showing all articles for the category "health"

Dairy is a packaged deal, and if I were you, I'd stop buying!

January 19, 2019

My family and I have been living a whole food plant based lifestyle since July 2017 and one of my biggest takeaways is what I've learned about dairy.

The first thing I had noticed after switching to a whole food plant based diet was this: dairy and I did not get along.

We didn't have the beautiful relationship I thought we had. Dairy did not love me like I loved it. I never knew that I was lactose intolerant (as was my oldest son) and that dairy was causing my horrible cystic acne.

I don't think I had gone an entire day without cow's milk my whole life. So I just grew up thinking it was normal to have a full face of acne and regular stomach cramps.

After doing more research on the link between the effects cutting out dairy has on stomach/bowel issues and acne - it all became clear (pun intended). Dairy was causing (or at least aggravating) these issues I tried so hard to remedy with medicines and prescription face washes. After only three days without any dairy, my digestive health was much better and I had no new cystic acne breakouts. I remember telling my husband three days after cutting out animal products from our diet that I will never go back to dairy. I loved milk, cheese, and ice cream as much as anyone else, but I did not love having painful cystic acne or the discomfort of being constipated all the time.

When we cut out dairy we realized how much it was shamelessly added into so many packaged foods unnecessarily. Packaged convenience food that doesn't require dairy "contains milk." Why? Well, the dairy industry knows that it's addictive and they want you addicted to their product. Not only is dairy addictive, it is also one of the top allergens among Americans. Not to mention that it is linked to causing and aggravating many health issues and diseases.

This made us angry, and sad. Just like any loving parent, we fed our kids milk and cheese because we were told that they needed it, it's nature's perfect food after all, or so we thought. Cow's milk, even in its most natural form - organic, from grass fed cows, added hormone free, raw, completely unadulterated - is still a potentially unhealthy and possibly harmful addition to anyone's diet. Unless you are a baby cow. But I am assuming if you are reading this, you are in fact not a baby cow, therefore there is no reason you should consume cow's milk.

Nutrition and Health

Let's talk nutrition. Vitamin D, potassium, iodine, calcium etc. Our "not baby cow" bodies certainly do need these things, and yes, if you read a nutrition label on the gallon of cow's milk, it will show that these nutrients are in there (artificially added, by the way). What you won't see is all of the bad stuff - naturally present bovine pregnancy hormones, toxins, protein quality not fit for human consumption, and no warning of the dangers of saturated fat and cholesterol.

  • Vitamin D is actually a hormone, but it doesn't come from animals, it comes from the sun. So if your cow's milk has Vitamin D in it, it was added via supplementation either to the cow's diet or to the milk during the production stage. You're better off cutting out the middle cow and just taking the supplement straight up. Or even better, allowing the sun to hit your bare skin for only a few minutes a day is all your body needs to turn that sunlight into Vitamin D. If you live somewhere that sunlight is rare half of the year, buy Vitamin D fortified mushrooms and cereals or take a Vitamin D supplement. A safe supplementation amount is 1,000 - 2,000 IU of D3 per day.
  • Potassium. With cow's milk, the lower the fat content, the higher the potassium level. In one cup of skim milk you can get almost 400mg of potassium. The recommended daily amount is between 3,500mg-5,000mg, so milk isn't actually that helpful considering one large banana has 500mg of potassium, and a cup of leafy greens can have over 1,000mg of potassium. You are much better off getting your potassium from plants than from milk.
  • Iodine. Cow's milk does not naturally contain iodine. The cleaning agent used to disinfect the milk tanks and the cow's teats contains iodine, and that leaches into the milk. Unfortunately, for cows with staph mastitis, the iodine treatment increases the amount of pus content in the milk by up to 60%. Yum. The current recommended daily amount of Iodine is 150 micrograms per day, with the safe upper limit of 1,000 micrograms per day. Sea vegetables (sea weed) are an excellent source of iodine, but if you're like me and don't care for the taste of the ocean, use iodized salt or a sea vegetable salt alternative naturally high in iodine.
  • Calcium. Now for the big one - Just like Vitamin D and iodine, cows don't create calcium, either. Yet it is in the milk. Calcium comes from plants, cows eat plants, and the calcium they eat is recycled and excreted through their milk. When a human consumes the milk, they receive the leftover regurgitated calcium. Plant sources of calcium like broccoli, kale, bok choy and other dark leafy greens are absorbed twice as well as cow's milk calcium. Plus, plant calcium includes fiber, antioxidants, folate, iron, and vitamin K (which is good for bone health). None of these nutrients are found in dairy. The current recommended daily amount for calcium is 1,000mg - but that's assuming you're on a diet high in animal proteins, which has a high excretion rate, forcing you to consume more calcium to replace the lost calcium. Getting enough calcium is totally obtainable on a whole food plant based diet. Tahini, blackstrap molasses, almonds, and fortified plant milk are a few more examples of plant sourced calcium.

