Vegan Enfrijoladas

Daniel and I recently took a trip to the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. You know–Cancun, Playa Del Carmen, Tulum? It was an amazing time! And there was some amazing food. That I can’t. stop. thinking. about.

Being vegan can make travel seem tricky, but with the Happy Cow app, we had no issues. It helps you to find vegan and vegetarian options near you. We used it to find some great places to eat on our trip. One in particular that stood out was a lovely little restaurant called Vegan Planet. Their menu is expansive, so it was hard to choose–everything sounded so good! But I finally settled on Enfrijoladas.


I was so impressed with the dish that I decided I needed to recreate it at home. It sounded fairly simple but as you can see, they drizzled a cashew sour cream on top. I’m not that fancy. BUT I’d say I was able to get the flavors pretty close to the main dish. For reference, the dish is potatoes inside a tortilla, smothered in a bean sauce and topped with avocados and onion.


homemade enfrijoladas recipe


2 Russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 yellow onion, diced
2 15 ounce cans of black beans, no salt added
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
White corn tortillas
2 Avocados, sliced
Optional: Chili powder and cumin to taste


For the potato stuffing:
Place the potatoes in a large sauce pan. Fill up the pan with water enough to cover the potatoes. Place on high heat and bring water to a boil. Cover and turn down heat to a simmer for 15 minutes.

While the potatoes simmer, in a medium skillet add the onion and a little bit of water to keep it from sticking. Sauté on medium heat until translucent (about 5 minutes). Set aside.

Once the potatoes are done, remove from heat and drain until 1/3 cup of the boiled water remains. Mash the potatoes and add salt and pepper to taste. Add in half the onions and mix will. Save the other half for topping.

For the sauce:
Add the 2 cans of beans with the liquid, garlic, salt, and pepper to a high-speed blender. Blend well. The consistency should be like thick soup. Add water or vegetable broth if needed to reach the right consistency. If you would like, add in chili powder and/or cumin for more flavor and blend. Pour the sauce into a pan on medium heat until heated through (about 5 minutes).

Warm the tortillas in the microwave or oven. Dip them in the sauce, then add the potato mixture to the inside and fold the tortilla in half. Top with additional bean sauce, avocado slices, and onion.

homemade enfrijoladas recipe (vegan)

Let me know how you like it! If you end up making these make sure to upload a picture of it to Instagram and tag me ( so that I can see your awesome creations.


xoxo Rachel

5 Benefits of Switching to a Plant-Based Diet

I’ve been getting asked a lot lately how I felt after I switched to a plant-based diet. ‘Was it noticeable?’ ‘Can you tell a difference?’

Of course! There are so many benefits to switching to a plant-based diet and many of them are noticeable. Here of the 5 ways I’ve noticed how the plant-based diet has affected me.

5 Benefits of Eating Plant-Based

  1. Less sluggish-ness. Now, I’m not saying I never feel sluggish–everyone has those lazy days where you can’t stand the thought of putting on pants and acting human. But, I genuinely feel like I have more energy to get things done throughout the day. This may be due to that fact that I sleep better at night. Really, you should see my sleep log from my Fitbit. I hardly move anymore (an indicator of restlessness) when I sleep! A more sound sleep = more energy for the day.
  2. No more “brain fog”–many people claim more clarity in the mind and I have definitely noticed it in myself. This is because you are no longer consuming excess hormones naturally found in animal products. Additionally, contaminants in animal foods can impair cognitive function. I really do contribute being able to pass all of my exams for the CIA on the first try to my plant-based diet.
  3. Faster recovery–when you’re no longer consuming endotoxins (bacterial toxins in meat that can’t be destroyed by cooking) you reduce the inflammation in your body. Additionally, anti-inflammatory phytonutrients found in berries reduce inflammatory affects. This means a faster recovery after a tough workout because you’re not left feeling that intense soreness that makes once simple tasks like going downstairs or sitting on a toilet seem impossible (yeah leg day, you don’t scare me anymore).
  4. Regular bowel movements–Your digestion will change as you start fueling your body and your microbiome with the right foods. No more constipation or inconsistencies. Regular bowel movements are so important for removing waste from the body and our overall health. This high fiber diet is key for that!
  5. Lower blood pressure–This one really shocked me. I never thought I had high blood pressure–that doesn’t occur for young people like me, right? Well, initially when I switched I had higher blood pressure and it stayed due to my junk food habits if you recall from this post. But, I’m happy to report that now that I’ve been eating mostly whole foods, my blood pressure is normal! (Bonus–my resting pulse also dropped!)

