VEGANUARY18 Jan 2022, Posted by FYS News in
Happy New Year!
I hope you had a good break! I gave myself some quality downtime and even made it to the UK to spend Christmas with family and friends. It was a brilliant break and am now back with a bang and ready for 2022.
I have some fabulous things lined up for the next few months. I am going to be sharing something on how to measure your “biological age” with you. Spoiler Alert: diet and lifestyle – something that I cover in my Food for Thought community – has been proven to lower your biological age. But I am jumping ahead, that’s coming later in January in the very first episode of my brand-new podcast!
This week, however, I wanted to talk about Veganuary and January detoxes.
It has become quite a “thing” in the last few years. While I’m not a fan of fads or their marketing spins, I am a HUGE fan of anything that gets us thinking about our food choices. So, I thought I would share some of my thoughts on Veganuary and a January detox and how we can personally make the most of it.
Veggies are FABULOUS but no one can thrive on vegetables alone
When looking at “meat-free”, “vegan” or “plant-based” stories it is easy to fall into the trap of a vegetable “only” diet. While I am perhaps the #1 fan of vegetables, veggies alone are not enough. Plant-based or vegan foods include vegetables, fruits, beans, pulses, grains, nuts and seeds and you need them ALL.
Some of you will have seen (and are perhaps using) my “build a plate” tool. If you are going to be exclusively plant-based for January, you might need to adjust the ratios to 1/3 each (i.e. 1/3 protein, 1/3 vegetables, 1/3 carbohydrates).
Why? the protein content in plant-based proteins tends to be lower than that found in animal-based ones. Check back over my blog on Protein Pointers a few weeks ago which covered this in more detail along with other key stuff to know about proteins.
Is cutting out meat healthier?
Meat is not necessarily bad for us. “Meat” covers everything from the heavily processed packed-full-of-saturated-fat-and-worse to the regenerative sourced, very lean and nutritionally dense. The latter can be extremely healthy but bear in mind that most people eat a diet that includes the former, which is definitely NOT healthy.
What the science says, based on well-controlled, peer-reviewed studies, is that a plant-based (entirely meat-free) diet can:
- Reduce risk of heart disease
- Reduce risk of bowel disease
- Reduce risk of type 2 diabetes
- Aid in weight loss
- Reduce overall mortality
My interpretation of the science is that this is probably a reflection of avoiding heavily processed meat, rather than avoiding high-quality meat, but the science doesn’t yet go into that detail, we can only infer it.
Aim for a plant-based diet ie one that is based on plenty of plants (the whole range as listed above), include animal-based foods if you enjoy them but, when you do, focus on sourcing high quality produce from regenerative farming, organic, wild and so on.
Plant-based processed vs the Real Deal
Can some of the plant-based foods available be highly processed?
Yes, they can be. This was something I was acutely aware of when I started working with Meatless Farm.
In overly simplified terms, there are plant-based foods that are based on raw ingredients we recognise (like beans, lentils, peas, nuts, seeds etc) and plant-based food that is based on chemicals. A quick read of the label will flag that for you.
I convinced Meatless Farm (who’s food is now mainly based on peas) to do a research study to look at what happens to the microbiome when we eat their plant-based meat. The results were fascinating. Eating the plant-based meat led to improvements in the microbiome – it was able to produce more butyrate which is a great thing for our brains and health overall. It demonstrated to me that the fibres and phytonutrients we find in peas, beans, grains (the raw materials in plant-based meat) were still in the finished product – because those must be what was influencing the microbiome.
So, would it be better to make plant-based food from raw ingredients?
Yes. Is it convenient and easier to use some of the ready-made plant-based meats, milks, cheeses and so on? YES
A couple of pointers to look out for:
- Salt – check the total salt content, because this can load up in packaged foods
- Plant-based milks – I always try to avoid the ones with vegetable oils such as sunflower, safflower or canola oil in them. While these oils can be good providers of essential fatty acids, they don’t tend to be very stable, so I would avoid them in anything packaged for that reason. Plus, there are so many good plant-based milks out there now that don’t need them
Be aware of the media “noise”
This is difficult whatever the topic but it seems especially the case with nutrition and health. I think it is fair to say that people who are either strict vegans OR confirmed carnivores and choose to shout about it have their own cognitive bias which makes them unable to review the evidence on both sides.
Building on what I explained above. Eating meat AND excluding animal-based food from your diet can both be healthy. It all depends on the quality (and quantity) of that meat.
Use January to reflect on all your food choices
It is all too easy to get into a rut with what we eat.
I eat X for breakfast because I always have.
I eat Y for lunch because it´s easy/convenient/someone else prepared it.
The start of a new year is a perfect time to look at those ruts. To ask yourself the questions: “why do I make those choices?” and “are they the best for me?”
In health and happiness