Enjoy being you™
There’s a lot of talk about plant based diets, most often supported and promoted by vegetarians, vegans, raw foodists, and some health coaches and professionals. But what is it exactly?
Plants. Sounds simple enough – but is that it? Do we just eat plants? Because I think of my balcony garden when I hear ‘plants’ , and ‘salad’ when I read ‘plant-based diet’. Kind of sounds like deprivation, no flavour, and disappointment at meal times. Any body with me? Don’t get me wrong I love salad, and my veggies, but is that it…forever?
Before I get heated emails explaining that plant-based eating isn’t just salad, please be advised I do know that it is more than that. Let’s discuss…
Despite being marketed as meat-free, vegan, vegetarian, and/or excluding most meat and dairy – I’d like to present an alternative option.
You see, to me, a plant based diet is exactly that. BASED on plants. If it was vegan, vegetarian or another – it should just say so. Forks Over Knives, Food Choices – these documentaries promote a plant based diet yet, Forks Over Knives says:
“The program is based on whole or minimally processed plants, primarily fruits, vegetables, whole grains, tubers, and legumes. It excludes or minimizes animal-based foods such as meat (including poultry and fish), dairy, and eggs, as well as refined foods like bleached flour, refined sugar, and oil.”
That’s not plant based. That’s pretty much just plants only. Plus I’m glad they clarified the refined foods part – as most junk food and processed foods aren’t heavily animal based… (chips, doughnuts, cake, pastries, soft drink, biscuits, etc……..they’re pretty much plant based!).
Ok so, a plant based diet is good for all of us. Fruits and vegetable are rich in plant nutrients that help to keep us well, and functioning optimally. But being plant based does not mean no meat, no chicken, no pork belly (if you desire). It’s serving that meat or vegetarian source of protein, WITH plants. And lots of them.
No matter what diet you try, or meal guide you buy, or weight loss product you read about (or try) – they all make you do one thing to be ‘effective’ = eat MORE fruit and vegetables. They should make up the bulk of your diet. Absolutely.
It’s not hippy to eat salad. It’s not macho to eat a burger. I’ve seen 3 year old girls eat a burger and steroid-fuelled weight lifters digging into salad. Scrap the stereotypes your family gave you, your friends gave you, your bully at school gave you. Fruit and vegetables are the basis of any healthy diet around the world and they will help save you from horrible, expensive chronic diseases that are currently plaguing our lives.
A sign of the times
Low fat, high-fat, low-carb, high-carb, and high-protein all had their day, and avid followers are still around. We’ve been teetering and tottering with macronutrients for decades and still for the most part, reach the same frustrated conclusion from studies and health professionals – everything in moderation. Whilst this is a nice succinct way to sum up a healthy eating guide. It leaves us a little lost as to “what to do now?”. We like guides, a check list, and a sense of accomplishment. A pat on the back, a looser fitting skinny jean and a personal best in the gym. Who doesn’t enjoy being complimented for eating healthy, sticking to a ‘diet’ and getting results (albeit usually short-lived)?
In our attempt to find the one aspect of food that is ‘failing’ us, making us fatter and more miserably unwell, we gave up a little on the macronutrients (protein, fat and carbs). We’ve looked at the Glycaemic Index (GI), good and bad fats, and complex vs simple carbohydrates, further uncovering how complex and intricate food and it’s relationship with our body really is.
But what the hell is low GI?
How do we easily find out what foods are low GI? This stuff isn’t common knowledge, and it’s complicated. Who has time for that? Personally, I aim for a diet that’s low GI and I appreciate all the hard work researchers do on the subject. But we need an easy to follow guide to make eating low GI a daily habit (maybe I should create one for us!). There’s the Low GI symbol you see on food packets, but that doesn’t help those of us that want to have a diet predominately filled with wholefoods, without labels. If you have some spare time you can check individual foods here. A great tool, but time consuming.