Blood pressure 4/10/17

Obviously everyone’s experience will be different. You may experience some of these or perhaps some different ones. Maybe you have symptoms from a diet-related disease that diminish. Maybe you go through a detox phase depending on how poor your previous diet was–much like quitting soda or caffeine. However, the end-result is always worth it. Regardless of how you feel, you are doing the right thing for your longevity.

The one thing to remember is to make sure to eat enough calories. Yes, as crazy as it sounds, you need to eat more! I’m not mad about that–ha! Because a whole-food, plant-based diet is nutrient dense, many people don’t realize that they have to eat more to reach their calorie goals. This diet is high volume, low calorie–meaning you get full before you over eat.

It also takes time. If you don’t feel great right way–don’t fret! Detoxing from animal-based products is a real thing! It can take from a few days to a few weeks, and even intermittently for a few months for your body to adjust as the body continues to remove the toxins, pesticides, bacteria, hormones, and mercury among other harmful things that are found in a majority of animal-based foods.

If you need some inspiration on what to eat, I have created a FREE meal plan that gives you a week of delicious, affordable meals! I also breakdown the nutrition so you can see how easy it is to obtain all of the nutrients you need on a plant-based diet. To get it, all you have to do is enter your email below! Enjoy!

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xoxo Rachel

Snacks on a Plane

Do you ever feel even more sluggish than usual while traveling? For me, I always went for the quick, easy, not-even-the-slightest-bit-healthy kind of snacks. This included chips, cookies, candies, crackers–you know, the four-C’s. But every time I traveled and ate like this, my digestion was off, I felt bloated, and pretty sure I gained several unwanted pounds.

Nowadays, I still enjoy the salty and sweet snacks but choose healthier options that actually give me energy and don’t weigh me down. Not only that, but I choose items that will keep me full so I don’t end up splurging on expensive airport food.

Last weekend I had a trip from Denver to Kansas City by plane, plus a 4.5 hour car ride after that so I knew I needed some filling snacks to take with me so I didn’t get hangry. Here’s what I decided to bring:

Snacks for travel

First off, let’s talk about the Simply Balanced items. I’m not the type of person to take fresh fruit unless it’s bananas but I knew I wanted something else for added sweetness and variety. Most dried fruit seems to have added sugar but these are literally just mangoes. They are so delicious and a good source of Vitamin C which is a bonus when you’re on a plane with recycled air and slightly dehydrated so that you don’t have to use the plane bathroom. Plus, mangoes are a good source of potassium, vitamin B-6, vitamin A, and fiber!

freeze dried snacks

The edamame was hands-down my favorite snack I brought. Also freeze dried with salty goodness, it was definitely an addictive snack. Yes, I advocate for less salt in the diet, but these were a special treat that I couldn’t resist trying. With 12 grams of protein in a half cup, these were both filling and satiating. A sure winner in my book!

I also brought along Larabars. I try to get the ones that have only dates and nuts as the ingredients but I will say the Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough is my favorite. It has a few more ingredients but still better than a cookie!


Lastly, I brought along some salted nuts. What I really should have done was brought some raw, unsalted almonds from the bulk bins at the grocery store but I ran out of time and already had these. In the end I didn’t end up eating any of them because the other snacks were more than enough but I’m glad I over packed food just in case. Again, hanger cautions.

cashews and almonds

And lastly, the bananas didn’t last long. I ate one while waiting for my plane and ate the second between the plane and car ride. I was able to also eat lunch in between so I didn’t need as many snacks as I first thought.

Hope this inspired you to pack some healthier snack options! If you are traveling with others, I highly recommend getting more than one bag of the freeze dried edamame because you won’t want to share 😉

Happy Travels!

xoxo Rachel

P.S. If you never want to miss a post or would like to receive a FREE meal plan (coming soon) full of delicious, healthy recipes that won’t break the bank, sign up for my mailing list below! Thanks for reading!

