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!
Talia Fuhrman recently published her first book, Love Your Body, which I was honored to write the foreword for. It is a wonderful, inspiring book about reclaiming your love of your body by nourishing it with health-promoting foods, support system and a healthy attitude. You can order your copy of Love Your Bodyhere or you can enter below to win a FREE copy of the book. But first, Talia, shares a unique, insanely delicious recipe here…
Talk about decadent! This is a special dessert that offers a substantial anti-cancerous, nutrient punch along with every melt-in-your-mouth bite. Of course, dark chocolate itself, should be relished in small doses and eat bite should ideally be consumed with pure pleasure ever so slowly, as each small chocolaty bite collides with your tongue as time stands still.
We all think of pumpkins this time of year and the delicious pumpkin-filled dishes, which accompany the fall season (I’m talking three bean pumpkin chili and date-sweetened pumpkin pie!), but I don’t think pumpkin seeds get enough attention. They are so impressively good for us!
As with all processed candies, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups are atrocious for our health, so why not prepare a superior homemade version that even looks prettier?! However, instead of using peanut butter, let’s get a bit bold and definitely adventurous and use pumpkin seed butter! And look at that color. It turns out that rich and creamy pumpkin seed butter is actually a green hue. This is nothing but a win-win because the cups can be served beautifully, as the unique green contrasts so well with the rich dark color of the chocolate. This is a perfect treat to prepare for guests at upcoming holiday gatherings (and who am I kidding, you can make a bunch for yourself and store them for ages in the freezer) and there are many notable nutritional benefits to consuming pumpkin seeds over peanuts. Read about these benefits below!
The taste of pumpkin seed butter is nutty, creamy and wonderful. I hope you love it!
Pumpkin seeds, just like all seeds, contain a potent quantity of lignans. You might be wondering, “What the heck are lignans?” and it’s a good question to know the answer to because lignans are impressively nutritious and anti-cancerous. They are a type of phytoestrogen (phyto- is a prefix that simply means plant) that have been found to lower body mass index, reduce blood glucose levels, and even protect us against heart disease and cancer. It’s absolutely fascinating (at least in my opinion ~ I hope you think so too!) how lignans protect us against breast cancer and other hormone-related cancers. Their chemical structure is remarkably similar to estrogen (hence the name phytoestrogen) and because of this similarity in structure, when we ingest them, they bind to estrogen receptors. These suckers are so cool because they can block estrogen’s natural effects or have milder estrogen-like effects on the body. A human biochemistry novice might assume this would be a bad thing. After all, there is evidence that estrogen exposure is linked to an increased risk of breast cancer. But nope, this is a marvelous property for a food to possess. Lignans weaken the negative effects of estrogen, and there is conclusive evidence from thousands of studies that phytoestrogens are on our longevity, pro-thrivin’ side. The lignans found in pumpkin seeds have also been found to have anti-microbial and anti-viral properties. Woohoo!
Another underreported benefit of pumpkin seeds is their high tryptophan to total protein ratio, which has been shown to boost our moods! Check out Dr. Michael Greger’s video on this subject ~> http://nutritionfacts.org/video/the-best-way-to-boost-serotonin/
Pumpkin seeds also contain a huge amount of manganese, phosphorus, copper, magnesium, zinc, protein, iron, vitamins A, E and C.
To Prepare Pumpkin Seed Butter
Pumpkin seed butter is thankfully very easy to prepare. All you need to do is blend whole raw pumpkin seeds in a high-powered blender or food processor and continue processing until desired consistency is achieved. You may need to occasionally scrape the sides with a spatula, but soon you will have yummy pumpkin seed butter! You can add optional cinnamon to the butter and any leftover butter can be stored in the refrigerator, where it will harden slightly but stay fresh for ages.
Pumpkin seed butter can also be purchased online and in most health food stores. You can even purchase sprouted pumpkin seed butter!
2 tablespoons whole raw pumpkin seeds or coconut flakes (optional)
Place chocolate chips in a medium microwave-safe bowl or in the top of a double boiler and heat until melted and smooth (about 30 seconds, stir and then another 45 seconds in the microwave). In a separate small bowl, combine pumpkin seed butter and nutritional yeast. Spoon chocolate about 1/3 of the way in a muffin paper or silicone cup (about two spoonfuls). Spoon a small bit of the pumpkin seed butter mixture on top of the chocolate. Then top each cup with an additional spoonful of chocolate so pumpkin seed butter is covered. Sprinkle each cup with a few raspberries and a few whole pumpkin seeds. Place cups in the refrigerator or freezer to set up. They are ready to eat in a few hours. Enjoy!