‘Good’ and ‘bad’ fats. A topic recently dividing health professionals and the public. I’ll keep it simple on this one. The bottom line here is: fill your plate with foods, not oils. Choose the right oils for the right temperatures and have a variety of fats.
Now fat is out of the way, what about protein and carbohydrate sources? This is where personal trainers and fitness enthusiasts usually chime in – “low carb, high protein, meat, meat, meat, forget about wheat!!” At least that’s how media portrays it.
Eating paleo is a meat fest though, no?
No, it doesn’t have to be and it shouldn’t be – cause that wouldn’t be balanced now would it. It does exclude a hefty number of food groups, but this diet can still provide the nutrients your body needs if done correctly. Plus, no-one wants the side effects of a meat only diet – bad breath, bloating, constipation, gas that you’d warn your worst enemy to leave the room for. Not pretty. Protein should be moderate to high, lean sources for the most part, and unprocessed. See my post on additives here.
This leaves us with carbs. Often left off the plate for quick weight loss, with good reason – carbs break down to glucose and some gets stored in our muscles. It also brings along its friend water. Hence the rapid weight loss when your body burns your stores when its food supply gets cut off. That ‘weight’ is mainly water, and your body is ready and waiting to add it all back once your done with your fad diet. And be honest, you don’t really want to avoid every carb on the planet for the rest of your life right? There’s way too many nutrients and benefits from eating the nourishing sorts!
Ah sugar. We’ve managed to whittle our attack on food all the way down to these tiny molecules. Currently known as “poison” and “the devil”, there are many misconceptions running around and as a result, misinterpretations. When I think of sugar, I picture a pile of little white granules packed full of energy, and nothing much else. It’s sweet, but not the kinda sweetness you need in your life. White ‘table’ sugar is sucrose. Sucrose breaks down to glucose and fructose in the body. This is the one Dietitians and health professionals want people to omit as much as possible. It’s just empty energy, and too much contributes to cavities, rapidly raises your blood sugar and contributes to inflammation in the body – think chronic disease, weight gain, dull skin, and acne.
The refining process
There’s many refined sugars out there – high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), corn syrup, golden syrup, icing sugar, table sugar, etc. Refining an ingredient typically means stripping it of most of its beneficial parts and altering it in a way that it may function differently in a food. For example fats that are hydrogenated. These fats undergo a chemical change in their molecular structure making the fat stay firmer at room temperature. In the process, it can also create some trans fats – these ones are pretty heavily regulated to minimally exist in the Australian food supply due to its nasty ability to increase our risk of heart disease. In the case of sugar, the whiter it is, the more nutrients have been removed. Brown sugar contains varying amounts of molasses, the darker it is, the more molasses.
Molasses is naturally found in sugar cane, but is the ‘by-product’ of the refining process to make table sugar. The molasses extracted from the third boiling of the sugar syrup is called blackstrap molasses. This is one you want. It contains iron, calcium, manganese, copper, potassium, magnesium, B6 and selenium. Plus it’s low GI – yay! If molasses doesn’t tickle your tastebuds, there’s also an abundance of natural sugars still retaining nutrients including – honey, 100% maple syrup, fruit and my personal baking favourite, coconut sugar.
The F word
Fruit. Gasp! I mentioned the forbidden ‘F’ word. For those of you cutting out fruit for the simple idea that fructose is evil, perhaps you should think again. Yes, studies of extremely high doses of fructose in rats have shown a negative effect on the liver, and potential for inducing similar diseases in humans: heart disease, non-alcoholic fatty liver and diabetes. But there are gaps in the research that are currently preventing most Dietitians to change their stance on the topic. Some of the studies showed the same negative effect on the liver with a high fat diet alone, and hardly any top-quality controlled research trials on humans exist (to no-ones fault; this topic has only begun making headlines in the last couple of years!). Most of the research that is available comes from observational comparisons of high vs low intakes of sugar sweetened beverages and excessive intakes of HFCS – a sweetener used widely in America. Australia doesn’t have many products with HFCS.
