The roles of micronutrients in your immune function explained

immune vitamins

Your immunes system has an elaborate army of warriors that defend you against vicious pathogens. There are specialized immune cells, physical and chemical barriers, as well as antibodies that can specifically tackle familiar pathogens. However, when it comes to brand new enemies like the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, even this intricate system can fail.coronavirus

Every stage of the immune response is heavily dependent on the presence of micronutrients, including essential vitamins and trace minerals. “Micronutrient malnutrition” is when there are deficiencies and negative consequences on the body’s ability to combat infections. Unfortunately, micronutrient deficiencies are common worldwide, including industrialized countries. So we recommend that you regularly check in your micronutrient levels with a blood test and add supplements if needed.

Elderly people, children, immunocompromised people are among the high-risk populations amid COVID-19 crisis. They are also the ones that are most susceptible to micronutrient malnutrition and week immune systems. The Harvard Medical School notes that respiratory infections and particularly pneumonia are a leading cause of death in people aged over 65, calling for preventative micronutrient supplementations.

After reviewing the latest reviews of immune-boosting micronutrients published on the prestigious journals Nutrients and Frontiers in Immunology, we recommend adequate consumption of:

  • Essential Vitamins: vitamin A, B6, B9, B12, C, D, E
  • Minerals: Zinc, Iron, Copper, Selenium
  • Probiotics

Vitamins are natural compounds that carry out important biochemical functions in the body. If their concentration is reduced due to insufficient dietary intake, there can be a number of health consequences, especially weakened immunity. Albert Szent-Gyorgyi, the Nobel laureate for Physiology and Medicine, puts it this way: “A vitamin is a substance that makes you ill if you don’t eat it.”1

blueberries

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is known as an “anti-inflammation vitamin” due to its diverse roles in enhancing immune function.2 It is an integral part of the respiratory tract by promoting mucus secretion, thereby improving barrier function against infectious disease.

In addition, vitamin A is essential for the proliferation, maturation and aggregation of immune cells. Innate immune cells such as macrophages and neutrophils initiate immediate responses to an acute infection by engulfing infected cells. Vitamin A is indispensable for the production of these cells.

After the initial immune response driven by innate immunity, adaptive immune responses mediated by T cells kick in. Vitamin A continues to be an essential player by mediating T cell production, migration and its homeostasis in ongoing immune responses.

Vitamin A deficiency is closely related to infectious disease such as tuberculosis, HIV, measles and acute pneumonia. The World Health Organization (WHO) regards vitamin A deficiency as a serious public health concern for increasing the risks of mortality from infectious diseases.3 Supplementing vitamin A has demonstrated an effective therapeutic effect and is therefore recommended by the WHO.

Vitamin B complex

Vitamin B is not a single vitamin but consists of several different compounds including vitamin B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9 and B12. Several members play important roles in boosting immune functions, namely B6, B9 and B12.

Vitamin B6 is indispensable in the differentiation and maturation of white blood cells. Even marginal deficiency has been shown to impair antibody production, and the ability to respond to infectious challenge.4 Moderate supplementation helps to restore immunity and improve the available numbers of T cells. A higher dose of supplementation has been shown to improve immune response in critically ill patients.

Vitamin B9 is also commonly known as folate, an essential supplement for pregnant women. It maintains and enhances natural killer cell activity as well as antibody production.4 Deficiency can lead to an overall impaired immune response. Folate supplementation has been shown to increase innate immunity in elderly people.

Vitamin B12 is involved in fundamental metabolism in every cell of the human body, regulating DNA synthesis and T cell replication. Vitamin B12 deficiency is known to reduce immune response during viral and bacterial infections, partly by suppressing natural killer cell activity.5 Fortunately, supplementation has been shown to restore these adverse effects and are recommended amid coronavirus crisis.4

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is an essential micronutrient that cannot be synthesized or stored by the human body. As a result, daily intake of Vitamin C from your diet or supplementation is critical.

As a cofactor for a battery of gene regulatory enzymes, Vitamin C has multifaceted functions ranging from epithelial barrier protection against pathogens to overcoming oxidative stress.6

vitamin c

Source: Vitamin C and Immune Function, Carr & Maggini, Nutrients

Vitamin C deficiency is known to result in higher susceptibility to infections. In turn, infections further exhaust vitamin C due to enhanced inflammation and metabolic requirements.

A wealth of scientific studies has supported the supplementation with vitamin C to prevent and treat respiratory and systematic infections. In a systematic review of Vitamin C and immune function, the authors concluded that: “Prophylactic prevention of infection requires dietary vitamin C intakes that provide at least adequate, if not saturating plasma levels (i.e., 100–200 mg/day), which optimize cell and tissue levels.” If someone already has an infection, significantly higher doses of Vitamin C will be required to compensate for the increased metabolic demand imposed by the inflammatory response.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D3 is the most physiologically relevant form of vitamin D. It is synthesized in the skin in a process that requires sunlight. Unfortunately, many people are deficient in vitamin D due to inadequate sun exposure and requires supplementation.forest

Vitamin D is best known for calcium and bone homeostasis. However, it also acts on both innate and adaptive immune cells, including macrophages, dendritic cells, T and B lymphocytes.7 In fact, vitamin D was used to treat infections like tuberculosis before the advent of antibiotics.

Deficiency in vitamin D can lead to increased susceptibility to infections. A study of 19,000 subjects with lower vitamin D levels showed a higher likelihood of upper respiratory tract infection.8 Since COVID-19 is also a respiratory infectious disease, it is likely that those with lower vitamin D levels may have an immune disadvantage.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is a potent antioxidant that can protect cells from damages caused by oxidation. Notably, immune cells usually contain higher levels of vitamin E due to higher demand. There is a clear link between vitamin E deficiency and impaired immune function. Growing evidence also suggests that the current dietary guideline for vitamin E is inadequate.9

Supplementation has been shown to enhance proliferation of white blood cells, improve antibody levels and natural killer cell activity.10 A systematic review of scientific evidence supports the immunostimulatory effects of vitamin E in resisting infections such as pneumonia.

Zinc

Zinc is an essential trace mineral that is required for both innate and adaptive immune functions. An estimate of 30% of the world’s population has zinc deficiency. These individuals are likely to have reduced white blood cell proliferation, antibody response, natural killer cell and macrophage cell activity.9

Multiple studies have shown that supplementation with zinc can effectively reverses these impairments. It can reduce respiratory tract infections and mortality from infectious diseases. Several high-quality clinical trails have shown that zinc supplementation can protect children and the elderly population from common colds and pneumonia.

Copper

Copper accumulates in macrophages, the cells that engulf infectious agents. Copper also has antimicrobial properties that help destroy a range of invading microorganisms.4 In addition, copper can catalyze the formation of reactive oxygen species that are toxic to pathogens.

