A diet based on plant foods has been proven to be the
best way to protect your health, and a vegan diet is already a major
step ahead of the Standard American Diet (SAD, so sad). Most vegetarians
are more knowledgeable and more careful about what they eat than average
consumers, but if you want the ultimate in good nutrition you have to
follow a few guidelines. It's our responsibility to maintain our good
health in order to be an example for others, and to have long lives so
that we can fight for the animals all those extra years.
Try to avoid processed foods and instead, eat a variety
of fresh, preferably organic vegetables and fruits. Most canned foods
and prepared frozen meals have too much fat, salt and all kinds of
additives. They are more expensive than fresh produce and even organic
foods. This is because you are paying for the processing, the glass, the
metal and the advertising. I have to admit, to save time I buy two
canned products, beans and tomato sauce, ok and sometimes salsa, ok, and
chips. If the only salt you get in your diet is from canned beans, a few
chips and tomato sauce, then that's great, you need the iodine from that
little bit of salt.
Include different kinds of grains and beans in your
meals especially soybean products. Processed soy products and fortified
cereals are the only time-savers worth the money. Soyburgers, tofu,
tempeh and textured vegetable protein I will leave to the major
companies to make for me. However, I do make my own soymilk for only
pennies a quart with a nifty soymilk machine (soytoy.com) and I make my
own frozen soymilk and nut milk desserts with a Cuisinart ice cream
Hmm, for a moment there I sounded like Martha Stewart,
and that's not a good thing. Let me assure you, the only stocks I deal
in are vegetable stocks.
Make sure you get adequate amounts of certain key
nutrients such as calcium, iron, zinc, vitamin B-12 and vitamin D. These
vitamins and minerals are sometimes lacking in a vegetarian diet. You
can get these from fortified cereals, soy products and certain
vegetables. B-12 is a vitamin completely lacking in a plant based diet
unless you eat fortified foods, nutritional yeast or take a B-12
supplement. B-12 is a micronutrient, which means the daily amount needed
is measured in micrograms as opposed to other vitamins measured in
milligrams, and most of us are able to produce this vitamin in our
digestive systems and store it for months. It is still Really something
to be concerned about for optimum health. Please take a vegetarian
formula B-12 supplement.
For those of us living in a sunny climate, vitamin D
isn't that much of a concern. We can make our own with just a little
exposure to sunlight. Iron and zinc are easy to obtain in a vegan diet
which includes nuts, seeds, grains and beans.
This brings us to the mineral calcium. The dairy
industry has convinced us that cow's milk is needed to obtain calcium
and that calcium is necessary for strong bones. But in fact, the calcium
from broccoli, kale and other green leafy vegetables is more easily
absorbed and doesn't come with the hormones, pesticides and other
chemicals found in dairy products. Many studies, including the Harvard
Nurses Study, one of the largest studies of diet and disease, which
tracked the eating habits of thousands of nurses for over a decade,
found that those people who used dairy products had more bone fractures
than those who did not.
The reason for this is that bone strength depends on a
variety of factors and not just calcium intake. The sulfur bearing amino
acids of animal products cause our systems to become more acidic,
causing the body to leech calcium from the bones to neutralize the pH
factor. Ah, the power of cheesy advertising.
Good Nutrition in a Nutshell
Most of us think that a very low fat diet is what we
need for good health, but this is not true. Be sure to include the good
fats of nuts, seeds, avocados, and a dash of olive oil in moderation as
part of a healthy diet. These foods provide vitamin E among other
nutrients and monounsaturated fat, the good kind.
In recent years the importance of essential fatty acids,
especially omega-3, has become clear. Omega-3 keeps our blood thin,
preventing platelets from clogging up our arteries as plaque. Omega-3
fatty acids also lower triglycerides and LDL (bad) cholesterol and
studies indicate they may help relieve the symptoms and possibly even
prevent rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and Alzheimer's disease.
I know some vegetarians who have been persuaded to go
back to eating aquatic creatures to obtain fish oil, which is high in
omega-3. This is quite unfortunate, not only for the fish, but also for
the humans who are also taking in PCBs, dioxin, mercury, other
pollutants and heavy metal poisons. Please don't kill fish
unnecessarily, they want to hold onto their lives as much as you do. The
fish get their omega-3 from algae. We could too, but if you are not that
fond of pond scum there is an easy alternative.
Flax seed is a terrific source of omega-3 fatty acids.
Whole flax seed are not easily digested and need to be ground in a
coffee bean grinder, in a blender with water or purchased already
ground. Flax can spoil relatively fast and so it needs to be kept in the
freezer. Some studies have shown that ground flax is a better source of
omega-3 than flax seed oil for health reasons, so go with the ground
seeds as a regular part of a healthy diet. Ground flax seed can be added
to baked goods such as muffins and cakes, added to bean/nut loafs or
sprinkled into casseroles and other dishes. Try to include a tablespoon
or two of ground flax seed or flax seed meal in your daily diet plan.
Omega-3 Spectrum Spread is a much better choice than
either butter or margarine to spread on a muffin or an ear of corn.
Omega-3 Spectrum Spread contains no trans-fats which are worse than
saturated fats, and it delivers a healthy dose of omega-3. But don't use
Spectrum Spread as your main source of omega-3; use ground flax seeds
and think of Spectrum Spread as an occasional augmentation.
