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Posts Tagged ‘vegan’

Weekly Review: Veganism

My week as a vegan!

So last week, I decided to give the whole super-healthy vegan thing a try, just to see if I would become one those super-humans who only eats plants and feels amazing all the time. I actually did stick to the vegan rules the whole time (ok, well almost), and there were some good things and bad things I think.

First, the good.

The best thing about trying to be a vegan was that it forced me to cook. Every night. I actually got home from work, opened the refrigerator and pulled out ingredients to make a meal! Crazy! Kevin usually does all the cooking, but eating vegan without him left me no choice. I found myself liking it a bit; there’s something intrinsically rewarding about pulling together a homemade meal that I really did enjoy. I certainly eat a more balanced diet when I make dinner for myself, rather than just eating hummus and pita chips for dinner.

Then, the bad.

I missed my dairy! I have a piece of string cheese and a yogurt for lunch every day and I sorely missed those. I tried to replace them with a Kind Bar and an apple, but it just wasn’t the same. Honestly, it was really hard to feel full. The tempeh tacos I made filled me up, but that’s about it. I always left dinner feeling not hungry, but not really satisfied. Plus, may I’m just not good at making vegan meals, but nothing tasted all that great. It wasn’t that things tasted bad, but just nothing that really satified me in a delicious way.

And, the ugly.

I craved everything I wasn’t supposed to eat. I hated feeling so restricted, and I know that for the future, it just isn’t how I want to live my life. I don’t like feeling that certain foods are off limits, and I don’t want to feel guilty all the time. I much prefer to think about adding good foods, rather than restricting foods. I did find some new foods I’d like to add to my diet, like hemp milk and tempeh, and I found new recipes I’ll keep in the rotation. However, I just couldn’t justify living within such a narrow restriction forever. Plus, I’d have to take vitamins, which I really hate.

I’d love to hear about any of your dietary adventures! Have any of you ever tried veganism or another radical change?

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Vegan… for the week

My haul at the health food store

I’m doing something a little crazy this week; I’m going vegan. Hubby is out of town for the entire week, so I took the opportunity to go to the health food store and buy all kinds of things Kevin doesn’t really want to eat. He’s really a meat and potatoes kind of guy, and I have only successfully gotten him to eat tofu once. He said he liked it, but I think he was just being nice.

The funny thing is, I’m not even a vegetarian. I eat meat on a semi regular basis, and I definitely have dairy every single day. Examining the research, I’m not even convinced that veganism is necessary for optimal health. Several nutrients are really hard to get without animal products (iron and calcium) and some are impossible and require a supplement (B12). Plus, I do think that the health benefits gleaned from a vegan diet have much more to do with the large amount of vegetables and fruits consumed as well as the removal of processed foods and sugar, rather than the removal of any animal products.

So why am I bothering with the whole vegan thing? Honestly, because sometimes we all make decisions based on anecdotes and emotions rather than hard evidence. The past year I have been exposing myself to a lot of health research, and much of that has been about veganism. I read Eat and Run by Scott Jurik, Finding Utra by Rich Roll, The China Study, and watched Food Matters, Forks Over Knives, and Hungry for Change. All of which tout the incredible benefits of veganism. All of these sources go above and beyond just the health benefits; the claims about this diet border on magical. They claim it gives incredible energy, a clear mind and a great mood. They also claim that veganism improves your skin, makes the white of your eyes whiter (really?), and improves libido. So, I guess I figured why not? What’s the harm? Honestly, I thought that if I didn’t at least try it, I’d always wonder.

Lentil stew

So here I am this week, eating as healthy as humanly possible and consuming no animal products. Already, I’m tried new things I never thought I would eat. For breakfast, I make my smoothie with hemp milk, fresh spinach, chia seeds, and a packet of dried green superfood (which includes basically every healthy green plant you could imagine, plus some extracts). My lunch has stayed mostly the same; almond butter of whole wheat bread (although I bought this really expensive sprouted grain bread), apple, banana, organic applesauce, and a Kind bar. I did have to give up my string cheese and yogurt, which I was pretty sad about. Dinner is where things get interesting. Monday night I had tempeh tacos with kale and hummus. Last night I made a homemade lentil stew with sweet potatoes, and on the menu tonight is either quinoa pasta or quinoa with avocado, black beans, and some tofu. I’ve been eating cold quinoa with frozen berries, hemp milk and cinnamon for dessert, which is actually delicious.

The goal is to keep it up at least through Sunday and see if I have any of the proposed “magical” effects. I know that a week may not be long enough to tell, but I’m not sure I could really last any longer than that. Are any of you vegans? What do you think?

I’ll let you know how it goes!

-Sara

Weekly Review: Paleo Diet v. Vegan

So in my quest to find the perfect diet (which I have definitely not achieved by any means), I’ve come across two diets that have gotten a lot of attention; vegan diet and the paleo diet. Both diets claim to be the most natural, healthy diet possible; able to reduce your chronic diseases and allow you to live a healthier, happier life. They both claim to be scientifically sound, only including foods that we were designed or evolved to eat. And yet, the paleo diet consists mostly of meat, while the vegan diet includes no animal products at all. How can both of these diets claim to be so healthy but not include some of the same major food groups?

In case you’re not familiar with these diets, let me give you a little background.

Vegan: This diet does not permit any animal products. That means no meat, no dairy, no eggs, no butter. A vegan eats mainly fruits and vegetables, beans, and grains.

Paleo: This is a newer fad based on what the human diet supposedly consisted of during the Paleolithic Era, approximately 10,000 years ago. The diet relies heavily of meat, vegetables and starchy plants. Most variations eat some legumes, but not many. Grains are not encouraged and dairy is not allowed in the diet.

Whenever I’m stumped about the best possible diet or exercise, I turn to my favorite source of knowledge… pubmed.com. It’s a great search engine specifically for scientific, peer-reviewed journal articles. If you ever read a crazy health or scientific claim and want to check out the truth for yourself, pubmed is a great place to start. So, what is the real science behind these diets? Have they actually been tested?

Vegan: The science behind this diet became mainstream with the publication of The China Study by Dr. Campbell. This was an enormous epidemiological study of the population in China that showed increases in chronic diseases like cancer and diabetes associated with increases in animal products. Basically, the people who ate the most meat and dairy were the most sick. In the literature, I also found that a plant-based diet was associated with improvements in blood glucose (improved diabetes), and reduction in heart disease and inflammation. I had a difficult time finding any research to suggest that a vegan diet harmed people’s health, however I do want to make the caveat that all subjects in these studies were supervised by a nutritionist or physician. Vegans do need to be careful to eat enough calcium, vitamin D, iron and B12.

Paleo: The research for the paleo diet is a little thinner, mostly because this diet hasn’t been developed for very long, and some people can’t seem to agree on exactly what the diet should consist of. There is a nice review article I found that summarizes the research, if you’re interested. In a few randomized controlled trials, the paleo diet did seem to reduce the symptoms of diabetes, and in some studies had a positive effect on BMI.  In another study, the paleo diet reduced inflammation and markers of cardiovascular disease as well. However, most of these studies had a small number of participants and were short term. There may be risks associated with having such a high protein diet and a diet high in saturated fat, so consult your doctor before starting this one.

So who wins? Well, I like to take the best of both worlds. Both diets emphasize a heavy intake of vegetables and fruits, and both diets exclude processed foods and refined sugars. As far as the meat v. grain debate, I still choose to eat both in moderation and choose lower saturated fat options if at all possible.

What do you think? Have you tried either of these diets?

-Sara

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