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:
As reported today in QSR, I am thrilled to announce that I have joined forces with the leading farmed animal advocacy group, Mercy For Animals, in order to promote vegan eating and help make these delicious, healthy, and humane foods even more accessible to the masses. I will be launching the nonprofit’s innovative new “Food Trends” consulting program. As Food Trends Specialist, I will leverage my 20 years as a nutrition expert to help restaurant chains develop brand-specific vegan menu options targeting millennials.
Here are 4 reasons why vegan is the hottest, most important trend in food today:
Millennials – the generation born between 1981 and 1997 – are projected to surpass the outsized Baby Boom generation as the nation’s largest living generation this year. Millennials are considered the“tastemakers in food,” and they happen to be socially conscious and concerned with choosing healthier, natural, eco-friendly, more compassionate food options. In fact, 12% of Millennials are “faithful vegetarians.”
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.
A vegan diet has been shown to reduce your risk for many chronic illnesses and many people report a reduced incidence of viruses and other common bugs. However, it is not foolproof. Vegans are human. Vegans get sick, too.
Here are 6 ways to strengthen immunity:
1.Exercise. The lymphatic system is perpetuated and stimulated by movement. Contracting muscles via exercise and moving around helps circulate lymph fluid which removes toxins, provides nutrients, and encourage optimal immune function. (link)
2. Minimize toxin exposure. Toxins are everywhere…in our water, air, food, household and body care products…everywhere. The best we can do is avoid chemical exposures by doing our best to choose wholesome foods, drink purified water, and avoid chemicals in our household and body products whenever possible. Use healthy houseplants that absorb toxins, opt for essential oils for antimicrobial purposes, and get as close to nature with anything that you use. (link)
3. Hone in on hygiene. It’s no secret that germs cause warfare when given any opportunity. Give your immune system a break by washing your hands often – especially before eating and after using the restroom (yes, some people still forget that…as shocking as that is) – and avoid touching your face or any of its many orifices. (link)
4. Load up on antioxidants and immune-enhancing phytochemicals. You are what you eat. Literally. So douse your body in a constant stream of immune-boosting nutrients naturally found in whole plant foods (there by nature to protect themselves, but generously able to protect you, too). (link)
5. Adequate rest and stress management. Nothing’s better than a good night’s sleep….as the saying goes. Truly, adequate rest and effectively managing stress is infinite in its immune-enhancing advantages. (link)
6. Keep your native bacteria happy. Your gut flora play a significant role in immunity. Feast on healthy fiber and probiotics to feed those good bacteria to help ward off the pathogenic (aka dangerous, illness-causing) microbes. (link)
1. Vegetables are the least calorically-dense foods on the planet. Typically, they range between 14 calories per 100 grams (as in iceberg lettuce) to 86 calories per 100 grams (as in a sweet potato). This is versus the most calorie-dense foods like nuts, which have about 500-600 calories per 100 grams, and oils, which have about 880 calories per 100 grams.
2. Vegetables are one of the most nutrient-dense food groups on the planet. Per calorie, vegetables are loaded with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytochemicals, and fibers…many of which are not so readily available elsewhere….think folate, potassium, vitamins A and C, carotenoids, flavonoids, and isothiocyantes. And the list goes on and on…and on and on…
3. Vegetables contain disease-fighting power like no other food group….high vegetable intake has been shown to lower risk for cardiovascular disease, cancer, and type 2 diabetes, and to improve gastrointestinal health and vision.
4. Everyone agrees that we need to eat more vegetables….including – but not limited to – the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, American Institute for Cancer Research – AICR, World Health Organization (WHO), etc.
