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


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.


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.


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!


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.


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 🙂


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.


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.


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 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.

Why can’t food scientists agree on coconut oil? Does it really burn fat?

What’s the fuss?

Coconut oil is probably one of the most controversial food. Some regard it is a “superfood“, rich in antioxidant and other nutrients. Claims regarding what it can do ranges from burning fat, preventing Alzheimer’s disease and improving endurance. But surprisingly, others consider it as a “devilfood“. Karin Micheals, a professor at Harvard, even went as far as calling coconut oil a “pure poison“.


What’s the truth?

Why can’t food scientists agree on coconut oil? Are the claimed benefits backed up by research or made up simply for propaganda?


Well, interestingly this debate on the coconut oil is actually related to changes in our nutrition guidelines and beliefs.


In the past, fats were considered bad and people consumed mostly carbohydrates in their diets. Of course, in the modern days, carbs often translate into highly processed, bad carbs, not complex natural carbs. As a result, obesity and diabetes skyrocketed, leading to new advice in the opposite direction “Avoid carbs and eat more fats!”


The pro-fat voice soon pushed avocados, olive oil and chia seeds into the spotlight. The public quickly learned about these new foods and called them “superfood“. While most food scientists and nutritionists agree that the fats in avocados and olive oil are healthy, compared to other fat sources, they couldn’t quite agree on coconut oil, a food composed almost entirely of saturated fat!


For decades, the heart associations educate people that saturated fat is bad as it increases cholesterol levels, putting people at risk for terrible heart diseases.


But coconut oil comes from plants, surely it is healthy?


Of course, coconut oil is not pro-inflammatory like meat. But compared to other vegetable oil that is lower in saturated fat, coconut oil does increase LDL cholesterol (the “bad” cholesterol” levels, make it less healthy. Therefore, it is all relative – coconut oil can be considered healthy or unhealthy, depending on what you are comparing it to.


If you have been puzzled by coconut oil, don’t subscribe to either extreme – It is not a “superfood“, but it is also not a “devilfood“. There are both better and worse sources that can offer you the needed fat.


Does coconut oil really burn fat?

The fat-burning claim about coconut oil came from some evidence that suggested the medium-chain triglycerides (MCT) in coconut oil can promote fat loss. While it is true that coconut oil contains a lot of MCT, follow-up research has shown no difference in the fat-burning ability of coconut oil compared to other types of oil.


In fact, there are only 4 calories in 1 gram of protein and carbohydrate, but there are 9 calories in 1 gram of fat! Correct – more than double. This applies to all oil types, including coconut oil! So by consuming lots of coconut oil, you can easily add 200-400 extra calories and that of course, will reflect on your waistline. To sum up, coconut oil doesn’t burn fat, instead, it could make you gain weight. You should avoid over-consumption of all types of oils, even if it’s vegetable oil!



For those of you already on a vegan, plant-based diet, coconut oil is probably in your kitchen a lot. Don’t throw it out, as it is surely much better than butter and improves the flavor of many dishes. However, also don’t over-use this one type of oil. In fact, be cautious of any claim of “superfood” as it is like just propaganda. The best way to eat healthily is always to have variety like we always advocate for at Vegan Palette. In this case of oil, have other monounsaturated and polyunsaturated oils in your kitchens, such as olive oil, sunflower oil, and canola oil.


To learn more about coconut oil and vegetable oils, I recommend Dr. Michael Greger:

Coconut oil

Is coconut oil good for you?

Does coconut oil cure Alzheimer’s?

Does coconut oil clog arteries?

What about coconuts, coconut milk & coconut oil MCTs?






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 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.



Top 5 Things You Need To Know About Gut Health

All diseases begin in the gut

Normally, we are very superficial and we tend to concern ourselves more when we have external problems, rather than internal problems. For example, wouldn’t you be more scared that you scarred your face rather than having poor gut health?


It’s funny when you think about it. We got it the wrong way, it is so much more important to take care of our inner organs which will help the maintenance and recovery of our whole body.


How much effort have you put in to take care of your GUT (Gastrointestinal tract)? Our gut compared to everything else in the body ‘combined’, has 10 times the amount of cells. Can you believe that?


That’s HUGE. If that isn’t a sign that we need to take care of this super factory that we have inside of us. I don’t know what is.  


Why is our Gut Bacteria crucial for our well being?


The importance of gut health has long been realised. Hippocrates, the Father of Modern Medicine once said “All diseases begin in the gut!”


Now, latest research studies have shown that not only is our gut linked to diseases, it is even connected to our brain, hence the name given to our gut “The second brain“. Wow, HOW IS THIS POSSIBLE?? 

GUT-BRAIN AXIS – Microbially-produced neurotransmitters and other metabolites reach the brain directly through the vagus nerve!


This means that who we are, how we react, and how we feel are dependent by the quality of bacteria in our gut? Yes, kind of.


