Vegetarian Diets and Health: the Voice of Science Needs to be Heard

Are vegetarian diets the key to healthy aging, or could they be a risk to those who adopt them? These questions are a source of confusion for the general public, and for many scientists too. Why? Nutrition is a complex discipline and it struggles to provide simple answers to issues as broad as the relationships between a range of dietary practices and health outcomes. Are vegetarian diets good or bad? Can we tweet the answer in 140 characters or less?

You can add to this intrinsic problem the general trend of society, with less-qualified messengers relaying information that is fragmented and often biased, misinterpreted or indeed uninterpretable. Many views are advanced, but few reflect any consensus between experts, in particular those from national advisory committees (e.g., in France and the USA) and international initiatives. Even reliable media may highlight a particular study without referring to the hundreds that preceded it.

Our diet and the clash of politics and philosophy

In this general context, why is vegetarianism subject to so many radically opposed points of view? It’s because the subject is highly politicised and a major societal debate. Pure science is not fashionable, and cannot be heard above the din of clashing and frequently uninformed views. It is a subject that involves too many political and philosophical issues. There are two reasons for this, one intrinsic and the other circumstantial.

Let’s begin with the second reason. Consumption of animal protein has doubled since the World War II, but today questions are being raised about the food model of industrialised societies – they are seen as having degraded public health and being unsustainable, particularly in the face of global warning.

From an intrinsic viewpoint, the underlying reason for our reluctance to deal with this issue is that the consumption of animal products has always been associated with our representations of the world. Vegetarianism is an “ism”. Religions and a number of philosophies have long maintained special relations with the consumption of animal products. To speak of eliminating meat from our diet is to bring into question the representation of Man in the universe. More practically, it is about the place of animals in society, a relationship that evolves alongside society. From societies in development, where animal products were costly but useful, and favoured by those with the economic resources, we have now entered an era where they’ve become objects of distrust and in some cases symbols of a societal model being called into question. The effect of animal products on the environment or on health, the fight on behalf of defenceless animals… our ethical and aesthetic views are evolving.

‘St. Hugh in the refectory of the Carthusians’. In the refectory, Saint Hugh found that the monks ate meat during Lent.Francisco de Zurbarán/Wikimedia

So should we be for or against animal products? The battle lines are being drawn. Even within the scientific community, rational thinking seems to disappear when the question is raised. But this subject is too important for scientific research to be ignored. Food transitions in western countries seem inevitable, and are in fact already under way. This raises two scientific questions: The first is not “Should we become vegetarian or vegan?” but “How can we become a vegetarian or vegan?” for those who wish to do so for personal reasons. “How” involves understanding the nutritional pitfalls involved and how they can best be avoided – in other words, what is the healthiest version of such a diet?

A scientific approach to diet

A scientific approach offers an opportunity to separate these questions from the surrounding debates. To achieve this, we need to address the issues rigorously and in their entirety, and that was the focus of our collective efforts. This book mobilised approximately 100 international academics, who produced 45 chapters looking at the subject from all analytical angles, positive and negative. It considers the whole spectrum of vegetarian diets and discusses their overall benefits with respect to health and disease risk, and also the nutritional problems that can potentially arise in those who consume them.

The book’s first part was designed to unravel the issue’s complex contextand reviews its different aspects so that readers can understand the whole picture. It focuses on the links between our dietary choices in favour of animal or plant sources and individual social and behavioural characteristics, indicating how these may vary as a function of cultures or religion in different parts of the world and how they are articulated in terms of nutrition transitions and other aspects of sustainability. We then seek to provide a comprehensive view of the relationships between plant-based diets, health and disease prevention by presenting different viewpoints and levels of analysis.

First of all, we describe the links between health and certain important characteristics of plant-based diets, with obvious reference to the consumption of fruits, vegetables and meat. There follow twelve chapters which analyse the relationships between plant-based or vegetarian diets and health and disease outcomes. The next section explains how these issues may differ, or be highly specific, in populations of different age or physiological status. The final eleven chapters take a detailed look at the nutrients and substances whose intakes are related to the proportions of plant or animal products in the diet. By focusing at the nutrient/substance level, these chapters echo the section dedicated to the links between broad dietary characteristics and health, thus reflecting the different viewpoints offered by the book.