But "milk builds strong bones," right?

Well, science can't back that statement up. There is no scientific or medical evidence that milk actually builds or protects bones. Actually, it's just the opposite. Hip fracture risks are highest where there is greatest milk consumption. Populations where dairy consumption is extremely low or non-existent have no instances of osteoporosis. But here in America, where dairy is our number one source of calcium, we have 54 million people with osteoporosis or low bone density - over half of people over age 50 in America are at risk of breaking a bone due to poor bone health. If milk was really protective, shouldn't Americans have stronger bones?

Bone health is so much more than just calcium intake. There are so many vital nutrients in beans, fruits, and vegetables that are associated with better bone mineral density and overall better bone health than milk. In fact, studies show that antioxidant rich fruit reduces bone loss and therefore lessens risk for osteoporosis.

Dairy products may be the number one source in America for calcium, but it isn't all its hyped up to be. Dairy comes as a packaged deal, and it is quite a gross and scary package. Sure, just three servings of dairy per day provides your daily calcium requirement but you're also getting too much saturated fat and cholesterol, not to mention pus, manure, antibiotics, pesticides, and all the naturally occurring bovine pregnancy hormones. In America you can expect over 300 million pus cells in each glass of milk - the highest allowable concentration in the world. The Dairy Industry argues that the infection and inflammation of the udders in factory farmed dairy cows is irrelevant because of pasteurization protocols - cooked pus poses no food safety risks. Still, ew. There are better ways to get your calcium.

What about some other components of dairy?

  • Casein is a milk protein that when consumed and digested forms an opioid compound in our stomach called casomorphin. This compound binds to the opioid receptors in our brain and gives a sort of high. This is why cheese is known to be addictive, because casein in cheese is more concentrated than regular milk. The casomorphins formed from casein in human breast milk is actually beneficial to babies in the way it keeps the baby coming back for more of his mommies nutritious milk - nature's perfect food, created specifically for baby.
  • Lactose is milk sugar. Lactose intolerance occurs when the body doesn't create enough lactase, the enzyme needed to digest lactose. Lactose is the main carbohydrate in human breast milk as well. When we were babies feeding on our mother's milk we had all the lactase we needed. But naturally as we grew, and our bodies no longer needed our mother's milk, we stop creating it. Being able to digest lactose as an adult is a strange genetic adaptation. 60% of the world's population is lactose intolerant. Per a quick google search, 75% of African and Indian Americans and up to 90% of Asian Americans are lactose intolerant!
  • Trans fats are the most dangerous fats, in fact, artificial trans fats are now illegal in the American food supply. Trans fats are naturally present in dairy products (and other animal foods) but they are in low enough amounts (less than .5g per serving) that they are legally allowed to be labeled as 0% trans fats, or a trans fat free food. Which is a blatant lie. The only safe amount is none. Half a gram per serving adds up quick.
  • IGF-1 (insulin like growth factor 1) is produced by out liver when we consume animal proteins. This causes cancer cells to grow.
  • Hormones, including estrogen naturally occur in cow's milk and is a known health issue for humans. Acne, premature puberty, obesity, and increased cancer risk are associated with regular hormone consumption.

Dairy is a packaged deal, and if I were you, I'd stop buying!

how whole food plant based is different from veganism

October 23, 2018

Whole food refers to the state of the food. Food in its most natural form, unrefined and unprocessed (or very minimally processed considering washing, chopping, and steaming veggies can be considered a form of "processing"). The dictionary definition of "process" is "to perform a series of mechanical or chemical operations on something in order to change or preserve it." Unprocessed food has nothing bad added and nothing good taken away. Processed food is easy to spot because it will come in a box or package and have a long list of complicated ingredients with artificial colors, flavors, preservatives and a bunch of other added unnecessary ingredients. Whole foods include grains, fresh fruit and vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds all in their whole and most natural form. This would also include milk fresh from a healthy cow, a free range chicken egg, a wild caught fish, etc.