Lastly, here is a pumpkin seed fun fact: While pumpkin seed are indigenous to North, South and Central America, today China produces more pumpkins and pumpkin seeds than any other country! India, Russia, the Ukraine, Mexico and the U.S. are also the world’s major pumpkin producers. Here in the United States, pumpkins are grown in every single state.
Mense SM, Hei TK, Ganju RK, et al: Phytoestrogens and breast cancer prevention: possible mechanisms of action. Environ Health Perspect 2008;116:426-433.
Lignans. In An Evidence-Based Approach to Dietary Phytochemicals. New York: Thieme; 2006: 155-161.
McCann SE, Thompson LU, Nie J, et al: Dietary lignan intakes in relation to survival among women with breast cancer: the Western New York Exposures and Breast Cancer (WEB) Study. Breast Cancer Res Treat 2010;122:229-235.
Adlercreutz H, Hockerstedt K, Bannwart C, et al: Effect of dietary components, including lignans and phytoestrogens, on enterohepatic circulation and liver metabolism of estrogens and on sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG). J Steroid Biochem 1987;27:1135-1144.
Low YL, Dunning AM, Dowsett M, et al: Phytoestrogen exposure is associated with circulating sex hormone levels in postmenopausal women and interact with ESR1 and NR1I2 gene variants. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 2007;16:1009-1016. 11. Sturgeon SR, Heersink JL, Volpe SL, et al: Effect of dietary flaxseed on serum levels of estrogens and androgens in postmenopausal women. Nutr Cancer 2008;60:612-618.
Makni M, Fetoui H, Gargouri NK et al. Antidiabetic effect of flax and pumpkin seed mixture powder: effect on hyperlipidemia and antioxidant status in alloxan diabetic rats. Journal of Diabetes and its Complications, Volume 25, Issue 5, September—October 2011, Pages 339-345.
Zaineddin AK, Buck K, Vrieling A et al. The association between dietary lignans, phytoestrogen-rich foods, and fiber intake and postmenopausal breast cancer risk: a German case-control study. Nutr Cancer. 2012;64(5):652-65. Epub 2012 May 16.
2% of U.S. adults are current vegetarians or vegans
10% are former vegetarians or vegans
88% have never been vegetarian nor vegan
Interestingly, a 2012 Gallup poll found that 5% of U.S. adults are vegetarians and 2% are vegans: http://bit.ly/1yBOeOk
Interesting facts the HRC gathered:
65% of the former veg’s transitioned quickly to a veg diet.
A majority of the former veg’s were only veg for less than a year (1/3 were veg for less than 3 months).
Most former veg’s went vegan for health as the primary reason.
63% of those who reverted back did so because they didn’t like the social pressure of being different.
43% of ex-veg’s found it difficult to be “pure” with their diet
37% of former veg’s are interested in going back to a veg diet.
My recommendations to reduce recidivism (giving up) in vegans and vegetarians:
1. Transition incrementally if you are considering going veg and haven’t yet. One step, one meal, one bite at a time.
2. Build and nourish a solid support system. Engage the veg community by becoming members of organizations, local meet-ups, events, lectures, conferences, social media networks (like here on pages like mine and other veg groups), and spend time with likeminded people.
3. Consistently educate your self on veganism…learn about the health benefits, but also the other crucial benefits towards animals, the planet, and society. Read books, watch movies…there is so much information out there now. Indulge and make it a priority. Knowledge is power.
4. Stay healthy. Minimize junk vegan foods and focus on whole food, plant-based foods. Eat according to my pyramid and plate and emphasize foods in my notable nutrient chart:
Pyramid and Plate: http://bit.ly/177tOQz
Notable Nutrient Sources Chart: http://bit.ly/1pmm0xZ
And make sure to have a reliable source of vitamin B12: http://bit.ly/1f9ebMP
5. Don’t be so hard on yourself or aim for perfection. There is no such thing as perfect and having the all-or-nothing approach is stressful and not amenable to sustainability. Ride it out for the long run and be compassionate to yourself. Enjoy the journey…
No eggs? No problem! Live healthier and more compassionately by eating eggsactly egg-free…
Here are 5 reasons why and how to substitute them in your diet:
1. One large (50 gram) egg contains almost 60% of its calories from fat and 187 milligrams of dietary cholesterol. Egg consumption is as bad for your endothelial cells in your arteries and blood cholesterol as a sausage and cheese sandwich (Link, Link). Here is the USDA Nutrient Database on one whole egg.
