Eating a Vegan or Vegetarian diet, whether for political or spiritual beliefs or simply to improve health and beauty, you can enjoy Nature’s bounty with seasonal, locally grown produce. This blog will help you to “eat clean, eat wise and live long” with whole plant foods from the Academy of Healing Nutrition’s “Longevity Diet.”
Get to know your local farmers
By shopping at farmers’ markets you will learn to appreciate new fruits and vegetables that offer top quality in freshness and are in season. You may also get to know whether your farm sources use pesticides and other poisons to denature your foods. See “How Safe is Roundup: Don’t Breathe.”
Vegetarian Diet Variety
Vegetarian diets come in many shapes and sizes, and you can choose the version that works best for you and your family. Here is a brief summary:
- Semi-vegetarian or flexitarian includes eggs, dairy foods, and occasionally meat, poultry, fish and seafood.
- Pescatarian includes eggs, dairy foods, and seafood, but no meat or poultry.
- Vegetarian (sometimes referred to as lacto-ovo vegetarian) includes eggs and dairy foods, but no meat, poultry, fish, or seafood.
- Vegan includes no animal foods. A Plant Based Diet is Vegan.
Do Vegans get enough vitamin B12, Iron, Calcium and other essential minerals?
PROS and CONS
Plant Based Diets may not be for everyone or for all times. Some people for health reasons may need to build red blood cells quickly by eating animal protein or may prefer fish as a source of nutrition. Other people may be used to dairy foods and are able to digest them without trouble. Here are some pros and cons of a Plant Based Diet:
Pro: Health/Beauty Benefits of Plant Based Diets
Many people temporarily use a plant based vegetarian diet for various reasons. Here are a few:
- Clean up your act after rich holiday eating
- Lose weight
- Recover from illness or surgery
- Drug detox treatments
- Rebuild digestive vitality
Pro: Why Plant Based Diets Work So Well
- Eating lighter is easy on digestion
- Many plant foods are high in fiber and help us to easily lose weight
- A whole food vegetarian diet protects against chronic disease such as heart disease and cancers
- Complexion, mood and energy improve when eating plant foods that are less inflammatory and congesting than meat and dairy
- Vegetarian foods often cost less than animal products or processed foods
Harvard University studies have shown that a vegetarian diet can support health, including a lower risk of developing coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and increased longevity. “Plant-based diets offer all the necessary protein, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals for optimal health, and are often higher in fiber and phytonutrients. However, most vegans may need to add a supplement (specifically vitamin B12) to ensure they receive all the nutrients required.”
Con: Possible Problems with a Plant Based Diet :
- Adapting to your new diet may take some time.
- You’ll have to prepare much of your food for yourself.
- The foods that may not meet vitamin needs require supplements.
- Organic plant foods may be harder to find and expensive
- Natural health experts have reported that vegans are as likely to develop heart disease and stroke as meat eaters unless they supplement with B12.
- It is fun to experiment with new foods, but they may cause indigestion. Start with small amounts and be aware of food combining rules. Mixing all sorts of sugars, proteins and starches together, even though they are plant based, can cause indigestion.
Read on to learn about Plant Based Sources of Protein, vitamin B12 and Calcium. First here are ways to get started.
How to Gradually Switch to a Plant Based Diet
- Eat lots of vegetables. Fill half your plate with vegetables at lunch and dinner. Make sure you include plenty of colors in choosing your vegetables. Each color and flavor has a unique vibrational health quality. Enjoy vegetables as a snack with hummus, salsa, or guacamole.
- Change the way you think about meat. East small amounts. Use animal protein foods as a garnish instead of a centerpiece.
- Choose good fats. Fats in olive oil, avocado oil, pumpkin seed oil, coconut oil, walnut oil, olives, nuts and nut butters, seeds, and avocados are particularly healthy choices. Avoid plant oils such as corn or canola which often quickly turn rancid.
- Build Veggie meals around protein foods such as soaked or sprouted beans, whole grains, and vegetables, nuts, seeds, seaweeds, mushrooms. Chia seeds and nori seaweed are especially good protein sources.
- Include whole grains for breakfast. They are grounding, satisfying and help to keep blood sugar in balance. Start with oatmeal, quinoa, buckwheat, or barley. Then add some nuts or seeds along with fresh fruit or vegetables. Morning, when digestion is stronger, is the best time to eat more complex, dense grains instead of night time.
- Fermented foods strengthen digestion: Add fermented foods such as a pickled vegetable side dish or miso daily, if possible with each meal.