Plant based refers to the food itself. Food comes either from the ground or from an animal. All food items can be traced back to their plant or animal origin. Plant food excludes all animal based foods, sounds simple enough, right? Fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds, beans are all plant foods. Corn syrup, cane sugar, Oreos, and even some cakes and donuts are technically plant based (if they contain no milk, eggs, or other animal byproducts). Other animal byproducts which may not be obvious would include gelatin (made from animal bones), lard (animal fat), lactic acid (from animal muscles and blood - but is also found in beets), casein (a dairy milk protein), rennet (from calf stomach mucus), and many more.

"Vegan" and "whole food plant based" are not the same, although they can be seen as pretty similar. A vegan eats entirely plant based, but not necessarily whole food. Plant based does not always mean whole food and vice versa. The terms vegetarian and vegan primarily refer to what somebody doesn't eat: any food product that is derived from animal origin. While the term whole food plant based refers to what somebody does eat: vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts and seeds, legumes in their most whole and natural forms, unprocessed and unrefined.

Veganism is a lifestyle choice where animal rights activism is the motivation. This goes farther than food: wool, leather, fur coats, and even zoos aren't vegan. Any product (like chocolate, coffee, or gold) that was obtained via child labor or slave labor is not vegan. Products that have been tested on animals are also not vegan. Some people choose veganism for the planet's health, to reduce their carbon footprint and encourage others to do the same. This would include any environmentally friendly alternative that saves water, power, or protects nature. So plastic bags, gas guzzling SUVs, and littering are not vegan.

Then there are the people, like me and my family, who chose to adopt a whole food plant based "vegan" diet purely for the health benefits to our own bodies (at least that's where it started). So adopting a lifestyle where you don't consume animal products could be motivated by the love of animals, the love of the planet, or the love of your own body (or all of the above!).

If more people treated their body with this kind of love and care, there would be far less instances of obesity, heart disease, certain cancers, and other preventable food related illnesses. Unfortunately, too many people don't know how to love or care for their bodies.

Animal foods and highly processed foods are more calorically dense, while whole plant food is more nutritionally dense.

When choosing foods, I often ask myself these two questions: Did this come from a plant? Is it in its most whole or natural form? If the answer is yes to both then I am good to go! I know that the calories I am consuming aren't empty or harmful, but filled with all the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients my body needs. And if I feel like compromising (I love Oreos) I try and make sure that it isn't a regular thing. 

My goal is whole food AND plant based, not junk food veganism.

Protein Deficiency on a Plant Based Diet?

August 08, 2018

A common misconception about the plant based/vegan diet is that it can lead to protein deficiency.

"But where do you get your protein??"

If you've ever heard that from someone who just found out you don't eat animal products, here's a good scholarly answer ;)

While protein needs may vary depending on your fitness goals, you don't actually need to consume animal proteins to get all the protein your body needs. A varied whole food plant based vegan diet is sufficient in protein. That is, as long as you are eating enough calories.

Amino acids are the building blocks of protein (is this ringing any biology class bells?). The protein in our food and body are composed of 20 amino acids - 11 of these we can create in our own bodies using nitrogen, the other 9 need to be consumed from food since we cannot make them.

An essential amino acid is one our bodies need but cannot make on its own, therefore we must consume and absorb them through our food. The 9 essential amino acids are histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine. Non-essential amino acids are ones our bodies need, but make enough on their own. We don't need worry about consuming these in order to fulfill our bodies need for them. The 11 non-essential amino acids are alanine, arginine, asparagine, aspartic acid, cysteine, glutemic acid, glutamine, glycine, proline, serine, and tyrosine.

All plant proteins have all the essential amino acids. Plant proteins are just as good and as complete as animal proteins. Although not all plant proteins contain the same amount and proportions of each amino acid, they are perfectly adequate in providing what our bodies need.

Many people believe we need meat for protein even though the idea of plant proteins being incomplete and inferior to animal proteins has been dismissed by the nutrition community decades ago. The American Heart Association has officially stated on their website that the protein found in plants is perfectly adequate and supplies all of the essential and non essential amino acids, and there is no need to combine protein sources in order to meet the needs of our bodies. (I had a link to the specific webpage, but it has since been removed, and I'm unable to find it again.)

As long as you're eating enough calories to meet your energy needs, you will not be protein deficient. In fact, it is nearly impossible to design a diet with a variety of whole plant foods that is sufficient in calories but deficient in protein, based on the way our bodies store and recycle protein for its specific needs. Our skeletal muscles keep a sizable storehouse in the intracellular spaces of free amino acids to regulate our protein levels. Every day, about 90g of protein is dumped into our intestines to be broken down and reassembled to whatever proportion of amino acids we need. We do not need to be concerned with the amount of protein we are consuming, or if we are getting all of the essential amino acids. Our bodies were designed to prevent this type of deficiency by storing and recombining the amino acids to be used as our body requires.

