Being vegan is on trend right now, and those in favour of this way of eating will tell you that it’s the absolutely healthiest diet you can have from a nutritional perspective, plus you get to save, not only the lives of animals but the planet, too.For most people, it is a bit of a stretch to go from where you are now to a 100% vegan diet and it’s something I’m asked about all the time. So I’m going to put it all out there for you: what it means to be vegan, what’s great about it, what’s not so good, where you might struggle – and I’ll also be giving you tips for getting started, whether your intention is to immerse yourself fully or if you just fancy dabbling.
WHAT IS A VEGAN DIET? A vegan diet is a stricter version of a vegetarian diet. On top of not eating any meat, fish or seafood, a vegan diet also cuts out any food stuffs made from animal sources (some of which are the most nutrient-dense foods you can eat) – so, this will include egg,. milk, yoghurt, butter and cream as these also come from animal sources. And that means honey, too, as well as certain wines* and desserts (gelatin).
There is no set macro or micro nutrient ratios for a vegan diet; just vegetables, grains, fruit, nuts, seeds and any other foods made from plants. However, since the main vegan protein sources are pulses and grains, and only a combination of the two provides complete proteins (containing all the amino acids - apart from quinoa) this can be a high carbohydrate diet by definition.
* If you’re wondering why most wine is not vegan Here’s the answer… All young wines are a little bit cloudy thanks to tiny molecules like proteins, tartrates, tannins and phenolics. These are completely harmless, but we wine-drinkers like our wines to be clear and bright. To make the wines clear, wine makers have traditionally used some added ingredients called ‘fining agents’ to help the process along. They include casein (milk protein) or albumin (egg whites), gelatin (animal protein) or isinglass (fish bladder protein). They act like a magnet, resulting in far fewer – but larger – particles that are more easily removed. You can now purchase vegan wines but would need to find bottles specifically labelled ‘vegan’.
Advantages V's disadvantages
ADVANTAGES OF GOING VEGAN • Cruelty-free • Promotes natural foods • Rich in vitamin C and fibre, plus other plant chemicals • Helpful for some health conditions (rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, other auto-immune conditions).
•If done properly it can be a healthful diet ( see more about this further down!)
DISADVANTAGES OF GOING VEGAN • Natural food is not a requirement to comply with the diet • Does not explicitly encourage healthy eating patterns • May be nutrient deficient (B12, haem iron, omega-3 fats, complete protein) • Often high in carbohydrates • Can be too low in protein, especially if you’re stressed or recovering from adrenal fatigue • Does not limit or exclude sugar • Not necessarily suitable for elderly, pregnant women, type 2 diabetics, or those with high triglycerides or carbohydrate intolerance • Not always practical, especially when travelling abroad • May or may not be effective for weight loss • May be unhelpful if prone to disordered eating, rigidity and control. (It is common for those with anorexia or orthorexia to be on a vegan diet)
IS BEING VEGAN HEALTHY? Good question! A vegan diet necessarily doesn’t mean a healthy diet. There have been various well-publicised assertions over the years (most notably the book The China Study and, more recently, the film 'What The Health') that claimed eating a vegan diet was the healthiest thing you can do.
Although vegans commonly take an interest in how diet relates to health and tend to educate themselves about nutrition, the vegan diet does not explicitly prescribe healthy foods. There is a vegan alternative for every junk food out there. And you can live on white toast with margarine and jam (and see your blood sugar levels sky rocket) while still being vegan – and that is certainly not healthy.
One thing that everyone agrees on is that the following is healthy: • Enjoy an abundance of freshly prepared vegetables • Minimise processed foods and instead cook meals from scratch • Eat mindfully and slowly • Choose local, organic foods
Given that the vast majority of health complaints are linked to chronic inflammation, a plant-heavy, antioxidant-rich vegan diet will go some way to mediating inflammation and it will certainly not hinder your attempts to be healthy. Given we don’t eat nearly as much fibre as we should for optimum health, committing to eating more veg is only going to be a good thing.
THINGS TO BE MINDFUL OF ON A VEGAN DIET
• Vegan diets don’t provide the fat soluble vitamins A or and D. You can’t get vitamin A from carrots. What you get is beta carotene, which is the precursor to vitamin A.
• You may have heard that carotene can be converted into vitamin A, but this conversion is usually insignificant. First, it takes a huge amount of carotene to convert enough of actual vitamin A. And, if you have low thyroid function, impaired digestion or a lack of healthy fats in the diet, this conversion won’t happen at all.
• Vegan diets (unless you’re eating a lot of natto – a kind of fermented soy) don’t give you the vitamin K2. This is needed for shuttling calcium into your bones.
• Many people try to be vegan by relying on fake food – they replace milk, cheese and meat with foods manufactured to look and taste as though they are milk, cheese and meat. Since food manufacturing is not magic, non-foodstuffs are used including stabilisers, gums, thickeners and highly processed protein extracts. Moreover, you may be counting your vegan cheese in as a source of protein, when many are actually made from carbs.