Dr. Michael Gregor has some really nice evidence based videos on how we can improve mood through diet. I highly recommend that you check them out after reading this blog. But the good news is – Vegetarians and vegans have significantly better depression, anxiety, stress scale. In other words, plant powered people are happier!


If you want to indulge in a philosophical thought for a moment, think about – are we really in control of ourselves, or are our gut microbes more in control of us?


Fancy that as a conversation topic over coffee. 


Getting back to the point of the article, the gut is the most amazing thing ever! This led me to pay $350 to test my own microbiome by giving a local company called Microba my stool sample.


I received my test results, i booked a consultation with a Dietitian (why not learn from others in the same profession right, always intrigued by how other dietitians talk the talk), to find out the practical tips of what I can do to improve my microbiota.


The Top 5 Things You Need To Know About Your Gut Bacteria


If you are a video person, here is a short video with an overview of the following 5 points 

5 Things You Need to Know About Gut Health – 2018 Edition


Number 1 – Microbial composition during early development is crucial


We used to think that the uterus and fetus are sterile, and the first time a baby encounters any microbes is upon birth. Increasing evidence on suggest that human microbiota is seeded before birth.


After birth, the microbial diversity increases dramatically. Because of this initial colonisation of microbiota runs in parallel with immune system maturation and brain development, the first 1000 days are considered critical for a newborn.


After the baby is weaned and starts eating food, this is when the microbiota converges toward an adult-like microbiota. By 3-5 years old, the composition of the gut microbiota resembles that of an adult and is relatively stable thereafter.


Alteration in the development of the gut microbiota of a newborn has been demonstrated to predispose to diseases later in life in a few studies. Although we are waiting for more research to uncover the full effect of initial microbiota development, it can be agreed upon that setting up a good initial gut ecosystem during the first 1000 days is critical.


If you are reading this post, you have past the age of altering the initial microbial colonisation (sorry!). We’ll get to how you can still improve it with lifestyle later. But now, how can you set up a good initial gut ecosystem for your babies?


Number 2 – Setting up a good initial gut ecosystem


To ensure a good initial microbial colonisation process, the mum plays the most important role (oh pressure, ladies).


The major factors that contribute to microbial colonisation include

  • Maternal microbiota
  • Mode of birth
  • Feeding
  • Preterm birth
  • Antibiotic treatment.


Maternal microbiota

We are at a very exciting time. It is only recently that scientists discovered microbial genes in the placenta, which suggests the possibility of maternal-offspring exchange of microbiota.


We still know very little about the microbes that traverse the placenta, whether they persist in the infant and what roles they play exactly. Nevertheless, ladies should aim to have a high quality gut microbiota before and during pregnancy.

Mode of birth

The first major microbial exposure occurs during birth. Naturally born infants are colonised by the vaginal and fecal bacteria coming from the mother. Infants born via C-section are instead colonised with microbes associated with the skin and the hospital environment.


It is suggested that the microbiota composition in these infants may remain disturbed for months or even years. So it is crucial that if a baby has to be born via C-section, he or she gets a vaginal swab to mimic the birth canal environment.



A major source for bacterial colonisation of the infant gut is through bacteria in the mother’s milk, and it has been proposed that this mode of colonisation plays a major role in the child’s health status.


The milk microbiota is reported to contain more than 700 species of bacteria and an abundance of complex oligosaccharides with prebiotic activity, stimulating the growth of specific bacterial groups.


Therefore, it is highly recommended that mums try to breastfeed newborns to provide the best support of infant microbial colonisation. If breastfeeding is not possible, choosing the right formula becomes important. Nowadays, some formula companies are taking into consideration the critical gut colonisation process and are trying to mimic the breast milk by adding pre- and probiotics. It is encouraged that mums choose such formula as well as provide newborns with additional pre- and probiotic supplementation.


Pre-term birth

This might sound scary, but in preterm infants, the microbiota is characterized by reduced diversity and higher levels of potentially pathogenic bacteria compared with full-term infants.


Therefore, pre-term babies need extra care. Breastfeeding is highly encouraged, so are additional pre- and probiotic supplementation.


Antibiotic treatment 

Antibiotic treatment can dramatically disturb an adult’s gut environment, let alone a fragile newborn. Even short-term antibiotic treatment can significantly affect the development of the infant gut microbiota.


As a result, antibiotic treatment should be avoided as much as possible. If necessary, make sure the baby get plenty of breast milk and additional pre- and probiotic supplementation.


I thought you might be scared at this point, but don’t be! Try your best to prevent and restore the gut ecosystem for your baby by using the following guidelines!


influence microbiota development

Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4464665/


Number 3 – Are Pro-biotics Effective?


Well, you’re either going to love me or hate me with this next part I’m going to say. Unless you have been sick for a very long time, or had a long streak of antibiotics, or have irritable bowel syndromes such as bloating, diarrhea, constipation or gas, probiotic supplements for the healthy people out there could be a waste of money.


Here’s why.