So don't worry about if you're getting enough protein, just eat enough calories with a variety of plant foods including whole grains, fruits, veggies, beans and legumes, nuts and seeds, leafy greens, etc. and you will have what your body needs.

whole food plant based for better health

July 18, 2018

If you are considering adopting a whole food plant based lifestyle, you have some questions to ask yourself.

What are your goals?

What's your motivation?

What do you care about?

What changes do you want to make?

I have learned that it's not really about what you do, it's your motive and purpose behind doing it that makes for long lasting change.

For example, if you go on a diet to lose a few pounds, when the pounds have been lost and the diet ends, you will gain that weight back eventually.

But let's say you adopt a whole food plant based lifestyle with the intention of preventing disease, managing chronic issues, becoming a healthier you etc., sure weight loss may be a side effect of eating clean, but the motivation and purpose is to live a healthy and wholesome life.

There are many different reasons people decide to switch to and remain on a whole food plant based lifestyle.

It's more sustainable for the planet

There's less (if any) effect on the health and welfare of animals

Prevention and reversal of many debilitating ailments

Meeting healthy weight goals (loss or gain)

When done with care it is perfectly nutritionally adequate

Lowering inflammation in the body, leading to less instances of acne and chronic pain

Better gut and digestive health due to higher fiber intake

More energy and less feelings of being sluggish and fatigued

Personally, I have chosen to adopt this lifestyle because of the health benefits, both for now and the future.

some evidence to consider

The World Health Organization's website states that over 17 million people die each year from cardiovascular disease (that's 31% of all deaths worldwide). According to the Center for Disease Control, over 30 million people in the United States are living with diabetes, that's more than 9% of our population. They project that one in three people will be diabetic by year 2050. The CDC's website states that in 2015-2016 almost 40% of U.S. adults were considered obese, that's over 93 million people nationwide.

Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn and a group of researchers led a whole plant nutrition intervention study in participants with heart disease. They found they were able to drastically reduce the amount of major cardiac events and even reverse heart disease. There are also studies that show a balanced whole plant food diet can reverse morbid obesity. Even people with diabetes are able to drastically reduce their need to take insulin or medications after just a few weeks of a whole plant food diet intervention.

A whole plant food diet can be better than modern medicine in the way of actually preventing and reversing the disease. Medications treat the symptoms, but rarely the root cause. Our bodies were made to heal themselves, we just need to give them a chance. Start replacing foods that are detrimental to our health with beneficial whole plant foods that allow our bodies to heal.

Some would say that making this kind of change is extreme, but I personally believe open heart surgery is extreme; being on blood pressure or cholesterol lowering medication for the rest of your life is extreme. The amount of suffering animals go through just to provide us with unhealthful food products is extreme. The damage the agricultural industry is doing on our planets soil and air is extreme. But it's your choice. Make an educated decision.

So whatever your goals or motivation - for the health and wellbeing of your body, of the animals, or the planet - a whole food plant based lifestyle is a personal choice that each individual should make for themselves. You cannot make this choice for someone else, whether to please them or to change them - the obvious exception is parents, you feed your children based on your best educated choices.

I think the world would be a better and healthier place if everyone switched to a whole food plant based diet (or at least mostly), but I am obviously biased.

how to switch to a whole food plant based lifestyle

July 17, 2018

Are you curious about going "whole food plant based?"

How do you do it?

Well, don't eat animal products or junk food.

Ah, if only it were that easy.

Lifestyle | Diet

If you are coming from an already whole / real food lifestyle, or if you're already vegan for the animals, then this should be pretty simple.

If you are starting from the typical Western diet, high in processed meat, dairy, and packaged foods, then this will be hard. But it is possible! You just have to want it.

First, I want to clarify the difference in the term "lifestyle" and the word "diet" as most of us know it.

"Diet" as a noun is simply a word used to describe the kinds of food a person habitually eats. It is not always referring to "diet" as a verb, a special course of food a person restricts oneself to for a limited amount of time in order to achieve weight loss or other health goal.

A "lifestyle" is a way of life, your diet (the foods you eat) is a part of your lifestyle. This also includes athletic habits, products you choose to buy, and a mindset you have. 

What is your motivation?

