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The FACTS About Whole Food Plant Based Nutrition
An alternative title …. The FACTS I Wish Someone Had Told Me Years Ago About Whole Food Plant Based Nutrition !
As a counselor, health coach, writer, and musician, I want to get the message out to everyone on the planet about how healthy whole food plant based nutrition can be. So here is a video that uses humor and music to get the message across, followed by some actual scientific evidence.
“Spice” by Peggy Hustad
There are a lot of myths being promoted about nutrition, like the myth that all fats and sugars are bad, the myth that all carbs are bad, and the myths that you only can get certain nutrients from animal products or processed foods and drinks rather than from the healthier and more natural sources of whole food plant based nutrition.
Here are just some of the micronutrients and macronutrients that you can get from whole food plant based sources, rather than from animal products and processed foods and drinks. Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals and macronutrients are fats, proteins, and carbohydrates.
There is a misperception that dairy is the only source of calcium, but there are many types of whole food plant based options that contain significant levels of calcium, without the many disadvantages of dairy.
Whole food plant based nutrition provides a healthy source of carbohydrates, which include fiber, starches, and sugar. Although carbs have a bad reputation sometimes, the type of carbohydrates that are less healthy are refined and processed carbohydrates, like white bread, refined sugars, and highly processed snack foods like chips and cookies. Complex carbohydrates from whole plant based foods are essential for good health for many reasons, listed in this article below and in the information specific to fiber, starches, and healthy types of sugar.
The processed food industry sells products that contain electrolytes, often with additives such as artificial colors and flavors, preservatives, stabilizers, artificial sweeteners, and sugar. Electrolytes include elements like calcium and potassium and can be found in many whole food plant based options, which are nutrient dense and naturally healthy.
Our bodies need certain types of fats, but animal products contain unhealthy saturated fat and fried, baked, and processed foods can have harmful trans fat and saturated fat. Whole food plant based options are more likely to contain healthy unsaturated fats like Omega 3 fatty acids. And getting Omega 3 fatty acids from plants like chia seeds, hemp seeds, walnuts, and flaxseeds is much healthier than from fish, which contains saturated fat and other harmful substances
Animal products are low in fiber and plant based foods are high in both soluble and insoluble fiber. Among the many benefits, fiber is essential for eliminating dietary fat and cholesterol and excess hormones like cortisol and estrogen.
Here is more information about the importance of plant based fiber in your diet
Because heart disease, cancer, and diabetes are linked to consumption of animal products which tend to contain heme iron, the healthier type of iron is non heme iron, from whole foods like “whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, dried fruits, and green leafy vegetables”. These whole food sources of non heme iron “can be paired at the same meal with vitamin C rich foods such as citrus, bell peppers, broccoli, and tropical fruits to boost iron absorption”
Information from Nutrition Facts web site, such as this article about plant based sources of iron https://nutritionfacts.org/topics/iron
Also called phytochemicals or antioxidants, phytonutrients are compounds produced by plants that provide health benefits to the body
Some animal products are actually classified as carcinogens by the World Health Organization, including red meat and processed meat. Animal products, including dairy, have been linked to several types of cancer. Plant based foods can actually reduce the chances of developing cancer and have a higher level of antioxidants.
For more information about carotenoids, flavonoids, isoflavones, and other types of phytonutrients, here is an article from the USDA National Agricultural Library
There is an inaccurate and harmful belief that the only source of protein is from animal products. The truth is that we can get all of our protein from plants …. and plants are where animals get their nutrients from, directly or indirectly. Several types of plant based foods are sources of complete protein, which provides all of the essential amino acids, including soy and amaranth. If you try to consume a variety of at least 30 different types of plant based foods in a week, the combination of different types of foods provides all of the essential amino acids.
One type of protein is collagen and there is a lot of interest in collagen supplements as a way to reduce the signs of aging. There are several plant based foods that increase the production of collagen, so there is no need for animal based collagen.
Starches are a type of carbohydrate and according to Dr. Thomas Campbell, we should fill half of our plates with starchy whole foods like potatoes and half of your plate with non starchy fruits and vegetables.
Dr. Thomas Campbell is the Medical Director of the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies
Also, Dr. John McDougall explains that “the human diet is based on starches. The more rice, corn, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and beans you eat, the trimmer and healthier you will be …. and with those same food choices, you will help save the Planet Earth too.”
Glucose is “one of the most important forms of sugar used by the body for energy. All other carbohydrates, including other sugars, are converted into glucose during the digestion of food.”
Other than dairy products, which have many disadvantages, animal products are not good sources for the production of glucose. Plants are an efficient and healthy source for the production of glucose, which our brains and bodies need for fuel.
Here is an article about complex carbohydrates from plants providing glucose for the brain, which talks about “the real paleo diet” of plant based food like starches
Put more plants on your plate
As you can see, there is no reason to consume animal products. You can go directly to the source for healthy, whole food plant based nutrition. The main nutrient that a person needs if they are not consuming animal products is vitamin B 12, which can be obtained from sources like fortified cereals, soy drinks, and vegan vitamin B 12 supplements. Also, be sure to get enough iodine, selenium, vitamin D, and zinc because those nutrients may be lower for those who are fully vegan. A list has been provided at the end of this article of whole food plant based sources of various mirconutrients and macronutrients.
Other disadvantages of animal products
Animal products often contain contaminants such as antibiotics, growth factor hormones, unhealthy bacteria, TMAO, heavy metals, mercury, parasites, and microplastics. Animal products cause inflammation, which is linked to several chronic diseases, plus they can reduce immune system health.