What Your Cravings Really Mean

I have a HUGE sweet tooth and I know I’m not alone. And sometimes I crave something salty and savory that can’t be ignored. Do I go for the cookies and chips or do I grab the vegan banana ice cream and hearty lentil soup?

Brain Cravings

This is the constant battle that I know a lot of us struggle with. Surprisingly, we can actually CHANGE what we crave.

It all starts in our guts. Our gut flora, or microbiome, contain 100 trillion bacteria. That is such a large amount that you could say we are mostly made up of bacteria. Roughly 90% of the cells in our body are microbial. This gut microbiome digests certain foods and produces certain vitamins and hormones that influence our eating behavior.

The problem is when our microbiome gets out of balance, or dysbiosis. You see, we each have an enterotype–a classification of living organisms based on its bacteriological ecosystem. Our gut is like an ecosystem. Certain bacteria flourish in a specific ecosystem just like certain species are found in the rainforest versus the tundra.

But what determines the ecosystem of our gut? What we eat.

We have a symbiotic relationship with our gut flora. We provide them fiber, and they in turn break it down and provide us different vitamins and nutrients such as butyrate. Butyrate is a short-chain fatty acid that is the main fuel source for the cells that line the inner walls of our intestines. This is critical because they are the only defense between what does and does not get absorbed by our intestines. Leaky gut anyone?

Because of this, it is important to have the right enterotype. Doctors have found that everyone can be classified in to only two enterotypes–Bacteroides and Prevotella. A standard Western diet promotes Bacteroides, and a plant-based diet promotes Prevotella.

Amazingly, there is communication between our brains and our gut. Scientists call this the Gut-Brain Axis. Our intestines are linked to our brain through the vagus nerve, which sends signals in both directions. When the Bacteroides to Prevotella ratio gets too high, we tend to crave the foods that would fuel those bacteria even more.

The Prevotella crave the fiber. They want the whole plant foods. This is good because the fiber they break down in to butyrate not only protects our intestines, but also suppresses inflammation and cancer. Whereas, Bacteriodes produce secondary bile acids which promote cancer. Can you guess what type of diet the Bacteriodes prefer? That’s right, an animal-based diet.

Below is a correlation diagram between long-term dietary patterns and gut microbial enterotypes from this study.

Clustering of gut microbial taxa into enterotypes is associated with long-term diet

Red means a high correlation between that food and the enterotype, or high levels of that bacteria are present when those foods are eaten. Blue means a low correlation or a low presence of that bacteria when those foods are eaten. The darker the color, the higher the correlation.

As you can see, the components mostly found in animal foods, such as cholesterol and animal fat, are associated with Bacteroides and those found almost exclusively in plant foods, such as carbohydrates, are associated with Prevotella.

To rebalance the ratio of Prevotella to Bacteriodes, we need to eat real food. This mean avoiding the processed refined sugars and carbs, animal fats and proteins, and instead eat whole foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats like avocadoes, nuts, and seeds. These foods are called “prebiotics” because they can stimulate the growth of healthy bacteria.

According to this study, we can change our gut microbiome in a matter of days to weeks. Change your diet, change your gut microbriome. However, every time you take antibiotics, it destroys your good microbiome as well. That is why it’s important to replenish them with good probiotics. This can take months so it’s important to only take antibiotics when you really need them.

In summary, fiber from whole plant foods is required for optimum health. AND I know what you’re thinking–why not just supplement fiber by taking something like Metamucil? Sorry folks, this study determined that fiber supplementation does not replicate the results that one gets on a diet naturally high in fiber.

So, as you make the right food choices, not only will your gut flora improve, but you’ll also start craving the foods that are better for you too! Yes, it takes time, but in the end you’ll feel so much better and *gasp* be indifferent to a cookie.

I’m developing a FREE meal plan that focuses on eating the right foods to promote a healthy gut microbiome. It is full of delicious, easy-to-make, won’t-break-your-budget recipes so make sure to subscribe below so you can be the first to get it!

xoxo Rachel


80% of the body’s immune cells reside in the gut. That is why diet is so important when it comes to immune system support. It defines our ability to fight diseases and infections.

