On Becoming Vegan
excerpted from the
Kaiser Permanente Vegetarian Lifestyle Clinic in Hawaii
Director: William Harris, M.D.
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Documented benefits of a pure vegetarian (vegan)
lifestyle include permanent reduction in weight, blood pressure, serum
cholesterol, and blood sugar, as well as risk reduction for
cardiovascular disease and half a dozen common forms of cancer.
Allergies, arthritis, and asthma also respond to vegan nutrition,
which means no meat, fish, chicken, dairy, eggs, or even honey.
I also ask that you discontinue smoking, alcohol
consumption, and that you begin, if you're not already on, a graded
exercise program. If you need additional help, Kaiser also sponsors
alcohol reduction, exercise, and no-smoking classes.
Why Be a Vegan?
Well, why not be? All the essential organic
nutrients required in the human diet (essential amino acids, essential
fatty acids, and vitamins) are made by plants and micro-organisms, not
by animals. Animal foods contain those items too, but since most
animals have roughly the same nutrient requirements as humans, we get
the nutrients second-hand. The unique ingredients in animal foods are
really cholesterol and saturated fat.
How to be a vegetarian? The food change is easy
since it's really quicker to fix veggie foods than the old recipes
you're used to. We'll have seminars and food demonstrations assisted
by members of the Vegetarian Society of Hawaii (VSH). VSH also sells
most of the books that I recommend for a more complete explanation of
Diet for a New America.
Healthy Heart Handbook. Neal Pinckney, Ph.D.
New McDougall Cookbook. John & Mary McDougall
Pregnancy, Children and the Vegan Diet. Michael Klaper, M.D.
The McDougall Program for Maximum Weight Loss John McDougall,
The Race for Life Cookbook. Ruth Heidrich, Ph.D.
The Scientific Basis of Vegetarianism. William Harris, M.D.
These books can be found at libraries, book stores,
and health food stores.
Vegetarian eating is very simple. One could consume
only vegetables, grains, starches, and fruit, and still meet all one's
Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) for essential nutrients, except
for vitamin B-12. But for those who like to cook, there are many,
many recipes in a wide variety of books, and thousands of great vegan
recipes to be found on the Internet.
for a sampling of recipes I recommend for getting started.
have reviewed (and printed up, if you wish) the recipes, continue
reading for important information about the recipes' nutritional
A Few Words on Vegan Nutrition
Most patients are referred to the Vegetarian
Lifestyle Clinic either for serum cholesterol reduction or for weight
loss. The reasons are straightforward: a vegan diet contains no
measurable amount of cholesterol and very little saturated fat.
As for weight loss, a whole food vegan diet contains
no refined sugar and no oil. The food recommendations are centered on
fresh vegetables, particularly leafy greens, preferably raw, in
whatever arrangement your tastebuds appreciate the most, with Calorie
requirements filled in by starchy foods (potatoes, yams, etc.), grains
(brown rice, pasta, etc.), and fresh fruit (to satisfy that ol' sweet
No restriction is placed on the amount of this food
you eat, and I encourage you to eat as much as you want as long as
it's whole food (unrefined) and vegan. It is not necessary to measure
or count out servings or amounts consumed. Your body has three
sensing mechanisms that take care of that automatically. First, your
stomach (capacity - one quart) has stretch receptors that send signals
to the brain when the stomach is full. Second, your body will
instruct you to eat until enough food energy is on board to run your
metabolism, since Calorie acquisition is arguably the main reason for
eating in the first place. Third, a complicated system of biochemical
feedback systems detect the presence or absence of minerals, vitamins,
essential fatty acids and essential amino acids (protein).
In the nutrient analysis table below each recipe is
given a satiety index, which is the weight (roughly proportional to
volume) of any given amount of the food, divided by its Calorie
content. The higher the satiety index, the less likely is that food
to cause weight gain.
Each recipe is also given a "Percent of Recommended
Daily Allowance (RDA) per Calorie," which is the same as saying "If
you ate nothing but multiples of this recipe until your entire day's
Calorie needs (about 2200 Calories) were met, this is the percent of
the RDA for each of these nutrients that you would get." For
instance, the Bean Dip has a "%RDA/Cal" of 153% for calcium. The
table shows that the RDA for calcium is 800 mg., so if you were to eat
nothing but 2200 Calories of Bean Dip you'd get 153% of 800 mg or 1.53
x 800 = 1223 mg calcium. No one will eat 2200 calories of any single
recipe, but they will eat 2200 Calories of something, and if
everything eaten in a day meets or exceeds 100% of the RDA/Cal for
each of the nutrients, then all RDAs are met automatically.