A potential solution?
We are however eating too many processed foods with high sugar contents; sugary drinks and not enough whole foods. Herein lies my issue with banning fruit. Not even half of Australian women and men are eating the daily recommendation of 2 serves of fruit! We’re eating all the other sugary processed foods instead! Banning fruit and honey because they are high in fructose is not the answer to your health woes (unless you have hereditary fructose intolerance!). May I suggest we keep the fruit, the occasional spoonful of honey, and cut out the unnecessary soft drinks, sugary packaged goods, and keep an eye out for HFCS on our labels? After all, fruits are packed full of vitamins and minerals that help keep us beautiful and our body functioning well. Have your two a day, and skip the rest.
I watched this earlier this evening with such an interest. The title itself sums up the state of the current population. We’re eating more. But we’re nourishing less. We’re choosing the wrong foods, by choice, and also because of a lack of access to better foods. We try and counteract this by chemical drugs, pills, potions and quick fixes, without correcting the underlying issue. The food we eat and what we drink on a daily basis.
These make a nutritious treat if you prefer to gift chocolates made by your own hands.
Contains antioxidants, calcium, fibre, healthy fats, and protein. They’re a step up from your regular supermarket chocolate truffles.
If you don’t like peppermint, just leave it out. Add something different like cinnamon, goji berries, inca berries, crushed roasted hazelnuts, crushed coffee beans etc etc. I’ll leave that up to your imagination!
Don’t like shredded coconut? Simply replace it with extra almond meal.
Gluten Free. Paleo (if occasional dark chocolate allowed in your diet). Vegan. Raw (filling), Low Fodmap (1 piece). Dairy free and refined sugar free if you use an alternative dark chocolate for the coating.
1 cup shredded coconut
4 tbsp cacao
3 tbsp almond meal
1/2 tbsp chia seeds
1/2 tbsp coconut flour
1/2 tbsp cacao nibs
2 1/2 tbsp maple syrup
2 tbsp coconut oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
2-3 drops of peppermint oil (adjust to your taste)
Pinch of sea salt
1/8 cup chopped dark chocolate chunks (Optional. I used Green and Black’s Dark 85%, chopped into small pieces)
60g dark chocolate (I used the rest of Green and Blacks 85%)
Mix all filling ingredients together in a bowl.
Roll into balls. If too dry add a little water, if too wet, add a little more coconut flour or almond meal.
Place in the fridge to firm for about 30 minutes.
In a metal bowl, over a pot of boiling water, gently melt the chocolate for the coating. Line a tray with baking paper that will fit in the fridge. Once melted, remove the filling from the fridge.
Roll each truffle into the chocolate and place on the tray. Leave some chocolate for the drizzle.
Once all of them are well coated, place back in the fridge to set the coating.
Fill a small piping bag, or ziplock bag with a small nip in one corner with the remaining melted chocolate. Once the chocolate coating is set, remove from fridge. Pipe the chocolate drizzle over the truffles. Store in the fridge to set again.
As the chocolate coating has been tempered (if you’re using Green and Blacks or another shelf-stable chocolate), they should last outside the fridge quite well. Mine never lasted that long!
Enjoy and Happy Easter!
“Eating fat makes us stupid”. Here’s why you shouldn’t freak out over this article doing the rounds.
Last Updated: April 28, 2017.
Two years ago now I had some pretty stressful times. Life kept giving me a big scoop of difficult, over and over. But I got through. What copped a beating though, was my digestive system.
Chronic high stress and not having the time to look after myself with proper nutrition and exercise made my bearable IBS turn into full blown ‘can’t ignore the signs’ stomach troubles. My IBS now had a companion – fructose malabsorption.
My skin broke out, my nails were tearing and frail, I looked tired, I had trouble sleeping, I was emotionally unstable, I’d bruise easily and they would take ages to heal, and I lost weight (not the good kind – the kind where my brother told me my head looked a bit big for my body!).