What does a healthy vegan diet look like? Many people don't know what a healthy diet is, let alone a vegan one. I got talking with a neighbor at the grocery store recently. He invited me to join his tai chi classes, and talked about general health benefits. I took a chance and asked him if he knew of any local vegan communities. His response was dismissive. “When I was training at the gym, all the vegans fizzled out quick. A vegan diet doesn't work.”
He went on to admit that the small group (one person, actually) of vegans he had met was back in the 1970s, over 40 years previous. I ventured to mention all the top vegan body builders with videos on YouTube. “With the lack of educational resources on diet before the Internet, the vegan you met probably lived on pasta,” I commented. The neighbor was not impressed enough to inquire more, and proudly announced that he “eats everything.” Needless to say, the man soon excused himself and went on his way.
So, do we really want to know about healthy eating, or are we slowly poisoning ourselves?
According to the National Cancer Institute, Americans do not meet federal dietary recommendations. Sure, opinions vary when it comes to what healthy eating means. But little debate emerges about what is not healthy, and the American population does not seem to care. The following is an excerpt from an NCI study:
The majority of the population did not meet recommendations for all of the nutrient-rich food groups, except total grains and meat and beans. Concomitantly, overconsumption of energy from solid fats, added sugars, and alcoholic beverages (“empty calories”) was ubiquitous. Over 80% of persons age ≥ 71 y and over 90% of all other sex-age groups had intakes of empty calories that exceeded the discretionary calorie allowances. In conclusion, nearly the entire U.S. population consumes a diet that is not on par with recommendations. These findings add another piece to the rather disturbing picture that is emerging of a nation's diet in crisis.
In the hype of vegan diets, do you know what a healthy vegan diet is? You may have the suspicion that vodka and potato chips are vegan but not exactly healthy. But what about the vegan burgers you can buy in the supermarket or the lentil soup?
Once upon a time I happily ate any kind of processed foods. When I chose to become vegan, I continued to look for quick, processed vegan options for meals. A healthy vegan diet does not rely on processed foods and alcohol. This means you buy fresh produce with few exceptions. Let's take a look at fresh produce:
Fresh vegetables and fruit
Whole grains and spices
Legumes and beans (dried, not canned)
Nuts and seeds
The above items are all fresh produce. Of course, we are subject to seasonal and regional harvests, so including frozen produce as part of a healthy vegan diet is fine. Note that we are not talking about heavily salted, seasoned or sweetened fruits and nuts, like pre-made energy bars. Some basics for your food pantry, ingredients that have a minimal amount of processing, are healthy choices to include, nevertheless. Here are a few good items to keep on hand:
Brown rice vinegar
Apple cider vinegar
Canned vegetables and legumes are quite commonly found just about anywhere. It's a good idea to get into a regular habit of cooking with dried legumes rather than canned, mostly because the salt content and other additives found in canned food. However, canned legumes are still nutrient-rich and worth having in your cabinet.
The bad news is that the burgers and pre-made bean soups are all processed. So are all other kind of vegan/vegetarian meals and fake meat. The good news is that you can easily prepare meals yourself and freeze. How does a lentil-walnut burger with a paprika sauce sound or a meatloaf with glaze?
Not everything we prepare has to look like meals with meat and fish. Usually in the transition period it's nice to have something familiar to eat. Keep in mind that just because something says vegan on the package does not make it necessarily healthful for you. As you become more committed to a vegan lifestyle, you may not want so much meat alike food, which is only trying to trick your brain instead of transforming your thinking. We can cook delicious vegan meals, and it can be just as easy as opening a package of processed fake meat.
If you know nothing about cooking, let alone vegan cuisine, don't fret. It's a lot easier to do than many people think, and infinitely more healthful, no question. We all know that dark, leafy greens are rich in cancer-fighting goodness, for example. But due to the heavy lobbying and marketing of the meat and dairy industries, few Americans are aware that healthier alternatives, such as pulses – seeds of legumes that pull nitrogen from the air to create protein – are an important protein source globally. The American Institute for Cancer Research reports that dry beans and peas are rich in fiber (20% of Daily Value) and a good source of protein (10% of Daily Value). They are also an excellent source of folate, a B vitamin.