While we cannot summarise all 900 pages of the book, this inventory provides a good overview on the transitions that are under way and offers some interesting examples. Based on the scientific literature available, it is clear that a diet predominantly based on plants is associated with many health benefits for the general population. However, considerable attention should be paid to diets that exclude certain product categories, because such exclusions could have significant nutritional consequences for certain consumers.

For example, for adults, a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet – in other words, one excluding meat and fish – should be properly managed but does not pose many problems, from a nutrient standpoint, while a vegan diet in children is a completely different matter. In short, those who wish to adopt a new diet should not simply stop eating meat, fish or other animal products, but instead review their overall dietary intake in depth. In vulnerable populations such as children, vegan diets must be monitored by health professionals if implemented by parents who are not fully aware of the major nutritional constraints involved. More generally, a “flexitarian” diet should provide health benefits, but once again we should not give in to simplistic shortcuts and recipes.

One such shortcut is “just eat less meat and other animal products”. No. First, there is no “just do it” in the complex field of nutrition. Second, if you eat less of one thing, you will eat more of something else. And if you simply eat more of what now constitutes your diet, it is very unlikely that this will lead you in the right direction. For example, a marked reduction in animal-product consumption must be accompanied by an increase in protein-rich plant foods, such as legumes. Another shortcut is “Just eat plant-based foods”. But a diet made up of chips, ketchup, sodas, sugar-packed breakfast cereals and processed white bread covered with hazelnut spread is predominantly plant-based. Indeed, these foods could even be labelled “vegan”. But it’s self-evident that such a diet shouldn’t be adopted, particularly given that it will not be associated with any health benefits.

On the other hand, a diverse and predominantly plant-based diet made up of fruits and vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds and whole grains and rich in raw products will be good for you. From a nutritional point of view, the elimination of animal products is not useful in and of itself, and indeed complicates the situation because they can supply important nutrients. However, animal products should be put in their place, which is clearly at not the base of the food pyramid. A predominantly plant-based diet would be healthier, as well as more sustainable.


Sorry Vegetarians — Eating Meat Is Good for You, Study Suggests

Salmon Cakes with Smoked Salmon

 

Meat-eaters, rejoice! In the battle of Eating Meat vs. Vegetarian, meat reigns supreme. To be clear, we take zero issue with vegetarians. It’s just meat-eaters definitely get a bad rap and well, it stinks. Sometimes you just want to eat a bacon cheeseburger in peace without feeling like you’re making some sort of grandiose political statement. It’s not that complicated, people. Omnivores were the best dinosaurs and as it turns out, the same applies to humans.

A new study from the Medical University of Graz in Austria discovered that low intake of saturated fat and cholesterol, as a result of a higher intake of fruits, vegetables, seemed to carry a higher risk of cancer, allergies and mental health problems. As per to LadBible:

“Researchers matched 1320 subjects according to their age, sex, and socioeconomic status. These included 330 vegetarians, 330 who ate meat but still consumed a lot of fruit and veg, 300 regular eaters who ate less meat, and 330 heavy meat-eaters.

“Results indicated that despite the vegetarians drinking less alcohol and having lower BMI, they were still in worse physical and mental condition than their meat-eating counterparts. Subjects who ate less meat were also found to have adverse health habits, such as avoiding going to the doctors.”

Of course, more research needs to be conducted in order to yield conclusive results, but in the meantime, we’re going to enjoy our Chick-fil-A! We think the most interesting observation from this research is that vegetarians avoid going to the doctor. You’d think “health-conscious” people would be more likely to seek medical treatment, no?

We’re not suggesting you down a porterhouse steak for dinner every night, but the next time a vegetarian goes on a rant about “how that burger is going to kill you,” you might want to whip out the information you learned today.


