A Year of Being Plant-Based!

I cannot believe it has been a year already! I can’t remember the exact day we switched to being plant-based, but it was right around the time or shortly after we moved into our house which was late February 2016. I was sick and tired of being sick and tired so I decided to watch the documentary Forks Over Knives again (yes, I had seen it before and became mostly vegetarian but still ate dairy). This time it really sunk in and I decided to become plant-based that night.

We cleared out our fridge of all animal products. This was an easy task since we were mostly vegetarian (except for the occasional fish/sushi) so all we had to throw out was some cheese. Luckily (or not?), I had just finished off some yogurts so we didn’t have to waste too much food. But in reality, we didn’t really consider it food anymore. It is linked to so many diseases and isn’t food supposed to be nourishing? It felt good to just get rid of it rather than try to finish it or give it away. If it’s not good enough for us to consume, why would we give it to someone else?

I’ll admit that this year hasn’t been perfect. There was definitely a transition period where we had to figure out what foods were actually vegan. By the way, I use vegan and plant-based interchangeably but in case you’re not aware, plant-based is the diet aspect, and vegan is actually a lifestyle. However, vegan is the term used by society more often when it comes to the diet and is how companies market their products to let consumers know there are no animal products in them. Just so you know.

At home it was easy to be vegan since we knew exactly what was going in to our food. It was a great discovery of new and delicious foods. Who knew that vegan food was actually the tastiest?! Not even kidding. And it’s not restrictive in the sense that you can still have all of your favorite foods–just without the animal products. Do you love pizza? There’s vegan cheese for that! Do you love hamburgers? There’s vegan meats for that! And they are surprisingly realistic but without the saturated fat or cholesterol (and yes, you should still be concerned about dietary cholesterol regardless of what the dietary guidelines) Anyways, my point is I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything.

But back to the tastiest part. The flavors are so so good! You’d be pleasantly surprised. We make delicious curries, soups, stews, stir fries, burritos, pastas, sandwiches (like BBQ jackfruit “pulled pork”) and so much more (pics below)! It’s all about the sauce and spice you add. And your same favorite sauces/condiments are most likely vegan except for the obvious ones like ranch and mayo–but we have replacements for that too! I’m going to put together a page of my favorite vegan replacements in case anybody wants to try them out. So stay tuned!

Vegan Food Collage

As I said though, it hasn’t been perfect. When going out to eat there have been mishaps, but I try my best to stay vegan as much as possible. I didn’t realize how much cheese is on EVERYTHING. And how little knowledge of dairy people have. You can’t just say “no cheese,” you must say “no cheese, cream, butter, or anything with dairy in it” when ordering. There have been times when I was not specific enough and had something at a restaurant still have some sort of cheese or butter on it. If that happened, I tried not to beat myself up over it. I just knew better for next time. It’s always best to call ahead and ask if the restaurant can accommodate. Most of the time they are happy to make something special just for you! I usually tell them any egg-free pasta with a red sauce and veggies will work so they don’t have to go out of their way (most restaurants have some sort of pasta dish). On the plus side, Daniel and I usually go to asian restaurants which typically already have vegan options on their menu.  Score!

Overall, we cut down on going out to eat because most of the time our food at home tastes WAY better. Why go out to a restaurant when you love the food you make at home? It’s cheaper, and so delicious! And it’s actually pretty quick to throw together a vegan meal. No more waiting for meat to thaw and having to ensure that it is fully cooked. With veggies, you just cooked them to your preferred crunch-level. I prefer mine to still have a little crunch to them. You actually don’t want to overcook your veggies because it will break down the nutrients in them. Nutrients = Life

I FEEL so much better on this diet. Meat and dairy are hard on the body–they’re linked to 14 out of the 15 leading causes of death. They lack important nutrients that the body needs. And they’re full of death and disease. Why not eat an abundance of bright and colorful fruits and vegetables that provide the energy you need? I really do feel a difference in energy on a vegan diet. I don’t feel sluggish anymore. I also lost 5 pounds without trying! I will admit that I was a bit of a junk food vegan in the beginning too. I ate french fries almost every night. And even still, I felt better.

Now I’m working on being WHOLE FOOD, PLANT-BASED. This means cutting out the processed foods and oils. We don’t really cook with oil so that has been easy, but I am tempted by processed foods from time to time although my cravings are much more in control now than they were back then. My work provides lots of free snacks so veering away from them has been a bit of a struggle. I am working on being better prepared with snacks so that I am never tempted by hunger. I try to bring a banana, a Larabar (the only ingredients are dates and nuts!), or veggies with hummus.

I am also a part of the Nutritarian Women’s Health Study so as a part of that, I need to be better about not consuming processed foods. The Nutritarian diet focuses on nutrient-dense foods and eating lots of vegetables daily. The doctor behind the study recommends eating a pound of raw and a pound of cooked vegetables daily! If I’m properly doing that I shouldn’t have any room left for processed food! Additionally, the study recommends taking certain supplements to ensure no one is deficient in any nutrient since the purpose of the study is observing long-term health through a nutrient sufficient lifestyle. However, some people are unable to absorb enough nutrients through the diet so to ensure no one is deficient they require supplementing Vitamin D, B-12, DHA (omega-3 fatty acid). I have yet to supplement but am looking in to options now. They don’t recommend a multivitamin though as most contain folic acid and Vitamin A which have risks linked to them. Those should be, and can be, easily obtained through the Nutritarian diet.

Anyway, that is how my year has been! I am really satisfied with the changes I’ve made. I hope you’ll consider making similar changes. If ever you have a question, feel free to email me at healthmylifestyle@gmail.com.

And don’t forget to sign up to my mailing list so you don’t miss a single post! It’s delivered right to your inbox! 

xoxo Rachel


 

 

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:

VeganSafe

Spring Valley

MegaFood

Nature’s Bounty

Safeway

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