I’ve written before about some of the health benefits of vegan and vegetarian diets. I’ve suggested the top 5 vegetarian vitamins to take if you’re going to supplement. We’ve also talked about the role of iron in the diet and the question as to whether vegans can get enough iron from their diets without supplementation.
I’ve also suggested the best vegetarian and vegan food pyramid to follow as well. And today we’ll return there again for just a quick review.
You’ve heard me mention the health benefits of the vegan and vegetarian diet over omnivorous diets. I believe and the science overwhelmingly suggests that the plant based whole foods vegan diet is the healthiest diet for humans to consume.
That is not to say that all vegans are healthy. Part of my goal in writing this blog is to get vegans and those interested in veganism to become the best ambassadors for veganism possible. And one of the best ways to do this is through being an example of excellent vegan health and showing others how a vegan diet can provide you with all you need whether you’re a pro athlete or weekend warrior or just your average desk jockey.
Sadly, not all vegans are getting the message that you can inspire others through excellent health. I know I too have allowed myself to slip too far into the junk foodism of veganism. The dark side.
Look, I understand it. Vegans and vegetarians are generally a compassionate and empathetic lot and many of us turn towards veganism as protest to the cruelty inherent on our plate. It is an easy and sincere stand that anyone can take against the violent machinations of animal agriculture. That said, we often leave our vegan diets somewhat lacking.
It is my sincere hope that these 7 tips or ideas that you need to get right on a vegan and vegetarian diet will start moving vegans into the fountain of youth that springs from a healthful vegan diet.
1. Milk is unnecessary, cows’ milk is harmful
There are a long list of ailments that are either caused by or encouraged by cows milk and most of these illnesses seem to be encouraged or caused by the cows’ milk protein. As one example, Dr. McDougall talks about bovine leukemia virus.
As for soy and other milks, they aren’t necessary either. They’re helpful and can be part of a healthy diet and most of them are fortified to make them nutritionally similar to cows’ milk but they certainly aren’t necessary as part of a healthy vegan diet. Use them if you like them.
2. Beans, beans… they’re good for everything
Not just good for your heart, beans are helpful in many other ways. They have great amounts of vitamins but especially minerals and they have terrific amounts of plant protein and fiber.
If you were to choose just one or 2 beans to include in your diet, you could do worse than choosing black beans or lentils. All beans are healthy and helpful so eat the ones that you like.
You’ll notice that soy beans aren’t on that list because they weren’t part of that study. Soy beans are healthy contrary to what the soy haters say, and the healthiest soy product is apparently tempeh. So if you don’t like soy products, don’t eat them. You can still be a healthy vegan choosing other beans.
3. Just say no to liquid Lucifers
So what do I mean when I talk about liquid Lucifers? Well, these are any beverages that look healthy but are in fact the devil in disguise. Okay, maybe that is a bit harsh. Let me explain what I mean.
For optimum health, you should avoid drinking your calories. Some soy milk on your cereal as suggested above is fine, but I’d rather you make a salad full of leafy greens to get extra calcium than drink a glass of soy milk.
Same as with fruit. Eat them whole rather than just suck on their juices. I’d also recommend against drinking alcohol, I believe that the “perceived” benefits of a glass of wine will come under further scrutiny in the years to come.
Please drink as much water as you feel you need. I don’t believe that we “need” 8 glasses a day, I’d rather you drink when thirsty and as much as you want within reason. Also, try and drink green or white tea each day. This is one of the healthiest beverages you can drink and it is calorie free. Coffee is okay too, but tea is waaaaay better.
4. Whoa… a double rainbow
If you forget anything else from these 7 tips to proper nutrition for vegetarians and vegans, please remember this one.
It’s simple. Throughout the day, eat a rainbow. What I mean by that is eat as many colors from the rainbow as you can in your food. Meat is omitted of course because “brown” is the color of shit and not in the rainbow.
Remember in elementary school when you learned about Mr. ROY G BIV? That’s the colors of the rainbow. Starting at the top we have red (tomatoes etc.) then orange (oranges), yellow (squash), green (nice dark green leafies), blue (blueberries), indigo (black beans cook up dark blue), violet (purple cabbage?).
You get the idea. Eat a double rainbow.
5. Avoid that slippery fake oil salesman
Some oils are healthy I’ll give you that. But they are healthy in their natural environment. So eat a handful of nuts a day or a couple of times a week. Eat a half an avocado now and then as you like. Even enjoy some fresh coconut flesh.
But please try and limit your intake of processed oils and margarines. I’m not super strict about this as Drs. Esselstyn and McDougall. A bit of margarine on your whole grain toast if you need and a tablespoon in your stirfries now and then is okay. But always look at ways of reducing the amount of processed oils you use.
Remember that whole food is the best food and should be eaten with abandon. Whole grains like barley and brown rice, wholewheat bread, wholewheat pasta. Fruit rather than their juices.
Eliminate if you can all processed foods and especially junk foods that are also deep fried. Don’t be poisoning yourself ya hear!
6. You must supplement for optimum vegan health
I know, if the vegan diet is so healthy why do we need to supplement at all? That’s a fair and valid question which is usually asked by folks who want to prove that the vegan diet isn’t a natural diet for humans. Listen, what is natural anymore about this world we live in. I’ve never pretended or suggested that the vegan diet is the natural diet for humans, only that it is the healthiest. So what if we need to spend a few pennies to a few dollars a month to live as healthy as possible.
There is only really one supplement that vegans and vegetarians should be taking. In fact, evidence is suggesting that most people – vegan or not – would do well with supplementing with this, and that is vitamin B12. One of these a week and you’re golden.
If you want more info on the best supplements for vegans and vegetarians just follow that link.
There is a case being made for using algal omega 3 vegetarian caps to get the important omega 3s that we need. You might want to consider supplementing with those too and if you live in the northern latitudes and don’t get out much you might also need vitamin D.
7. Let the sunshine smile on down upon me vegan face
Mr. Sun has gotta be upset with us lately. I mean really, we used to worship him as our god and/or goddesses. Now we can’t wait to keep him at bay with sunscreens and clothes and office buildings!
Along with a healthy diet and exercise, I believe the sun to be an important part in the trifecta of optimum human healthy. I don’t wear sunscreen if I can help it. I want the sun to warm my body to my very soul. But not too much.
Depending on your skin type you should probably get anywhere from 10 (light skinned folks) to 60 (very dark skinned folks) minutes of sun on your arms and face per day for vitamin D synthesis but also just all around good health. I think there will be a coming renaissance in research that will point to the beneficial aspects of the sun on our health. A moderate (no burning) dose of sun I believe to be important.
The important thing is to enjoy the sun, get warmed by those golden rays, but stay far away from sun burning which is of course damaging.