Tag Archives: vegan nutrition

B12 Deficiency Not Just a Vegan Concern

Often-cited as a shortcoming of a plant-based diet is deficiency of Vitamin B12, an essential nutrient made by bacteria in the intestines of animals (including humans). For many omnivores, this is reason enough to continue eating animal products.

You may be surprised that the most common cause of B12 deficiency is not lack of B12 containing-foods but intestinal disease, and the prevalence of B12 deficiency among vegans is not much different than in the overall population. Continue reading

Why Conscious Eating is for You

Here’s a book that explains why some people really can just eat one potato chip, while others like me can’t stop until the whole bag is gone. And a whole lot more, as you might expect in a book as thick as “Conscious Eating” by Dr. Gabriel Cousens.

In my 8 years since giving up meat, I’ve experienced the spectrum of vegetarian diets, from ovo-lacto vegetarian to “junk food vegan”–avoiding animal products but consuming processed foods and “empty calories”–to diets that emphasize whole grains, beans and legumes to those consisting exclusively of organic living (uncooked) fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds.

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What does Wheatgrass Juice have to do with a Vegan Diet?

If you want things to change for you, you’ve got to change your thinking. Those are the words that started my mission 1.5 years ago to design a life filled with adventure and learning.

2012 was the year I left the familiarity of Tokyo, returning to the U.S. where I had spent little more than 2 weeks a year for the past 21 years. Reverse culture shock was no longer just an expression, but daily reality. Continue reading

Starch Solution Is Our Past and Future

It’s no secret, the 65 year-old Dr. John McDougall said, that food is the reason he’s now a better windsurfer than he was 35 years ago, when he attended medical school and did his residency in Hawaii.

The purpose of McDougall’s lecture for the Vegetarian Society of Hawaii last week was to enlist vegans in a common goal: “to build a future we can all live with–and stop battling among ourselves”. This is the topic of his new book, The Starch Solution. Continue reading

Why Reading Food Labels Isn’t Enough

Friends and relatives often question “can you eat x or y” on your vegan diet? Many people can barely comprehend not eating meat and fish, let alone dairy products, eggs, and honey–of all things.

Fewer people understand what a vegan diet has to do with avoiding processed foods–such as white rice, white pasta, white bread, and sugar–or even vegetable oils.

These measures are the guidelines of a whole-foods plant-based vegan diet, such as that endorsed by Rip Esselstyn’s Engine 2 Diet, and displayed in Del Sroufe’s Forks Over Knives cookbook, containing healthy vegan recipes by Isa Chandra Moskowitz, Julieanna Hever, and others.

Bottom line is, while many processed foods may be technically vegan or “accidentally vegan” as PETA refers to products with no animal-based ingredients, they are unlikely to be “accidentally healthy”.

And while you may relax your standards on a rare occasion–when dining out or visiting friends–you’ll surely feel better long-term by keeping tempting vegan junk foods out of your grocery cart, and out of your house.

When analyzing packaged foods, I often refer to nutritionist/dietitian Jeff Novick’s rules and guidelines for  telling the difference between a health food vs what’s really healthy for you:

Rule #1-Never believe anything on the front of the package…ever!

Rule #2-Always read the Nutrition Facts Label and the Ingredients List.

Novick gives guidelines for fat, sodium, white sugars and refined sugars, and refined carbohydrates–4 things commonly abused in the United States.

Fat

Daily fat requirement–in order to avoid essential fatty acid deficiency–is only 3 to 5%, while the typical American intake is 35%!

Calculate fat % by dividing calories from fat by the # of calories

Sodium

Daily sodium requirement is 500mg/day; aim for no more than 1 calorie: 1mg of sodium

Sugars

Novick says that–since the Nutrition Facts panel lists “total sugars” only–you cannot determine natural sugars (such as in fruit) versus added sugars. Therefore, refer to the ingredients listing in order to avoid all added sugars (at least, he says, sugars should not be among the first 3 to 5 ingredients)

Carbohydrates

The “Nutrition Facts” panel does not tell the reader anything interesting about carbohydrates, Novick says. Therefore, refer to the ingredients list, and SEEK OUT the desirable terms “whole” or “sprouted” and AVOID the words “wheat”,” white”, “durum”, “semolina”, “bleached”, “unbleached”, “artichoke” and “enriched flour”.

Fiber

Aim for products that carry >3g of fiber per 100 calories

To apply Novick’s technique, let’s take a package of Nabisco Newtons Fruit Thins stashed in a typical SAD household. The box touts “8g of whole grain per serving”, “made with real fruit”, “blueberry brown sugar”, and “natural flavor”.

Sounds so wholesome, someone might even mistake them for a “health food”! OK, I admit it: I finished off the bag, without thinking…

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What Am I Going to Eat for Lunch?

Almost everybody understands that whole, plant-based foods like vegetables and fruits are beneficial for health. And you know intuitively that living foods–such as sprouts–are even healthier. Yet you still draw a blank when it comes to preparing a healthy meal in a hurry.

Hummous–originally made with chickpeas or garbanzo beans–was one of my favorite foods long before I became vegan, and before Veganomicon author Isa Chandra Moskowitz poetically proclaimed the Middle-Eastern bean dip as being “like air for vegans”.

Recently, I’ve been making hummous with sprouted lentils and chickpeas instead of cooked, and while it tastes different–with a crispy-fresh bite, as you might expect–it’s still exotically delicious. Raw or cooked, hummous is easy to make, inexpensive, and keeps several days in the refrigerator, so you can make a big batch on the weekend and eat it all week long, as a dip or in sandwiches.

Unfortunately, most store-bought hummous is full of oil, salt, and other preservatives. With little to no oil, this recipe is low-calorie and nutrient dense. Lentils are one the best sources of protein, and one cup of raw lentils provides 26g of protein vs 18g for cooked lentils.