People who are deficient in copper have abnormally low neutrophil levels and reduced ability to engulf pathogens. Moderate supplementation can effective restore its function, but excessive supplementation can also be detrimental.

Iron

Iron has many critical functions in the body, including oxygen transport and fighting pathogens. For example, neutrophils require iron to generate reactive oxygen species for killing pathogens.4 T lymphocyte proliferation and cytokine production also require iron.

Iron deficiency supresses immune responses, leading to a reduced resistance to respiratory tract infection in children. Iron supplementation can effectively improve microbial killing and clearing of the infection.

vege iron

Selenium

Similar to copper and iron, selenium is also important for the proliferation of immunes cells, antibody production, and overall immunity.4 Its deficiency disrupts a number of cellular processes required for maximal immune response and increases the risk of respiratory tract infections in children. Supplementation has been shown to improve immune cell counts and enhance the immune response to viruses.

Probiotics

Probiotics are live microorganisms that improve gut flora and subsequently other body functions such as better immunity. The most known genera of probiotic supplements included Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium.

Apart from improving the physical gut barrier function, probiotics can also induce anti-inflammatory cytokines, promote T and B cell functions.9 These benefits can enhance resistance against respiratory and gastrointestinal infections.

gut health

Summary

In summary, micronutrients need to be maintained at optimal levels for acute establishment as well as maintenance of immune responses. If you can, get a blood test and see if you are deficient in any micronutrient. Eat a well-balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables, and supplement with immune-supportive micronutrients if needed.

Apart from these supplements, a good lifestyle is also essential. Make sure that you also:

  • Clean your hands
  • Get enough sleep
  • Manage your stress
  • Work out regularly

lifestyle

Online consultations available with accredited practising dietitian

To improve your immune functions, it is critical that you continue healthy habits including drinking plenty of water, good nutrition, sleep, and exercise.

We are here to provide knowledge on nutrition during this special period of time via online consultations. Please don’t hesitate to reach out for help! We are in it together.

lifestyle coronavirus

You can meet our plant-based, vegan dietitian Raymond here.

References

1            Mora, J. R., Iwata, M. & von Andrian, U. H. Vitamin effects on the immune system: vitamins A and D take centre stage. Nat Rev Immunol 8, 685-698, doi:10.1038/nri2378 (2008).

2            Huang, Z., Liu, Y., Qi, G., Brand, D. & Zheng, S. G. Role of Vitamin A in the Immune System. J Clin Med 7, doi:10.3390/jcm7090258 (2018).

3            Muhammad Farhan Aslam, S. M., Sidra Aslam, Jazib Ali Irfan. Vitamins: Key Role Players in Boosting Up Immune Response-A Mini Review. Vitamins & Minerals 6, doi:10.4172/2376-1318.1000153 (2017).

4            Gombart, A. F., Pierre, A. & Maggini, S. A Review of Micronutrients and the Immune System-Working in Harmony to Reduce the Risk of Infection. Nutrients 12, doi:10.3390/nu12010236 (2020).

5            Tamura, J. et al. Immunomodulation by vitamin B12: augmentation of CD8+ T lymphocytes and natural killer (NK) cell activity in vitamin B12-deficient patients by methyl-B12 treatment. Clin Exp Immunol 116, 28-32, doi:10.1046/j.1365-2249.1999.00870.x (1999).

6            Carr, A. C. & Maggini, S. Vitamin C and Immune Function. Nutrients 9, doi:10.3390/nu9111211 (2017).

7            Aranow, C. Vitamin D and the immune system. J Investig Med 59, 881-886, doi:10.2310/JIM.0b013e31821b8755 (2011).

8            Ginde, A. A., Mansbach, J. M. & Camargo, C. A., Jr. Association between serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D level and upper respiratory tract infection in the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Arch Intern Med 169, 384-390, doi:10.1001/archinternmed.2008.560 (2009).

9            Wu, D., Lewis, E. D., Pae, M. & Meydani, S. N. Nutritional Modulation of Immune Function: Analysis of Evidence, Mechanisms, and Clinical Relevance. Front Immunol 9, 3160, doi:10.3389/fimmu.2018.03160 (2018).

10          Lee, G. Y. & Han, S. N. The Role of Vitamin E in Immunity. Nutrients 10, doi:10.3390/nu10111614 (2018).

What should you know about coronavirus

Why is coronavirus a serious threat and what you can do

The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is our latest global public health emergency that is spreading at a concerning rate. But the most confusing thing is that different countries are giving out completely different advice.

China: Nationwide lockdowns and cancelations of events, strict social distancing and home guarantee, face marks are essential, strict tracking of contacts and quarantine status

Australia: Starting to cancel events but few facilities are closed, social distancing and hand sanitizers are recommended, but face mask is not recommended to people who are well

Netherland: Just let the virus infect enough people so it will die out because of herd immunity…

Most western countries are acting much less strict than Asia. For citizens like us, we need to realize that each country’s guidelines have to largely depend on the politicians. There is a tendency to downplay the negative impact of any disaster to avoid national fear.

Therefore, it is very important that you make your own judgment by considering other experts’ opinions. Coronavirus: Why You Must Act Now is a comprehensive analysis showing reasons to take COVID-19 seriously using statistical and modeling data. We highly encourage you to check out the stats yourself.

Social distancing makes a huge difference

coronavirus

Fatality rate varies

  • The fatality rate is much higher for older people.
  • “Countries that are prepared will see a fatality rate of ~0.5% (South Korea) to 0.9% (rest of China).” – based on statistical modeling
  • “Countries that are overwhelmed will have a fatality rate between ~3%-5%.” – based on statistical modeling

How can you be infected with coronavirus?

The COVID-19 virus spreads by close contact with an infected person through respiratory droplets. When an infected person coughs, sneezes, laughs or talks, the virus-laden particles can come out of the mouth or nose. The droplets can then be inhaled into the lungs of nearby people.

Coronaviruses can also remain on surfaces like metal, glass, and plastic for up to 9 days. Therefore, it is possible to be infected by touching a surface covered with the virus and then touching your own mouth, nose or eyes.

How bad will it be if you catch the virus?

Most infected people have mild symptoms with fever and cough. For some people, there are no symptoms. But a small percentage of people can get severely ill with respiratory problems like pneumonia. Elderly people and those with underlying medical conditions are at the highest risk.

What should you do?

  • Social distancing, stay at home and limit going out as much as possible
  • Wash your hands often with soap and running water for at least 20 seconds, especially before you eat, after you sneeze, touch public surfaces and use the bathroom.
  • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Contact a doctor or call 13HEALTH (13 43 25 84).

Online consultations available with accredited practising dietitian

To improve your immune functions, it is critical that you continue healthy habits including drinking plenty of water, good nutrition, sleep, and exercise.