- Go for greens. Try a variety of green leafy vegetables such as kale, collards, Swiss chard, spinach, and other greens each day. Steam, grill, braise, or stir-fry to preserve their flavor and nutrients.
- Build a meal around a salad. Fill a bowl with salad greens such as romaine, spinach, Bibb, or red leafy greens. Dandelion greens sautéed with garlic is delicious, a Greek favorite. Add an assortment of other vegetables along with fresh herbs, beans, peas, or tofu.
- Eat fruit or nuts for dessert or separate from heavy foods. A ripe, juicy peach, a refreshing slice of watermelon, or a crisp apple or some dried fruit will satisfy your craving for a sweet bite after a meal.
Experiment with Nutritious High Protein Plant Foods
Strong muscles and healthy skin and hair require daily amounts of protein. Seniors, who tend to lose muscle with age, are advised to have some protein with each meal. Protein helps us to recover from stress, illness and exhaustion. Here are plant foods that contain a high source of protein per serving.
- Seitan (wheat gluten) a favorite for vegetarians and vegans.
- Tofu, Tempeh, Edamame (green soybean) and Natto (fermented soybean).
- Lentils have more protein than red meat
- Chickpeas and most varieties of Beans.
- Nutritional Yeast* (baring allergies)
- Spelt and Teff ancient grains
- Hempseed and hemp protein powder
- Green Peas and pea protein powder
- Nori seaweed
- Amaranth and quinoa
- Ezekiel Bread and breads made from Sprouted Grains
- Non-GMO Soy milk, fortified nut milks
- Oats and oatmeal
- Wild rice
- Chia seed
- Nuts, nut butters, seeds
- All fruits and vegetables contain some protein, but amounts are usually small.
Certain fruits and vegetables contain more protein than others. Include them in your meals to increase your daily protein intake. Look for organic fruits and vegetables whenever possible
Vegetables with High Protein
Vegetables with the most protein include broccoli, spinach, asparagus, artichokes, potatoes, sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts. They contain about 4–5 grams of protein per cooked cup. Although technically a grain, sweet corn* is a common food that contains about as much protein as these high-protein vegetables. *Corn (maize) in America is GMO a genetically modified food. See below.
Fruits with High Protein
Fresh fruits generally have a lower protein content than vegetables. Those containing the most include guava, cherimoyas, mulberries, blackberries, nectarines and bananas which have about 2–4 grams of protein per cup. But fruits possess other advantages. Often they are high in water and minerals. For example, watermelon and citrus fruits which provide vitamin C.
A Caveat: GMO Foods and Your Gut
Look for the “NON-GMO” label on foods whenever possible. Genetically Modified Foods were invented hoping to grow more food faster, and improve flavor and appearance of foods. More than 90% of all soybean, cotton and corn acreage in the U.S. is used to grow genetically engineered crops. Other popular and approved food crops include sugar beets, alfalfa, canola, papaya and summer squash. Apples that don’t brown and bruise-free potatoes were also approved by the FDA.
According to a 2015 Harvard University study: “One specific concern is the possibility for GMOs to negatively affect human health. This could result from differences in nutritional content, allergic response, or undesired side effects such as toxicity, organ damage, or gene transfer.” [That means the plant genes may interfere with our gut bacteria and genetic material.]
The Calcium Dilemma
In a culture concerned about calcium, we have been led to believe that dairy is the only source of this bone building mineral. This is far from the truth. Plant foods such as almonds, leafy greens, seaweeds, almonds, sesame seeds and Tahini, and broccoli are high in calcium and other minerals that are equally important in the formation of strong bones. Our calcium needs will be easily met by eating several servings of vegetables per day and adding a handful of soaked almonds to your diet daily. Dairy products are considered congesting, i.e, produce phlegm which may impact breathing, joint swelling and chronic indigestion.
Gu Sui Bu: A Chinese Herb to Prevent Osteoporosis
Drynaria is a fern, and its rhizome has been used in medicine for over a thousand years. It was named gusuibu for its purported ability to mend broken bones (gu = bones; sui = broken; bu = mend). . .A good rendition of the uses for drynaria rhizome in the traditional medical system is given by Ou Ming (Chinese-English Manual of Commonly-Used Herbs in Traditional Chinese Medicine, 1989, Joint Publishing Co., Hong Kong.):
Tonify the liver and kidney, activate blood circulation and expel wind-dampness. For deficiency of liver and kidney or sluggishness of blood circulation manifested as rheumatism and weakness of the back and knees, and kidney deficiency syndrome manifested as toothache, dizziness, tinnitus, or chronic diarrhea. Restores bones and tendons: for fracture and trauma.
