Of all the tools in your diet tool box, the vegan diet is the one that will save us from the fate of modern diseases. This diet strictly includes only fruit and vegetables while no animal products are consumed. The strictest form of this diet is the macrobiotic diet, drawn from Zen Buddhism, with the intent to restore balance in the body.
When I took my first nutrition course in 2000, the instructor made the statement that we do not even know about all the positive effects of the chemicals in plants, a.k.a. phytochemicals. By that time everyone already knew about the macro nutrients - proteins, carbohydrates and fats, as well as vitamins and most minerals. However, the value of other micro nutrients and phytochemicals was vastly underestimated and ignored. Fast forward to 2018 and what we see is an explosion of knowledge about how plants could help us to thrive.
It is not only knowledge about the healing properties of plants that increased but also the evidence:
· Author Dan Buettner spent a decade researching the places where you find healthy centennials, free from modern health problems like heart disease, obesity, cancer, diabetes and other autoimmune diseases. The results were published in his book The Blue Zones Solution. One of the habits that these five communities had in common was an organic, plant-based diet with only occasional consumption of animal products.
· In her book, Radical Remission, Dr. Kelly Turner looked at what people around the world did to reverse terminal cancer. The major thing they all had in common was to change their diet to a more plant-based one.
· Scientific articles published shows that a plant-based diet could help with prevention and cure in the case of diabetes, heart disease, cancer and other autoimmune diseases. It is important to note that it does warn against vitamin B12 deficiency during pregnancy which could harm the unborn baby as well as the breastfed infant.
Sixty years ago, it was safer to just go and consume any fruit and vegetable you could find, but today there are a few things you should consider:
1. All produce should be organically grown, free from the pesticides and herbicides and NO GMO’s.
2. Only buy fresh fruit and vegetables and no processed or preserved products. The compounds used in these products are harmful to your health and counteract the healing effects of plants. The safest natural preservatives are gelatine, lecithin, glycerine and pectin.
3. Do not add any refined products to your diet, even if it is considered vegan. These include refined sugar and flour, as you lose the most healing compounds in the food.
4. Not everyone can absorb all essential amino acids (the building blocks of proteins) from plants. It also lacks some key ingredients for our metabolism such as vitamin B12, carnosine and long chain omega 3 fatty acids found in cold water fish. Because of these reasons, occasional animal products such as grass-fed beef, cold water fish or eggs should be considered. If you have any reservations about this idea you should consider supplementing with vitamin B12, fish oil and carnosine.
5. Gluten sensitivity is on the rise with dire health consequences. Therefore, it is safer to avoid gluten when you use the vegan diet to improve your health.
Other common questions regarding a plan-based diet are:
· Is plant food best cooked or raw? Click here for the answer, as it is not a simple yes or no..
· Will plant-based diets provide adequate amounts of iron? It seems as if vegans do not suffer from iron deficiency more than people who consume meat. There is lots of iron in a variety of fruit and vegetables such as raisins, apricots, prunes, boiled legumes and spinach, to only name a few. Menstruating women and marathon athletes should intentionally increase the consumption of these foods.
· What about the consumption of smoothies vs. fresh pressed fruit juices? The shortest answer is: What you lose on the swings, you gain on the round-abouts. According to VegHealth vitamins and other phytochemicals are better retained in juices, whereas the mineral and fiber retention is higher in blended smoothies and soups. Both juices and blended meals take some of the burden off the digestion tract so that more of the nutrients could be absorbed.