We are here to provide knowledge on nutrition during this special period of time via online consultations. Please don’t hesitate to reach out for help! We are in it together.

lifestyle coronavirus

You can meet our plant-based, vegan dietitian Raymond here.

 

How to make fermented vegetables at home for better gut health (Science+Recipe)

Why should you care about gut health?

As we covered in multiple blogs already, Gut Health is such an important topic that links to all aspects of your health.

In our modern-day SAD-prevalent society (SAD=Standard American Diet), sugar, salt, saturated fat, bad habits, and poor lifestyles are ruining people’s gut health.

This is why we have so many inflammatory diseases and chronic gut issues like leaky gut and food allergies. These chronic inflammations are signs of imbalances between beneficial and disease-promoting bacteria. If not addressed, they can ultimately lead to life-threatening comorbidities including obesity, heart diseases, diabetes, and poor mental health.

A quick recap on what gut health is linked to:gut health and brain

 

So at Vegan Palette, we always teach people to improve gut health before anything else. A better gut just makes everything so much easier – dealing with deficiencies, improving health and nutrition status, becoming more energetic…

Make sure you check out these resources on Gut health after this blog.

Why are home fermented vegetables better than probiotic supplements and beverages?

Fermentation is not just a hyped “superfood”. Even Harvard Medical School has advocated for the benefits of fermented foods.

A recent review study published on Foods also states that:

“Ingestion of vibrant probiotics, especially in fermented foods, is found to cause significant positive improvements in balancing intestinal permeability and barrier function, with direct effects on metabolic syndrome, atherosclerosis, inflammatory bowel diseases, and colon cancer and indirect effects on depression, anger, anxiety, and levels of stress hormones.”

gut health probiotics

Thus, fermented vegetables are natural probiotics that help the 100 trillion bacteria in your gut flourish. Because they produce a wide range of probiotics naturally, they work better than supplements!

One important benefit of fermenting vegetables at home rather than taking probiotic supplements directly is the phytonutrients that are naturally occurring in vegetables. These also have a number of health benefits, which we have covered in a previous blog.

Fermented vegetables contain not only live probiotics, phytonutrients but also enzymes, vitamins, and minerals. But these could very likely be destroyed by commercial processing, which reduces the benefits you can get from fermented foods and beverages. Since you don’t know what exactly is done to the products out there, ferment your own vegetables at home is the best!

How to make fermented vegetables at home?

Fruit and vegetables already have ‘good’ bacteria on their surface naturally. When you put them into an oxygen-free environment, these bacteria start turning natural sugars from the vegetables into lactic acid. Lactic acid acts as a preservative and also creates a delicious flavour – brilliant!!

fermented vegetables vegan palette

 

It is really easy to ferment your vegetables, here are the steps:

  1. Dissolve 1 tablespoon of sea salt in 2 cups of filtered warm water (no need to boil, it is just to dissolve). Set aside to cool while preparing the next step.
  2. Get a jar (eg. a mason jar) and sterilize it by filling with boiling water. Empty the jar.
  3. Choose a range of vegetables. Common options are carrot, cucumber, jalapeños, cauliflower, cabbage, and capsicum. Chop and tightly layer vegetables in your jar.
  4. Add spices to taste. Common options are bay leaves, oregano, hot chili, mustard seeds, and peppercorns.
  5. Add 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar to cooled saltwater to finish the brine.
  6. Pour your brine over the veggie stash. Make sure that all your vegetables are completely covered below the water level.
  7. Screw the lid or cover with a fermentation lid. Leave it in a cupboard to ferment.
  8. You may need to loosen the lid a little bit each day for the first few days and then every other day to allow gasses to escape. Also, add more salted water if the vegetables are no longer completely covered.
  9. In 3-5 days depending on the temperature, your pickles will be ready. You can find out by taste-testing using clean utensils. Note that vegetables will pickle faster in a warmer temperature.
  10. When the vegetables are fermented to your liking, seal the jar and refrigerate. They will be okay for about one month.
  11. The vegetables are perfect to add to any meal or sandwich. If you want to get rid of some salt, rinse gently with water.

 

See, that wasn’t too hard? Give it a go and let us know how it turns out!

 

If you like our content, let us know and spread the words so more people can get the benefit of healthy whole food plant-based eating. Also be sure to check out our brand new Ebooks that are on sale for just the price of a coffee, and upcoming workshop in Gold Coast!

 

About the author
healthy vegan palette writer Rainie

Rainie is a health, fitness, and nutrition enthusiastic. She graduated from a Bachelor of Biomedical Sciences degree with first-class honours from the University of Queensland.  She is now looking to pursue a PhD and using here research skills to help more people learn evidence-based nutrition.

How to boost your immune system with food and prepare the fight for coronavirus

How to boost your immune system with food and prepare the fight for coronavirus

The coronavirus outbreak from Wuhan, China has taken the lives of over 100 people in just a month. Around 5000 people have been confirmed infected as of today and a lot more are being tested for the virus. The world is getting anxious that this little virus may cause a global disaster.

 

What should you do to keep yourself safe?

 

The coronavirus is spreading more quickly than SARS, but the virus itself is less fatal than SARS. The people that have died from the virus so far seem to be ones who already have other health complications or poor immune functions. So the two most important actions right now are to stay away from the virus and improve your immunity.

 

To stay away from the virus, it is best to avoid traveling and getting exposed to potentially infected people. Currently, Asia is the most dangerous to travel to, but Australia is also not 100% safe as there have been 5 confirmed cases in NSW. Brisbane is relatively safe for now, but since the incubation period for the virus can be as long as two weeks, that could change any time. You should still be careful and avoid public gatherings as much as possible.

 

How can you improve our immune function?

Our immune system launches its defense mechanisms when our body senses invaders such as a virus. There are many factors that affect immune function, including genetics and lifestyle. While it is hard to change our genetics, you can certainly try to strengthen our immune function through food.

 

Our digestive system – the gastrointestinal tract is a potential entry site for bad bugs. When you feed on a healthy plant-based diet, good gut bacteria thrive and leave no room for bad bugs to enter your body. They keep our gut lining thick and secrete antimicrobials that tell bad bugs away.

 

Good gut bacteria can also produce healthy metabolites called short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) such as butyrate, propionate and acetate. These substances are known to help with immune defense against invading pathogens and prevent inflammation. They can also enhance gut barrier function and recruit immune cells to fight pathogens.

 

On the other hand, if your gut is in a state of imbalance, meaning there is not enough good gut microbes guarding the gut lining boosting your immune system, bad pathogens can come in and cause a scene. These bad bacteria thrive on a fibre-poor or animal-based diet, and produce harmful metabolites instead of healthy short-chain fatty acids.

 

What should you eat?