Many people transition to a whole food plant based lifestyle over a certain period of time, which could be days or weeks. Others, like me and my family, do it overnight cold turkey - pun intended ;)

At first, it may be overwhelming. Especially if you eat meat, eggs, dairy, or junk / highly processed food regularly.

The idea of cutting out all of those foods may be daunting.

In order to make this change stick you need to know why you are doing it. Is it for your health? That's why my family did it.


While it may be possible to eat junk food and animal products every day and still be considered "generally healthy," these foods are not clean eating foods, even if they are organic and ethically raised.

Animal products or highly processed foods will not promote health or help you meet significant health goals.

Besides, "generally healthy" compared to who? The heart disease ridden, obese population with diabetes on multiple different prescription medications?

Extreme exercise regiments and restricting calories will most likely help you lose weight, but how healthy is your heart? What about your endocrine system? Are you at risk for developing cancer or diabetes? Are you deficient in any essential nutrients?

Your body needs food, we all know this, but just like a car that needs gasoline to run, our bodies need the right type of fuel to run properly. A whole food plant based diet is evidence based nutrition, proven to prevent and reverse diseases and other ailments.

A well planned diet revolving around whole plant foods is the perfect way to properly fuel your body.

In our culture, it is socially acceptable to eat junk food and animal products every meal.

It is also socially acceptable to be overweight, diabetic, have blood pressure or cholesterol issues, and be on any number of prescription medications. I am not saying that all medications are bad, but some medications are just being used to treat the symptoms of an unhealthy lifestyle.

It is easier to pop a pill for your heart every day than it is to eliminate dietary cholesterol, drastically reduce saturated fat intake, and increase your consumption of whole plant foods.

It is easier to follow a fad diet for a few weeks to lose weight than it is to dramatically change your lifestyle and engage in a regular workout routine.

If you want to live a life independent of drugs, free from the symptoms of an unhealthy lifestyle, then you have to get up and do something about it.

That choice and responsibility is yours.

So once you know that switching to a whole food plant based diet is the right choice for you to make for your health, you're almost there. This is more of a mental change than a physical one.

You'll need to unlearn all of the untruths you've been taught about food since you were a child. It's shocking to see who really benefits from the ads pushing our "need" for dairy or animal protein. Anyway, that's a whole other topic right there. But go and do your research. As I do more research, I plan to share what I learn.

But let's get back to how to make the switch.

Making the Switch

If you are not confident that going cold turkey is sustainable for you, then go slow. Take it one meal at a time.

Go through the food you already have in your fridge and pantry, but don't continue to buy the foods you are working to cut out.

Try switching to vegan convenience foods while you transition. Meat and dairy alternatives like vegan hot dogs, burgers, and vegan cheeses, can help to make the transition smoother and more tolerable. The goal is to eventually cut these out too since they are highly processed and contain a number of artificial ingredients that are definitely not health promoting.

Remember, you chose to make this change for you. So go easy on yourself, and don't feel guilty for not succeeding perfectly right away.

Decide whether you are switching overnight, or transitioning slowly. To switch overnight was easy for my family because we already had a good understanding of what whole food was.

But if you want to make the switch slowly over a few days or weeks, consider the following six steps to make it an easier transition.

  1. Begin adding more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, leafy greens, beans, etc first, before you start eliminating the animal foods or highly processed packaged foods.
  2. Don't buy more animal foods, it is OK to go through what you already have first if you want. Don't be afraid of vegan milks, cheeses, and meats. This will make cutting out animal foods easier.
  3. Look for recipes that don't require animal foods and implement one meal a week completely void of meat, dairy, or eggs, and then work up from there.
  4. If you usually have a snack in between meals, only snack on fresh fruits or veggies. Apples, bananas, oranges, strawberries, carrots, sugar snap peas, raw broccoli, etc.
  5. Become a pro ingredients list reader, learn all of the sneaky names for harmful ingredients and start buying less and less packaged foods.
  6. Slowly decrease the amount of vegan cheeses and meats you purchase. Remember, although they are vegan they are still highly processed and not whole foods. (check out my post for more details on this difference) Over time, pick up recipes to make your own "cheeses" and "meats," for example, there are many amazing cream cheese and queso recipes using whole plant foods that are simple and delicious. There are also a bunch of ways to season and cook certain vegetables, grains, and jackfruit to mimic the flavor and texture of meat. Do a google search, there are so many recipes out there!

Do not be hard on yourself. This isn't an impossible transition.

Make progress and continue taking steps in the right direction.

You can do this!