How To Be Vegan and Thrive
Going vegan isn’t a meal ticket to health – let’s unpack the necessary ingredients to be vegan and how to thrive.
1. Avoid Industrialised Oils
Certainly, limit or avoid altogether certain oils which are high in omega 6 and highly reactive/inflammatory – those oils include sunflower, canola, safflower, soybean, vegetable and corn oil – these become rancid and unhealthful.
Instead embrace a mix of avocado, walnut, olive, macadamia, coconut, ghee, tallow and high oleic sunflower oil.
2. Avoid White Veganism
Avoid a diet of white pasta, rice, white bread and highly processed foods. A diet rich in grains can run the risk of increased inflammation and gut lining disruption. As I described in The Keto Book Certain foods, such as grains, can irritate the gut lining due to the foods’ natural pesticides (enzyme inhibitors), proteins or compounds, making them problematic to digest. This in turn causes that low- level inflammation – hard to detect, but a potential setback for our health.
The gravity of gluten as an inflammatory agent should not be undervalued. Although sufferers of coeliac disease only account for 1–2 per cent of the population, and a further 30 per cent for non-coeliac gluten-sensitive folks, the rest of us might not exhibit any intestinal disturbances when exposed to gluten – however, this should not give us the green light to indulge in gluten-laden carbs as the disturbances could be felt cognitively.
If you are a coeliac or know a coeliac, you’ll have an understanding of just how reactive gluten can be for health – upon digesting or contact with gluten, there are tangible/visceral symptoms. When the symptoms are more subversive, as in the case of most of us in society, it makes it harder to decide to minimise gluten from the diet, simply because there are no/few tangible benefits.
The cornerstone to diseases or ill-health is inflammation. Not only can gluten potentially cause inflammation of the gut but it can also have devastating consequences for the brain. We now understand the profound relationship between the disruption to blood sugar and neurological conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. Having a diet high in carbs can increase inflammation and the risk of neurological conditions.
Elevated blood glucose promotes a process called glycation – this is characterised by an increase in blood glucose (can be mild elevation) and a binding to proteins, resulting in two negatives outcomes:
1. Glycation increases the production of free radicals which are potentially harmful to our cells
2. Glycated proteins (bound to sugar) dramatically increase the process of inflammation
The antibodies that attack gluten also attack other tissues in the body namely enzymes – which have similar characteristics as the gluten protein.
White foods are low in nutrient density, it’s not to say they can’t be eaten just minimise and crowd out with colourful, fibre-rich, nutrient-rich foods. Explore the variety of veggies and the cooking techniques to ensure a broad range of nutrients are achieved.
3. Eat Sprouted Grains
If bread is your thang, then being selective around what form they take can help. Sprouting grains releases some of the anti-nutrients such as gluten, tannins, phytates and various other enzyme inhibitors. Sprouting increases the nutrient content, including soluble fibre, folate, vitamins C and E, and various antioxidant compounds.
4. Eat Real Food
This applies to vegans, carnivores and everyone in-between. Filling your pantry, fridge and ultimately your plate with fake foods, highly processed and refined foods is not sustainable for health…it’s that cut and dry. Crowd those foods out as best you can with natural and unprocessed food. All this stems and flows from becoming the custodian of your health as described in my previous blog and hinges on cooking most of the food you consume at home. The percentage of total food consumed which is made from natural food will depend on several factors. Somedays 100% of the total food consumed is made at home, other days its 50% or lower – that will always be the case as work commitments, social engagements, travel interrupt our ‘normal’ routine. That being said when the ‘normal’ routine is present aim to consume as much homemade natural food as possible. Become a badass in the kitchen!
5. Consider Eggs
Pastured eggs can deliver a significant hit of nutrients and certainly a natural superfood worth considering. The egg is an animal product but no animal has suffered – aside from the chicken who had to pass the proportionally large egg from its nether regions every day. I’m not referring to caged or barn raised chickens in this instance but rather truly free-range, biodynamic or organic chooks and if you can’t find any reliable sources then there’s always the option to keep your backyard chicken.
6. Consider Oysters
Eggs and oysters are contentious food sources in the vegan community for obvious reasons but oysters could potentially be on a vegans culinary landscape simply because they lack a central nervous system. Therefore if your decision to not eat animals is hinged on their felt pain then this bi-valve critter could be an exception.
Oysters contain a rich source of Vit B12 and zinc which are two nutrients lacking in an exclusively plant-based diet. That being said they do have a nervous system just not a centralised nervous system and cannot tell us if they feel pain or abject to being eaten with a squeeze of lemon juice on a tray of ice. Oysters and other bi-valve critters are most certainly on the fringes of veganism, it just depends where your line is drawn.
7. Consider Insects
Vegan or carnivore I’m sure we have all swatted a fly and I’ll bet my months’ wages that we’ve all squashed a mozzie, …then perhaps insects are a vegan consideration. A recent trip to Cambodia meant the obligatory sampling of various insects, some easily identifiable, others less so. Over the years I’ve tried many ‘unusual’ critters but what is unusual to me is pretty standard to someone else. In Australia or the UK (where I grew up) insects simply aren’t on the mainstream culinary landscape. That being said insects are popping up on some of the progressive menus in the city and I anticipate this trend to continue, as the preconceptions of eating bugs begin to melt away. Again, just like oysters, it depends where you place your parameters as to whether insects are in or out. They are a sustainable food source and eaten the world over, providing much-valued protein – which might help in the decision-making process. The elephant in the room is the confronting nature of eating a bug or insect with its legs and wings impeding a smooth descent down the throat but hey, deep-fry anything in spice, salt and coconut oil and it’ll taste bloody yum.
8. Supplement with Vit B12
According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2003), 77% of vegetarians and 92% of vegans are deficient in Vitamin B12 making it a necessary supplement to have in the bathroom cabinet.
9. Supplement with Algal Oil
If consuming omega 3 fish oil is outside of your vegan parameters then a wise consideration would be algal oil – which is a marine vegan version that will help in the conversion to DHA.
10. Supplement with Protein Powder
Again, it comes down to your parameters around veganism but supplementing with a protein powder is a great way to ensure bioavailable protein is present in your diet. Traditional protein powders are made from Whey (animal-based) but if that’s outside your scope then there are some great plant-based options including pea, brown rice and hemp. It would be remiss of me not to mention my brand of vegan protein powder…vulgar self-plug over!
11. Don’t Tie Yourself Up in Knots
Whilst it’s admirable to have a firm philosophy on nutrition, there may be times whereby it’s necessary to deviate from this to ensure your physiology is getting all the necessary inputs. Having a little flexibility in your diet will create a nutritional cushion to fall back on. Being vegan 85% of the time but permitting yourself the occasional hit of ethically-sourced protein can help to alleviate the risk of any nutrient deficiencies. Try not to pigeon hole yourself to the point that your health suffers.
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