What Is Ghee and Why Is It a Staple of Indian Health Care?

The next time you fry an egg, use ghee—the cooking butter of choice, thanks to it’s low smoke point. Unsplash/Caroline Attwood

Much like coconut oil and bone broth, ghee is a multi-hyphenate: think cooking BFF, snack o’dreams (Kourtney Kardashian reportedly eats it by the spoonful), and skin transformer. This centuries-old Ayurvedic staple is also a digestive powerhouse. “Ghee is rich in butyric acid, a short chain fatty acid that promotes a positive immune response within the body, to support healing of inflammation and optimal digestion,” Natural Food Chef Danielle Shine told Observer. Which is all to say, that ghee is a “good” fat. And when fats are good, they are absorbed quickly in the body, making them a potent source of energy.

But how’s it made? Isn’t it just butter?

Ghee is cow’s milk butter transformed into a fat source by removing its water and milk proteins through a process of boiling, skimming and straining. Apart from being cited as a digestive cure-all, it’s also been touted as a salve for a plethora of emotional ailments. In the Ayurvedic community, ghee’s golden hues are considered as balancing to the body. In fact, the Susruta Samhita, a Sanskrit text on medicine and surgery, claims ghee is the remedy of remedies for problems stemming from the pitta dosha, namely chronic-disease inducing inflammation.

Famed LA-based Ayurveda practitioner Martha Soffer, the woman who converted Kardashian, told Observer that “ghee helps cultivate ojas, the subtlest essence of life, the connection between the physical and spiritual in our own bodies, and really, in Ayurveda, our own ultimate source of health and well-being.”

Fourth & Heart founder Raquel Tavares Gunsagar who’s dived into the making of artisanal gourmet flavored ghee—like white truffle salt, California garlic, and Madagascar vanilla bean—is at the forefront of the U.S ghee explosion. ”Ghee is an ancient butter gone modern. It’s like the, ‘where have you been all my life?’ of not only Indian healthcare but truly all of our healthcare. In fact, I’d say ghee is now being reinvented here in the U.S.,” she told Observer.

From a cooking standpoint, its low smoke point is significant. Scientists have long warned against the dangers of cooking with vegetable oils that release toxic cancer-causing chemicals. In numerous studies including a 2010 one on the Elevated Levels of Volatile Organic Carcinogen and Toxicant Biomarkers in Chinese Women Who Regularly Cook at Home, it was found that when an oil exceeded its smoke point, the number of toxic fumes increased significantly.

“This is crucial to remember when choosing a cooking aid,” Shine told Observer, “and ghee’s makes it a much safer choice when sautéing or frying foods.” Think of ghee then, as a superfood that not only has nutritional benefits, but also preventative ones. “Ghee is well on it’s way to becoming the cooking butter of choice,” says Tavares Gunsagar, “as not only is it an easy to use, versatile ingredient that’s shelf stable, it’s also dairy free which is perfect for those who are lactose intolerant.”

What’s more, ghee makes a case as a potent salve for massages, aches, and sprains according to the 5,000-year-old wellness tradition that is Ayurveda. Try using ghee to massage the feet to improve circulation, memory and emotional wellbeing. “Its high concentration of vitamins A, E, as well as carotenoids—antioxidants that boost the immune system and help to neutralize free radicals,  will help skin heal too,” says Shine.

The takeaway? Get experimenting! Stir its unctuousness into winter’s beautiful vegetable bounty, press it with buttery fingers into mashed avocado, or use a spoonful in your bulletproof coffee instead of coconut oil. And if you’re feeling daring, get au fait with Indian cuisine and see how it compliments the country’s most revered dish, dal.

Kayla Jacobs is a British New York City-based freelance writer who has previously written for Vogue, Tatler, Glamour, Refinery29, Conde Nast Traveller, The New York Times, Mindbodygreen, VF Agenda and Live The Process, among others. Follow her olfactory obsessed adventures on Instagram @kaylasthread.