If you’ve made hummous with canned (pre-cooked) beans, this recipe may take slightly longer, but there’s no comparison in freshness and nutrition. Continue reading

Can Green Smoothies Restore Your Vision?

Being on a whole foods plant-based diet for several years, I never appreciated the transformative power of drinking green smoothies–until I met the Green Smoothie Girl in person.

Robyn Openshaw’s lecture “Ten Minutes a Day to Spectacular Health” for Vegetarian Society of Hawaii in March so inspired me, I haven’t needed my eyeglasses for the first time in 30 years.

Robyn’s philosophy is for people to spend as little time as possible to achieve the most dramatic health impact. “I’ve learned from traveling around and getting thousands of emails,” she explains “people want to eat right, but they don’t know how anymore. Because ours is the first generation who did not learn home cooking from our mothers and grandmothers.”

Robyn’s goal is that everyone who hears her lecture will begin drinking a quart of green smoothies each day, “to get a massive amount of the lowest calorie, highest micronutrient foods as painlessly as possible, and inexpensively.”

The concept is based on the work of Dr. Joel Fuhrman, whose Nutritarian Food Pyramid defines the healthiest diet as one consisting of foods with qualities of maximum nutrients and minimum calories (H=N/C) and says “your future health can be predicted by the micronutrient per calorie density of your diet”

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Make Your Own Nut Milk Lately?

I’ve learned so much about raw and living foods in the past few months that I don’t know where to begin telling you. After re-learning to cook when I adopted a vegan diet seven years ago, a raw diet feels like you’re starting over yet again. Only with raw foods, it’s not called “cooking”–it’s called “food production”!

Although students prepare almond milk numerous times during 4-weeks at Matthew Kenney Academy, it was especially satisfying to make almond milk while at my mother’s home recently, using a regular old blender (no Vitamix required) and a makeshift nut-milk bag (paint strainer) purchased at Home Depot.

Being able to make staple foods usually bought from a store will give you a great sense of self-reliance, and preparing nutritious almond milk is quick and easy (especially so if you’re a cow). Raw almonds provide a rich source of vitamin E, calcium, phosphorous, iron and magnesium.

Simple Almond Milk Recipe

Ingredients:

1 cup almonds

3-4 cups filtered water

Instructions:

Soak almonds in water overnight (8-12 hours)

Drain and rinse almonds, then throw in blender

Add water, and blend at highest level until smooth (may take 2-3 minutes, but don’t allow milk to become hot)

Pour milk through your nut milk bag over a bowl

Squeeze nutmilk bag to remove all milk from almond pulp

Retain pulp for future use (dehydrate or freeze), and rinse your nutmilk bag

Transfer milk to a quart mason jar and refrigerate (keeps up to 1 week)

You may want to sweeten your almond milk to taste with dates or agave, flavor it with vanilla, and add a little lecithin to keep it from separating (or you can just shake before using).  Continue reading

How to Stop Worrying about Cancer (and Other “Stuff”)

If you’re here, you’ve probably got some worries–about diet, at least. Perhaps you’ve also got bigger worries that have prevented you from thinking about what you eat.

Many people considering a whole foods plant based diet have done so out of concern for their own health or that of a loved one.

My own worries about getting cancer (statistics show almost 40-50% of Americans will) were greatly relieved by taking major action: quitting all animal products and adopting a whole foods plant based lifestyle.

While it may seem difficult to eat healthfully yourself, there is often more stress and worry involved if you’re taking care of others. Particularly when healthy food is automatically equated with bad taste.

Fact is, many people think their diet is already healthy enough and–though they may not admit it–accept the chances they may suffer from cancer, heart disease, diabetes and other preventable diseases rather than give up their favorite foods.

Recently, when worried by my decision to return to the U.S. after over 20 years in Japan, a friend suggested I read the Dale Carnegie classic, “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living.” I had read the book twice 25 years ago–once as a student and again as a graduate assistant for Dale Carnegie Training–but you wouldn’t have known it.

There is a saying that “To know something and not to do it, is not to know.” Similarly, having read and forgotten something is the same as not having read it. Continue reading

Who Do You Trust for Nutrition Facts?

Everywhere and almost every day, we overhear misinformation and confusion about diet and nutrition…

  • The healthiness of various dietary fats and processed oils invites controversy
  • In Starbucks, a customer inquires about which breakfast is healthiest
  • Others worry whether: Japanese seaweed is safe from radiation pollution, microwaves ovens can damage our health, or flouridated water is beneficial for us?

If you shun pharmaceutical remedies and look to nutrition to prevent, treat and cure illnesses, you may often disagree with your doctor–and rightly so–when most are minimally schooled in nutrition and have little interest in preventative medicine.

While you can’t always rely on your doctor, the FDA, USDA, the ADA, the American Heart Association, the New York Times, you can count on Dr. Michael Greger to make sense of nutritional science.

I could listen to Dr. Greger’s entertaining nutritionfacts.org videos–he produces a new one every day–all day long. While other doctors treat illness with pharmaceutical medicine and surgery, Dr. Greger believes that nutrition is the cornerstone of proper health care.

Dr. Greger (Director of Public Health and Animal Agriculture at the U.S. Humane Society), decided to pursue medicine after his grandmother reversed her “terminal” heart disease and lived 31 years longer than expected–till the age of 96–with a change in diet.

I was thrilled to meet Dr. Greger and have a chance to ask him my own nutrition questions, when he visited Honolulu in April to speak to the Vegetarian Society of Hawaii.

Considering attending a raw culinary school, I wanted to know whether enzymes in raw foods are really beneficial… Continue reading