2. Our gut bacteria can convert the high dose of choline in eggs into TMAO (like carnitine in meat), which promotes atherosclerosis and possibly the progression of certain cancers. Humans do require some choline in our diets, but we can get plenty in legumes (beans, peanuts, peas), bananas, broccoli, oats, oranges, quinoa, and soy products. (Long video, well worth the watch, link). For the Institute of Medicine’s DRI of choline, see here.
3. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), an estimated 142,000 illnesses each year are caused by consuming eggs contaminated with Salmonella. (Link)
4. Egg consumption increases your risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. (Link, Link, Link, Link)
5. Egg production in factory farms entails horrific cruelty including male chicks being ground alive or suffocated to death, layer hens having to survive in miserable battery cages without space to open her wings, un-anesthetized debeaking, and being boiled alive. “Free range” practices are not much better and are a euphemism of still hideous, brutal conditions. (Link, Link, Link, Link, Link, Link, Link)
The great news is that you can easily eat and cook egg-free with a variety of different substitutes and alternative methods. There are commercial egg replacements such as Ener-G or Bob’s Red Mill Egg Replacers. But because eggs have multiple purposes in cooking and baking (leavening, binding, thickening, increasing volume, richness, or tenderness), there are different, healthier plant-based swaps.
To bind in baked goods, try cornstarch, arrowroot, or flaxseeds. To thicken, use chia seeds or silken tofu. For moisture try fruit and vegetable purees. And for a frittata, scramble, mayonnaise, dressings, sauces, or puddings, tofu works wonders.
For more details on eating and cooking egg-free (and completely animal product- and processed food-free) with 66 delicious, Mediterranean-style recipes, pre-order my brand new book, The Vegiterranean Diet.
Forget Cyber Monday! How about Cyber December? The more, the merrier!
In honor of my brand new book, The Vegiterranean Diet, being published on December 23rd, I am offering a fun deal that lasts all month long:
Pre-order or order (beginning December 23rd) a copy of The Vegiterranean Diet and enter to win FREE nutrition consults! For every book ordered or downloaded via Kindle, you will be placed in a raffle to win:
With every single book ordered through Amazon or Barnes and Noble, you will have another opportunity to enter into the raffle and win a free consult. Simply pre-order the book and email me a receipt (with any confidential info blacked out, if applicable), a picture of the book when you receive it, or a screen shot of a page from the book, along with your email or phone number contact information and I will enter you into the drawing. I will have the drawing and choose the three winners on January 1st, 2015.
To give The Vegiterranean Dietas a gift to your loved ones for the holidays, download this gift certificate to place inside a card or as a stocking stuffer, since it does not publish until December 23rd. You could also call your local bookstore and request it to be available ASAP and use the gift certificate if it doesn’t arrive in time.
Wishing you and your family a very healthy, happy holiday season!
The average person gains 5-10 pounds over the holiday season. But it doesn’t have to be that way…
Here are 3 tips for navigating the holidays healthfully all the while enjoying the festivities:
1. Go whole. Pick the wholest ingredients possible when preparing or enjoying dishes. Having the most fiber intact will enable satiety with fewer calories. More nutritional bang for your caloric buck. For example, choose brown, wild, or forbidden black rice over white rice; whole or sprouted grain bread over white bread; and sauté with vegetable broth or water instead of oil to save hundreds or thousands of calories.
2. Eat lots of rainbows. The pigments that compose the colors in fruits and vegetables are powerful phytochemicals that will enhance immune function and keep you healthy with the fewest calories. Serve food over a bed of cooked greens or fresh salads. Add greens and veggies to everything. Make half your plate veggies and fruits. They go gorgeously with everything!
3. Balance calories. Both with calorie intake and calorie output. Plan ahead and save calories by eating less before and after big meals. Maintain your fitness routine or even up the ante by moving more to stay healthy and keep your metabolism functioning optimally.