Lose weight and live longer on a vegetarian diet.? From the Harvard Medical School Health Guides
There is a lot of attention being paid to switching to a plant-based diet. There are many published articles and recipes on plant-based diets to achieve a lower body index, lower blood pressure, and reduced risks for heart disease, diabetes, type 2, cancer, and longevity. Plenty of attention is being paid to the health benefits of those centenarians living in the Blue Zones, particularly ones that live in a plant-based environment as well as those with a more modified vegetarian approach. I suggest you search for more posts on these excellent topics on the “Blue Zones” on this blog or check at your local library.
If you’re thinking of going vegetarian but worried about making such a big change, there are several ways to try to see if you can manage a diet with less animal protein.
Here are some options:
- A flexitarian diet – meat is limited as a condiment and not considered the main attraction. Use vegetables, appetizers instead.
- Semi vegetarian diet (no red meat)
- Pescatarian – avoid meat and poultry but eat fish and seafood.
- Lacto -ovo -vegetarian – skip all meat, fish, and poultry but include dairy and eggs in your diet.
If you’re trying to lose weight -go heavy on fruits, vegetables, and whole grains but limit foods high in saturated fats (ice cream, whole milk, and cheese.) An important aspect of losing weight is often not what you eat – but how much you eat to keep daily calories in check. After all, vegan foods have calories, too. And some are not as healthy as they could be.
In the U.S. Standard diet (SAD) our meals and snacks are taking on gargantuan proportions. “The food industry decided they had to make portions larger to stay competitive and people got used to larger sizes very quickly. Today, normal sizes seem skimpy,” says Marion Nestle, PhD, MPH, Professor of Nutrition and Food Studies at New York University.
When eating out, the transition to a plant-based diet is easier than than you might think. Fill your plate with vegetables – cooked, raw, or in a salad. Check out the sides that are offered. Then gradually introduce all vegetarian meals once or twice a week and if you like, increase it until you are as “vegan” as you want to be. Try a few meals from a local vegan restaurant, then try a few on your own. You may be surprised. Bon Appetit!!
“So many people are confused about food; the eating plan of the moment changes and suddenly there are new rules to follow. But with plant-based eating, there is [more] freedom to eat what you want.” —Cassidy Gundersen, holistic nutritionist.
This article is quite long but worth reading to reflect on what type of food culture may be waiting for the future. Interesting topic!!
“Nearly 50% of food influencers are actively seeking more plant-based options. Major retailers are asking their suppliers for more plant-based products for their shelves and restaurants that have added vegan options to menus have seen an increase in business while the competition has struggled. These are all signs that point to plant-based being more than just a trend. It is a blossoming cultural movement and we are still in the earliest stages!”
Reference: Plant-based World Newsletter, 2021
Has anyone noticed the emphasis on plant-based food in the food magazines lately? Interesting!! Just saying – stay tuned. SJF (my opinion).
Do you feel guilty if you do not eat healthy foods? Most of us don’t but there are people who now comprise a group exhibiting a new eating disorder called orthorexia.
The following article by Mark Bittman may put this eating pattern in a reasonable perspective. The Bottom Line? Enjoy food but make healthy choices (most of the time). This philosophy as stated by Bittman is refreshing – Seems to resemble the traditional diet of the French – the Good Life Savored.
“Eating well is an integral part of their national heritage. To say the French know their food is an understatement and it has been said that even their children are serious “foodies” with two-hour multi course lunches (not uncommon in France)” – all this without guilt. Contrast that with the typical American with a quick drive-through grabbing a burger with fries and eating them in the car with some snacking throughout the day. The French also maintain their weight with little dieting, calorie counting or snacking.” They simply say: If you eat too much one day, cut back the next day. Pretty simple advice but it seems to work (at least for them).
Source: 30 Secrets of the World’s Healthiest Cuisines. by Steven Jonas, M.D, and Sandra Gordon.
Note: Obesity rates in France are among the lowest in Europe, but have been increasing steadily. The increase has been attributed to an increased adoption of the Western diet or Standard American Diet.
In France, almost 40% are overweight (including obese). You can contrast that with the U.S. at 70% (overweight and obese).
The new trend is to switch your eating habits to a more plant-based diet for health and the environment. Sounds good, however, there are some considerations to be aware of when it comes to obtaining the nutrients we need for optimum health. One of the most important is getting enough protein. Proteins are made up primarily of amino acids necessary for making body tissues, some hormones, and enzymes.
Animal products such as meat, eggs, and milk provide all the nine essential acids in sufficient quantity to qualify as complete sources of protein. Plant products such as quinoa and soy may also qualify. But most plant foods only provide some of the essential amino acids, but not all. Since these nine amino acids are not made by the body, they must be provided in the diet. If they are not available for protein synthesis, protein tissue synthesis ceases or is limited. They are not stored in the body for long so are used for energy instead.
Vegans eating no animal products can meet these needs by combining plant foods to yield complete protein. The goal is to eat a variety of plant foods regularly to provide all the nine essential amino acids necessary. Sources for protein for vegans include beans, peas, nuts, grains and soy products. Combinations to provide complementary amino acids to make a complete protein may include rice and black beans, hummus and bread, tofu and rice, a tortilla with refried beans (a burrito) and pea soup and bread.
Due to the rise in the recent marketing of plant-based burgers, here is the scoop from Harvard Health Publishing.
Plant -based diets are the newest trend in lifestyle medicine, although vegan diets have been with us for decades. Now there is some competition along with their gimmicks and do’s and don’ts that we have heard for years.
Nevertheless, these diets have a nutrition seal of approval as we attempt to give up the unhealthy Standard American Diet and good riddance to that. My favorite is the Mediterranean Diet as it is more balanced as far as flavor and taste is considered. It adds some meat as well as allows some wine in moderation. All of these diets are beneficial and plant-based diets have shown to have health benefits in research studies. Any diet must be able to be sustained and those diets that are highly restrictive don’t seem to be followed for long periods of time. You ideally should consider one of these diets as a plan you can follow as part of your new healthy lifestyle.
The debate will continue as to whether vegan diets can furnish all the nutrients we need. The following article discusses seven of them not abundantly found in plants and in some cases not found at all or not well-absorbed. Vegan diets and/or vegetarian diets can be healthy, but if you are considering veganism in any form, please become fully informed on some of the lesser known issues that need to be addressed.
We so often warn vegetarians that they need to find a reliable source of vitamin B12. However, iron is a nutrient that is assumed to be adequate in the vegan diet, but due to its bioavailability issues, it is often not enough to prevent an iron deficiency, especially in women and children. Iron deficiency is a disorder that results from a depletion of iron stores in the body. It is characterized by weakness, fatigue, short attention span, poor appetite, increased susceptibility to infection, and irritability.
How does iron function in the body?
- Oxygen enters the lungs.
- Oxygen attaches to iron in hemoglobin and myoglobin (found in red blood cells and muscle cells.
- Oxygenated hemoglobin transported in blood to body cells, drops off oxygen.
- Iron in hemoglobin then picks up carbon dioxide from cells and transports it to the lungs.
- Carbon dioxide is released from iron in hemoglobin
- Carbon dioxide is exhaled from the lungs.
This function of iron operates smoothly when the body’s supply of iron is sufficient. Unfortunately, that is often not the case. For example, a 3-ounce hamburger and a cup of asparagus both contain approximately 3 milligrams of iron, but 20 times more iron can be absorbed from the hamburger than from the asparagus. See the following article for why this occurs and what to do about it. Souce: Judith E. Brown, Nutrition Now, 7th edition