To encourage the growth of good gut bacteria, you need to fuel our body with a variety of prebiotics such as fibre, resistant starch and phytonutrients that come from plant foods. Use Vegan Palette’s food plate as a guide and make sure you eat enough vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes and whole grains. They will give you lots of natural prebiotics!

Vegan palette food plate

Want to print this food plate and a few other nutrition checklists? Check out our Essential Essential Vegan Health Bundle printables!

 

Start the day right

Don’t skip breakfast! This is when your gut needs nourishment the most. Start the day with a nourishing bowl of oats, topped with lots of fruits, berries, nuts and seeds.

 

Eat a rainbow bowl

Lunch should be the biggest meal in the day – this is when you can pack lots of macro- and micronutrients into your day. Aim for a rainbow plate with at least 8 different types of ingredients!

 

Snack on healthy whole foods

Snacking is okay, and good – if you choose the right snacks! Enjoy a selection of nuts and seeds, with a fruit salad for an added dose of vitamin C. This gives you a little extra immune boost.

 

Load up natural immune boosters!

Spices are great immune boosters! Ginger, turmeric, black pepper, garlic are great immune boosters. Don’t forget to add them to your plate.

 

Need more recipe inspirations? Check out our top 26 plant-based recipes designed by accredited practising dietitian.

If you want to delve a little deeper into the wonders of Gut Health, be sure to check out our Gut Health ebook to learn more.

 

Plant-based Parental Nutrition: ​ Effects on Fertility and Pregnancy

How important is parental nutrition?

Absolutely critical! We’ve had some big epidemiology studies that collected huge amounts of data from diabetic, obese mums, and those who suffered the great famine period, collectively showing that overnutrition, undernutrition or a poorly diversified diet are associated with epigenetic changes and lifelong consequences in the offspring.

intrauterine exposure maternal nutrition effect
(Hijj et al., 2014 Epigenetics and life-long consequences of an adverse nutritional and diabetic intrauterine environment)

Is a vegan diet safe for pregnancy?

Absolutely yes if properly planned, with attention to meal diversity, food quality, supplementation, and hydration. Note that we are talking about a whole-food plant-based diet, not one that is predominantly processed vegan products.

In fact, there are a number of benefits to a plant-rich diet for pregnancy:

  • Plant-rich diet reduces the risk of Preeclampsia (Pregnancy-induced Hypertension), insulin resistance and gestational diabetes mellites, chronic kidney diseases, rate of caesarean delivery, postpartum depression, neonatal and maternal mortality and frequency of calf cramps (Frederick et al., 2005, Ley et al., 2011Pistollato et al., 2015)

 

  • A plant-based diet pre-conception and during pregnancy lowers a number of pediatric diseases (eg.  wheeze, asthma, and eczema, diabetes,  orofacial clefts), whereas low pre-conceptional intakes of plant-based nutrients were associated with a two- to five-fold increase in spina bifida risk (Krapels et al, 2004).

 

  • Higher intakes of protein and calories by the mother were not associated with offspring birth weight, but green leafy vegetables and fruits were (Rao et al., 2001)

 

  • Consuming a high-calorie, high-protein Western-style diet has an increased risk for low birth weight for gestational age compared to fewer calories and greater quantities of plant foods (Pistollato et al., 2015)

How early should I start planning my nutrition for pregnancy?

This is such an important question that is not asked often enough. Pre-conception nutrition is actually so important. Because pregnancy increases your need for a number of vital vitamins and minerals, you want to make sure they are high before you get pregnant! You definitely want to get a blood test done to see if you will dip into deficient levels of iron, vitamin B12, vitamin D, calcium, zinc, iodine and other micronutrients.

Most women also start folic acid supplementation too late with respect to the prevention of neural tube defects. It is important to start from 1 month before pregnancy and keep supplementing throughout the first 2–3 months of pregnancy.

vegan healthy food

 

Is daddy’s nutrition important?

Yes, yes and YES! Having a baby is a 2 people job, including when it comes to healthy eating.

Epigenetic inheritance can occur when parents are exposed to multiple environmental insults including nutritional stress, psychological stress, toxins and drug exposure.​ A high-fat diet has been shown to modify the sperm epigenetic signals, which may drive offspring health and will initiate the transmission of metabolic abnormalities in future generations (Fullston et al., 2013). 

Male mice fed a western diet (high fat and high sugar diet) exhibited an altered sperm miRNA profile associated with an increase in metabolic disorders in their offspring (Grandjean et al., 2015). 

pregnancy dad nutrition

How do I eat and live the best way for myself and my future baby?

There is certainly a lot to you can do to optimize your diet and lifestyle. A well planned plant-based diet will set you up for vitality and a healthy pregnancy.

If you would like to learn all about it, down to every nutrient and all the latest research, then the upcoming one day Vegan Plant-based Nutrition & Wellness Symposium is something you don’t want to miss out on! It will be held in Brisbane on 26 October, with 3 amazing speakers lined up to cover vegan whole-food plant-based nutrition, minimizing health risks of radiation, wifi, 5G, as well as the roles of healthy nutrition & lifestyle on our gut microbiome, fertility and offspring health.

Take actions for you health and your future at this research-based educational event!

vegan nutrition workshop

About the author
healthy vegan palette writer Rainie

Rainie is a health, fitness and nutrition enthusiastic. She has a bachelor of Biomedical Sciences (Class I Honours) and a special interest for the roles of parental nutrition on fertility, pregnancy and newborn health. Rainie is now using the research skills she learned in the science degree to bring evidence-based nutrition practice to more health-conscious people.

Considering the ketogenic diet? Read and think again

Considering the ketogenic diet? Read and think again

You probably know someone on the “Keto” diet or are tempted by the claims that this special diet helped many people lose weight in just 10 days.

What is this magic diet that everyone talks about? Does it really work? Is it safe?

What is the ketogenic diet?

The keto diet is a low-carb, high-fat plan that promises quick weight loss.

In essence, it causes the body to release ketones into the bloodstream after the body is starved of its preferred energy source – glucose from carbohydrate. This metabolic process is known as ketosis.

Instead of consuming carbohydrates such as grains, this diet typically involves plenty of meat and dairy.

ketogenic diet bacon

This shift from using glucose to breaking down fat as a source of energy could happen after two to four days of consuming fewer than 20-50g of carbohydrates per day.

Roughly speaking, 70-80% of the calories on a keto diet come from fat, 20% from protein, and as little as 5% from carbs.

Because of the heavy restrictions, it is extremely difficult to stick to, as just one potato or slice of bread could exceed an entire day’s carbohydrate allowance.

But putting the practical difficulty aside, the potential dangers are what people should really be aware and concerned about.

Insulin resistance

Free fatty acids result in inflammation, toxic fat breakdown products, and oxidative stress, which are highly detrimental to the essential insulin receptor pathway.

