Notice how everything sounds more and more delicious the hungrier you are? A crisp sweet apple, a crunchy rib of celery, a soft, warm plain baked potato…items you may not crave on a regular basis, but with hunger, your true palate emerges.
If you have ever fasted, or detoxified with a “cleanse,” or been on any weight loss diet, you likely have experienced an increased interest and desire (sometimes rather dramatic) for all things food-related. When I used to diet, I would read cookbooks and nutrition books and talk to my friends and family about recipes obsessively. I literally could not move my mind away from eating.
On the flip side, when you eat hyperpalatable foods or are in the midst of a large feast (as what commonly occurs on Thanksgiving), food tastes progressively less and less enjoyable. It’s as though your taste buds numb out. An alert that your body is no longer interested in receiving any further deposits.
Here is how to maximize these natural tendencies for optimal health and easy weight management:
Allow yourself to get physically hungry before eating. You will know you are hungry when simple foods like an apple or raw celery sound exquisite.
Stop eating when you are comfortable and satisfied. You will know this by your body feeling satisfied and food will stop tasting as good as it did at the beginning.
Detox off of hyperpalatable foods (highly processed foods rich in sugars, fats, salt, and artificial additives) if you are still consuming them on a regular basis or if you crave them.
You can get all of your essential nutrients* on a thoughtful plant-based diet…except for vitamin B12.
*Vitamin D is a nutrient our bodies were designed to attain via the sun. Though it is a common deficiency worldwide, this is not an issue exclusive to vegans.
Here are Three Things To Know About Vitamin B12….in collaboration with Vegan Street…
Vitamin B12 is produced by microorganisms found in the soil and in the guts of animals, which is how they end up in their flesh. Because in modern society we sterilize our produce and do not tend to get our water from natural untainted sources like streams and creeks, we need to be mindful on a vegan diet to supplement with this crucial nutrient.
Blood tests for levels of B12 may not be reliable since your body can store B12 for approximately three to five years and other variables that may skew results. If you do not have an incoming source of B12 as a vegan, you will become deficient at some point…as approximately half of vegans have been found to be. Oftentimes, B12 deficiency doesn’t show up until it is too late and there is already irreversible neurological damage.
Fortified foods and B12 analogues found in fermented foods, sea vegetables, and algae are unreliable at best, harmful at worst because they may block the absorption of active B12.
The simplest, most cost-effective, safest, and most reliable way to avoid deficiency is to supplement. Adults need approximately 2,500 micrograms per week of cyanocobalamin.
Protein panic portends to prevail amongst the vast majority of the population. During this persistent quest for “enough” of this magical macronutrient, priorities shift away from seeking wholesome foods and, simultaneously, a phobia of the other two macronutrients – carbohydrates and fats – ensues.
Here are 5 reasons you can stop pursuing protein and start focusing on food:
1. Protein is not a food group. It is one of three macronutrients essential in our diet. All whole, intact foods contain some ratio of protein, carbs, and fats. If you eat a wide range of whole plant foods, including about three servings (1 to 1.5 cups) of legumes (beans, peas, lentils, soy foods) a day, you can easily meet your protein needs.
2. We only need approximately 10 to 15 percent of our calories to come from protein. The average woman needs about 46 grams per day and the average man, 56 grams per day, according to the Institute of Medicine. This can also be looked at in grams per kilogram bodyweight per day (g/kg/d), which looks like this by age*:
1.5 g/kg/day for infants,
1.1 g/kg/day for 1-3 y
0.95 g/kg/day for 4-13 y
0.85 g/kg/day for 14-18 y
0.8 g /kg/day for adults >19 y
1.1 g/kg/day for pregnant (using pre-pregnancy weight) and lactating women
*To find out how much you need, simply divide your bodyweight in pounds by 2.2 and multiply the result by the recommended number based on your age. For example, an 120 pound 22 year-old adult needs approximately 44 grams of protein per day (or 120/2.2 = 54.5 kg x 0.8 g/kg/d = 44 g).
So, fret not. Eat plenty of legumes and ample calories to meet your needs and you can stop pursuing protein and start focusing on finding and enjoying wholesome, nutrient-dense, health-promoting plant foods…
Contrary to popular belief, we don’t eat isolated nutrients. We are not filling our plates with some protein, a side of carbohydrates, and a sprinkle of healthy fats. Instead, we are eating a vast biochemical symphony, built by nature, for nature, in order to function optimally. Nothing represents synergy as clearly as the consumption of whole plant foods. Nutritionism is the belief system that qualifies food based on its individual components. It disregards synergy and the additive effects of a combination of nutrients in one whole food. It ignores the exponentially enhanced value of the interactions between multiple parts and their exchanges within the human body’s intricacies. It is the reason people identify their diets as “low fat” or “low carb” or “high protein,” even though these diets have not been shown to be the end-all, be-all of ideal eating. It is also the reason that processed food items can be touted as healthy because they only have a certain number of calories or fat grams per serving and are sprayed with a synthetic vitamin to meet the daily recommended dose of vitamin C, for example, despite the fact that they may merely be composed of white flour, white sugar, salt, and multiple chemicals. It is one of the most pressing reasons why, with the thousands of diet fads out there, populations in general are gaining weight and infected by disease, as opposed to building a relationship with real food and connecting it to their lives. We are ostracized from real food when we are specifically seeking out certain nutrients and are dependent upon the nutrition facts label. Labels do not discern between two antithetical foods: an enriched product that was once an intact food, having had its original parts stripped away and then having other ingredients added to boost flavor, texture, and/or shelf-stability versus a real, complete food that had those nutrients in it originally. Although the label may not distinguish between real foods and lab-made foods, our bodies cannot be fooled.