• Vegan diets are low in vitamin B12 and iron. The readily-absorbed forms of these nutrients are found in animal products. Several studies (see notes in comments) suggest that up to 68% of vegans were deficient in vitamin B12.
• Several studies have shown that both vegetarians and vegans are also prone to deficiencies in calcium, zinc, and essential fats (see notes at the end).
HOW TO GET STARTED ON A VEGAN DIET Some people like to make changes all in one go. If this is you, choosing a vegan recipe book from the resources I’ve listed below will be helpful.
Or you might try changing one meal at a time – possible having a vegan breakfast during your first week, adding a vegan lunch during week two and so on.
You might try changing one product at a time, for example, swapping traditional cow’s milk for almond milk, or butter for coconut oil. There’s a plant-based alternative for most things you can think of.
One thing that you can look forward to is some exciting new recipes. Bringing the principles of being vegan into your life even a few days a week (assuming we are talking veg-based meals rather than fake or junk foods), will deliver a whole new taste experience. There will be things that you love – and things the family rejects. It’s all part of the fun of discovering new things.
Please get in touch if ‘going vegan’ is something you are considering but don’t know where to start or if you’re already on a vegan diet but feel you need some help with it. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange a complementary call to discuss your concerns.
Special announcement… my FREE 7 day sugar free challenge is starting Today!
It’s hardly a newsflash that we eat too much sugar. I know that you know that eating sugar isn’t doing you any favours. I can tell you right now that your sugar habit is the reason you’re not losing weight, you experience cravings, and your energy levels are on the floor.
But cutting it out (or even cutting down) can feel hard – especially if you have spent years using sugary treats to give you enough energy to get through the day or as a reward for something you achieved.
My free challenge is exactly what you need to break free from sugar, lose a few pounds and start to feel the most amazing version of yourself.
Here’s what you’ll get:
· Understand where sugar is sneaking into your diet
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· And if you don’t already have it, my 10-page guide to breaking free from sugar
We’re all prone to a little indulgence during the festive season, but rich food and overeating can play havoc with your digestion, leaving you bloated and uncomfortable. It’s not surprising – we consume on average 6,000 calories on Christmas Day alone. That’s three times the recommended daily intake for women!There are a variety of reasons why the holidays create more tummy troubles than the rest of the year:
You often eat more than you usually would, putting pressure on the digestive system.
You might be drinking a lot more when you eat – whether it’s prosecco at a party or red wine on Christmas Day – and this dilutes stomach acid, making it harder to properly digest your food.
More rich, creamy foods than you’re used to can trigger heartburn or reflux or else make IBS symptoms worse.
Though festive food and drink can be tough on the digestive system, it doesn’t have to be this way. Just follow my expert tips to trouble-proof your tummy this Christmas.USE YOUR SENSES
The first step in the digestive process is often overlooked, but it’s a really important one. Known as the cephalic phase, it’s triggered when you see or smell food. You are literally whetting your appetite.
When you start thinking about the lovely meal you are going to prepare, you are getting your digestive juices flowing. The enzymes in your saliva help you break down your food more easily, so, when the time comes, your body is actually ready to start digesting food before you have even cut the first slice – never mind actually put anything in your mouth.
It may sound an incredibly simple step – and it is – but these days we are often so busy that we don’t make the time to think about our food in this way. If you find you’re always eating on the go, throwing a sandwich down your neck at your desk or having a TV dinner TV, this is a vital step you are missing out on. One trick is to be mindful and try and spend a few minutes thinking about your tasty lunch before you eat it to get the digestive juices going.
CHEW YOUR FOOD
Remember what Mum used to say? Well, she was right! Chewing your food (the second phase of digestion) is key when it comes to good gut health. With proper chewing, you are mechanically breaking down the food into smaller pieces, so that there’s a greater surface area and the digestive enzymes can get to work more easily, doing their job.
And the bad news? If you’re not chewing properly, it’s highly likely that you’re not digesting your food properly. And that means you won’t be absorbing the vital nutrients either. Not chewing also means the food you eat takes much longer to break down, and, as it hangs around in your digestive system, it can start to ferment, causing uncomfortable wind, gas and bloating.
Don’t worry about chewing a certain number of times – that all depends on what you are eating and various other factors.
Instead try this test: chew your food enough so that if someone asked you to spit it out, they wouldn’t know what you had been eating. Another sign you need to chew more is if you start to see undigested food in your stools.
BALANCE YOUR STOMACH ACID
Sales for heartburn tablets are skyrocketing because so many people wrongly assume that their digestive troubles are because of too much stomach acid. What nutritionists like me find more frequently in clinic is the total opposite! Getting older, stress and some over-the-counter medications can make your stomach acid levels drop to the extent that you don’t produce enough to digest food sufficiently.