Nutrition IS Simple

It really is. Stop following fad diets, stop trying to count calories and macros, and stop obsessing over food. Sit back and relax. I’ve got you covered.

I’m going to tell you what actually matters.


Those little things are your life force. When it comes down to it, they are what determines true health. You could be hitting your macronutrients but be deficient in several micronutrients. They are required for normal growth and development. And when you lack micronutrients, your immune system weakens. This can cause serious problems.

According to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) there is abundant evidence that suggests eliminating animal products, which are mostly devoid of micronutrients, and including large amounts of fruits and vegetable, are the most healthful diets and a powerful step in disease prevention.

But there are so many more benefits to this way of living than just disease prevention. We all want to live as long as we can without diseases hindering our quality of life but we also want to be full of energy, and be at our ideal weight, all without having to starve ourselves or count endless calories. Well, this is the answer!

Calorie restriction is not the answer. Fad diets that are difficult to maintain are not the answer. Portion control is not the answer. And it’s not weak will power, it’s addiction. It’s depravation that results in food cravings. BUT with the right foods, your body can heal itself.

Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food. –Hippocrates, father of medicine, 431 B.C.

Optimize Your Health

I love this simple equation from Dr. Fuhrman, a well known plant-based doctor.

Health = Nutrients / Calories (H = N / C)

Let me break it down for you. You want to have the most nutrients per calories. This means items that are nutrient dense but not calorie dense.

First off, what is nutrient density? Nutrient density refers to the proportion of nutrients in food compared to their calories. Consuming the most nutrients without excessive calories is the key to optimal health. This means adequate consumption of vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals.

See? It’s THAT simple.

Okay, so which foods are nutrient dense? Check out this sweet diagram I made below to help explain. You can also check out this page from Dr. Fuhrman’s site explaining how he scores nutrient density.

Sample Nutrient Density Chart

Focusing on these foods that are high in nutrient density and low in calories are the key to optimum health. These should be the center of our diet. The more nutrient dense foods you eat, the less low-nutrient food you desire. You can eat in abundance and reach your ideal weight. You can break the food addiction and reclaim your health and wellbeing. No more traps and vicious cycles of yo-yo dieting.

I used to be in that cycle, I used to feel owned by the food I ate and couldn’t push a craving out of my mind until I had it. I was addicted. I had no self control. If it was in the house I HAD to eat it.

But with this newfound knowledge I’ve opened up a whole new world of opportunity. I finally feel IN CONTROL of my diet and life, and I’m healthier and happier than I’ve been in a LONG time.

And you can too! I am working on a FREE easy to follow, delicious meal plan that shows you exactly what I eat to stay fit and get all of my micronutrients in without breaking the bank.

If you want to be the first to know when it’s available, sign up for my mailing list below!

xoxo Rachel

My Thoughts on National Nutrition Month

Happy National Nutrition Month!

What? You didn’t know?

In case it is new to you, National Nutrition Month is an annual campaign created by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics to provide education and information on nutrition, making informed food choices, and developing healthy eating habits. I am ALL about people being informed. There is so much confusing and conflicting information out there and most people don’t actually know what good nutrition is.

fork with food

The theme this year is “Put Your Best Fork Forward.” It is to serve as a reminder that with each bite, we wield the tool to make these healthier changes. I love this because it is advocating nutrition for improved health. We all hold the key to being the best, healthiest version of ourselves. We don’t have to live in fear of our genes and family history, we can rewrite it for ourselves. 14 out of the 15 leading causes of death are linked to diet!

The “beef” I have with this is that they are still promoting OUTDATED information. I downloaded their free powerpoint presentation (it is geared towards nutritionists for sharing the campaign with an audience) and it still recommends chicken and fish as good protein sources. Sure, they have protein, but I wouldn’t call them GOOD. Both are linked to increases in risk of cancer. They are also promoting the MyPlate diagram which is disappointing as it lumps a nutrient (protein) all into one category. To me, this is misleading because it doesn’t show what types of food fall into those categories anymore and many people simply associate it with it meat and overlook the many plant-based sources of protein.