In Dr. Michael Gregor's, book, How Not To Die, the author goes into detail about the best foods to include in a healthy vegan diet. Check out Gregor's Daily Dozen in this video below:
At any rate, we all inherently know when we are eating badly. It goes without saying that processed foods are addicting because of added sugars, salt, and saturated fats. If you want to live a long healthy life on a healthy vegan diet, make a concerted effort to cut the processed crap out of your daily food consumption.
Laughter yoga may be a good thing to start practicing this holiday season if you don't already laugh often. Year end brings festivities, family obligations and stress for many. As a vegan, do you choose to get argumentative with “close-minded” meat eaters, or do you focus on your own growing mindfulness? If holiday frustrations are making you stressed, laughter yoga may help.
Laughter Yoga And The Happy Vegan
In my own experience, I know I cannot simply change the mind of relatives who delight in meat eating. These relatives scoff at the notion that meat may cause cancer. I had no idea how deeply set their convictions were until what I thought was a casual conversation about healthy eating turned ugly. “How ridiculous to think that meat causes cancer!” was a shared sentiment at a recent family reunion dinner. I had a decision to make: should I insist on my perspective, or relax and enjoy the party? I chose laughter yoga.
Laughing exercises help melt self-induced stress
Laughter yoga, an exercise that combines laughter exercises with yoga breathing, was born in a public park in 1995 with Dr. Madan Kataris. Here is how he began:
While researching the benefits of laughter, he was amazed by the number of studies showing profound physiological and psychological benefits of laughter. He [Dr. Kataris] decided to find a way to deliver these benefits to his patients and other people. The result is Laughter Yoga, a unique exercise routine that combines group laughter exercises with yoga breathing which allows anyone to laugh without using jokes, humor or comedies. Started with just with just five people in a public park in Mumbai in 1995, it has grown into a worldwide movement of more than 6000 Laughter Yoga clubs in over 60 countries. Read more at Laughter Yoga.
Laughter Yoga can have unexpected benefits
As I grow stronger in my commitment to a vegan path, it's more important to me to explore healthy non-animal food choices than to fall into arguments with non-vegans. After all, I used to be a serious meat eater just like them. Lately, I've been focusing on laughing instead of getting upset because of another's point of view. This has not only melted much of my stress, but also empowered me in ways I did not expect. I find it easier to make vegan choices daily, and the arguments of non-vegans don't cause anger or doubts in my own head.
Decades ago, Napoleon Hill said that laughter helps change the chemistry of the brain. He was doing laughter yoga long before it was ever coined as a concept. He suggested starting the day with a good laugh: Adopt the habit of having a good hearted laugh every time you become irritated or angry. Begin each day with one minute of hearty laughing; this will change the chemistry of your brain and start you off with a positive mental attitude. Read more at Daring to Live Fully.
On the next page is a sampling of laughter videos to help get you started. Click on the round 3 below to watch them:
For great health, diet plays an important role. Yet that's not all there is to it. To achieve optimal health, you need a combination of a healthy diet, exercise, and a positive mood. This is where “Laughter is the best medicine” comes in.
Every fall I travel to the South of Europe to a nice warm village to stay in over the winter. Usually, it's a great time of the year. I enjoy planning and packing, yet, this year it was stressful for me. It started the month before, not knowing if we were going at all, something was needed and fast. Then it was I remembered Laughter Therapy – after a few laughs I started to feel much better, I stayed stress-free and enjoyed the planning, packing, and trip.
Laughter can be infectious. When you hear the sound of laughter, you can’t help but laugh yourself. When giggles are shared among others, they create a bond between people. It increases both intimacy and happiness.
It is well known that smiles trigger healthy bodily changes and healthy changes in the mind. Laughter can increase your energy level, lessen pain, strengthen the immune system, and protect you from stress. Laughing is the best medicine because it is free, fun, and easy.
Laughter is strong medicine
Laughter can be a strong antidote to conflict, pain, and stress. There is nothing else that works more dependably or quicker to bring your body and mind into balance than laughter. The use of humor can lighten your burdens, connect you to others, inspire your hope, and keep you focused, alert, and grounded.
With this ability to renew your health and heal you, laughter can be a great resource for whatever problems you may have. It can also strengthen your relationships. It can support your emotional and physical health and well-being.