The dried sliced herb is the root of a vine that grows in south China. It can be cooked in vegetable soup, bone broth or slow-cooked in a crock pot for 10 hours to make a water extract.
B12 and Iron are Lacking from Vegan/Vegetarian Diets
The strongest sources of B12 and iron are found in meats, fish, eggs, in other words, not in a Plant Based Diet. Therefore, vegans especially should supplement with pills according to their needs. Below are three foods, popular in different parts of the world. that provide B12 –Nutritional Yeast, Marmite and Miso.
Nutritional Yeast Powder
Nutritional yeast powder, available in healthfood shops and online, is NOT a live, active yeast such as the yeast used to bake bread. It does not expand or cause intestinal gas. It is produced by culturing a yeast in a nutrient medium for several days. The primary ingredient in the growth medium is glucose, often from either sugarcane or beet molasses. When the yeast is ready, it is deactivated with heat and then harvested, washed, dried and packaged. Nutritional yeast has a pleasant taste and aroma, some say, rather like cheese.
Nutritional yeast comes from a species of yeast known as Saccharomyces cerevisiae. There is another form of this yeast species, which is called brewer’s yeast. Although people sometimes use the terms interchangeably, nutritional yeast is not the same as brewer’s yeast, (used for brewing beer), which has a stronger taste.
Nutritional yeast is dairy-free and usually gluten-free. As a result, it can be a useful supplement for people with food allergies or sensitivities, as well as those on restricted diets. It is also low in fat and contains no sugar or soy. Fortified nutritional yeast is a good source of B12.
Benefits of Nutritional Yeast
Nutritional yeast can be particularly helpful for vegetarians and vegans if it has added vitamin B-12, as this vitamin mostly occurs in animal products. Adults need about 2.4 mcg of vitamin B-12 per day. Just one-quarter of a cup of nutritional yeast provides more than seven times this amount
Supporting the immune system
S. cerevisiae, the strain of yeast in nutritional yeast, can support the immune system and reduce inflammation resulting from bacterial infection. It may also be helpful in treating diarrhea.
Promoting skin, hair, and nail health
Nutritional yeast can combat brittle nails and hair loss due to inadequate nutrition. It may also help reduce acne and other common skin problems, particularly in adolescence. Add a little nutritional yeast to pet food adds luster to their fur.
Supporting a healthy pregnancy
Nutritional yeast can also support a healthy pregnancy. The United States Preventive Services Task Force recommend that all women who are planning a pregnancy should take 400-800 mcg of folic acid a day to prevent congenital abnormalities and support the growth of the fetus. Manufacturers frequently fortify nutritional yeast with folic acid which can make it a useful supplement for pregnant women. Individuals should consult their doctor before using it as a supplement.
Some ways to use nutritional yeast include:
- Sprinkling it on popcorn or cooked grains instead of butter or salt
- Mixing it into risotto or pasta instead of Parmesan cheese
- Stirring it into creamy soups for added nutrients
- Adding it to a tofu scramble
- Mixing it into a nut roast or stuffing
- Add it to a vegetable smoothie or cooked vegetable
Vegans should look for fortified varieties of nutritional yeast to ensure that adequate amounts of B12 and folic acid are in the product.
*A Yeast Problem
Despite all the benefits that nutritional yeast may offer, this supplement is not suitable for everyone.
- People with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), glaucoma and hypertension should avoid using nutritional yeast if it makes their symptoms worse.
- People with a yeast sensitivity or allergy should also take care to avoid any exposure to nutritional yeast.
- In addition, some researcher say that people with a higher risk of gout may want to avoid nutritional yeast.
Marmite Yeast Spread
Marmite is a dark, thick, rich tasting yeast extract spread made from concentrated brewer’s yeast extract, which is a by-product from brewing beer. It was conceived in 1902 when the Marmite Food Company opened a small factory in Burton-on-Trent, where it still resides today. Marmite tastes spicy, salty and is appetizing on toast. It is made from brewer’s yeast, carrots, salt and spices and is available in supermarkets and online. I
A Home Recipe
Marmite’s taste is so appealing and its miniature bottle so small, you may want to make a home version for yourself. Here is an amusing recipe I found online, which I adapted by using nutritional yeast, not brewer’s yeast, and not cooking it as the British author wrote, “at blood heat i.e., 30-40 C.”