What does it mean? Being on a long-term keto diet puts you at risk for insulin resistance.

ketogenic diet diabetes

See Dr. Micheal Gregor’s article “How a Low-Carb Diet is Metabolically Like Being Obese“.

You might know that insulin resistance is what causes type 2 diabetes, and the consequences of type 2 diabetes are debilitating. If you are not familiar with the topic, watch this video What Causes Insulin Resistance?

In short, as the level of fat rises in your blood, the body’s ability to clear sugar drops. Just hours after eating fatty foods, the amount of fat detected in the blood increases, and insulin sensitivity decreases.

Studies have shown that fat directly inhibits glucose transport and utilization in our muscles, preventing 85% of the glucose being cleared out of the bloodstream.

For someone who is already pre-diabetic or diabetic, the keto diet is extremely dangerous. 

Ketosis can trigger a dangerous condition called ketoacidosis. This is when the body stores up too many ketones, and the blood becomes too acidic, leading to damages to the liver, kidneys, and brain. Ketoacidosis can be fatal if left untreated.

This randomized control trial highlights the importance of wholegrain intake for overweight and type-2 diabetics.

The Keto flu

Many people report feeling sick and weak when switching to a keto diet, a phenomenon known as the “Keto flu“. It can involve nausea, stomachache, cramps, and constipation.

Worst of all, many keto dieters report bad breath, which comes from acetone, a product of ketone metabolism.

ketogenic diet bad breath

Diarrhea is also common on a keto diet, due to a lack of fiber when you remove whole-grain foods such as bread and pasta, as well as vegetables. It can also result from an intolerance to dairy or artificial sweeteners contained in processed foods.

Increased all-cause mortality

A systematic review and meta-analysis of low-carb diet studies reached the conclusion that low-carbohydrate diets are associated with a significantly higher risk of all-cause mortality.

But…surely the keto diet contains more proteins, and wouldn’t that be a good thing?

No. Animal proteins have also been linked to higher mortality.

A study examined the associations of animal and plant protein intake with risk of mortality. This is a huge study consisting of 85,013 women and 46,329 men, tracked over three decades.

The study concluded: “Higher animal protein intake was positively, whereas plant protein was inverse, associated with mortality, especially among individuals with at least one lifestyle risk factors. Substitution of plant protein for animal protein, especially from processed red meat, was associated with lower mortality, suggesting the importance of protein source.

The China Study is another one that revealed increased coronary artery disease mortality rates with animal protein and salt intake, whereas vegetables, plant protein, and legumes are linked with lower mortality rate.

Heart diseases

Low carb diets such as the ketogenic diet affect arteries directly. A review of the best studies on this topic found that low-carb diets impair arterial function, and effectively stiffen people’s arteries.

A new study also reports the same thing: “A dietary pattern characterized by high protein and fat, but low carbohydrate was associated with poorer peripheral small artery function”.

Shockingly, patients with heart diseases who were given a healthy vegetarian diet but later jumped ship to low-carb diets had significantly worsened heart condition, with 40-50% more artery clogging. In the same study, others who continued with the vegetarian diet instead showed a reversal of their heart disease – partially clogged arteries cleared up, with 20% less atherosclerotic plaque!

ketogenic diet heart disease

Read more here “Low Carb Diets Found to Feed Heart Disease“.

Muscle loss and weight regain

You’ll lose weight in the short term of converting to a keto diet, but most of it will be water and muscle loss. This is simply because fat is the last to go during weight loss, any short-term, rapid weight loss most likely has nothing to do with fat loss.

This also means that when you come off the ketogenic diet, you are likely to regain the original weight. And instead of regaining lean muscle, you’re likely to regain fat. The diet may cause lasting effects on your resting metabolic rate, and your long-term weight management.

ketogenic diet muscle loss

Poor athletic performance

More than skeletal muscles, the diet can potentially damage the heart, which is also a muscle. What’s more, high-fat intake unquestionably raises cholesterol levels, a known risk factor for heart diseases.

Because of the excessive acidic ketone production, the body is in a more acidic state, which is known to impair muscle performance and contributes to fatigue.

recent study in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness also reported worse performance of cyclists and runners just after four days on a ketogenic diet. This could be the combined result of an unhealthy acidic environment for muscles, heart and various other organs.

Conclusion

The ketogenic diet may give you rapid weight loss, but what you lose is mostly just water and muscle, which is neither healthy nor sustainable.

Long-term adoption of the ketogenic diet raises the risk for many diseases and mortality risk, doing more harm than good.

Other than health, the over-consumption of meat and dairy also means that this diet is the exact opposite of environmental sustainability.

We encourage you to eat a variety of plant-based foods, including plenty of carbohydrates!

vegan health

Want more information on the keto diet?

Keto Diet: Myths and Facts

9 Nutrition Studies Every Ketogenic Dieter NEEDS To Read

You’ll love these

Have you checked out our comprehensive Vegan Health & Nutrition Resources page? We have a bunch of support materials waiting for you including a dietitian guidebook, lifestyle checklists and assessments, and the best vegan websites we recommend, all for you for FREE.

 

About the author
healthy vegan palette writer Rainie

Rainie is a health, fitness and nutrition enthusiastic. She studied a bachelor of Biomedical Sciences degree to learn all about the human body and continued to pursue higher research training in a neuroscience laboratory to investigate how the brain develops. Rainie is now using the research skills she learned in the science degree to bring evidence-based nutrition practice to more health-conscious people.

 

10 nutritious vegan staples for your pantry

Is an empty pantry your trigger for ordering some quick but unhealthy vegan fast food?

Do your staples include all the important nutrients?

Don’t worry, we came up with a list of 10 nutritious vegan staples that will nourish your body, and bring you amazing flavours!

Of course, 10 is no way near the variety we should be having. Fresh veggies, leafy greens and fruits should always be in your house, so we are not including them here. Instead, this list is for you to check if any of them is a surprise to you!

You will see “… of all colours” a lot in the list because some of the most amazing foods such as quinoa come in more than one colour. We often get questions like which colour is the best nutritionally and the recommendation we give is – Mix it up and eat them all!

Here we go!

Oats

vegan oats

Oats are not boring – they are probably one of the most versatile foods! You can make oatmeal, overnight oats, pancakes, cookies and even pizza crust with it. My view of oats was completely transformed after finding the ‘Oat Queen’ Maddie on Youtube. She cooks anything and everything with oats – soak, cook, bake, blend! You need to check out her recipes page and ebook “ALWAYS OATS”.

You might also ask which type of oat is the best? Steel cut oats are the least processed and most nutritious one, but take longer to cook. Rolled oats are softer and easy to make oatmeals with, also a good choice. Try to avoid instant oats if you can as they are the most processed. Here is an article that explains the different processing of these oats.

