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I was asked today what I think about taking vitamins. There has been a lot of news recently about whether we should be taking vitamins, and some news stories are even telling us to “throw them away.” I’m not convinced that vitamins are bad for you, however I have believed for a long time that they are mostly just going through your system and into the waste stream, which is bad for the environment. That aside, I do believe that if you are purchasing quality vitamins made from food products, they are not only not harmful, but may offer marginal protection against gaps in your diet.
This is what brings me to the important point about vitamins. If you are missing vitamins from your diet, it implies that you are not eating enough fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and whole grains (in that order). If you follow a plan of nutrition through whole plant-based foods, you do not need a multi-vitamin.
There are unfortunately two vitamin factors that are important to keep in mind with plant-based nutrition is vitamins B-12 and D(3). B-12 is found in the soil, but now that we wash our vegetables so thoroughly we wash away the B-12. Vitamin D comes from the sun, and thanks to all the time we spend indoors, or wearing sunscreen we limit our exposure. Both of these vitamins are needed in very small amounts. If you are getting plenty of sun you don’t need to worry about D until you are older (people over 60 have a harder time turning the sun into vitamin D). B12 can be obtained through a very small sub lingual dose a few times a week.
After 6 months to a year of following a plan of plant-based nutrition you can go to a clinic and have your blood tested for both of these vitamins, and of course if you are feeling uncomfortable about any new problems see your doctor right away.
I read recently that of the so very many weight loss programs, there are many success stories, but far more stories of people that may have lost some weight, but then return to their previous weight, or even end up heavier months after completing a program.
The only real success happens with changing permanently the way we eat. Many find it difficult to embark on a diet that is forever. This is why I don’t like calling whole-food plant-based nutrition a diet as this word is associated with a temporary program. Long term change means behavioral change. I believe the best way to see behavioral change is with strong motivation. This motivation can come from a wake up call such as a disease, a report of high cholesterol or other dramatic lesson, but wouldn’t it be better to achieve this change before this point.
The other way that we can achieve the motivation needed is through education. This is why I post videos by doctors that have spent their careers understanding how the body works, and links to books that you can read to better understand the damage we have been doing to our bodies, especially our immune system by consuming oils, animal-based foods, and other damaging foods. By truly coming to understand the science behind why plant-based nutrition is so life giving we eventually get to a point that we can no longer deny that this is the right choice for our lives.
If I offered you a red pill or a blue pill, where the red pill would lead giving you the nutrition you need while helping you feel healthier, more energetic, maintain your ideal weight and reduce your risk of illness and disease, or a blue pill which will also provide you with your nutritional needs, but will have bad side effects including making you feel tired, offer poor sleep and lead to a weakened immune system that may lead to disease and premature death, which pill would you take?
Greetings, if you are a first time visitor, welcome to my blog. I look forward to sharing the rewards of a plant-based diet with you. This blog is for both of us, and I look forward to learning through your rewards and your challenges, so even if you don’t like commenting on a public forum, please send me an email, or use the contact form, anytime with your questions or stories.
Some of what you read on this blog may be beyond where you are ready to go with your diet, don’t let that scare you away. I did make a dramatic change in my diet and health all at once, but that is not the path for most people. If you are in good health but maybe would like more energy, or would like to shed some bad habits, or perhaps some weight, you should take a pace you are comfortable with and get to know your own body. If you are someone facing some health challenges and need to act fast, you might want to change quickly and see results right away, but this is up to you and I want you to know that I am equally committed to helping the person that wants to simply eat more fruits and vegetables as much as the person wanting to embark on a completely plant-based diet.
So, now you can look around at various posts, and if you feel so motivated, please participate with your comments. Before you start, I would like to suggest a few starting points. First, if you would like to more about me and my story, please read the about me page.
I would encourage you to understand the science behind a plant-based diet by watching some of the videos that I have embedded.
If you have Netflix, I would strongly encourage you to watch Forks Over Knives the recent film about a plant-based diet. You can watch it on your computer for $4 here, you can also order a dvd from Amazon, it could be the best $15 you ever spend. I also encourage you to read the book “The China Study” by T. Colin Campbell. You can find that book and other great books at Dr. Campbell’s website.
Other than that enjoy this blog and keep me updated with your progress!
To your health!
Update April 13, 2013:
Though I have not updated this site near as much as I planned to, I am now over 2 years into a plant based diet, and it is the smartest health decision, perhaps the smartest life decision I have ever made! I feel so much better, maintain a great weight, have tons of energy, and have settled into an easy affordable means of maintaining the highest possible nutrition from the best foods the way that God made them. Contact me if you would like to talk more.
