Going plant based. Being vegetarian. Full on Vegan. If you yourself has not tried it, I guarantee someone you know has. There is a sweeping movement in recent years that is taking many in search of a healthier life down this path. But is it healthier or is it going to leave your body starving for nutrients that are not just wanted, but essential? I myself tried this out a few years back. Here are few major pitfalls and the one food that may save you.
If you are going to a plant-based diet/ vegetarian/vegan lifestyle, even if it is just for a short time, the most important thing to keep I mind is the base of these- plants! Many people mistakenly take this as just eliminating meat and end up consuming mass amounts of processed meat-free foods that are laden with sugar and junk. If you look at this lifestyle as just meat free it is really easy to be vegetarian and have a very poor diet. Eat your veggies and keep the processed, sugary junk out of there! Thats just my two cents...
The second thing that you have to take into consideration is protein and essential amino acids. Our bodies require 9 different essential amino acids to operate healthfully and happy. What is the only food source that has all 9 ready, bio-available for us to consume?- Meat! 🍖 So what do you do to get these if you are not consuming meat? This is something you do need to be aware if you want your body to get what it needs healthfully- which for many is the reason they wanted to be plant- based in the first place.
"Effects of deficiency
Protein deficiency has been shown to affect all of the body's organs and many of its systems, including the brain and brain function of infants and young children; the immune system, thus elevating risk of infection; gut mucosal function and permeability, which affects absorption and vulnerability to systemic disease; and kidney function. The physical signs of protein deficiency include edema, failure to thrive in infants and children, poor musculature, dull skin, and thin and fragile hair. Biochemical changes reflecting protein deficiency include low serum albumin and low serum transferrin." Read more about the details and super geeky science stuff 😁 at (Wikipedia: Essential amino acid)
Many people suggest getting their essential amino acids through combining different sources. Most believe you can mix and match, just making sure your total diet combines all 9 at one time or another on a regular basis. "Research indicates that eating plant food combinations over the course of the day, not just at one meal, can provide all the essential amino acids needed," Livestrong.com. To learn more about food combining and what to look at for this is a good article, Food Combining for Vegetarians.
More on nutrients and healthfull protein sources...
Despite the name of this video, this is not an anti vegan video. It is actually a great video on some of the big things to look out for when you are going vegan/ vegitarian/ plant-based and how to stay healthy when you do it. It also makes you think about what you eat on any diet and are you getting what you need in order to fuel your body. I found it to be a great listen.
This video does contain some language that may not be suitable for little ears, ie. they drop the f-bomb. If there are little ones present grab your headphones or if this ain't your cup of tea feel free to skip it.
But I am not plant based/ vegitarian/ vegan. Why would I write this article? One, is I did the plant based thing a few years ago not knowing this. I followed the 'health' craze, did it wrong, got hooked on sugar (something I had never really craved before) and sent myself down a very unhealthy spiral of weight gain, thyroid issues, sugar crashes and God knows what else going on inside me. I even had dental problems for the first time ever! I do think you can be plant based more healthfully, just not the way I did it. The second reason is because I wanted to talk about This other amazing food that can be a part of everyones diet- plant based, primal, paleo, clean eating alike depending on your body and diet...
"Quinoa is considered a pseudo-grain because it is cooked and eaten like grains and has a similar nutritional profile; however, technically speaking, quinoa is a seed. It contains protein and minerals and is considered highly nutritious, according to Purdue University. In addition, quinoa is a complete protein because it contains all the amino acids -- the building blocks of protein. It's higher in calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, iron, copper, manganese and zinc than some other grains such as wheat and corn." Livestrong.com
Because of its profile, many people who would otherwise not eat grains (my fellow paleo people) actually can do quinoa and feel great. Not all, but many. It provides a fiber source in a diet not usually abundant with traditional fiber and can fill a void where other grains may have left off when you cleaned out your pantry and tossed your gluten and carb/ sugar packed grains in the bin.
There are a few considerations to make when cooking quinoa for the best healthful results.
- Always wash/ rinse your quinoa before cooking. "The outer layer of the quinoa seed contains saponin, a coating that acts as a natural insect repellent. One advantage of saponin is less need for chemical pesticides yay👏🏻. The disadvantage of saponin is a ht potential for stomach upset and even damage to the lining of the small intestine, Kitchen Cures, Spring 2017 " I don't want this to scare you. Rinsing only takes a couple minutes, but can change everything when it comes to how you digest quinoa.
- All things in moderation. We talked about all the great nutrients Quinoa can provide, but it also contains quite a bit of carb content. One thing we often get confused about is eating for healthy nutrients and eating for weight loss may not always be the same thing. Carbs turn in to sugar in your body. If you are utilizing glucose to fuel your body as the majority of the world currently does a small amount (1/2 cup serving lets say) can provide energy and nutrients. An abundance of this little seed, or any carb when turned to sugar cannot get 'burned' as energy because we are only so efficient. Any extra turns into fat for safe keeping. We have only evolved so much and biologically our bodies think it needs to 'save it' for when the famine comes- only is never comes and we carry around our safe keeping spare tire for the next foreseeable future. Not exactly keto friendly. Again, I don't want to scare you, just all things in moderation.
Big Takeaways on quinoa
- Quinoa is a rare plant complete protein.
- It can provide essential amino acids where to those on diets that are absent of these basics (plant-based, vegetarian, vegan).
- It is a pseudo-grain or seed not technically a whole grain.
- Can provide nutrients and fiber in diets that don't typically eat grains (paleo, primal).
- Wash your quinoa before cooking to help with digestion.
- All things in moderation.
And the biggest takeaway as always....
....listen to your body and do what makes your body happy.
Resources for this article:
- Essential amino acid- Wikipedia
- Is Quinoa Allowed on a Paleo Diet- Livestrong.com
- Negative Health Consequences of a Vegan Diet- youtube
- Food Combining for Vegetarians- Livestrong.com
- Kitchen Cures, Spring 2017- sold on Amazon
- My studies and interpretations at The Institute for Integrative Nutrition 💕