During the protein portion of the presentation they state “Vegetarian and vegan diets can provide adequate amounts of protein if they are well planned and include a variety of foods.” Although true, this can also be misleading. I think the term “well planned” has a negative connotation and turns people away from the idea of a vegan diet. The fact is that not much planning is required, if at all. As long as you’re eating a variety of mostly whole plant foods, you should be fine. And by fine, I mean THRIVING. Plants = life

They go on to state that “Many Americans get enough protein on a regular basis.” The fact is MOST Americans get way more protein than they actually need. This as we know can be equally as harmful as not having enough (hello cancer, increased weight, osteoporosis, kidney disease etc). Protein deficiency is EXTREMELY rare. If you are eating enough calories, you are consuming enough protein. I will give them credit that they talked about varying your protein routine by substituting plant-based proteins in recipes and recommended trying meatless dishes.

And lastly, they are still promoting dairy and recommend milk, yogurt, and cheese as good sources of calcium. This is scary that they are completely ignoring the science that dairy is linked to breast, prostate cancer, and osteoporosis (not to mention it is an extremely cruel industry). They also recommended low-fat and fat-free dairy which is linked to an increase in osteoporosis. This is because dairy is acidic so the body has to leach calcium from the bones to balance out the acidity. However, with full fat dairy, the fat acts as a buffer thereby reducing the amount of calcium that leaches from the bones. Either way, this makes it hard for the body to absorb the calcium in dairy. Overall, dairy is completely unnecessary and is a poor source of calcium. Better sources are dark leafy greens, kale, watercress, broccoli, kidney beans, almonds, chickpeas, and oranges.

I will say their sections on fruits and vegetables and whole grains were excellent. They discussed experimenting with different fruits and vegetables, eating what’s in season if possible, and how to vary your whole grains.

But back to the whole premise of this campaign, it really is for a worthy cause and I do whole heartedly agree that people should be making more conscious decisions towards eating better and taking health back into their own hands. You being here and reading this means that you know how important it is and that you’re are wanting and/or are making those changes in your life. Good for you!

Every little step counts. Every little change makes a difference. I know how hard it can be to even take the first step towards change so if you need some ideas on how you can start improving your diet, I have a previous post on how to slowly remove meat from it here.

I am also currently developing an easy to follow FREE meal plan for anyone who wants some inspiration on how easy a plant-based diet can be. If you’d like to be the first to know when it’s available, sign up for my mailing list below!

xoxo Rachel

Exploring Denver Metro & What I Ate Out and About

This weekend was a busy one! My parents came all the way from Kansas to celebrate my mom’s birthday (March 2nd) as well as mine (Feb 23rd). As always, it was great to spend some quality time with them and explore a bit more of our city. Although we’ve been in the Denver area for over a year and a half now, everything is still pretty new and there’s so much yet to see! This time around we finally visited some nearby places like the Butterfly Pavilion–soo cool! We may have been the only visitors without kids but it was still a lot of fun. It’s a mini zoo of sorts with 1600+ butterflies, insects, arachnids, and some marine life!



Daniel was brave enough to hold Rosie, the tarantula. He got a sticker for doing it.

Daniel holds a tarantula

I shared my wisdom on a notecard of what I do to save marine life.

save marine life

Scientists actually predict 2048 but I couldn’t remember the exact year at the time.

We also explored Olde Town in Arvada and ventured to Casa Bonita for a dive show.

With all of this exploring, it made sense to mostly eat out since we weren’t home much. And I’m here to show you how easy it is to eat vegan at virtually any restaurant. There’s NO excuse. There’s always a way to alter a meal to make it suite your needs.

(Bloggerfail–>I didn’t take any photos of my food. You’ll just have to trust me.)

First, we went to Zoe’s Kitchen for a quick dinner Thursday night. We lucked out because they had a TON of vegan options! I chose a cup of the Mediterranean lentil soup with the hummus and salad plate. Their red pepper hummus is so good! It’s easy to vegan-ize when you just have to ask for no cheese!