1. Start your day with fruit, a green smoothie, or a green juice.
2. Eat all of your meals on a bed of salad or cooked vegetables.
3. Begin most meals with soup or salad.
4. Add plenty of veggies to every dish you cook or prepare, on sandwiches, in wraps, stir-fries, casseroles, etc.
5. Eat your fruits and/or vegetables before anything else to fill up faster and ensure you get them in.
6. Pick fruits and veggies that you enjoy and prepare them how you love to eat them.
7. Visit a farmer’s market or join a CSA to promote regular accessibility to fresh, local, and seasonal produce.
8. Place veggies at the center of the plate and focus on a rainbow array of colors…use a leafy green or sea vegetable as bread or a bun, make a veggie burger out of different veggies (mushrooms, beets, cauliflower, etc.), or make a gorgeous stir-fry…
Cray cray for calcium? Indeed! The dairy industry has brilliantly distorted the idea that the more of its products you consume, the better off your bones will be for the long haul. If only it were that simple….
Dairy products do indeed deliver a dose of calcium and fortified vitamin D, but that is not the end-all, be-all of healthy bone metabolism. Bone health is complex and multifactorial, incorporating genetics, gender, age, and lifestyle factors such as exercise and overall dietary intake. A plethora of nutrients play powerful roles and work synergistically to keep bone mineralization functioning in a healthy way. In addition to calcium and vitamin D, other crucial characters include protein, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, zinc, copper, manganese, soy isoflavones, and vitamins B12, C, and K. As it turns out, the nutrients found in plants can more than meet your daily requirements.
Here are 5 ways to optimize your bone health:
1. Exercise against resistance consistently. Perhaps the most effective way to maintain bone (and muscle) mass is to incorporate resistance training into your daily movement protocol. Lift weights, hit the machines at the gym, use resistance tubing, play with body weight/calisthenics exercises, walk, run, and/or all of the above. Do what you love. Do it often. Hit your bones (and muscles) hard (and safely, of course).
2. Download your D. Ideally, we get our vitamin D from the sun. Oddly, however, the majority of the world’s population is not getting enough of it these days. Vitamin D ensures better calcium absorption, Ensure your vitamin D blood levels are adequate via a blood test. If not, try sun therapy (regular, safe doses of the sun without sunscreen at peak hours). If that doesn’t work, consider supplementing until your blood levels are up to par.
3. Alkalize your diet. Alkalizing your diet may support a healthy environment for your bones. This means eating ample servings of fruits and vegetables, herbs, vinegars, and “pseudograins” (e.g. buckwheat, quinoa, wild rice) as a foundation of your diet. Fruits and vegetables themselves have been shown to have positive effects on bone metabolism because of their overall high content of potassium and vitamin C.
4. Consume adequate calcium from plant sources. Yes, dairy contains calcium. However, remember that you can consume calcium until the cows come home (no pun intended), but what matters most is how much calcium is actually absorbed. Excellent plant sources include leafy green veggies such as bok choy, kale, broccoli, napa cabbage, and watercress, calcium-set tofu, dried figs, sesame seeds and tahini, tempeh, almonds and almond butter, oranges, beans, and fortified plant milks and orange juice.
5. Avoid processed foods. Processed foods – especially sodas and sugars – promote poor bone mineralization. Besides impacting bones directly, crowding out nutrient-dense, whole plant foods for nutrient-poor processed foods increases the potential damage. Stick to a minimally processed diet based on vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, nuts, seeds, herbs, and spices to achieve nutrient requirements and reduce your risk for chronic diseases, including osteoporosis.
