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