In a 2018 study scientists at the University of Bristol found that, when eaten three times a week, Marmite can enhance heart function in healthy adults and help prevent cardiovascular disease, thanks to it’s high levels of the artery-sparing antioxidant benfotiamine.
Marmite Nutrition Information
|Typical Values||Per 100g Unprepared||Per Serving Unprepared||%* per portion**|
|Energy (kJ)||1100 kJ||88 kJ||1%|
|Energy (kcal)||260 kcal||21 kcal||1%|
|Fat (g)||<0.5 g||<0.5 g||1%|
|of which saturates (g)||<0.1 g||<0.1 g||1%|
|Carbohydrate (g)||30 g||2.4 g||1%|
|of which sugars (g)||1.2 g||<0.5 g||1%|
|Protein (g)||34 g||2.7 g||5%|
|Salt (g)||10.8 g||0.86 g||14%|
|Thiamin (B1) (mg)||7.7 mg||0.62 mg||56%|
|Riboflavin (B2) (mg)||6.8 mg||0.54 mg||39%|
|Niacin (mg)||69 mg||5.5 mg||34%|
|Folic Acid (µg)||1250 µg||100 µg||50%|
|Vitamin B12 (µg)||24 µg||1.9 µg||76%|
|*% of Reference intake of an average adult (8400 kJ / 2000 kcal)|
|1 portion = 8 g. ( Pack contains 31 portions )|
MISO and the Longevity Diet
Roger Green’s “Longevity Diet” at Academy of Healing Nutrition is based upon his many years of research into long lived people around the world. However, there is an emphasis on a wholesome whole food Macrobiotic approach. What would a Japanese cook do without Tamari or Miso?
Why Miso Is Remarkably Healthy
Miso, a fermented soybean condiment popular in parts of Asia, especially Japan, has made its way into healthfood sections of North American supermarkets. Most people who love it first consumed it in Japanese miso soup. It’s incredibly nutritious and linked to a variety of health benefits, including better digestion and a stronger immune system. Natural fermentation (healthy bacteria) in our foods supports the digestive process.
How is Miso Made?
This traditional Japanese condiment consists of a thick paste made from soybeans that have been fermented with salt and a koji starter. The starter usually contains the Aspergillus oryzae fungus. Miso paste can be used to make sauces, spreads and soup stock, or to pickle vegetables. People generally describe its flavor as a combination of salty and umami (savory), and its color can vary between white, yellow, red or brown, depending on variety.
Although miso is traditionally made from soybeans, certain varieties use other types of beans or peas. Other ingredients may also be used to make it, including rice, barley, rye, buckwheat and hemp seeds, all of which affect the color and flavor of the final product. Miso contains a good amount of vitamins, minerals and beneficial plant compounds. One ounce (28 grams) generally provides you with:
- Calories: 56
- Carbs: 7 grams
- Fat: 2 grams
- Protein: 3 grams
- Sodium: 43% of the RDI
- Manganese: 12% of the RDI
- Vitamin K: 10% of the RDI
- Copper: 6% of the RDI
- Zinc: 5% of the RDI
It also contains smaller amounts of B vitamins, calcium, iron, magnesium, selenium and phosphorus, and is a source of choline. Interestingly, the varieties made from soybeans are considered to be sources of complete protein because they contain all the essential amino acids needed for human health.
Miso: A Probiotic
The fermentation process used to produce miso, as well as natto and other fermented soy foods, promotes the growth of probiotics, beneficial bacteria that provide a wide array of health benefits. A. oryzae is the main probiotic strain found in miso
Miso and Salt
Miso has a salty flavor and is very salty. Thus, if you’re watching your salt intake you may want to ask your health care practitioner before adding large quantities to your diet.
Miso Improves Digestion and Immunity
Our gut is home to trillions of bacteria, some beneficial and some harmful. Adding miso and other naturally fermented foods (without added chemicals and preservative) helps us maintain a healthy gut flora. See the blog “Heal Your Gut – 5 Easy Steps.”
Miso also improves digestion and reduces gas, constipation and antibiotic-related diarrhea or bloating. (A. oryzae is the main probiotic strain found in miso. Research shows that the probiotics in this condiment may help reduce symptoms linked to digestive problems including inflammatory bowel disease (IBD. To recap: Miso fermentation helps improve the body’s ability to digest and absorb foods. The condiment also contains probiotics that can promote gut health and digestion.
Miso may offer protection from certain types of cancer.