One of the harder aspects about enjoying a plant-based diet is navigating the dining out experience. I am however finding that it is easier than I had believed it would be. I have found that any restaurant that has prepares every meal to order not only will help you with your specifications, but actually seem to be very happy to help.
I think in today’s market, with less people dining out, restaurants are working hard to retain regulars. What’s more, the more of us that go in and ask for healthier meals, they will understand the importance of offering better options when they update their menus.
In this post, I want to offer a few tips, then share a couple recent experiences.
1. Plan Ahead
Most restaurants publish their menus online. This makes it easy to plan what you will order and what adjustments might need to be made. There are also a growing number of sites that suggest which restaurants offer vegetarian an vegan options. HappyCow.com is the biggest, but with a little searching you should be able to find a regional site, or someone local that has created a blog to share their experiences.
2. Look for the Salad Bar
If a restaurant has an all you can eat salad bar, you can feel pretty safe that you will dine well. The only catch is if you want to avoid oil, you can ask for lemon and add a little vinegar, salt and pepper to make your own dressing, or you could smuggle something in like a ground flaxseed dressing you make ahead of time.
3. Call Ahead
I have not used this technique myself, but if you are concerned about not making a fuss when you are there, you can call ahead and have something prepared for you. This gives the chef more time, and I have heard you can end up with a better meal than what is offered on the menu.
4. Don’t be afraid to ask
I have discovered in any restaurant that has a cook or chef preparing the meals, they are not only happy to work with you to eliminate ingredients, but usually eagerly offer suggested substitutions. It seems that with the growing number of people eating plant-based wait staff is very familiar with these requests, and this will only be getting easier as more of us ask.
5. Eat First
If all esle fails, and you are going to a restaurant that offers little options, don’t arrive starving. This will make it easier to order a salad and be content.
So you have probably heard about Denmark’s “Fat Tax,” adding a tax on things that are high in fat content.
I must say I am mostly pleased with their decision, and would even hope it would spread to processed foods, however I would like to see it taken one step further. For every increase in a food that is unhealthy, I thing the revenue should be used to reduce the price of fruits and vegetables. It makes is less of a punishment and more of an incentive.
So, this leads me to a goal for my readers. Every time you purchase something that you know is not healthy, go and purchase two pieces of fruits or vegetables. Fill your home with fruits and vegetables and you will find yourself reaching for the processed foods less.
You have heard from me about my increased energy, better sleep, and overall feeling of health. Today I discovered another benefit of improving your diet.
Since I was 12 I have worn glasses. Every few years I find that I have become slightly more near-sighted and need a slightly stronger prescription. This has gone on with a certain consistency that I have never questioned. I have heard one can improve their vision, have heard that diet and even eye exercises etc to improve ones vision but have never given it the time or effort to see any results. As the decline in my vision has been so slight, I have never really worried myself too much about it.
Today I went to the eye doctor as I have noticed that the glasses I purchased 3 years ago seem slightly off and I knew it was time to find out my new prescription. I was surprised with the news “your current glasses are over-correcting.”
Yes, I don’t know why I didn’t think of it before, but now that I am consuming a diet composed of mostly fruits and vegetables why wouldn’t my vision improve? A little Google-ing shows that there are studies to show vision improves with vitamins (usually ending in recommendations to take supplements). I like how one website I found was titled “Improve vision naturally” but ended with a list of supplements. Well here is a testimony that one can improve vision “naturally” with fruits and vegetables! [Note, I do take a vitamin D supplement in the winter months as I do not get enough sun, but I fully believe a very good diet supersedes the need for supplementation]
Once again I am just astonished that our standard American diet has led us into a path of poorer vision, like poorer health, increased rates of again, and so many other undesirable side effects yet we have done little to question these habits. I am reminded again how grateful I am to have been directed into a new way of eating, and improved health!
While taking my course in plant-based nutrition, we had to write several short essays. This was an assignment after studying the work of Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn. I will include a video after this post that covers much of the material taught in this unit.
The question posed to the class was:
A close friend has heart disease. He is willing to consider altering his diet, but his cardiologist tells him his condition could be easily managed with medication, and the friend is concerned about missing out on all that is good (and fatty) in life. Without giving medical advice, discuss his options with him, as you see them.
I know this must be difficult, perhaps the most difficult thing you have ever faced. I know you’re not alone. In fact I’m glad you are able to do something about it in time, some die of a heart attack not even realizing they had a problem. Now, I am not a doctor, but I have been spending a lot of time studying the effect of nutrition on our body, especially as it relates to disease. The most important thing that I have learned about heart disease is that much of it has been caused by our many years of eating the typical American diet consisting of a lot of meat, dairy and oils.
