Vegan for Mortals

A Plant Based User's Guide

 
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Why Go Vegan

Dabbling in vegetarianism for about ten years I ate mainly plants, fish, chicken and turkey. And yes, every now and then I broke down and ate bacon. In May of 2013 I decided to stop eating poultry, and yes, finally bacon. My views moved from ethical motives to health motives.  Reading the health hazards of eating poultry turned me off of it completely and for the first time in my life I eliminated poultry from my diet. Dr Michael Greger of NutrtionFacts.org writes:  

Based on a study of more than 100,000 people, chicken consumption was associated with double the risk of bladder and pancreatic cancerBreast cancer survival rates have been found to improve when saturated fat intake (found predominantly in cheese and chicken) is lowered. And poultry has been associated with an increased risk of lymphoma (see also here).
Chicken has also become a high calorie and high fat food. One serving of chicken has over 200 calories today; 100 years ago a serving of chicken had only 16 calories. Cooking chicken until it is well done (to avoid the risk of food poisoning) creates carcinogens that increase the risk of cancer (see also here). And in a survey, TGI Friday’s chicken salad was found to be the most carcinogenic among fast food restaurant chicken dishes.

Dairy Overdose & Cancer Prevention

After a heavy 2013 holiday season and new year full of heavy creams, cheeses, and dairy based meals, my body was screaming to stop. I spent the day after Christmas laying on the couch in pain only able to drink water and eat a little broccoli at the end of the day. I never wanted to feel that way again. So I thought I'd just cleanse my body for a week and go vegan. I started looking up vegan recipes and from those links I began to read about the health benefits of going plant based. Everything I read kept returning with the same theme: plant based diets can prevent and reverse illnesses, reoccurring ailments, and even aid in cancer defense. 

The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine writes

In 1970, British physician, Dennis Burkitt, observed that a high-fiber diet reduces diseases of the digestive tract. He observed that in countries where diets are high in fiber (that is, plant-based diets), there were fewer cases of colon cancer.

The Cancer Treatment Centers of America writes

Protein

 
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Nobody cares about your protein intake until you go vegan.

 

It's true. No one ever judged my protein intake until I told them I was vegan. A very common misconception with eating a plant based diet is that you won't get enough protein. Another very common misconception is that you won't get enough iron. I can absolutely say that you will absolutely get enough protein AND iron in your plant based diet if you eat a variety of whole fruits, vegetables, legumes, and grains. And when I say 'whole' I don't mean an entire apple or loaf of bread, I mean foods that are wholly natural - not full of additive ingredients or supplemental products. If you eat a bag of potato chips, yes they are vegan, but they are not a 'whole' food. If you eat a potato, that is a 'whole' food.

According to the Centers for Disease Control women ages 19-70+ need 46 grams of protein per day and men ages 19-70+ need 56 grams of protein per day.

So, I did the math. And this daily meal plan per serving contains 48.69 grams of protein. Just a bit more than the suggested amount recommended by the CDC. Throw in a snack of a 1/2 cup of raw almonds and that adds an additional 10 grams of protein bringing the total up to 58.69 grams.

Breakfast: Oatmeal & Banana - 7.3 grams protein

Lunch: Taco Salad - 26.72 grams protein

Dinner: Split Pea Curry - 14.67 grams protein

Kick the Oil Habit

 
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It's  Just Fat

Switching to a plant based diet means you still get to keep most oils you've already been cooking with. Vegetable, peanut, canola, extra virgin olive - all vegan and plant based. So when I switched to eating plant based I continued cooking with them. But after some research I personally decided to cut as much oil out of my diet as possible. My reason was that I was trying to focus on consuming a low fat, plant based diet.

Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, Director of the Cardiovascular Prevention and Reversal Program at The Cleveland Clinic, posts this on his website about oil:

The reality is that oils are extremely low in terms of nutritive value. They contain no fiber, no minerals and are 100% fat calories. Both the mono unsaturated and saturated fat contained in oils is harmful to the endothelium, the innermost lining of the artery, and that injury is the gateway to vascular disease. It doesn’t matter whether it’s olive oil, corn oil, coconut oil, canola oil, or any other kind.

HOW

It's actually pretty easy to cut most oils. Yes, I still use Vegenaise, which contains safflower oil, flax seed oil, and olive oil, and I still use Earth Balance Original Spread, which contains a natural oil blend of palm fruit, canola, soy bean, flax and olive oils, and sometimes I use Daiya Cheese, which contains safflower and coconut oil, but I use these sparingly. Maybe once a week in one meal. I also still eat foods with oil when I'm out to eat at a restaurant. Its hard to completely avoid, so I just give myself a break and do what I can in my own kitchen. The main changes are that I've stopped sautéing everything in extra virgin olive oil, I stopped baking with vegetable oil, I no longer spray oil on baking sheets, and I don't fry any foods. Instead, here's what I do:

SAUTÉ IN WATER OR VEGETABLE BROTH

It's cheaper than buying oils and I honestly cannot taste ANY difference. Its also much healthier. I'm cutting out 119 calories and a whopping 14 grams of fat (including 1.9 gram of saturated fat) per tablespoon.

USE APPLESAUCE INSTEAD OF OIL WHEN BAKING

I've actually been using this trick for years. Replace the oil in your baking recipes with the equivalent amount of applesauce. There are about 480 calories in 1/4 cup of vegetable oil and about 54 grams of fat. Replace that with applesauce and you've got only 41.5 calories and a scant 0.1 grams of fat. 

 

BAKE ON SILICON BAKING MATS

I LOVE these mats! They keep your pans from getting destroyed with stuck on food, I can easily bake foods like sweet potatoes without them sticking to the pan, and they're super easy to clean. Get these and you WON'T be disappointed. These mats have also completely replaced any oiling of a pan that I used to do. 

Resources

READ: The China Study by T. Colin Campbell - every beginning plant-baser needs to read this book. This book talks a lot about the science behind eating a plant-based diet and how important it is to preventing and reversing many diseases.

WATCH: Forks Over Knives - the recent documentary behind The China Study.