Part 3: living a healthy lifestyle
According to google trends, "plant-based diet" has had a massive increase on search engines over the past few months. People are getting more and more interested in the health benefits as well as the positive effects on the environment of a vegan diet. The newest documentary "What the health" has definitely added fuel to the discussion whether humans should consume animal products. But is this really the magic solution to a long and healthy life?
My first experience - Dairy free
Coming to Singapore almost two years ago, did not only change my professional life but also the way I ate. Slowly I reduced my dairy intake for several reasons:
- Dairy products in Asia are just not as good as back home (sorry)
- The imported ones from Europe are very expensive
- Dairy has a lot of Omega 6 fatty acids, which causes inflammation and thus supports my acne
After a year in Singapore I completely eliminated dairy from my nutrition and I can see and feel a positive influence on my life.
- I almost never suffer from heavy bloating anymore
- My skin improved (still having pimples, but much less)
Of course, at the beginning it was hard. Imagine, I was eating dairy products more than once daily when living in Zurich. Breakfast was low fat quark, lunch cottage cheese and maybe at dinner again some cottage cheese or quark. In Singapore, I started with protein smoothie bowls, meaning I put in some whey powder to get an extra boost of protein. Then I changed to Sweet Potato Pancakes and only in April this year I got hooked with my Zoats.
- 60g Rolled oats
- 1/3 Zucchini, grated
- 240ml Almond milk
- 1 Tsp Maca powder
- Toppings: Blueberries, cacao nibs, seeds, nuts
Mix oats with zucchini, almond milk and maca and let soak over night. Next morning add your toppings. It's a high fiber breakfast to keep you full until lunch.
At the beginning only the inflammatory aspect of dairy made me eliminate it from my diet. But the more I read about dairy and how it is produced and the aspect that human beings consume something, which is in fact supposed to be the nourishment of calves, made me think.
Similar to human beings, a cow only produces milk if she is pregnant. In earlier days, farmers let the calves drink the milk and used up the remaining milk for milk, cheese and butter. But with the increased dairy consumption, cows are being artificially inseminated to produced more milk. After about three to four years, the cow is "worn out" and usually will be slaughtered. Even buying organic milk, does not necessarily eliminate the artificial insemination of cows. So maybe dairy should just not be on our menu on a daily basis....
(I am well aware, that the above description of milk production is just scratching on the surface, but it should give you at least a short picture of what's going on. Feel free to leave a comment if you know more about it.)
My second experience - fully plant-based
But not only did I reduce dairy when relocating to Singapore. Also the fact that I struggled to find organic meat and fish, made me turn to a more whole-food, plant-based diet. I started using more legumes and grains in my daily nutrition and increased my vegetable consumption. So going fully plant-based wasn't that big a step.
After our wedding and time in Zurich this summer, where I consumed quite a big amount of animal products, I decided to go on a fully whole-food, plant-based nutrition (I don't say vegan on purpose - I'll explain later in this post). I even managed to bring my husband on board with me for a month. My main goals were as follows.
- See the health impact (digestion, skin, sleep, energy levels etc)
- Experiment with new foods, recipes
- Get awareness of how much animal food we actually consume
- Experience new restaurants
As mentioned before, for me it wasn't that much further to eliminate all animal products from my diet. I mainly had to cut out the eggs and the occasional fish I had at restaurants. But for my husband it was quite a challenge as he loves cheese, eggs, meat, fish - well all kind of animal products! He realized, that in most of the restaurants here in Singapore you have a vegetarian option, but going 100% plant-based can be difficult. It's amazing or maybe rather worrisome, that our daily food is full with animal produce and that you have to look hard for a plant-based meal. Cooking your own food is the best method to really enjoy a delicious plant-based meal. Even our breakfast on weekends turned out great and made me experiment in the kitchen. See here for our fully plant-based brunch.
But putting the challenges aside, we both realized quite some improvements
- Better digestion
- Smoother skin
- Deeper sleep
- More energy, especially during long business meetings in the afternoon
- Leaner body
And again, there are not only health benefits of a plant-based nutrition, also the environment gets some profit. (and yes, I'm aware, that we are still flying, that we use plastic here in Singapore and that there are millions of other ways to live more consciously. But hi, it's a beginning).
Plant-based vs vegan
I mentioned earlier, that I use whole-food, plant-based and not vegan on purpose. For me, there is quite a difference in those two diet terms and only one leads to a healthy body. Let me explain.
A vegan diet means that you cut out all animal food whatsoever, but it does not specify what kind of food you should replace it with. You can be vegan and live from potato chips, french fries, processed vegan meals, sweets etc. This is far from being healthy and can lead to health issues such as diabetes 2 and obesity.
A whole-food, plant-based diet on the other hand, uses mainly unprocessed, real food to replace all the animal products. This means you get a lot of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes which are packed with health benefiting nutrients. Your nutrition will be full of fiber, vitamins and minerals, which your body can use to function properly.
Having said all the above - Am I going to live on a fully whole-food, plant-based diet? No.
Reason - I still believe in a balanced, real food diet with (almost) no restrictions.
As this article is part of my "living a healthy lifestyle" series, let me share with you, what I believe is a healthy diet.
In my opinion (and I am well aware that there are millions of other opinions out there) a whole-food, plant-based diet builds the foundation of a healthy nutrition and animal products should be consumed in moderation - and not the other way round!
So what are some of the main benefits of a nutrition based on plant-based whole foods:
- High mineral and vitamin content
- High in fiber to help your digestion, lower cholesterol levels, reduce weight, prevent cardiovascular diseases
- Plant based fats are high in the essential omega 3 fatty acids
- Your diet will be lower in saturated fats as well as in cholesterol, thus protecting your heart and arteries
By adding the occasional meat, fish or egg to your diet, you'll also benefit from the nutrients in those foods (such as vitamin B12, iron etc) but you are not over consuming them. And hey, if we all reduce our meat and fish consumption, our nature can benefit too.
Not convinced yet? Maybe my new program could help you on your journey to a healthy lifestyle.
28 Day Reset Your Body
The food journals of most of my clients are full with animal products and processed food. But usually they are low in vegetables, fruits, legumes, plant-based fats and whole grains. My clients struggle with replacing their meat, fish and dairy products because they either don't know where to get whole-food, plant-based food or they don't know how to cook them.
This plus my experience on a fully plant-based diet made me develop a 28 Day Reset Your Body program. The purpose of this program is to learn and understand the basis of a healthy diet by eliminating all animal products for 28 days. My meal plans and recipes will guide you into a whole-food, plant based diet and make you feel the benefits of it. Automatically you will be able to reduce your sugar and junk food intake as well as minimize deep fried foods.
However, as I mentioned earlier in this article, a balanced nutrition represents a healthy diet. Meat, fish, eggs and even dairy have some health benefits, and if chosen wisely and consumed in moderation, should be part of a healthy nutrition. Therefore my program does not stop after the 28 days. Together we will enter the transition phase, where you will slowly reintroduce animal products without losing the gathered knowledge from your 28 days on a fully whole-food, plant based diet.
Start your journey today - just click on below link and we can develop your new lifestyle together.
As for me, I will continue my journey on the plant-based diet, as it fits my daily life and I love to explore new recipes. However, I will also have some meat, eggs and fish to complete my healthy nutrition. Due to my skin conditions and bloating, I won't reintroduce dairy anymore - except there is no way around it (for example if I'm invited to dine with some friends etc). Let me know your opinions about animal vs plant-based diets in the comments below.
Thanks for reading until the end :)