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.

 

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.

 

Cheat Day Vegan Burgers in Brisbane (mouth-watering photos included)

As much as we encourage everyone to live a whole food plant-based lifestyle to the best of our ability, there might just be those days when you want to treat yourself to a vegan burger.

Or you might want to impress your vegan-curious friends that vegan burgers might actually taste better!

It’s great to see more places adopting vegan options on their menus, and more good news – the vegan options are slowly getting upgraded to plant-based!

Let’s take a look at 5 vegan burger places we went to in Brisbane and Bryon bay!

Brewski

On Brewski’s menu, you will find the “Burgers for the plant-based” section with 5 amazing burgers:

  • BEEFLESS BURGER
  • VEGAN CHEESEBURGER
  • PULLED JACKFRUIT BURGER
  • ABC BURGER
  • PLANT SMASH BURGER

Their top seller beefless burger is also my personal favorite, but I’m sure you will find others just as amazing.

I also had to include their vegan nachos here because it beats all the nachos I’ve ever had!!

Besides the most amazing food, I also had a lovely chat with Antoinette, who told me all the effort that went into sourcing ingredients locally to reduce the environmental impacts of importing mock meat. I was so glad to hear that all the ingredients were ethically sourced, with lots of consideration concerning health, safety, and environment!

Highly recommend Brewski for your Friday nights, birthdays and any functions 🙂

Find Brewski on Facebook and Instagram.

Just Poppy’s

If you are going to try out every burger on Just Poppy’s menu, it’s gonna take you a lifeeeeetimeeee.

I’ve never seen a burger place with shocking 13 vegan burgers!

Certainly would keep your tastebuds satisfied if you are sharing different burgers with friends 😛

I loved the Catch of the day (fishless fish) and was blown away by how real the “fish” patty tasted! Definitely a treat for someone who used to love fish.

Plenty of plant-based, minimally unprocessed burgers such as Hommos to god, which uses a chickpea patty, The plant-based disgrace with a black bean and beetroot patty.

Just Poppy’s also has the most beautiful vegan platter, perfect for a group of animal lovers!

OH!! And this one is SPECIAL – Potato Portato using scallops as buns! – Very unique, very creative, very delicious!

Find Just Poppy’s on facebook and Instagram.

Grassfed

Grassfed is a new burger joint tucked away in the Fish Lane, brought to you by the amazing I Should Coco man behind the Brisbane vegan market scene.

They offer very affordable vegan burgers, as well as coconut-based icecreams!

This one is their biggest and most popular B.F.C burger, which will definitely make you happy on a cheat day.

Find Grassfed on facebook and Instagram.

VeganBurgz

How cool is a green burger?

I know. These green burgers just look so appetizing!

Stacks on was one of the 11 amazing vegan burgers and my favorite as it uses mushroom and eggplant instead of a processed patty!

Sweet-kale Roline is another must-try, made of sweet potato, chia seed patty, onions rings and kale!

Find VeganBurgz on facebook and Instagram.

Elixiba

Best is saved to the last!! Elixiba is the ultimate plant-based burger you can dream of – The bridge between health and social life.

It is currently located in Byron Bay and Sunshine Coast, but I’ve heard rumors that they will be coming to Brisbane soon!! Fingers crossed.

Hemp patty, jackfruit, massive sweet potato chips! All so yummy and healthy!

Elixiba also offers a range of other plant-based dishes that I wouldn’t call cheat meals, all made from healthy whole foods, satisfying both your taste buds and nutrition!

Find Elixiba on facebook and Instagram.

There you have it – 5 burger places you can go to on your cheat day! Remember not to do these toooooo often and base most of your daily foods around plant-based foods in their whole form 🙂

Remember – A small step towards plant-based vegan is a big step for health, environment and animals!

All photos are taken by Raymond, the vegan dietitian and photography enthusiast at Vegan Palette! Show your love for vegan and plant-based cafes/restaurants to encourage more people to try out the vegan options 🙂 If you own a vegan restaurant/cafe and would like a professional photoshoot/menu design/nutritional advice with Vegan Palette, please get in touch at raymond@veganpalette.com or our Facebook, Instagram, Website.

 

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.

 


The best tool every vegan should use to talk about veganism

iron veganism cartoon

How to respond to the ignorant and hurtful comments on your “non-filling”, “deficient”, “flavour-less” vegan meals is probably one of the most annoying things that every vegan has to prepare for at some point.

 

Have you ever wondered why it is still so hard for vegans to eat in peace, despite all the documentaries, research, slaughterhouse videos, celebrities, news articles all talking about veganism loud and clear?

 

It is still generally considered that vegans have to give up many enjoyable things in life to love animals, locked away from all the yummy foods. Why?

 

Miki Mottes, a vegan illustrator who made Simple Happy Kitchen, raised a good point. Maybe all the public is seeing is the disturbing despite truthful images of slaughterhouses, but not so much of the enjoyable, and nutritious food we have.

 

If you think about it: how did the meat, tobacco or milk industry lure us into buying their products? – Relaxing, sweet and fun campaigns. The milk ads often involve adorable babies, the cigarettes ads often elicit a relaxing feeling and the meat campaigns do it the best – they zoom right into the splashing juice when grilling a steak. Aren’t these just irresistible?

 

If there is a more gentle, fun, and easy way to tell your friends, or the haters, about veganism, how will you feel?

 

I would be so relieved. I don’t have to waste my time showing the truth for the 1000th time to that colleague who just never wants to take my words! I don’t have to go find some corner and eat my lunch alone just to avoid communication on this topic!

 

Miki understood that for more people to understand our lifestyle, and that we don’t suffer from just eating plant foods, we have to show them veganism is fun, simple, and nutritious.