You can see that 2200 Calories of the fast food
meal, (cheeseburger, french fries, and a shake), are short in fiber,
folate, iron, magnesium, riboflavin, thiamin, vitamin A, vitamin B,
vitamin E, vitamin C, and zinc. This nutritional disaster will be
countered when your body discovers that although Calorie requirements
are already met, the satiety index is only .56 so there's plenty of
room left in the stomach for more food, in an attempt to make up the
nutrient shortfalls. But this means the excess Calories will be
stored as fat.
You can also see that eating 2200 Calories of the 11
vegan recipes would automatically meet or exceed all RDAs except
vitamin B-12. The recipes are not unique, proprietary, nor are
patients restricted to their use. They were provided by Board members
of the Vegetarian Society of Hawaii (VSH), and are rather typical
vegan recipes. Nutritionist IV software quickly provided the nutrient
values of each recipe. These recipes have high satiety indices so
your stomach is full and all nutrient requirements are met long before
Calorie requirements are achieved. Your body then burns your fat
stores to meet its energy needs.
That is why, on a whole food vegan lifestyle with
adequate exercise, you can expect to lose about one pound a week,
indefinitely, without any nutrient deficiency (save B-12 in those
recipes not containing Kal yeast), without depriving yourself of food,
and without any effort other than selecting your food carefully.
to see a chart which illustrates the nutritional composition of the
Grains and starches are good foods, but when refined
they release sugar rapidly, and raise insulin and triglyceride
levels. These are foods you want to have as secondary.
Base your diet on fresh vegetables, then fill in
Calorie requirements with fresh fruit, starches, and grains.
"Then God said, 'I give you every seed-bearing
plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has seed in
it. They will be yours for food...l give every green plant for food.'
And it was so."
This biblical quote says nothing about dairy, eggs,
fish, grain, meat, oil, poultry, or sugar. From the evolutionary
standpoint the dietary advice comes out the same. Our remote primate
ancestors evolved over 56 million years living in trees where the food
supply was mostly fruit, leaves, and nuts. Most of our physiology
developed on these foods. Three million years ago our hominid
ancestors descended to the ground and began adding meat to the diet as
a survival strategy, but all the essential amino acids, fatty acids,
and vitamins in the human diet are still synthesized by plants, not
Milk was never a large part of the adult human diet
until the agricultural revolution ~ 12,000 years ago. Oils were never
part of the diet until ~ 5500 years ago and that culinary disaster
known as "frying" first appeared in the English language ~ 1100 AD .
Refined sugar did not enter the diet until ~ 400 years ago. From an
evolutionary standpoint, these are short time periods and humans are
poorly adapted to animal source food, vegetable oil, and refined
sugar. Most of the degenerative diseases of our time are at least
partly due to our departure from the diet on which we evolved.
The Almost-Automated Shopping List
from "A Race for Life," by Ruth Heidrich, Ph.D.
A great time-saving tip is to have a standardized
shopping list. You can then add or delete items according to your
individual needs. For example, a standard list consists of grains,
vegetables, and fruits:
Buckwheat ramen (soba)
Chapatis or corn tortillas
Pita bread, whole wheat
Whole grain breads
Whole wheat pasta
Whole grain flour
Beans, all types
Onions, regular and green
Other green leafy veggies
Peas, frozen and split
Potatoes, any type
Apples, whole, juice, and sauce
Berries, of all types
Fruits in season
Mushrooms (fresh and dried)
Nutritional yeast (Kal)
Soy sauce (low sodium preferred)
Vinegar (cider, balsamic)
Yeast for bread-making
SPICES AND HERBS:
Bell pepper flakes
Cilantro (Chinese parsley, fresh or dried)
Garlic, fresh or powdered
Mustard, dry and Dijon
Parsley, fresh and dried
Setting Up Your Kitchen: Make it Fun,
Fast, and Lean
You will not have to make major changes to your
kitchen. In fact, I found that I could get by with a lot fewer
kitchen gadgets. My kitchen is now relatively simple. I rely heavily
on a few appliances that make meal preparation very fast, easy, and
cheap, once you make the front-end investment. I'm referring
specifically to a rice cooker, slow cooker, air popcorn popper, and a
The following kitchen tools are essential: baking
dishes, bread knife, chopping block, cooking spoons, colander, grater,
measuring cups and spoons, mixing bowls, muffin tins, paring and
chopping knives, pizza pans, pots and pans, soup ladies, sprouting
jars and lids.