They include stomach cancer, liver and breast cancers. Observational studies have repeatedly found a link between high salt diets and stomach cancer. However, despite its high salt content, miso doesn’t appear to increase the risk of stomach cancer the way other high-salt foods do. For instance, one study compared miso to salt-containing foods such as salted fish, processed meats and pickled foods. The fish, meat and pickled foods were linked to a 24–27% higher risk of stomach cancer, whereas miso wasn’t linked to any increased risk Experts believe this may be due to beneficial compounds found in soy, which potentially counter the cancer-promoting effects of salt.
Studies report that regular miso consumption may reduce the risk of liver and breast cancer by 50–54%. The breast-cancer protection appears especially beneficial for postmenopausal women.
Miso Strengthens Our Immune System
The probiotics in miso may help strengthen your gut flora, in turn boosting immunity and reducing the growth of harmful bacteria. Moreover, a probiotic-rich diet may help reduce the risk of being sick and help us recover faster from infections, such as the common cold. In addition, regularly consuming probiotic-rich foods like miso may reduce the need for infection-fighting antibiotics by up to 33%.
Other Potential Benefits
Studies are ongoing. But we can trust that a food that has been in use for a very long time by very healthy, long lived people offers great benefits. For instance, Miso:
- May promote heart health
- May reduce cholesterol levels
- May reduce blood pressure
- May protect against type 2 diabetes
- May promote brain health: Probiotic-rich foods such as miso may benefit brain health by helping improve memory and reducing symptoms of anxiety, stress, depression, autism and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
Cautions: Miso is considered safe for most people. Individuals on low-salt diets or blood thinners, or who have poorly functioning thyroid glands, may want to limit their intake. A small amount can go a long way.
A plant-based eating throughout the day: Menu Suggestions
Over time, eating a plant-based diet will become second nature. Here are some ideas to get you started.
Breakfast or brunch:
- Rolled oats with walnuts, almonds and/or dried fruit: fig, apple, apricot or dates, nuts or chia seeds and a sprinkle of cinnamon. (Soak grains and nuts overnight adding 1 tsp. apple cider vinegar or lemon juice to remove irritating acids.)
- Breakfast wrap: Fill a whole-wheat tortilla with scrambled tofu, black beans, peppers, onions, and a splash of hot sauce or salsa.
- Whole-wheat English muffin topped with fresh tomato and avocado slices, or blueberries.
- Rice cooked with seaweed. Add a garnish of pickled burdock root, green tea
- Buckwheat noodles with all green pesto sauce or sesame Tahini
- Quinoa with Seitan (wheat gluten) stir fry with greens
- Chia seed pudding. Chia, a high protein food, expands when added to liquid. Add it to cooked grains or make chia pudding by soaking the seeds in almond milk and add vanilla.
- Greek salad: Chopped mixed greens with fresh or sun-dried tomato, Kalamata olives, diced red onion, fresh parsley, red pepper flakes, extra virgin olive oil, and balsamic vinegar. Whole-wheat pita on the side, fresh melon for dessert.
- Tomato basil soup, whole-grain crackers with tabbouleh, and an apple.
- Vegetarian pizza or sandwich topped with tomatoes, broccoli, onions, peppers, and mushroom. Fresh fruit for dessert.
- Bean burrito made with whole wheat tortilla, spread with diced sautéed onion or a spicy cilantro spread. Fresh corn and pepper salsa.
- Carrot ginger soup, a cooked whole grain or sprout bread.
- Vegetable kabobs with grilled tofu, and a quinoa and spinach salad.
- Whole-wheat pasta with cannellini beans and peas, and a romaine salad with cherry tomatoes, dressed with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
- Vegetarian chili with a spinach orzo salad
- Vegetable or miso soup adding tofu, and seaweed.
Women’s Special Issues:
Women, after monthly menstruation or menopause, often feel weak and blood deficient. Iron and B12 in pills are difficult to digest and absorb. The Academy of Healing Nutrition addresses this and other health concerns resulting from blood and energy deficiency with potent medicinal herbs that have been used for generations to build health and beauty. Guided by the advice of their herbalist, women in China use traditional formulas that are modified to suit their current needs. More than providing a source of iron, the herbal formula will contain a number of valuable plant medicines to support the body’s healthy production of blood.
At Academy of Healing Nutrition, we use high quality, trusted herbals to support the natural functions of digestion, adrenal vitality and blood building with popular, tasty recipes, appropriate cooking methods and rejuvenating herbal elixirs. Our online comprehensive program is always available to help you take charge of your health and beauty naturally. Registration is OPEN.