Here are 7 Reasons the USDA Should Go Meatless With Their New Dietary Recommendations:
1. To crowd out the animal products on the plate which are the primary source of dietary cholesterol, saturated fat, hormones, steroids, antibiotics and other veterinary medications, heme iron, and other chemicals and carcinogens found in the disease-promoting standard American diet. http://bit.ly/1srlb8X
2. Because our plates do not need to include a paid-for advertisement by the dairy industry attached to it. We not only do not need dairy products, we are much better off without them. http://bit.ly/1kqXw4t
3. So that our plates can be filled with more phytochemicals, fibers, and antioxidants from wholesome plant foods that help us meet nutrient needs, lower our odds of developing chronic diseases, and support immune function. http://bit.ly/177tOQz
4. Because a whole food, plant-based diet is the only diet that has been shown to reverse disease, namely coronary artery disease and type 2 diabetes. http://bit.ly/1C1TmLH
5. To stop the excessive overuse of antibiotics, which is leading to millions of illnesses and thousands of deaths per year (more than 2 million illnesses and 23,000 deaths in 2013) because of superbug infections. The vast majority (70-80%) of all antibiotics are used in healthy livestock to prevent infections. http://bit.ly/1wUlxwp
6. To inspire us by demonstrating that our government can make health recommendations without financial interest and support directly from the food industry. http://bit.ly/1snmOer
7. Because the only chance we have to stop the degradation, destruction, and depletion of our planet is to stop the overly excessive production and consumption of animal products. http://bit.ly/1eZEqXs
In a world with a perpetual, dynamic, and unquenchable thirst for the ideal diet, a feverish search ensues. Questions such as, “What’s better: low fat or low carb?” and “How do I lose weight and keep it off?” flood headlines of tv shows and ads, internet articles and posts, and book and magazine titles. In the golden light amidst the fog of confusion, empty promises, and emotional roller coaster rides lies one solution. Not just any solution. Not one like the usual solution riddled with trends, trickery, and false premises. No. This answer is instead backed with decades of solid science, sustainability, and simplicity. The solution is a whole food, plant-based diet. The most perfect diet we have available to us. The way of eating that prevailed for centuries…long before we figured out how to commodify animals into an alarmingly overly accessible source of food and millennia before we mastered preservation, stabilization, and packaging of foodstuff. We have always relied primarily on whole plant foods to sustain us. And thus it makes sense that our bodies heal and thrive when we swap out animal products and processed pseudo-foods with wholesome, recognizable ingredients.
Plant eaters (herbivores, if you will) have been shown to have lower body mass indexes (BMIs) and less body fat, lower total mortality – especially from ischemic heart disease, and decreased risks for high blood pressure, elevated serum cholesterol, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and several types of cancers. In fact, a whole food, plant-based diet is the only diet ever shown to reverse disease! Namely, ischemic heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Truly, eating plants elucidates a glaringly bright light on Hippocrates’ famous decree to “let thy food be thy medicine and thy medicine be thy food.”
So how does one slip seamlessly into a gloriously colorful universe filled with nutritious deliciousness? Naturally, the process evolves one step, one factoid, one skill, and one bite at a time…
Here are 10 Ways to Make Plant-Based Super Simple:
Be a sponge. Absorb knowledge everywhere you can. Information is empowerment and the more you understand about the why’s and how’s of eating plant-based, the better you will be able to navigate your choices. The great news is that now is the best time ever to eat this way because there are boundless resources currently available to support and inspire you. From books and cookbooks to documentaries and conferences, plant-based is trending loudly and has become widely accessible to everyone. Read, watch, connect with others, and fill yourself up with facts and tips to support you on your path.
Put on your plant goggles. When you think of food, think of plants. You have already been eating plants throughout your life in different ways, shapes, and forms, but likely did not think about it. For instance, have you ever had pasta primavera, peanut butter and jelly sandwich, a bean and rice burrito, tofu stir-fry, veggie sushi, minestrone soup, or a grilled vegetable sandwich? These are all plant-based meals that the majority of people enjoy on a regular basis. Start noticing all of the dishes you typically enjoy eating and start emphasizing those types of options, crowding out the animal-based products with wholesome plant goodness.
Keep it simple. You do not need to be a culinary genius to eat a healthful, well-rounded plant-based diet. Boiling up some rice and lentils and adding a sauce that you bought in a bottle or whipped up in the blender is an easy, go-to meal. So is a bowl of oatmeal or green smoothie for breakfast, a veggie sandwich on whole grain bread or soup and salad for lunch, and curried vegetables with brown rice or whole-wheat pasta with marinara sauce for dinner. It doesn’t have to be extravagant, fancy, or difficult to be healthful. Cook up some skills in the kitchen by experimenting and building on what you already know. Or you can really delve in and study how to master plant-based cooking with the Rouxbe Online Professional Plant-Based Cooking School.