How are giggles good for your health?
Laughing can have many benefits for your health, including:
an increase in the strength of your immune system. It can decrease the level of stress hormones within the body and increase the number of immune cells and antibodies you have, which will help you become more resistant to disease.
helping you to relax. A wonderful laugh can relieve you of stress and physical tension so that your muscles can be relaxed for up to 45 minutes following laughing.
the release of endorphins. Endorphins are the body’s feel-good hormones. When your endogenous endorphins are released, you feel a sense of well-being and a reduction in the sensation of pain
support for the heart. Laughing can increase the ability of the blood vessels to nourish all parts of the body. It can increase your blood flow, which can help prevent heart attacks and other types of heart diseases.
The benefits of being happy
Laughter is known to have many health benefits, including physical, emotional, and social benefits. Some of these include the following:
• Decreases your stress levels • Increases your immunity • Relaxes your muscles • Protects your heart • Lessens pain • Lessens fear and anxiety • Relieves stress • Adds joy to your life • Enhances your mood • Improves your resilience • Attracts other people to us • Promotes the bonding among group members • Improves teamwork • Strengthens relationships
Happy emotions can help your emotional health
Having a good belly laugh simply makes a person feel good. This good feeling persists even when you are done laughing. Laughter helps you maintain an optimistic and positive outlook. Which means you can easier get through situations of loss, disappointments, and other difficult situations.
Laughing often is more than just protection against pain and sadness. It gives you the strength and courage to find other sources of hope and meaning. Even when you find yourself in the most difficult of times, laughter or even a smile can take you far when it comes to feeling better. Laughter really is a bit contagious. When you hear someone else laugh, it primes your brain and sets you up to join that person in laughing, too.
Laughter and mental health
Laughter is associated with better mental health. Some things laughter can do to improve your mental health include the following:
• Laughter allows you to relax. A good laugh can lessen stress and increase your energy levels so that you can remain focused and get more things accomplished. • Laughter can lessen distress. It is hard to feel sad, anxious, or angry when you are instead laughing. • Laughter shifts your perspective. It allows you to see things in a less threatening and more realistic light. Being humorous helps create a psychological distance between you and stressful events so that you don’t feel so overwhelmed.
Laughter has social benefits
When you use humor and engage in playful communication with others, your relationships become stronger. You trigger positive emotions and an emotional connection with those you are laughing with. A positive bond develops—one that can act as a powerful buffer against disappointment, disagreements, and stress. When you laugh with others, this is a more powerful thing than when you laugh alone.
How to create more opportunities to laugh
There are things you can do to increase your chances of laughing. Here are some you might try:
• Attend a comedy club • Watch something funny on television • Watch videos of funny animals there are tons on YouTube, or just add the search term “funny into the YouTube search bar • Read the comics in the newspaper • Be with people who are funny • Share a funny story or joke with another • Read a funny book • Sponsor a game night with your friends • Play with your pet • Play with children • Do something you think is silly • Engage in activities you consider fun
Laughter can do a lot to help you feel better on a physical, emotional, and cognitive level. Don’t be afraid to share a good laugh with others for overall better health.
If you still need suggestions for laughter then click the book cover below:
An interesting fact about how we can cheat the brain with laughter PubMed
Deficiencies in our diet is not something many of us think about until we get sick. The more committed I become to a vegan lifestyle, the more people I meet say they are ex-vegan because it was not a healthy way to live. What? Check out the sexy young woman here below who is committed not only to compassionate living, but to keeping herself healthy, too. Yes, it does matter what we eat. Take care of your vitamin and mineral deficiencies (if you have any). It's the best way to feel great, stay healthy, and preserve your vegan sexy self.
Here's the video, where RawYogaNurse talks about what she discovered from her blood test. The two main deficiencies she found, B-12 and Vitamin D, are not only problems with vegans but meat eaters, too. Check out what she has to say:
If you put flaxseed in your recipes, you may find yourself feeling healthier – and yes, more sexy. Do you know why some chicken egg cartons tout high levels of Omega-3 essential fatty acids? It's because they are feeding all those chickens flaxseed! I think I'll choose the flaxseed over the dead chicken.