So what’s in a package? One of the best ways to demonstrate this is to compare 500 calories of plant-based foods to 500 calories of animal-based foods. This chart is from The China Study, titled “Nutrient Composition of Plant and Animal-Based Foods (Per 500 Calories of Energy).” It uses the USDA Nutrient Database and an article on carotenoids since the database does not yet include phytochemicals. The plant-based foods are made up of equal parts of tomatoes, spinach, lima beans, peas, and potatoes, and the animal-based foods are made up of equal parts of beef, pork, chicken, and whole milk:
Plant foods also contain hundreds to thousands of different phytochemicals, which are not considered essential but are perhaps the most effective nutrients at fighting disease (see below). Truth is, our knowledge of phytochemicals is expanding rapidly, as new ones are discovered regularly and their functions and roles in the human body are expanding exponentially. Hence we need to look at the complete picture. A lot more is going on within those foods than meets the microscope. If you compare these two nutrient profiles in the preceding chart, it is clear that both what the plants have AND what they do not have in them are what make them so spectacular. Essentially, the large database of nutrition science consistently shows that the healthiest type of food pattern includes a high intake of fiber, phytochemicals, and antioxidants, as well as a minimization or elimination of saturated fats and processed foods.
In other words, both what we eat as well as what we do not eat provide the basis for the quality of our overall diet. For the same 500 calories, a meal may be rich in health-promoting nutrients, as well as devoid of all the unwanted ones. So while choosing foods, the packaging must be considered. Both options contain about the same amount of protein, but the plants also contain fiber, significantly more beta-carotene and other phytochemicals, folate, vitamin C, magnesium, calcium, vitamin E, and iron. Plants have zero cholesterol and a better fatty acid profile. Being particular and picking plantastic packages pays off.
It’s hot. Crazy hot. And high levels of heat can be wearing and tough on your body.
Here are 9 tips to stay healthy and safe this summer:
1. Hydrate with food. Fruits and veggies are filled with water and can contribute to your total water intake. This is why salads are more appealing during the summer. Enjoy fresh fruit whole, as fruit kebabs, green smoothies, and green juices. Vamp up veggies as crudite with hummus, artichoke or other dip, huge shock n’ awe salads, in green smoothies and juices, cold soups and gazpachos, and even on the grill (over a bed of cool, fresh greens, especially). Frozen whole fruit and veggies sorbets and popsicles can be a refreshing treat in the middle of a hot day.
2. Drink up. Drink approximately half your body weight (in pounds) in ounces of water per day. For example, if you weigh 130 pounds, drink at least 65 ounces of water daily. Add more for exercise and even more for time spent outdoors or in hot areas. If you exercise for over 90 minutes, use an electrolyte beverage. My top choice is coconut water or this delicious, refreshing DIY sports beverage recipe: http://bit.ly/1aC0aCb
3. Avoid dehydrators. Not the equipment, but compounds that act as diuretics, leaving you with less liquid than you take in. Caffeine, alcohol, and certain medications act as diuretics and push out more water from your body. Compensate with extra water or even coconut water to replenish those losses.
4. Mind the sun. We need some sun for vitamin D production, but excessive exposure, of course, can promote certain skin cancers and dehydration. Try to schedule outdoor activities early in the morning or late afternoon (before 10am and after 3pm) if you will be out for prolonged periods. Wear a hat to protect your scalp and sunglasses to keep your eyes safe. Clothes can protect your skin as can a safe sunscreen. Seek out shade and avoid getting burned. See this Environmental Working Group’s 2015 list of safe sunscreens: http://bit.ly/1Lfsv63
5. Stay cool with water. Baths, showers, and swimming bring down body temperatures. Of course, monitor kids to make sure they are always safe. Drownings are the leading cause of injury death for young children ages 1 to 4, and 3 children die every day as a result of drowning.
6. Wear light, breathable, cozy clothing that cover the skin without being too tight or restraining.
7. Emphasize cook-free meals instead of turning on ovens and stoves, which escalate the temps in your home (see recipe ideas below).