Focus on the positive. Instead of worrying about what you will be pushing out of your diet, start looking for all of the new options that have just opened up. Perhaps you never noticed that there are dozens of varieties of leafy greens out there or several different types of lentils. What about testing out that strange looking piece of fruit you have always wondered about at the market, but never dared to purchase it and see what it is all about? Find an ingredient at the store, go home and research what to do with it, and see if you want to add that to your collection of foods you enjoy. Instead of relying on the traditional meat-and-potatoes mode of eating, your horizons can expand beyond anything you may ever have thought possible.
Build your repertoire. With the abundance of recipes out there in books, magazines, and websites, it is fun and exciting to start hunting down meal options you absolutely love. Start searching through these resources, see what sounds good, and make a plan to try it out. Once you find a recipe that is a resounding “kale, yeah!” mark it with a heart or checkmark and save it in a special folder for you to come back to. Collect recipes that are up your alley and then use them regularly. The average person rotates through approximately 1 to 2 breakfasts, 3 to 4 lunches, and 4-6 dinner options per week, so building up an arsenal of favorites is much easier than may be expected.
Eat the pyramid (or plate). Plant-Based Food Pyramid and Plate are perfect guidelines for how to eat overall in order to ensure nutritional accuracy. Make at least half your plate vegetables and fruits, especially those leafy greens. Include whole grains and don’t forget legumes (beans, lentils, and peas), and opt for whole food sources of healthy fats, particularly nuts and seeds, over oils, which are processed.
Leverage leafy greens and legumes. Leafy greens and legumes are so nutritionally dense that they are a necessity as part of your daily consumption. Enjoy them often (ideally at each meal) because they will provide you with nutrients that are not so easy to find such as iron, calcium, zinc, folate, and vitamin K. Eat leafy greens cooked and raw in salads, soups, smoothies, juices, as a bed for whatever else you may be eating, in stews, pasta, and however else you can sneak them in. Legumes are excellent in stews, soups, as hummus (the best!), and other bean dips.
Mind your vitamin B12. Microorganisms make vitamin B12 in the soil. Animals consume them and that is how humans take in vitamin B12 in their diet, now that we sterilize our plant foods and wash away any B12 that may be left after plucking from the ground. We need vitamin B12 for neurological function, among other things, and the most reliable, safe, and least costly way to ensure you are getting your B12 is to take a supplement. Take 2000 to 2500 micrograms of vitamin B12 per week to avoid deficiency, which is inevitable on a plant-based diet if you are not minding this essential nutrient. Click here for more info on B12.
Establish a solid support system. There are plant-based lovers, herbivores, and vegans abound. You can find us online in social media, in meetup groups, and at conferences and events geared towards this world. Because it is not always easy to find likeminded individuals in your current circle, it is crucial to seek it out and connect. Having support will encourage you, help you find recipes (I bet there is no other group more excited about posting food pictures on Instagram and Facebook than are vegans), and keep you excited and inspired on your journey. Support is always a wonderful necessity
Be your own loving, accepting, and reassuring tour guide throughout your journey. Making life changes as significant as changing your diet is quite an ordeal. It takes steps and patience and acceptance to pursue this goal, and yet that is all right. There will be setbacks and that is part of the experience. You are not alone and you have infinite reasons to celebrate all of your milestones. Be loving and gentle with yourself, as this is a wonderful, positive, exciting voyage. There is no right or wrong way to do it. So be your own cheerleader each time you succeed and your own therapist when it doesn’t go as planned. It is all your own journey and it happens slowly usually…one bite at a time.
In honor of the official publication of my brand new book – The Vegiterranean Diet – here is one more sneak peek FREE download PDF about how the Vegiterranean Food Pyramid emerged to give you a bit of flavor for the culture of Vegiterranean eating!