Sweet potatoes of all colours

vegan sweet potato

Purple, yellow, red, white, have you tried all of them? My personal favorite is yellow sweet potato, they taste the softest and sweetest to me. But of course, different colours indicate different nutritional profiles and you should definitely mix them up. Sweet potatoes are so easy to make yummy – chuck in the oven and come back when you smell them! Sadly they have gotten a bad rep because of the false information on carbs and weight gain, which couldn’t be further from the truth! Sweet potatoes are high in water and very filling, which actually makes them perfect for weight loss.

Give yourself a 5 minute Sweet potato facts 101 and you’ll be surprised by how nutritious and beneficial they are! Sweet potatoes even show anti-cancer potential as Dr. Michael Greger explains it here. Check out this amazing recipe on vegan stuffed sweet potatoes!

Berries of all colours

vegan berries

If you don’t have some fresh or frozen berries in your kitchen, you definitely need to stack them up. Their anti-oxidant levels are through the roof. Berries are also amazing brain foods, counteract the toxicity of pesticides, inhibit platelet aggregation, and reduce muscle soreness! Blueberries are especially beneficial for lowering cholesterol and heart health. When fresh berries are not in season, simply keep some frozen berries in the freezer. You can make healthy smoothies and berry jam with them!

Beans of all colours

vegan beans

Most people don’t eat enough beans and legumes, missing out on their amazing benefits for heart health, and a longer lifespanBeans are highly filling foods, full of complex carbs, fibre, and protein. You might not have much time to soak and slow cook beans, but you can always easily get canned beans with BPA-free lining! Through your beans generously to salads, stews, and Buddha bowls. The best thing about beans? They make the most amazing sauce: Vegan hummus!

So many recipes with beans, so many!!

Quinoa of all colours

vegan quinoa

Did you know that the UN named 2013 ‘International Quinoa Year’ to highlight quinoa’s high nutrient content? It has twice the protein content of rice or barley and is an amazing source of calcium, magnesium, manganese, B vitamins, vitamin E and fibre. Quinoa is one of the least allergenic  ‘grains’, a good wheat alternative. Quinoa also has an excellent amino acid profile with all nine essential amino acids, making it a complete protein source. So many more benefits of quinoa are listed here. Don’t know how to cook them? Check out these 17 vegan quinoa recipes!

Plant milk of all kinds

vegan plant milk

Before I went vegan, I only ever drank cow’s milk or cow’s milk powder. I never knew this whole new world of soymilk, rice milk, almond milk, cashew milk, coconut milk, hemp milk, oat milk, flax milk, hazelnut milk and pea milk! It’s a crazy discovery! You can even learn to make your own plant-based milk – healthy, cruelty-free and inflammation-free.

Brazil nut

vegan brazil nut

Just like the eye-opening variety of plant-based milk, Brazil nut is another discovery after veganism. It is the richest known food source of Selenium and has many other benefitsan essential mineral for a healthy immune system and nervous system! If you are experiencing any sort of inflammation, get a brazil nut a day. Be aware not to consume more than that though as too much Selenium is not good either.

Garlic

vegan garlic

Garlic is used a lot in Asian cooking for good reasons – they bring out amazing flavours and also have many health benefits. Garlic and flavonoid phytonutrients found in fruits, vegetables, nuts, and grains can counteract the mutagenic chemicals found in cooked meat.  Interestingly, consumption of small amounts of garlic or raisins may even lower the risk of premature birth. Garlic is also a natural food against lead poisoning and platelet activation. Small amounts of garlic are already powerful, why not just put a few gloves in your stew or stirfry? Check out these 12 Vegan garlic recipes.

Veggie pasta

vegan pasta

What?! Veggie pasta? Yes you heard me right.

Did you know there is pasta made from black beans, chickpeas, edamame, peas? Most of the pasta that you buy off the shelf used processed flour, which is nowhere near as good as using plant-based alternative ingredients! You might want to go to a local farmer’s market or organic health food store to find these pastas though. Here are some vegan pasta recipes for you 🙂

Edamame

vegan edamame

The last one may seem odd – edamame? What even is it?

Edamame are basically just young soybeans harvested before ripe that you can buy shelled or in the pod, often in the frozen section of Asian supermarkets. They are gluten-free, low in calories, contain no cholesterol, added sugar and lots of protein, iron and calcium. You might be surprised that tofu is not in this list as a protein staple, guess what, edamame is more nutritious than tofu! So easy to make to, you only need to steam them with a few minutes and there you have them.

When in doubt, start with this beautiful edamame quinoa salad!

 

 

You’ll love these

Have you checked out our comprehensive Vegan Health & Nutrition Resources page? We have a bunch of support materials waiting for you including a dietitian guidebook, lifestyle checklists and assessments, and the best vegan websites we recommend, all for you for FREE.

 

About the author
healthy vegan palette writer Rainie

Rainie is a health, fitness and nutrition enthusiastic. She studied a bachelor of Biomedical Sciences degree to learn all about the human body and continued to pursue higher research training in a neuroscience laboratory to investigate how the brain develops. Rainie is now using the research skills she learned in the science degree to bring evidence-based nutrition practice to more health-conscious people.

Inflammatory foods are misunderstood and the truth about food sensitivity

vegan gut health inflammatory food

Do you love onions, but find yourself a little bloated after eating them?

What about pizza and tomato sauce? Do they give you a heartburn every time?

Or maybe just sparkling water or brussels sprouts can make you feel gassy?

It’s likely that you’ve had these symptoms, perhaps with other food, even “healthy food“. You wouldn’t usually connect the mild symptoms to food, and realize they are a distress signal.

This distress signal is usually a sign that your body is rejecting the food and having a hard time digesting it. War is happening and inflammation is the result.

inflammatory foods

Is there a way out? Yes, but you might not like it – Leave out the foods that your body doesn’t like, even if they are your favorite.

However, this list of “To avoid foods” will be different for everyone. There is no one bucket for inflammatory foods. Our bodies respond differently to the same foods.

Maybe your body doesn’t respond well to the “healthy foods” such as olive and garlic, they might even be labeled anti-inflammatory! 

But understand that those labels are based just on their nutritional makeups and the effect on the average population. What might be healthy for others might be inflammatory for you, and vice versa.

Food intolerance, allergy, or sensitivity?

These are three different things.

Food intolerance is when your body lacks certain enzymes to break down certain proteins. An example is lactose intolerance. People who are lactose intolerant lack the lactase enzyme. What’s the solution? Avoid milk and dairy products, substitute with plant milk.

Food allergies and sensitivities are due to an overreacting immune system. Allergies are immediate and can be life-threatening at times. Common food allergies include nuts, eggs, and shellfish.

Food sensitivities are usually milder and can be delayed by hours to days, depending on how much of the suspect food you ingested. Some common symptoms of food sensitivities include: bloating, cramps, sneezing, headache, fatigue, joint or muscle pain. It is easy to miss these symptoms as they are not necessarily related to digestion and therefore linked to food.