Friday night we went to Casa Bonita in Lakewood, CO. For those who don’t know what that is, it’s a Mexican restaurant with live entertainment including cliff divers, musicians, and various acts. Definitely more for kids but still cool to see (once haha). They also have an arcade and a cave to explore. We’ve heard from various sources that the food isn’t that great, it’s the atmosphere you go for. That is definitely true. The interior was awesome and looked like a little village; the food was meh. I had burritos and was able to replace the meat with pinto beans and removed any cheese from my dish. Instead, I flavored it with salsa (which was the best part in my opinion). They did have refried beans but they put lard in it (animal fat=gross). Why ruin a good thing with lard?! But it all worked out and I didn’t starve. Plus, I can finally say I’ve been there (check that off the ol’ bucket list!).

Saturday meals were much more delightful. We took my parents to one of our favorite restaurants–Yak and Yeti. They are an Indian restaurant with a wide variety of vegan friendly options. We went for the lunch buffet and were able to eat plenty of dishes such as vegetable korma and sweet potato masala. Mmmmm.

Saturday night we ordered in some pizza. Super easy. Just ask for a vegetarian pizza and hold the cheese.

In the end I still had several delicious meals and I didn’t have to risk my health for it! (Or an animal’s life, or the destruction of the planet. You’re welcome.)

xoxo Rachel

P.S. If Daniel and I were jellyfish, this would be us. Holding “hands” and me stealing his food.

Jellyfish love


What You Need To Know About B12 Part 2

What You Need To Know About Vitamin B12

In the last post, I briefly touched on why we need vitamin B12 and how much of it our body requires. In this segment, I’ll be talking about the best vegan sources for vitamin B12. Not all B12 supplements are vegan due to some animal-derived fillers, even though B12 itself is always vegan.

As previously mentioned, we need 3-5 micrograms a day of B12. If you are relying on fortified foods to acquire your vitamin B12, pay careful attention to servings sizes. If one serving only has 1 microgram of B12 in it, then you will need to consume 3 servings throughout the day to reach your recommended dietary allowance (RDA).

B12 supplements on the other hand may be more convenient and more economical. Although most supplements tend to have more of the vitamin than the body requires or can use, there is no harm in exceeding the recommended amount for this vitamin by combining sources. So no need to worry about taking a supplement and consuming a fortified food in the same day. Only intakes above 5000 micrograms per week should be avoided due to lack of evidence for toxicity from higher amounts. Better to err on the side of caution.

It is also more beneficial to chew the tablet since it increases absorption. Absorption of B12 can vary widely from about 50% if 1 microgram is consumed to about 0.5% for amounts above 1000 micrograms. Therefore, if you are consuming B12 less frequently, you need to be consuming in a higher amount. You can take a daily supplement of 10 micrograms or a weekly supplement of 2000 micrograms. The amount and frequency is up to you for what works best with your schedule.

It is also worth mentioning that individuals 50 years or older should supplement regardless of their diet. According to The Institute of Medicine, “Because 10 to 30 percent of older people may be unable to absorb naturally occurring vitamin B12, it is advisable for those older than 50 years to meet their RDA mainly by consuming foods fortified with vitamin B12 or a vitamin B12-containing supplement.”

When no dietary supply occurs, deficiency symptoms can take five years or more to develop in adults, however some  can experience symptoms within a year. Even though the onset of symptoms from deficiency can take years to develop due to the body’s ability to recycle this vitamin, it is critical that you still get the recommended amount either daily or weekly depending on your choice of consumption. This is because there is no consistent pattern of symptoms and (mostly in rare cases) the damage to the nervous system can be irreversible.

So where can you get your B12? Here are my recommended sources below (this is not an exhaustive list):

  1. Fortified plant-based milks
  2. Fortified cereals
  3. Nutritional yeast
  4. Supplements

Be careful with nutritional yeast though as B12 is light sensitive so getting it from a bulk bin may not be sufficient. And be sure that it is fortified as not all nutritional yeasts contain B12.

The same is true for plant-based milks–double check that it is fortified as several are not. We recently picked up some almond milk from the brand Simple Truth which is fortified but we’ve gotten the Silk brand in the past which wasn’t.