Why is this important? The stomach acid you produce not only kills any bacteria in the food you are eating, it also breaks down the protein in your meal. If you’re not properly digesting the protein element in food, it can start to ferment, creating gases that force up the esophageal sphincter muscle (a type of muscle flap) and what little stomach acid there is can escape. So the burning feeling, especially if accompanied by smelly gas, can be a sign your digestion isn’t working as well as it should be.
One solution is to have a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar before each main meal. It’s important you choose apple cider vinegar with ‘mother’, rather than one you can buy in the supermarket (that’s for your chips).
There are people who genuinely produce too much stomach acid and, if you try the apple cider vinegar trick and it seems to make things worse, you can neutralise the acid by taking a little bicarbonate of soda.
Digestive enzymes break down our food into nutrients so our bodies can absorb them. But as we age, we naturally produce fewer of these helpful enzymes. You can counteract this by increasing your intake of foods that are higher in them – eating pineapple or papaya before a meal can help.
If you aren’t a fan of these fruits, instead try a digestive enzyme capsule (available from health food shops), which will give your system a gentle boost to help it do its job properly.
It’s important to space out your meals so the digestive system actually gets a chance to rest. This might require some self discipline, if your house is routinely full of bowls of nuts or towers of chocolate boxes.
Eating every 4-5 hours is a good benchmark to aim for, and gives the body enough time to completely digest the previous meal and have a break before you put it to work again. Of course there will be days when your eating routine falls out of whack, but don’t beat yourself up. Just try and get back on track the following day.
WALK IT OFF
When you walk shortly after you’ve eaten, magic starts to happen. To start, a gentle walk lowers your blood sugar levels, so your body makes less insulin. As insulin is the fat-storage hormone, taking a gentle stroll for 15 minutes makes you less likely to store fat and gain weight. Walking can also help you digest your food better, according to research. This is because a gentle walk increases the speed at which the food moves through the digestive system.
Go ahead - try these tips out for yourself this festive season and see if any of your symptoms improve. If you have been struggling with digestive problems for a while, let’s book in a consultation call. I can help you understand what might be going on in your gut and take greater steps towards a resolution. You can book this at or 07961 166582
To start, let’s get clear what a FOOD ALLERGY is …
A true food allergy is an abnormal reaction of the body's immune system to a particular food. This can range from a mild reaction to one that is severe and life-threatening (anaphylaxis). The body produces IgE antibodies in response to a food, drink or other substance the body mistakenly thinks is attacking it. The issue can be restricted to one area (your digestive system, skin and so on) or the whole body, where the immune system triggers widespread inflammation and swelling – anaphylaxis –, which can be deadly. The reaction is often immediate.
If you have a food allergy, you will need to avoid the food forever. That’s because part of the immune system works on the basis of memory. In exactly the same way your body remembers its response to, say, the polio vaccination you were given as a child (and can prepare its attack should it come into contact with polio again), it remembers its response to nuts, dairy, or whatever.
If you think you have a food allergy, you can often get tested free of charge via your GP, but private tests are also available.
One clinical pearl I’m going to share with you is that, if you’re struggling with the symptoms of a true allergy (itchy eyes, swelling and the like), yet testing reveals no problem foods the answer might be in the gut. Parasites also cause the body to produce high levels of IgE antibodies, yet these are not often considered by conventional medicine as a potential cause of allergy-like symptoms.
An intolerance is something very different, producing low grade inflammation through the body and symptoms that are far ranging, but altogether less dramatic.
These can include the following:
Weight that won’t shift
Itchy or overly waxy ears
Although the symptoms might seem less dramatic, it really is worth dealing with food intolerances , especially if you’ve had niggly issues for years. This is because the low grade inflammation created through the body if your system doesn’t like something you are repeatedly feeding it, will almost certainly lead to worse stuff in the future because that’s the way these things work. ALL chronic disease is caused by inflammation of one sort or another.
Although you can do your own elimination diet, cutting out foods you suspect you might have a problem with for a period of time, then reintroducing them and seeing what happens, this can be time consuming if you are not entirely sure which foods might be problematic. A couple of drops of blood from finger prick blood test is all you need to get a reliable reading of what your body is objecting to. Ask me for details if you experience any of the symptoms I listed above.
In case you’re wondering, if you have a food intolerance, you don’t have to remove the food forever but it’s important to know that it’s not enough to just take the food out and not do anything about it.
If you find you have a food intolerance, this is your body telling you your gut needs some TLC to restore, rebalance and heal. Without this vital step, you’re likely to end up (over time) with more intolerances and more symptoms.
If you are wondering whether you have an allergy or intolerance, please do get in touch. I can help by offering a variety of testing options to help get to the bottom of the problem, and my gut health programmes can help bring your body back into balance. Please email me here to book your free discovery session now, to discuss what’s going on for you.