According to WebMD, studies show that it may help fight heart disease, diabetes and breast cancer:
Although flaxseed contains all sorts of healthy components, it owes its primary healthy reputation to three of them:
Omega-3 essential fatty acids, “good” fats that have been shown to have heart-healthy effects. Each tablespoon of ground flaxseed contains about 1.8 grams of plant omega-3s.
Lignans, which have both plant estrogen and antioxidant qualities. Flaxseed contains 75 to 800 times more lignans than other plant foods.
Fiber. Flaxseed contains both the soluble and insoluble types. [Read more at WebMD]
When we know our health deficiencies long before getting sick, we can ward off a number of preventable illnesses that plague our society today. It may make all the difference in enjoying life and keeping your vegan sexy.
The road to a healthy lifestyle has not been an easy one for me. Sure, I love being active, but I can't honestly say I've cared that much about my eating habits over the years. Then I started volunteering in an animal sanctuary and making friends with the exotics that, through whatever unfortunate circumstances, found themselves living there. These animals should be free. But because of human folly, they lost their rights to live in freedom.
The only things we volunteers been able to give these unfortunate beings is a safe place to live and a healthy diet. I saw transformations before my very eyes from animals who had come from homes whee all they were fed was junk. I found a great reason to care about healthy foods.
Changing focus to a healthy lifestyle
No, it's not easy. Many of us see the horrific news shows and declare, “I'm a vegan now!” But then someone offers us ice cream, or we get sick and blame the illness on a lack of meat. Rubbish. Rationalization about why we should eat meat, or addictions to habits we are too lazy to break is just not good enough. I'm not preaching here. I'm the first to admit that I forget and enjoy a piece of cake that has eggs in it. There was a time when I kept my mouth shut and ate what was put in front of me, because I couldn't stand the ridicule for not eating meat. Trust me, I've got plenty of weaknesses, and they don't spell healthy lifestyle.
Yet, it's a wonderful thing to start questioning our choices and trying new things. Habits do not change overnight (and I do wonder why so many vegans use the saying “cold turkey” — isn't there a vegan alternative for the phrase?). We don't need to beat ourselves up for making bad choices, nor beat others up for their choices. We can, nevertheless, help ourselves and help others to make baby steps towards a more healthy lifestyle.
On the next page (click that round 2 below) you'll se what I'm talking about.
Vegan make up came as a surprise to me when I heard about it. When first studying about vegan diets, I didn't give much thought to anything but food. It wasn't long before I stopped wearing my leather jacket, and replaced my shoes with non-leather pairs (well, after my favorites wore out anyway – every day I thanked the generous animal where the shoes came from). But what? My make up relied on dead animal ingredients? Shudders. I switched immediately to brands that I know are vegan make up.
Is your makeup vegan? Know the ingredients.
Don't be fooled by the ingredient names. According to PETA.org, companies are careful about the words they use, so as not to turn off consumers. Just like the word “leather” is used for “dead animal skin”, knowing the trick to words and hidden meanings helps us see clearly. In a path towards a vegan lifestyle, our best defense is to educate ourselves on what exactly is meant by some of these words, like “collagen” for example.
Here's what PETA has to say about cosmetics and vegan (not):
Cosmetics companies use animal ingredients such as tissue and tallow (fat) because they’re cheap, not because they’re better than plant-based or synthetic ingredients. Slaughterhouses kill billions of animals every year and have to dispose of the “byproducts” somehow; selling them to cosmetics manufacturers is one easy solution.
Unfortunately, even avid label-readers can’t always determine what they’re putting on—and in—their bodies. There are thousands of technical and patented names for ingredient variations, and many ingredients known by one name can be of animal, vegetable, or synthetic origin. And if that’s not confusing enough, some companies have slyly removed the word “animal” from their labels in order to avoid turning off consumers. For example, instead of saying “hydrolyzed animal protein,” companies may use a term like “hydrolyzed collagen.”Want to know more? Read PETA’s factsheet about hidden animal ingredients.
[NOTE: We know some of you think PETA is hypocritical. But any information that reveals how we mistreat animals is better than saying nothing at all, we believe. Thank you for your tolerance.]
Even though there are more and more companies that are not using animal products, many still use a lot of harsh ingredients. On the next page is my favorite of all time that uses mostly natural botanical ingredients. Click on the round “2” or arrow below to see the video.