And here are some safe vegan B12 supplements that I found:


Spring Valley


Nature’s Bounty


Obviously there are more than just these 5 I mention so just be careful that they are vegan and provide the right amount for the frequency you choose to take.

xoxo Rachel

What You Need to Know About B12 Part 1

What You Need To Know About Vitamin B12

As you may or may not know, B12 is a vitamin produced by bacteria in the soil. Prior to modern times, our ancestors consumed enough B12 from the vegetation since they didn’t wash it before eating like we do now. Animals get their B12 in the same manner–they eat the grass and vegetation that has a bit of soil on it containing B12.

Because this nutrient is so important (and because as I was researching I found so much I wanted to talk about) I’ve decided one post isn’t enough and I am making a mini-series to discuss everything you need to know about B12.

B12 is essential since all cells in the body need it.  The first effects of it are seen in the blood and nervous system. Megaloblastic anemia, characterized by large red blood cells, is a common result of deficiency. A patient even with severe deficiency can tolerate the low red blood cell count which can always be cured by taking small amounts of B12. You only need 3-5 micrograms a day but your chances of getting anemia from being deficient is less than one in a million.

Additionally, it has been observed that B12 can be recycled by the body for up to 20 or even 30 years (assuming you don’t consume any more during that time). However, it is very unlikely that you’d be able to completely avoid it for that long. So many foods these days are fortified with it. Though there are recommendations that if you’re on a whole food plant-based diet that you should be supplementing it after three years. This is because even an omnivore can be deficient in B12. If you start off deficient when switching to a vegan diet a supplement can immediately correct this deficiency. It’s best to get your blood tested first, and then decide whether supplementation is necessary.

Most of the time though the deficiency is related to intestinal diseases and not the diet. But again, the chances are one in a million of  developing a disease from being deficient.

Next up, I’ll talk about the best vegan sources for getting your B12.

xoxo Rachel

Do We Require Animal Protein?

Anytime I so much as yawn at the office, my coworkers quickly jump to the conclusion that I’m tired because I lack animal protein. I know it’s all in jest, but I think some of them really are trapped in that belief that you need it to be healthy.

So what’s the deal with protein anyway? Well there are 9 essential amino acids, meaning they can’t be produced by our bodies. We must acquire them through our food. They are histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine.

According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) Position 2016, “Vegetarian, including vegan, diets typically meet or exceed recommended protein intakes, when caloric intakes are adequate.” This means that as long as you’re eating enough calories, you will consume enough protein. So don’t starve yourself.

A common misconception is that plant proteins are not complete, or that we have to combine proteins in meals to adequately absorb the complementary proteins. The AND states,

“The terms complete and incomplete are misleading in relation to plant protein. Protein from a variety of plant foods, eaten during the course of a day, supplies enough of all indispensable (essential) amino acids when caloric requirements are met.”

So you don’t have to try to get all of the essential amino acids in one meal. Even the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention agrees with the AND that humans do not need to eat certain proteins together to receive adequate nutrition. As you may have seen in this post where I showed everything I ate in a day, I easily met my protein requirements.

So which plants do I eat to get my proteins? Well, all plants have protein, but here are some sources with a higher concentration:

And it should be mentioned that even with plant protein more does not necessarily mean better. Excess protein calories do not magically turn in to muscles. The Recommended Dietary Allowance for protein for an average adult is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight. To find your average individual need, use this calculation:  body weight (in pounds) x 0.36 = recommended protein intake (in grams)

That should be more than enough to build and maintain muscle mass for the average person. Be weary of consuming too much protein as excess puts a strain on your kidneys and puts you at risk for kidney stones.

As for animal protein, there are many risks associated with consuming it. Animal protein triggers the release of the cancer-promoting growth hormone IGF-1 while plant proteins bring levels down. Consuming meat in general is also linked with heart disease and strokes, increased insulin levelsinflammatory arthritisfertility issues in women and the risk of inflammatory bowel disease. The list goes on. And it is frightening.

So do yourself a favor and ditch the meat.

Also, (pointed-comment-at-my-coworkers-who-are-not-even-reading-this) protein is not a source of energy unless you are starving. The majority of the body’s functions run on glucose which I easily obtain from my high carb diet. So no, I’m not tired because of my lack of animal protein, I’m tired because of your lack of understanding of it.  😛

xoxo Rachel