Why you Can’t Meet Your Nutrient Needs on a Vegan Diet

Someone posted on FB today that she was horribly hungry no matter how much she ate on a vegan diet.  I experienced the same thing on a vegan and a vegetarian diet that I followed for 30 years.  I even went into therapy as a chronic over eater!  Turns out I was hungry because I was MALNOURISHED!  You cannot meet all of your nutrient needs on a vegan diet. You =can get closer on a vegetarian diet, bit not completely.

I went to 4 different sites online to see what they had to say about the subject. I took their recommendations for a daily intake on a vegan diet. They CLAIMED that these were 2000 a day meal plans!

Let me show you what I found!

Here was their suggestion;

image

When I plugged this info in to my Nutrition Program here was the results!

First of all it added up to 2980 CALORIES!!   AND at 52% calories from carbs it’s an easy way to gain weight. It also suggests a serving of soy in the form of Tempeh. Soy is highly toxic to the human body.  The other protein sources were beans and nuts.  These foods should be eaten in b=very limited amounts. The beans means you will always have gas, a sign of undigested food in the colon. This is a prescription for a clogged colon and an over growth of yeast.

So even at almost 3000 calories, did this way of eating meet your nutrient levels ?

NO, IT DID NOT!

First lets look at fats;

image  This pattern of eating WAY more ply and mono-unsaturated fats is the main reason so many recovering vegans have high blood pressure!   75% of the fats we take in each day need toi be saturated; coconut oil, butter or ghee (for the whopping amount of Vitamins in it!)   The entire immune system depends of saturated fat, so does hormone production, keeping the body hydrated, cell wall integrity, brain health.  You cannot produce a baby with a decent IQ without saturated fats.  Our low fat diets have lead to an epidemic in learning disorders and depression.

This high calorie intake only met 85& of calcium needs.

It only gave you 88% of Vitamin A

It only gave you 14% of Vitamin B12. YIKES!

And only 90% of niacin.

AND Zero Cholesterol.   Cholesterol is important in the diet as it is your best defense to aging!


Benefits of Broccoli: Eating More May Improve Your Gut Health


The Difference Between Saturated and Unsaturated Fats (and Why It’s Important)

raw butter

1. Eat enough fat. The proper amount is not going to make you fat, clog your arteries or give you cancer. The reason fat tastes so good is because your body needs it. Give your body what it needs.

2. Cook with saturated fats. They are the most heat-stable and will be relatively undamaged even with high-heat applications. Animal fats like lard and duck fat are actually mostly monounsaturated, this is a good thing. Coconut oil is great choices for all you vegetarians (but know that is not a nutrient dense as butter or ghee).

3. Monounsaturated for cold to low heat. Use these oils from vegetable sources for cold applications like salads, low heat applications like pouring over hot vegetables or, if you like, for light sautéing. Extra virgin olive oil is great, full of phytonutrients and antioxidants, but don’t waste it by overheating it.

4. Polyunsaturated for cold use. These oils are really best as supplements. You can add some to your salad dressing or smoothie if you want to, but it’s not really necessary.  Never heat polyunsaturated oils. Yes, they are sold as cooking oils in the supermarket but these oils are very delicate and will be damaged by heat or by light or air exposure. There is no good reason to buy vegetable oils that are sold for cooking.

5A. Avoid hydrogenated fats outright. Check food labels diligently. Even if the product says “0g trans fats,” it still, by law, can contain up to 0.5 grams per serving. Considering the fact that food processors can designate serving size any way they like, these numbers are truly meaningless. Look for the word “hydrogenated” on ingredients lists. If it’s there, this food is plastic. Don’t eat plastic.

5B. Skip spreads. Since saturated fats are not harmful, there’s no reason to buy processed vegetable spreads that employ different tricks to imitate the properties of the real stuff. Hydrogenation, interesterification, and the use of thickeners and blending fats and oils are all employed to make something inherently un-spreadable into something apparently spreadable. Just go for the real thing – butter. Better yet, boil the butter to make it into ‘ghee’ – it’s more stable, is free of dairy proteins and lasts outside of the fridge for months.