For much more information about good nutrition, I highly
recommend "Becoming Vegan" by Brenda Davis, R.D., and Vesanto Melina,
R.D., one of the best books on vegan nutrition available.
The 10 Must Include Foods
These foods should be consumed often, but don't neglect
the other fruits, vegetables and grains. I have included this list
because we tend to love packages of ten, it seems to make information
easy to assimilate. The ten commandments, the ten ways to satisfy your
lover, the top ten music videos, it's all because we have ten fingers,
well, most of us do. ( My Uncle Ned, who was with Ringling Brothers
Circus for a while, could play Chopin like nobody else, but that's
another story. )
The following foods should be included in your diet on a
regular basis, and you should choose non-GMO (non-genetically modified
organisms) and organic forms of these vegetables whenever you can.
The majority of studies have shown that soy decreases LDL, the bad
form of cholesterol, while boosting HDL, the good form. This is the
major reason why the Food and Drug Administration approved the following
health claim to be used on packages of soy products...Including at least
25 grams of soy in your diet may reduce your risk of heart disease.
Remember, the FDA is a very conservative organization, you should
consider that word "may" to mean the same as the "may" word used on
cigarette packages, "may" cause lung cancer.
The evidence also strongly suggests that soy products
can prevent certain forms of cancer, reduce the symptoms of menopause
and prevent the loss of bone mass which leads to osteoporosis. In a
future article I will deal with the hype about the dangers of soy
products. You might have heard some of the propaganda from the dairy
industry that soy causes brain disorders, breast cancer and
homosexuality; it's only more cheesy advertising to promote bovine
mammary fluids and cow captivity.
The best forms of soy are tempeh and soy yogurt, which
have been fermented and so are easiest to digest. Miso is also fermented
and a good source of minerals and protein, however it is salty, so use
this product sparingly. Tofu and soymilk are the next best forms of the
bean. It's ok to occasionally include some of the more heavily processed
forms of soy, such as soydogs, soyburgers and other meat analogs. They
are certainly better than the alternatives and usually low or nonfat.
Try to select the products with the least additives and don't make them
the center of your diet.
When raw, tomatoes offer a variety of nutrients including a healthy
dose of vitamin C. When cooked, the antioxidant lycopene becomes more
available. Lycopene reduces the risk of prostate cancer and cancers of
the digestive system, so have some cherry tomatoes in your salad before
your entree of pasta with marinara sauce.
Numerous studies have linked cruciferous vegetables like broccoli,
Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower and bok choy to a reduced risk of
breast, colon and stomach cancers. A recent study by Johns Hopkins
School of Medicine found that a substance in broccoli called
sulforaphane prevents stomach ulcers that can lead to stomach cancer.
Broccoli is also a great source of vitamin C and calcium. Be sure not to
overcook: Lightly steam or stir-fry these vegetables to retain the
4. Kale and the other green leafys
Kale is a tasty member of the leafy greens food group and is a
terrific source of calcium, beating dairy products by a mile in terms of
bioavailability. The idea that dairy is the best source of calcium is
very successful propaganda from the dairy industry and isn't supported
by the scientific studies. Mustard greens, collard greens, broccoli and
other dark green leafy vegetables are great sources of calcium and other
minerals. Wear a green mustache not a white one. Got Bilked? Milk does
5. Nuts and Seeds
The vitamin E and monounsaturated fat in nuts and seeds make them an
important addition to the diet. Choose unsalted nuts of course and eat a
handful a day.
6. Garlic and onions
Make sure your homemade pasta sauce has plenty of garlic and onions.
Both strengthen your immune system and make you less vulnerable to
colds, bacterial infections, and other nastiness.
Blueberries, strawberries, cranberries and blackberries are good
sources of antioxidants. Cranberries help protect against urinary tract
infections and have other antibiotic properties. Blueberries help
protect mental functioning from the effects of aging. I was going to say
something else about blueberries, hmm, maybe I'll think of it later.
Just eat lots of berries, trust me.
and other orange colored things, sweet potatoes, orange bell
peppers. The beta-carotene in these vegetables protects eye health and
the immune system.
The potassium in bananas prevents the loss of calcium from the body.
A recent study by the University of California at San Francisco found
that potassium rich foods help prevent osteoporosis by preventing the
loss of calcium from the bones.
So, please allow me a quick recap about osteoporosis,
because my mother suffers from it and she drank milk all her life. It's
a terrible disease and I would like people to be able to avoid it. Salt
and soda pop and the sulfur bearing amino acids in animal protein
(including milk) leech calcium from your bones. Leave those food items
behind. Eat lots of green leafy vegetables, broccoli, beans and tofu for
calcium. Eat bananas, melons and potatoes for potassium which helps you
hold on to your calcium.
The Other Beans Besides Soy.... black, garbanzo, pinto, navy,
lentils etc. Beans are great sources of minerals and protein. If you
only need a few beans to top a salad, freeze remaining beans in a couple
of baggies and use for future soups or salads.
Instead of the four or five food groups or that stupid
food pyramid that was paid for by the meat and dairy industries, think
of the seven food color groups, Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo
and Violet. To find your pot of gold, Eat a rainbow every day.
Go on to
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