Are you sensitive to certain foods?

When people talk about inflammatory foods, what they are really talking about are food sensitivities, not intolerances or allergies.

The tricky part is that food sensitivities can be hard to pinpoint. You can’t just get a skin or blood test, like you can with allergies.

Food sensitivities have symptoms that can vary and be easily confused with other health conditions. But from now on, you can be more mindful and catch some foods that you are sensitive to.

How?

Once you’ve cleaned up your diet and excluded the foods that you are sensitive to, you will naturally feel better and those symptoms will disappear. Next time you get symptoms of sensitivity, think about what foods you ate and do a trial and error style eliminating to see by getting rid of which food, you can avoid the symptoms.

Trial and error? Wouldn’t this take forever?

Well, nailing down the best foods for your unique body is not an easy job!

But, there are some obvious foods that doctors agree on you should reduce or eliminate. So you can start with these:

  • sugar, syrup, soft drinks
  • refined carbs (white breads, white rice, refined pasta)
  • fried foods, even if it’s king oster mushrooms fried with olive oil!
  • all kinds of fats and oil

junk processed food

Once you’ve cut out this obvious list, you will likely feel a lot better already. But like I said, even on the “healthy foods” list, there might be foods that your particular body doesn’t cope well with.

Now is time to really pay close attention to any symptoms after eating particular foods. You’ll find yourself being a detective, sorting through every little thing that you put in your body. Don’t be frustrated, you are doing your body a huge favor.

A food diary really helps! You can find a “Food, Symptom and Mood Diary” on our Resources page. Write everything down, even if you think they are unlikely. Every food is innocent until proven guilty, so even the “healthiest” food should not be ruled out. Remember, if it is considered healthy, but doesn’t work well with your body, then it is not good for you and don’t force yourself to eat it.

What’s labeled “superfood”, “healthfood” out there, may have some nutrition evidence, but keep in mind – they are out their also because they are profitable! Just look at coconut oil, it was claimed to be a “superfood” for so many health problems, yet after more research, it turns out it’s just another fad. I have a blog on this called “Why can’t food scientists agree on coconut oil?” if you want to read more.

Being a detective in your own life

Don’t focus on the hard efforts you have to put in each day to keep track of all the food, instead, focus on how much better your body feels after eliminating the foods you are sensitive too. You are going to be in this detective game for a while, but not forever. Soon you will find yourself more energetic and less grumpy.

Of course, don’t end up at the conclusion that your body loves chips, meats, processed foods because you feel awesome after eating them. The natural body reactions we are talking about in this article DO NOT equal addictive feelings! You know that those processed foods are there to trigger the reward center in your brain and overwrite the true responses. Eliminate them without a question!

Over time, your plate should look whole food and plant based. Your body will heal as you make these changes. Your goal is to feed yourself the right foods that really nurture your body and mind, to prevent chronic inflammation, the crappy feelings it brings. Chronic inflammation is the root cause for many long-term diseases, so don’t overlook the mild symptoms!

Start paying attention to what you put in your mouth. And feel free to let our dietitian take a look at your food diary!

happy healthy energetic plant based vegan

You’ll love these

Have you checked out our comprehensive Vegan Health & Nutrition Resources page? We have a bunch of support materials waiting for you including a dietitian guidebook, lifestyle checklists and assessments, and the best vegan websites we recommend, all for you for FREE.

 

About the author
healthy vegan palette writer Rainie

Rainie is a health, fitness and nutrition enthusiastic. She studied a bachelor of Biomedical Sciences degree to learn all about the human body and continued to pursue higher research training in a neuroscience laboratory to investigate how the brain develops. Rainie is now using the research skills she learned in the science degree to bring evidence-based nutrition practice to more health-conscious people.

 

The simple act of eating healthy plant based holds promise to depression prevention

Said not me, but a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.

. . .

Last month I went to a career networking event – nothing about the event itself changed, but I did.

I’ve always liked going to events for the extra perk of getting free food. I didn’t care about whether they are junk food because free = good.

But over the last year, I have become a lot more mindful about the food I put into my body, after reading research articles on the health implications of the standard American diet, processed food, meat, and dairy…

I was constantly in shock of how much misinformation we hold regarding health. I mean, just look at the number of fad diets out there if you don’t believe me!

I got to the networking event. Everyone was having a great time with alcohol and free food. In the past, I would too. But I wasn’t so happy looking at the food options — all sorts of deep fried finger foods: spring rolls, chicken wings, beef pies, pork dim sims, chicken nuggets, fries …

fried-chicken

Everyone else looked so happy, voluntarily ingesting one piece after another, while sipping some delicious alcohol.

But … are we really happy?

According to the World Health Organization, 300 million people around the world have depression. Nearly 50% of all people diagnosed with depression also experience an anxiety disorder. It’s estimated that 15% of the adult population will experience depression at some point in life.

I am not saying that bad eating habits and unhealthy food cause depression (although likely true), but it is a common practice for depressed people to indulge in some addictively yummy junk food — ice cream, chips, soft drinks etc. Once it becomes a habit, the occasional cheat meals naturally become the default, even when we are not feeling depressed.

And what does that lead to?

Unhealthy diet contributes to approximately 678,000 deaths each year in the U.S. due to nutrition- and obesity-related diseases, including heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. 1 In the last 30 years, obesity rates have doubled in adults, tripled in children, and quadrupled in adolescents.

Does what we put into our body affect how we feel, physically and mentally? Of course it does! When you don’t treat your car nicely by giving it the cheapest, crappiest fuel, will you expect it to run far?

broken car analogy to food

One day, the car will break down because of all the crap it was fed. You will have to dump in a lot of money to fix it, just like fixing depression and anxiety with a bunch of drugs that don’t always work.

But…why didn’t you just put in some good fuel in the first place?

The effects of healthy diets on mood have been known for some time but many people (including doctors) will rather turn to the “safer” option of medications to treat disorders like depression. This is often simply because the impact of dietary modification as a treatment or intervention strategy is not straightforward to quantify and the evidence seems to be “up in the air”.

But, a new Australian study has looked at 16 randomized control trials with outcome data for 45,826 participants and come back with a simple, clear message:

“If you want to feel better, eat less junk.”

What we call “comfort food”, high in sugar and fat, activate our brain’s reward center. This is just similar to smoking and drug addiction — while we may feel some temporary pleasure, it doesn’t benefit us in the long run.

Instead, eating nutrient-dense foods that are high in fiber, vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals, while reducing processed foods with refined sugars are truly beneficial, in the short and long term. Health-promoting whole foods should be consumed daily, in great variety and abundantly.

How should your plate look like?

