My dad was a butcher and I grew up eating and loving meat, So, the plant-based challenge was definitely a challenge for me.I wanted to do it because it makes sense to me that eating a whole food plant based diet is a good way to eat. I love the science of nutrition and I like to “practice what I preach”. I did not consider this a “diet” but a lifestyle choice and I was hoping it would lead me to continuing with some new habits.
What we do know from repeated studies and concrete data is that eating a heavily plant based diet has many health benefits. It’s shown to reduce and or reverse heart disease, diabetes, inflammation, arthritis, auto-immune and more.
For this plant-based experience I had no meat, chicken, dairy, eggs, alcohol or processed food.
What I discovered was not what I expected. I assumed I would release weight as that is what I hear people do that go vegetarian or vegan or raw. That did not happen. In fact the days that I had extra grains like brown rice or quinoa, I gained weight.
Nuts and seeds are a go-to source of protein, but are quite calorie-dense. Good protein sources are lentils, with 18 grams of protein and 230 calories per cup or soft tofu with 16 grams of protein and 150 calories per cup of cubes. It is good to stir-fry, broil, steam or grill these protein options to avoid the extra calories that come from breading or frying. Flavor them with herbs, spices, soy sauce, canned tomatoes, vinegar and citrus, rather than with sugary sauces or fatty dressings.
Here are my personal take-ways so far from my plant-based experience.
- Every one has a unique metabolic blueprint and one way of eating does not work for everyone.
- Just because a particular food is vegan doesn’t mean it’s automatically healthful or low in calorie.( Soy ice cream, chips, pizza made with refined flour and vegan cheese, white bagels, vegan butter and cream cheese, vegan cookies and cakes are all as calorie-dense as non-vegan versions of these foods.)
- I personally do best on a low carbohydrate eating plan.
- To go plant based you have to be super organized with your protein sources (nuts, protein powder for shakes, vegetables)
- I can gain weight when my carbohydrate content goes higher.
- Plant based plans contain a lot of carbohydrates, so I had to choose low glycemic carbs and watch portion sizes.
I’ve always suggested that if we can be more present and aware- more mindful, so that we can become our own best nutritionist. There just isn’t any one diet that is the best and fits all. If I am present and aware, instead of eating unconsciously and in a hurry, then I can pay ore attention to how the food is nourishing me. Does the food you eat provide you energy, or deplete your energy? Do you have mental fogginess or feel more mentally clear? Is your mood more positive or negative? Do you feel normal or bloated? These are all signs… pay attention. If you’re loaded up on caffeine, that is also a sign.
So after this challenge I will definitely be more plant-based than I have been and that was one of my goals going in.
Nuts contain phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors that prevent them from being digested well and that can be detrimental to your health.
The answer to this problem is simple: soak your nuts and seeds
After a couple hours, much of the dust, residue and tannins from the skins are released into the water and the nut emerges with a smoother, more palatable flavor.
Benefits of Soaking
- increased enzyme activity
- greater absorption of the food’s nutrients by the body
- increased digestibility
How to Soak Nuts
Soak your nuts and seeds anywhere from 20 minutes, to 2 to 3 hours, even overnight in the refrigerator. In general, harder nuts will take longer to soften. If your recipe calls for soaked nuts or seeds and you are low on time, try to squeeze in 20 minutes minimum, or just do a really good job rinsing them.
A god guide is to soak nuts according to the density of the type of nut. The harder a nut is, the longer it will need to soak. Soak almonds for 8 to 12 hours. Soak cashews for 2 to 3 hours. Soak flax seeds for 6 hours. Soak garbanzo beans for 12 to 48 hours. Soak walnuts for 4 hours.
Quick Tip #1 The soak water from nuts and seeds should always be discarded and never used as water in a recipe.
Quick tip #2 : Soaking nuts in plastic is generally not recommended as plastic can leach into the water and into your food.