To sum it all up, names are more for convenience. Remember that no fat is entirely saturated, monounsaturated, or polyunsaturated. Every fat source is a mixed bag of all these types. We refer to animal fats as “saturated” and vegetable oils as “polyunsaturated” as a kind of shorthand. But many animal fats actually have more monounsaturated than saturated fats. Even olive oil contains some saturated fat and you can get omega-3s from butter. Remember not to take these labels as gospel. Good fat is good, bad fat is bad. There is still the need to be vigilant in what we eat, including avoidance of over-processed, nutrient-depleted faux foods and meat and dairy from sick animals. Choose fresh, choose organic choose 100% pasture raised and choose local. Avoid processed anything.


Why Researchers Recommend Eating Avocado Every Day (Yay!)

avocado-healthy-food-ingrediants-lemon-spinach

A new review of studies provides more evidence that the creamy fruit can protect against diabetes and heart disease. 

Amanda MacMillan

April 12, 2017

Here is some very good news for guacamole lovers everywhere: A new review of scientific literature suggests that eating avocado is a simple (and delicious!) way to prevent metabolic syndrome. Dubbed “the new silent killer,” metabolic syndrome is the term used to describe a combination of three or more risk factors for heart disease and diabetes (think high blood pressure, high triglycerides, and large waist circumference, for example). 

The review, conducted by Iranian researchers and published in the journal Phytotherapy Research, looked at 129 previously published studies examining the effects of avocado consumption on different components of metabolic syndrome. Most of the studies involved the fleshy part you’re used to eating, but some also included avocado leaves, peels, oil, and seeds, or pits.

The researchers concluded that avocados have the most beneficial effects on cholesterol levels, and that consumption of the creamy fruit can influence several different measurements: LDL (bad) cholesterol, HDL (good) cholesterol, triglycerides, total cholesterol, and phospholipids.

That’s not all, though. “The lipid-lowering, antihypertensive, antidiabetic, anti-obesity, antithrombotic, antiatherosclerotic, and cardioprotective effects of avocado have been demonstrated in several studies,” wrote the authors, and most of those studies recommend eating the fruit on a daily basis. In other words, avocados can help fight pretty much every aspect of metabolic syndrome.

 

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“This is just yet another study to show that avocados truly deserve superfood status,” says Health’s contributing nutrition editor, Cynthia Sass, RD, MPH. Sass was not involved in the review, but says it includes an “impressive range of studies.”

Sass points out that avocados can help stave off belly fat, the most dangerous type of fat to carry. And even though they’re high in (healthy) fat compared to other fruits, it’s hard to go overboard and eat too much. “Fortunately avocado is very satiating,” she says. “It’s almost like they have a built-in stop-gap.”

Research also shows that people who eat more avocados weigh less and have smaller waists than those who don’t, even when they don’t consume fewer calories overall. “This is yet another example of how not all calories are created equal,” Sass says.

RELATED: 18 Superfoods for Your Heart

Plus, avocados are a good source of antioxidants, fiber, vitamins, and minerals, in addition to their heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. And, as the review notes, they’re generally safe and better tolerated than  medications.

Want to add more avocado to your regular diet? Besides using the fruit to make guacamole and super-trendy avocado toast, you can also whip it into smoothies, add it to omelets and salads, and—with a little seasoning—use it as a topping for sandwiches, soups, fish, chicken, pizza, you name it. Avocado can even be used as a replacement for butter in baking recipes, and its creaminess makes it a good base for desserts like ice cream and pudding. (For more ideas, check out 25 Amazing Avocado Recipes for the Avo-Obsessed.)

“If you’ve never tried avocado in these ways, trust me, you’ll love it,” Sass says. “Avocado blends well with both sweet and savory ingredients, and provides the satisfaction factor that makes dishes decadent. Incorporating more avocado into your diet is like having your cake and eating it too!”

Oh, and while the study looked at several parts of the plant, Sass recommends sticking with the flesh for now. “We don’t yet know enough about the safety of eating pits and peels,” she says.