As I have come to understand, we have a layer of cells inside our arteries that make all the difference between having blood flow efficiently, or having things clog up, or worse, stop. These cells, called endothelial cells are hugely impacted by the amount of cholesterol we eat. You see, these cells produce nitric oxide which is the key to having healthy vessels. This gas is what allows healthy arteries to dilate when you put stress on them, like when you exercise. When we consume cholesterol, these cells become sticky, and cannot produce the nitric oxide. I know that is some technical stuff, the main point being that we can all reverse the negative effects of many years of torturing these cells by switching to a plant based diet, and by avoiding plant based foods heavy in omega-6 fatty acids like oil and nuts.
There are so many other benefits to switching our diet, among them avoiding other diseases like cancer and diabetes, and improving our battle with the aging process. You see, fruits and vegetables are full of good things including anti-oxidants which help us maintain healthy cells throughout our bodies, and, as a result of improving your circulation, we reduce the damage to our brains so that we can slow down the process of memory loss or even Alzheimer’s disease.
So you have everything to gain, and nothing to lose by switching your diet. If this isn’t enough to convince you, look at some of the cultures that have a very healthy diet such as parts of rural China, or Papua Highlanders or the Tarahumar Indians of northern Mexico where there are virtually no instances of heart disease.
It has been exciting learning about all of this, and I too have switched my diet after seeing my cholesterol levels climb, so together we can work to rebuild our arteries and overall health. I am certain that if together we can go 90 days without any of the bad fats the cravings will cease. We can both get our blood checked often to see if we can get you off of the medications.
If you are interested I would be happy to loan you some great books to catch you up on what I have learned.
The thing that I have had the most difficulty with in changing my diet is cutting out salt. Naturally going to a plant based diet you consume less salt, but I still find myself craving salty foods, and when I see something salty, I can’t seem to keep my hands away from it.
Sodium is what gives something the salty flavor and and we “supposedly” need 1500mg / day, however even this like other nutritional standards can be argued because they are based on traditional diets rather than science (I’ll write more about that another day). The typical American diet however contains 3-4 times that amount, and most of it is contained in processed foods (we really need to read the labels).
Like any other taste change, it is good to push to the extreme, then gradually reintroduce something. When doing it this way our tastes change and when something is reintroduced it seems greatly exaggerated. Most people have experienced this with skim to whole milk or vise versa, after changing when you taste the prior it overwhelms our taste buds.
So, beginning this Monday, I am pledging to go 3 weeks avoiding all added salt, and as much salty foods as I possibly can. This is what I feel will be the best way to kick this stubborn habit. I encourage you to join me so we can share the results. We have the rest of our lives to enjoy the fruit of this challenge, so what is 3 weeks when you look at it that way. It is clear that high sodium diets lead to high blood pressure, high blood pressure leads to much more serious problems. Join me in this healthy choice to live a longer healthier life.
Helping your body digest food is one of the easiest ways to improve the absorption of nutrients from your food as well as improving your energy, performance and sleep. Simple changes in your menu planning can result in great benefits, and if you ever suffer from the following you may be experiencing the results of poor food combining:
- Low energy
- Poor sleep
- Unexplained headaches
- Upset stomach
- Difficult bowel movements
- Do not combine sugar with fat. This is probably the worst combination of foods and leads to the sugars fermenting rather than being absorbed by the system. So if you are looking at combining foods with sweet foods such as fruit, try to minimize any food that is high in fat. Some examples are fruit with nuts, avocado in a fruit salad, for those transitioning to a plant based diet, any meat or dairy, especially cheese with fruit. If you do have fruit and fat in the same meal, be sure to eat the fruit first, so it has a chance to move through your stomach before the fat.
- Do not combine acid with starch. Acidity will greatly slow down the digestion of starches. Some examples are tomatoes with potatoes or pasta, tomatoes on a bread sandwich, and a common mistake I used to make, bananas with oranges in a smoothie.
- Limit the number of fatty foods to one in a meal. Examples, avocado with nuts, or if transitioning, dairy with meat.
- Sugar with starch, especially cooked starch. The best example here is a donuts, or any baked bread product with sugar or glaze. I don’t recommend these anyway, but if you do consume them use extreme moderation and eat them all by themselves.
- Proteins with starch. I add this one primarily for those transitioning to a plant-based diet as the examples here are meat and potatoes or pasta and cheese, or sandwiches with meat and/or cheese.
- Very Slow: oils, nuts, meat, dairy.
- Slow: grains, breads, rice, pasta, avocado.
- Medium: cooked vegetables, starchy vegetables (potatoes etc).
- Fast: most vegetables, greens, less juicy fruits (apple, banana)
- Very Fast: Juicy fruits (orange, pineapple, melon).