8. Do not leave kids or pets in the car. Even with the windows rolled down. Even for a few minutes. Heat rises quickly and dramatically and can be extremely dangerous and fatal after even just a brief stint.
Somehow, the recommendation to “eat less meat” has translated into a message to “focus on fish.” Touted for their omega-3 fats, fish has become considered the “healthy” meat. Yet, fish are among our greatest source for environmental contaminants including the heavy metals mercury, lead, and cadmium; industrial pollutants such as dioxins, PCB’s and DDT; and even likely radioactive molecules. Further, we are overfishing our oceans so much that experts believe the world’s stocks of seafood will run out by the year 2050! Fortunately, you don’t need to eat fish to attain omega-3 fats. Instead you can get them directly from where the fish do…from plants!
Here are 4 ways to optimize your intake of omega-3 fats:
1. Double the RDA of ALA. ALA stands for “alpha-linolenic acid,” the form of omega-3 fats that converts to the longer chain versions our bodies also need, EPA and DHA. To ensure proper conversion in the body, women should aim for at least 2.2 grams per day and men should strive for 3.2 grams per day of ALA.
2. Savor seeds, soy, and walnuts. Consume about 2 tablespoons per day of chia seeds, flaxseeds, or hempseeds by throwing them into a smoothie, oatmeal, or salad. Whip up a chia pudding or use chia or flax to make a healthy egg substitute in baking. Soy foods such as edamame and soy milk also contain some omega-3 fats. A quarter cup of walnuts is about a day’s worth for women (men need a bit more). Here are some great recipes to try.
3. Favoritize fats. Opt for whole food fats over oils and highly processed foods to make sure you are balancing your fatty acids.
4. Opt for microalgae over fish oil supps. Fish oil supplements do not work to keep you healthy, as per these recent studies (here and here). If you are concerned about taking in adequate omega-3’s, you can take a vegan microalgae formula two to three times per week.
Iron may be the most abundant mineral on the planet, but it is also the most common and widespread nutritional deficiency in the world.
Here are Three Things To Know about iron absorption….in collaboration with Vegan Street…
Although you may take in plenty of iron, absorption may be impaired by the intake of phytates, tannic acid found in tea, calcium in dairy, fiber, polyphenols in coffee and tea, and even some spices.
Avoiding this is possible by:
*Aiming to consume 1.8 times the RDA (here is how much you need)
*Trying to consume iron-rich foods separately from these nutrients as much as possible
*Combining iron-rich foods with vitamin C-rich foods
Excellent sources of iron include: leafy greens, legumes (beans, lentils, and peas), soy foods (especially tempeh and tofu), quinoa, brown rice, tahini, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, blackstrap molasses, and dried fruit, such as raisins, prunes, and apricots.
Enjoy together with vitamin C-rich foods to improve absorption, such as papaya, pineapple, citrus, bell peppers, strawberries, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts.
Some suggestions for super iron absorption combos:
In the news is yet another powerful argument against reductionism or nutritionism…aka vilifying or glorifying one specific nutrient and ignoring the entire packaging of the food within which it is contained.
Dr. Neal Barnard clarifies the confusion of all of this in this blogpost, reminding us why “fat and cholesterol are the Bonnie and Clyde of the culinary world.” He reiterates that “bad” fat and cholesterol are as bad for you as ever. The products that harbor them—meat, dairy products, and eggs—are best left off your plate. People following plant-based diets have healthier body weight, better cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure, and much less risk of diabetes.
Significant amounts of cholesterol are found only in animal foods. Plants (starches, vegetables, and fruits) are “cholesterol-free” foods.
The problem is “the animal foods” – blaming individual components (i.e. cholesterol) is a risky business:
In common, animal foods (meat, poultry, eggs, dairy, and seafood) are: High in fat and/or high in protein Contain no dietary fiber Contain no energy giving carbohydrate (mammal milk is the exception) High in environmental contaminants (POP) Transmitters of microbes (zoonosis) – bacteria, viruses, parasites, prions Expensive (money) sources of calories
Meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy are: Deficient in essential fats (omega 3 and omega 6) Deficient in vitamin C A (the) major source of global warming gasses and environmental damage (land and water) Loaded with allergens that cause autoimmune diseases through molecular mimicry Meat, poultry, and fish are deficient in calcium and dairy is deficient in iron
*Deficient means that they are unable to meet dietary needs of children and adults
In my new book, The Vegiterranean Diet, one of the Veg 10 guidelines includes “Pick Proper Packaging.” To sum up what that means, nutrients come wrapped up with hundreds or thousands of other nutrients and they work synergistically together to nourish your body when consumed. This is why isolating a single nutrient into a supplement is either ineffective when compared to eating intact foods or can even be dangerous because it behaves differently than it does in its natural format.
Ultimately, it remains the case that we need to focus on the overall packaging of food and totality of the diet, and heed attention to the preponderance of scientific data (despite how certain facts seem to ebb and flow with new information) in order to really gauge health-promoting dietary choices.