 

SO..She turned

…into

She turned this boring bar graph

into…

Her illustrations are simple, uplifting, evidence-based, and easy for anyone (even the stonehearted) to take in, bits by bit.

 

And guess what? If you are struggling to explain vegan nutrition to a friend, your little one, or simply anyone, Miki has cool illustrations like this one:

 

Now. Do you think people will feel we are suffering from this vegan diet? Do you think people will say we are just imposing our beliefs onto them?

 

For the health of humans, animals and the planet, we need to keep doing the good work we are doing telling the truth, living the life, but also showing how enjoyable this lifestyle can be!

 

We need to be intelligent at the approach we use to spread the love, and Miki has offered us great tools!

 

You can freely download Miki’s Protein, Calcium and Iron printable posters here, even in different languages!

 

We should thank all the vegans out there for doing the great work protecting the animals, the planet and human health. If you would like to support Miki’s gentle approach, check out her book How to go vegan – the simple happy kitchen.

 

I hope you all find this tool helpful, and keep spreading the love!

 

*All images in this blog belong to Miki Mottes and can be found on her website – Simple Happy Kitchen

 

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.

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.

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!

 

Conclusion

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?

 

References

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26946252

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18326600

 

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.

 

 

Disease-fighting phytonutrients – power of real plant foods

vegetables vegan diet

 

When it comes to nutrition, I bet what you hear most often are carbs, proteins and fats. These are the macronutrients, but…are they all we need?

 

You might also have heard of micronutrients, such as vitamins and minerals. For many people, Micronutrients are not a big deal considering how easily accessible multi-vitamin supplements are nowadays.

 

So…If you are getting all you macros, plus taking those all-in-one vitamin supplementations, you have everything you need, right?

 

Well. Technically that’s what you need to live. Nutrients include carbohydrates, protein, fat, vitamins and minerals, all of which are essential to life. These are the basic requirements.

 

But… to live a healthy, disease-free life? Not quite enough.

 

Today’s topic is all about the powerful, under-appreciated phytonutrients.

  • What are they?
  • What can they do?
  • Where to get them?

 

There are also some important pointers and gifts at the end, make sure you go there and check them out!

 

What are phytonutrients?

 

“Phyto” comes from the Greek word for “plant”. Natural phytonutrients give plant foods their rich colour, tastes and smells.

 

Phytonutrients are technically not “nutrients”, but there is strong evidence that they play a crucial role in maintaining health and preventing diseases, including cancers. Discovering and utilising phytonutrients are part of a growing area of health and nutrition.

 

In my opinion (and perhaps some other health professionals), phytonutrients should be added to the definition of essential nutrients for healthy living. 

 

More than 900 phytonutrient compounds have been discovered and scientists are still uncovering more from the powerful plant kingdom. Some well-known phytonutrients are isoflavones in soy, lignans in flaxseed, beta-carotene in carrots, flavonoids in berries.

 

Benefits of phytonutrients

 

Long before phytonutrients were discovered, people began to notice that those who eat mostly plant foods are less likely to experience chronic diseases than those who consumed meat and processed foods.

 

In addition to the well-known benefits of plant foods including high fibre, low saturated fat, low sugar and salt, what else could be preventing diseases?

 

Phytonutrients – That’s right!

 

Phytonutrients can protect against diseases in a number of ways such as

  • Improving immune function
  • Stimulating enzymes that protect against toxins and carcinogens
  • Neutralising the free radicals that could damage DNA
  • Decreasing blood cholesterol level
  • Regulating blood glucose level

 

Some phytonutrients are extremely powerful because of their anti-oxidant and anti-diabetic properties. Flavonoids are one such example. Berries are rich in flavonoids and are highly recommended for healthy aging, diabetes control, fighting cancer and fat burning. 

 

We encourage you to check out Dr. Michael Greger‘s videos on flavonoids!

 

How do you get lots of phytonutrients?

 

It’s so simple –  The different colours reflect phytonutrients present in different plant foods. To ensure you get more phytonutrients, you simply need to eat a colourful plate of fruits, veggies and whole grains.

 

Is it really that simple? Yes, it is all about diversity and real plant foods. Nature has loaded so many health-promoting compounds into plant foods, we just need to appreciate them in the original form and minimise processing that may damage the structures of these compounds.

 

If you don’t believe me, here is a table released by Harvard Medical School.

 

Phytonutrients, Their Sources And Potential Benefits

Source: Harvard Medical School

 

Is there a magic phytonutrient pill?

 

Phytonutrients are great, and you have to get them the RIGHT way – eating a variety of plant foods. A pill just simply can’t do what real foods can.

 

A plant food may contain in itself more than 100 types of phytonutrients and they only provide the optimal benefits when consumed all together – a phenomenon known as synergy. When you are consuming a variety of plant foods, complex synergistic interactions are going in your body.

 

Attempting to take out particular elements is just not going to work. In fact, research has shown that for some people, taking beta-carotene supplementation can actually be harmful!

 

Remember – “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts“. This always holds true in the debate between supplementation or real foods.

 

A few more pointers

  • Eat at least 6 servings of fruits and vegetables a day!
  • Variety does not just apply to fruits and vegetables. Don’t just stick to one type of grain and miss out on the phytonutrients in different whole grains! Alternate between whole wheat, rice, oatmeal, whole-wheat couscous, triticale, spelt, buckwheat etc.
  • Eat phytonutrient-rich foods throughout the day to keep blood levels of these components constant. This way you get the most benefits.
  • It is so important to keep track of your lifestyle habits, you can download my lifestyle checklist and Food, symptom & mood diary on my Comprehensive Resources Page.

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.

 

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References

Disease fighting phytonutrients, Harvard Medical School 

Phytonutrients for fall, Harvard Medical School

NutritionFacts.org

Phenomenal phytonutrients: the reason we need real food

 

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.