potatoes as fattening and unhealthy, but it is all the toppings poured over them, like high-fat gravies, bacon bits, cheese, sour cream, and butter that are bad for you (read more on his website here).
Consider that the primary purpose of eating is to obtain enough energy to function throughout the day, and the body’s preferred source of energy is carbohydrate. Therefore, the foods that deliver the greatest amount of carbohydrate would logically be nutritionally superior and a high glycemic index food would be preferred (extract from this article).
Unfortunately, most people eat potatoes in the form of greasy French fries or potato chips, and even baked potatoes are typically loaded with fats such as butter or melted cheese. Such treatment can make even baked potatoes a potential contributor to a heart attack. But take away the extra fat and deep-frying, and a baked potato is an exceptionally healthy low-calorie, high-fiber food that offers significant protection against cardiovascular disease and cancer (extract from http://www.whfoods.com/, a not-for-profit foundation with no commercial interest or advertising).
Even Runners World dedicated a full article on the benefits of potatoes as a fuel for active people (you can read more here).
According to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) – another non-profit research and advocacy organisation that encourages “higher standards of ethics and effectiveness in research” – high-fat foods like dairy, meats, eggs, and oils (that are a refined product too) increase insulin resistance that over time can lead to type 2 diabetes and prediabetes.
Also, according to the World Heart Federation, research makes it clear that abnormal blood lipid (fat) levels have a strong correlation with the risk of coronary artery disease, heart attack and coronary death. In turn, abnormal blood lipids are related to what you eat. A diet high in saturated fats (e.g. cheese) and trans fats (often used in cakes, cookies, and fast food) leads to high levels of cholesterol.
Saturated fats are found in animal products. Trans fats are oils that have been hydrogenated to turn them into semi-hard fats. Hydrogenated fat is found in processed foods like store-bought cakes, biscuits, stock cubes, and a range of other products you buy every day. Saturated and trans fats raise cholesterol levels in the blood, which in turn can lead to atherosclerosis.
According to The Vegan Society – a registered charity and the oldest vegan society in the world, founded in the UK in November 1944 – getting the right balance between omega-3 and omega-6 fats is important. Your body can make Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) into other omega-3 fats, however, if you eat a lot of LA (omega-6), your body may convert less ALA into EPA and DHA, reducing the amount of omega-3 fat in your blood. However, it is no news that the highest foods in omega-6 are pork, chicken, dairy, eggs, and refined oils like canola and rapeseed oil. You just need to avoid theses products and soon you won’t need to consume as many omega-3 rich foods. Just to stay on the safe side, a tablespoon of chia seeds or flaxseeds every day and some walnuts will really be enough to balance them out.
The biggest concern in everybody’s mind when starting a vegetarian or vegan diet is that they will be deficient in protein. But plants have sufficient protein to grow non-human animals like giraffes, elephants, and cows, so obviously they have enough to grow human animals. According to Dr. McDougall, all twenty amino acids, including the 10 essential ones needed for good health are abundant in plants. In real life there is no such thing as protein deficiency, yet the meat and dairy industries generate tons of profit with these universally accepted lies.
Dr. Michael Greger would add: ‘There has been a history of enthusiasm for protein in the nutrition world. A century ago, the protein recommendations were more than twice what we know them to be today. This was certainly convenient for the U.S. dairy industry, which could dump its postwar surplus of dried milk onto the third world, rather than having to just bury it. But this led to the great protein fiasco. There was a disease of malnutrition, called kwashiorkor that was assumed to be caused by protein deficiency—famously discovered by Dr. Cicely Williams, who spent the latter part of her life debunking the very condition that she first described.’
Adults require no more than 0.8 or 0.9 grams of protein per healthy kilogram of body weight per day. So, that’s like your ideal weight in pounds, multiplied by four, and then divided by ten. So, someone whose ideal weight is 100 pounds may require up to 40 grams of protein a day. On average, they probably only need about 30 grams a day, which is 0.66 grams per kilogram. But we say 0.8 or 0.9 because everyone’s different, and we want to capture most of the bell curve.
To get enough protein, make sure you consume plenty of whole grains like oats, quinoa, buckwheat, and amaranth; nuts like peanuts (actually a legume), pine nuts, pistachios, cashews, almonds; peas, beans, spinach, kale, broccoli, sprouts, mushrooms, Brussels sprouts, and sometimes rely on soy, preferably in the form of organic tofu, or even better, organic tempeh. Soy can be extremely healthy, it may help fight heart disease, osteoporosis, cancer, and other diseases however, with the overuse of soy in milks, breakfast cereals, protein bars, pasta, and smoothies, you might want to watch out and don’t rely on it too much.
One reservation though, a plant-based diet, as any other diet as a matter of fact, should be supplemented in B12, one of those vitally important nutrients that support your nervous and immune systems. B12 affects every aspect of the way your systems function – from how your cells form to how you feel every day.
Needing to supplement in B12 by the way does not mean that a plant-based diet is not a ‘natural’ diet for us. Our ancestors used to get B12 in water but chlorination of town water supplies killed B12-producing bacteria along with the nasty ones (https://nutritionfacts.org/video/vitamin-supplements-worth-taking/).
Environmental impact of vegetarian and vegan diets:
Climate change is one of the biggest issues of our century, so much so that it even led to the most actual Paris Agreement, an agreement within United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) dealing with greenhouse gas emissions.
Many movies have now been focusing on this topic: ‘Cowspiracy’, ‘What The Health’, and even the very conservative ‘Before The Flood’ by Academy Award-winning filmmaker Fisher Stevens, presented by National Geographic and featuring DiCaprio, with a segment on the impact of meat production on our current overly polluted planet.
It is now very clear that by going vegetarian, even better vegan, we can reduce the impact on climate change, rainforest destruction, and pollution, while saving water and other precious natural resources.
ChooseVeg.com, the new project Mercy For Animals (MFA) – an international non-profit organization dedicated to preventing cruelty to farmed animals and promoting compassionate food choices and policies – founded in October 1999, has some very easy-to-understand statistics about it:
- Raising animals for food produces more greenhouse gas emissions than all of the cars, planes, and other forms of transportation combined.
- Raising animals for food (including land used for grazing and growing feed crops) now uses a staggering 30% of the Earth’s landmass.
- In the United States, 70% of the grain grown is fed to farmed animals. Imagine how many people we could feed with that food.
- Nearly 80% of land deforested in the Amazon is now used as cattle pasture.
- To produce one pound of animal protein vs. one pound of soy protein, it takes about 12 times as much land, 13 times as much fossil fuel, and 15 times as much water.
Put your money where you mouth is. How we spend our money can really make or break a corporation, an industry and it is the real democracy nowadays; imagine if everybody quits smoking, tobacco companies would be forced into bankruptcy.
Now, imagine you stop purchasing dairy, meat, eggs, can you see the impact your single action can have? Saving animal lives, giving you a healthier body, a clearer mind, and helping the environment. It is so easy, yet vegetarian and vegan diets are often discouraged; too much money spent by these industries to cover the real effect of their products. Be curious, question the status quo, and always ‘follow the money’ to ensure the information you are trusting is accurate and not biased.
La Holista Team