1. Most bacterial strains are likely dead by the time we ingest them due to long/inappropriate storage before purchase. 


2. Most of the probiotics don’t even make it down there, and even if it did, it is very hard for our gut ecosystem to accept new strands of bacteria and stay.

As a result, the effects of probiotics are most often transient. Remember what was said before, the gut microbiota is relatively stable after 3-5 years old. Unless you take probiotics on a daily basis, the new bacterial strains are unlikely to stay in your gut.


Number 4 – How to improve your gut health?


Once the gut microbiota is established after 3-5 years old, the composition is relatively stable throughout adult life, but, BUT


The gut environment can be still be altered as a result of bacterial infections, antibiotic treatment, lifestyle, surgical, and a long-term change in diet.


So save your money, and work on your diet and lifestyle instead!


The best way to grow healthy bacteria is to eat plant-based fibres. Dietary fibres are the preferred fuel for healthy bacteria and they often serve as beneficial natural prebiotics! No need to spend money when you can get it from nature!


In return, the healthy bacteria thriving on the plant fuel happily produce short-chain fatty acid and protect against allergic inflammation, heart diseases, and so on.


What’s the best way of getting lots of dietary fibre?


Eat a variety of whole foods from core food groups (whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds). Most importantly, choose different colours, aim for a beautiful food palette! If you don’t know yet, this is the reason that we are called Vegan PaletteEating a variety of colourful foods is our philosophy!

Vegan Palette's guide to healthy vegan diet


Number 5 –  High bacterial richness – What? Why? How?

Lastly, you want aim for a high gut bacterial richness. Let me explain why.


Studies found that people tend to fall into one of two groups:

High gut “bacterial richness” group: those with a variety of types of gut bacteria

Low gut “bacterial richness” group: those with a few types of gut bacteria


What’s the difference?


Compared to high bacterial richness individuals, those with low bacterial richness have more body fat, insulin resistance and increased likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes, as well as higher levels of inflammatory markers.


How do make sure you are in the high gut “bacterial richness” group?


Simple – increase our fruit and vegetable intake. This seemingly simple approach has been associated with high bacterial richness in a number of studies.


Don’t try to take a shortcut by just taking fibre-containing supplements because they don’t seem to increase richness! The complexity of whole foods such as grains could support a variety of bacterial types, increasing our gut bacterial richness. Remember, real foods don’t just contain fibre, but a variety of beneficial phytonutrients!


By the way, Dr. Michael Gregor from Nutritionfacts.org has an in-depth video explaining the original research that showed how whole grains can increase our gut bacterial richness! I recommend you watch it later – Gut microbiome – Strike it rich with whole grains.


This is important because your body will perform at the lowest level of healthy bacteria, and not fully utilising the capabilities of the bacteria with high strands. It’s like playing footy, New Zealand is one of the best teams because all the players work together. It is the same with our gut, we need our healthy bacteria to work together, and to do that, we need an even spread of healthy bacteria, not too much and not too little. 



There you have it. How important it is to take care of gut, from before birth to every single day of our adult life! The big and small decisions we make, determine how healthy our gut is. We are what we eat! 


As a final reminder, keep this timeline in mind!

microbiota development

Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4315782/


Thank you for reading all this, we hope it has helped you understand how you can take better care of the gut microbiota from today. We’ll leave you with an inspirational quote:

“The biggest influence you can have on the state of your gut lining, and a healthy microbiome, is your diet—which you control.” Jeannette Hyde


Let us know how your gut health journey goes from here. Comment below what you liked about this article, and what topic you would like us to cover next! 


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Mueller NT, Bakacs E,Combellick J, Grigoryan Z, Dominguez-Bello MG. (2015). The infant microbiome development: mom matters. Trends in Molecular Medicine. 21(2):109-117. doi:10.1016/j.molmed.2014.12.002.

Goldsmith F, O’Sullivan A, Smilowitz JT & Freeman SL. Lactation and Intestinal Microbiota: How Early Diet Shapes the Infant Gut. Journal of Mammary (2015). Gland Biology and Neoplasia. 20 (3-4): 149-58. doi: 10.1007/s10911-015-9335-2.

Rodríguez JM, Murphy K, Stanton C, et al. (2015). The composition of the gut microbiota throughout life, with an emphasis on early life. Microbial Ecology in Health and Disease. 26:10.3402/mehd.v26.26050. doi:10.3402/mehd.v26.26050.

Sharon, G., Garg, N., Debelius, J., Knight, R., Dorrestein, P. C., & Mazmanian, S. K. (2014). Specialized metabolites from the microbiome in health and disease. Cell Metabolism, 20(5), 719–730. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.cmet.2014.10.016

Timothy G. Dinan, Roman M. Stilling, Catherine Stanton & John F. Cryan. (2015). Collective unconscious: How gut microbes shape human behavior. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 63: 1- 9. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpsychires.2015.02.021


About the author


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.