A variety of plant-based whole foods: vegetables, leafy greens, fruits, legumes, grains making up a colorful palette.

vegan palette food plate

While further research is always required to understand the specific mechanisms underlying the effect, we are slowly getting a more comprehensive picture of how food affects the whole body, one that includes our massive gut microbiome. Changing what we eat firstly affects the plethora of bacteria living in our bellies.

While the finding that “Junk food is bad, plants are good” isn’t so new, this meta-analysis is still a significant step forward in really implementing dietary interventions for mood disorders such as depression.

If you are already eating plant-based, amazing! If you are considering and need more evidence, there are plenty:

The best diet for depression“, “Improving mood through diet” by Nutritionfacts.org

Foods that fight depression” by Physicians committee for responsible medicine

Knowing something works is one matter, but using it for real is another

Health practitioners usually have a heavy influence on what approaches patients take to improve their health. Doctors, dietitians, psychologists, therapists, coaches, and the plant-based community should take up the responsibility to be early adopters of lifestyle changes as disease intervention and treatment.

With this new study, health practitioners should be more confident in prescribing dietary interventions alongside other treatment options.

Of course, health is yours. No matter what the doctor, or the dietitian, or the internet says, you hold the ultimate choice of what to put in your body.

You may not be able to decide what kinds of food appear in an event you have to attend, but you can choose to avoid eating them and seek healthier alternatives.

When depression and anxiety kick in, you may feel like you don’t have control over your mind. But don’t just give up taking the control back and indulge in fast food for temporary pleasure.

Seek professional help, learn some nutrition from credible sources, and make small changes every day! Of course, exercise is another key element for improving your mood and overall health 🙂

healthy vegan

References

https://journals.lww.com/psychosomaticmedicine/Abstract/publishahead/The_effects_of_dietary_improvement_on_symptoms_of.98656.aspx

https://cspinet.org/eating-healthy/why-good-nutrition-important

https://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/health-and-wellness/the-simple-change-we-can-make-to-reduce-the-risk-of-depression-20190204-p50vmu.html

You’ll love these

Have you checked out our comprehensive Vegan Health & Nutrition Resources page? We have a bunch of support materials waiting for you including a dietitian guidebook, lifestyle checklists and assessments, and the best vegan websites we recommend, all for you for FREE.

 

About the author
healthy vegan palette writer Rainie

Rainie is a health, fitness and nutrition enthusiastic. She studied a bachelor of Biomedical Sciences degree to learn all about the human body and continued to pursue higher research training in a neuroscience laboratory to investigate how the brain develops. Rainie is now using the research skills she learned in the science degree to bring evidence-based nutrition practice to more health-conscious people.

 


Combating diabetes: latest research and approaches

 

What is the most important factor when it comes to diabetes genetics, sugar, calories, insulin

 

A few years ago, we may say sugar and insulin, but new research has dramatically changed what we know about diabetes.

 

“Fat, get out of the way and let me pump my sugar!” – Insulin.

 

It turns out that the fat in animal products and oils prevent insulin from doing its critical job – moving glucose into cells, lowering blood sugar level, and keeping us healthy.

 

In other words, what caused your diabetes or made it worse is not just your refined white bread or sugary drinks, but also the mayo dressing or cheese slices that you eat all the time!

 

Experiments on mice have shown that when fat is reduced from the diet, insulin can function properly, alleviating and eventually curing Type II diabetes!

 

Therefore, a low-fat, plant-based diet is the best for diabetes and conditions associated with it, such as heart disease, obesity, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure.

Has this been shown in humans?

 

Yes. One study found that 21 of 23 patients on oral medications and 13 of 17 patients on insulin did not need their medications after 26 days on a near-vegetarian diet and exercise program.

These dietary changes are simple, but the effects they had are profound, both on a short-term and long-term scale. However, Dr. Neal Barnard from Physicians Committee of Responsible medicine points out that “choosing skinless chicken, skim milk, and baked fish is not enough of a change for most people to beat diabetes”. A plant-based diet is necessary if you are serious about diabetes.

How to combat diabetes with a dietary approach?

Go plant-based and throw out animal products.

Make your meals with whole grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables. Drink water. Keep nuts
or seeds to a small handful every day. The amount that you sprinkle on your breakfast oatmeal is sufficient. Avoid animal products of all sorts to avoid saturated fats. You can easily get your protein and fat intake with balanced plant-based meals so don’t worry. Plus, there are plenty of resources on our page that can help you, such as this food plate from Vegan Palette.
vegan Food Plate

Avoid vegetable oil too.

Although vegetable oils are healthier compared to animal fats, they should still be avoided. All fats and oils are high in calories – 1g of any fat or oil has 9 calories, whereas 1g of carbohydrate has only 4 calories. We only need a small amount each day and it is so easy to go overboard in the modern days. Remember to watch out for oily sauces and dressings. Also, don’t assume you can eat as many avocados and nuts as you want! Check out this video by an accredited dietitian, nutritionist Raymond from Vegan Palette :”Why eating plant-based means giving up oil“.

Read food labels! 

Don’t be fooled by the packaging. Food industries can print “Low-calories”, “Low fat” in big block letters and fool you into thinking they are healthy. Always check the back and choose foods with no more than 2-3g of fat per serving if you are serious about not getting diabetes.

Avoid high GI foods.

The glycemic index (GI) identifies foods that tend to raise blood sugar. These include white rice, white and wheat bread, corn flakes, puffed rice cereals, and most commercial cereals. Swap them with low GI foods, such as oats, sweet potations, natural pasta, beans and so on. Instead of rice, you can eat quinoa. Instead of white bread, you can eat rye bread, multigrain brain, and sourdough.

Lots and lots of fibre

Fibre is literally the best thing about plant-based diets. They are the natural cleaners for your blood vessels and digestive system. If you follow the above advice and eat plenty of plant foods, you will easily get at least 40g of fibre per day. You should aim for at least 40g of fibre each day. When reading food labels, check if there is at least 3g of fiber per serving.

To learn more about diabetes and get started fixing it with a plant-based dietary approach, we recommend these resources:

You’ll love these

Have you checked out our comprehensive Vegan Health & Nutrition Resources page? I’ve compiled my gifts, knowledge and tips regarding thriving on a vegan lifestyle in this page, including a dietitian guidebook, grocery shopping list, lifestyle checklists, and the best vegan websites I recommend, all for you for FREE.

 

About the author


Raymond_dietitian_from_Vegan_Palette_with_food_plate

Raymond Setiadi is an Australian Accredited Practising Dietitian and is the founder of Vegan Palette,  a Brisbane-based dietitian practice.

As an expert in whole food plant-based nutrition and fat loss strategies, Raymond has a comprehensive understanding of the interplay between food,  human physiology, goal-directed psychology, and how they all play a pivotal role in one’s pursuit of optimal health.