When switching to a plant-based diet, you should fairly quckly notice an increase in energy. After 7-1/2 months of a plant-based diet I am amazed at how much more energy I have every day. I have a hard time getting through a day without doing some sort of strenuous excersize, wich in the past I had to work hard to get myself motivated to do.
There were however some days, especially in the first couple months that I had less, not more energy then before starting on a plant-based diet, and for some this can carry on throughout their transition. Let me list a few things that may be prolonging your transition to a consistent energy filled day.
- Fatty foods and oil
- Not enough, or consistant rest
- Not enough water
- Stress, worries, depression
- Sugar, caffeine, tobacco and alcohol
- Lack of daily excercise and fresh air
Fatty foods and oil
We need far less fat in our diet than the typical American diet contains. Americans consume as much as 45% of their diet in fat. A good goal on a plant-based diet is 15-18%, some say as low as 10%, but I have found through tracking my own diet that 15% is a much more attainable goal. What this means is filling your diet with lots of fruit, and then lots of vegetables, then beans nuts and seeds (in that order), and a very small amount of fatty things like avacado, nuts and nut butters. What is a small amount? About 1/2 an avacado/day, or a fistfull of nuts, or 2-3 tablespoons of nut butter. Now that said, don’t beat yourself up if you go overboard now and then, and remember my philosophy that it is easier to obtain a goal like this if you fill your day with fruits and vegetables that you like that don’t have any fat so that it will leave fewer opportunities for cravings.
I have enjoyed learning to cook without oil. A few drops of oil in your food can slow down digestion for up to 2 hours. Especially avoid any oil, or fatty food with fruit or sugar as our body looses its extreme efficiency in digesting the fruit and turning it to energy when oil is added. I used to eat raisins with nuts, and put flax and salba seed in my smoothies until I learned this, now I make sure that my fruit is either solo or only with veggies to optimize digestion, and I have noticed a difference in my energy after a smoothie. It is better to eat anything that has fat, even in small amounts, with your vegitable meals.
Not enough or consistant rest
I wont say much about this because I’m sure everyone understands that our bodies get used to a certain amount of rest each day, and when it comes at a consistant time, our bodies adjust to this and give us full energy during our waking hours. The good news is that a plant-based diet really helps us as our bodies aren’t keeping us awake while having a difficult time with digestion. Everyone who makes a complete transition, and even those on a partial transition notice that it becomes easier to fall asleep, and feel less groggy in the morning. This makes it much easier to get consistent rest.
Not enough water
We need enough water throughout the body for so many functions to happen correctly. I wrote about water in a previous post, and here is a nifty calculator to figure out your goal amount. Water helps with so many functions in our bodies, and once you get in the habit, it really is not that hard to get enough water each day.
Stress, worries, depression
The mind can easily overcome gains realized by change in diet. If you find yourself stressed out, worried about things or suffering from depression, this needs to be addressed before looking at diet to improve energy. Meditation is a great way to overcome mild to moderate challenges. I make sure to spend some time every day just sitting and taking deep breaths, and I sure notice if I missed doing it for a day or two. I also use a mindfulness bell throughout the day to help me return to that place I was in while sitting. You don’t need a fancy meditation technique, though many are great, and recommended, but don’t let that stop you from simply sitting, breathing and being in the present moment.
Be sure that changes in your diet do not add to your stress. If you find this happening, then back off a bit and enjoy a treat, or take a day off. Better yet reach out for help, contact me, or contact someone you know that can help you with the process.
Sugar, caffeine, tobacco and alcohol
This is another one that I didn’t completely believe until I tried it. All of these things can really mess with your adrenal glands which which has a direct impact on your available energy. If you do still partake in any substances that affect your adrenal system you will notice a big difference when you reduce or stop. I still have the occasional beer and occasional cup of coffee, but I really limit it to special occasions, and avoid daily use. If you would like more information, just ‘google’ “adrenal glands and __________” (fill in the blank with any of the four substances).
Lack of daily excersice and fresh air.
Another one that I don’t think I need to say much about as hopefully everyone already realized this. However I will add one note and that is about vitamin D, which is so important for digestion of other foods and digestive function as well as cholesterol control. The best source of vitamin D is the sun. I try every day to get 15 minutes, in shorts and shirt off, to get my daily dose. It is important during this time not to wear sunscreen as this blocks the UV rays necessary for our body to create the vitamin D. I’ll write more about this important vitamin in a future post.
In conclusion, take what advice as you are willing from this post, I know it is a lot to consider, but all progress is helpful, so try at your own pace to begin to realize the beneficial energy gains, and consistency you will realize as you change your habits. Let me know if I can help.