While consuming animal products can increase inflammation in the body, plant based foods actually reduce inflammation in many ways.
Here is an article about whole food plant based nutrition reducing inflammation
Immune system health
Here is an interview of Dr. Robynne Chutkan by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine about how plant based nutrition reduces inflammation and increases immune system health.
As Dr. Chutkan explains, “To optimize our immune system we really have to optimize our gut health”
Endorsements of whole food plant based nutrition
A whole food plant based diet is endorsed and recommended by the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, the American College of Cardiology, the American Diabetes Association, the American Institute for Cancer Research, and the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists.
American College of Lifestyle Medicine statement
“ACLM recommends an eating plan that is based predominantly on a variety of minimally processed vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds.
Eating more unrefined, plant based foods is an important strategy in prevention of chronic disease, management of chronic conditions, and promotion of overall health”
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics statement
“It is the position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics that appropriately planned vegetarian, including vegan, diets are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits for the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. These diets are appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, adolescence, older adulthood, and for athletes. Plant-based diets are more environmentally sustainable than diets rich in animal products because they use fewer natural resources and are associated with much less environmental damage. Vegetarians and vegans are at reduced risk of certain health conditions, including ischemic heart disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, certain types of cancer, and obesity. Low intake of saturated fat and high intakes of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, soy products, nuts, and seeds, all rich in fiber and phytochemicals, are characteristics of vegetarian and vegan diets that produce lower total and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels and better serum glucose control. These factors contribute to reduction of chronic disease. Vegans need reliable sources of vitamin B-12, such as fortified foods or supplements.”
Whole food plant based meals
There are some great resources about whole food plant based nutrition on the American College of Lifestyle Medicine web site, including one that is a PDF 21 day Jump Start Guide and a sample cookbook of whole food plant based meals, which you can find by clicking on this link
Films about whole food plant based nutrition
Also, there are some evidence based and truly compelling movies about whole food plant based nutrition for health and peak performance called “Forks Over Knives” and “The Game Changers” that are an entertaining way to learn more as well.
Summary of many of the advantages of whole food plant based nutrition
Consistently consuming whole plant based foods and drinks can reduce inflammation, is nutrient dense and provides healing antioxidants, is a great source of glucose for optimal brain health, and increases immune system function. In general, whole food plant based nutrition is better for human health, peak performance, recovery from illness and injury, food security, social justice for workers, the diversity and welfare of all animals, the health and safety of communities, sustainable use of resources like land and fresh water, and the health of our environment.
Plant based sources of essential nutrients
Selenium – Oats, beans, Brazil nuts, brown rice, whole wheat bread
From the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements web site at https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Selenium-HealthProfessional
Protein – Legumes (beans, lentils, peas, peanuts), nuts, seeds, soy foods (tempeh, tofu)
Omega-3 fats – Seeds (chia, flax, hemp), leafy green vegetables, microalgae, soybeans and soy foods, walnuts, wheat germ, supplement
Fiber – Vegetables, fruits (especially berries, papayas, pears, dried fruits), avocados, legumes (beans, lentils, peas), nuts, seeds, whole grains
Calcium – Low-oxalate leafy greens (bok choy, broccoli, cabbage, collard, dandelion, le, watercress), calcium-set tofu, almonds, almond butter, fortified plant milks, sesame seeds, tahini, figs, blackstrap molasses
Iodine – Sea vegetables (e.g., arame, dulse, nori, wa me), iodized salt, supplement if necessary
Iron – Legumes (beans, lentils, peas, peanuts), leafy greens, soybeans and soy foods, quinoa, potatoes, dried fruit, dark chocolate, tahini, seeds (pumpkin, sesame, sunflower), sea vegetables (dulse, nori)
Zinc – Legumes (beans, lentils, peas, peanuts), soy foods, nuts, seeds, oats
Choline – Legumes (beans, lentils, peas, peanuts), bananas, broccoli, oats, oranges, quinoa, soy foods
Folate – Leafy green vegetables, almonds, asparagus, avocado, beets, enriched grains (breads, pasta, rice), oranges, quinoa, nutritional yeast
Vitamin B12 – Fortified foods (nutritional yeast, plant milks), supplement
Vitamin C – Fruits (especially berries, citrus, cantaloupe, kiwifruit, mango, papaya, pineapple), leafy green vegetables, potatoes, peas, bell peppers, chili peppers, tomatoes
Vitamin D – Sun, fortified milks, supplement if deficient
Vitamin K – Leafy green vegetables, sea vegetables, asparagus, avocado, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, lentils, peas, natto (a traditional Japanese food made from fermented soybeans)
From the article “Plant-based nutrition for healthcare professionals: implementing diet as a primary modality in the prevention and treatment of chronic disease” at the web site https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5466942
Words that rhyme with “pandemic”
An epic pandemic for too many days
Petty polemics that fill me with pain
Oppression, systemic, from greed and hate
Recession, an epidemic of bills to pay
Schools closed, academics are slipping away
Health and wealth gaps, endemic, in political power plays
Protests, alchemic, transforming our ways
We know, it’s epistemic, got to vote for change
A magical Norwegian Forest cat
Witness the epic antics of Emmy, the Norwegian Forest cat we adopted from the Humane Society. The song is an original and so is Emmy !
The Wonder of It All
My dad, Tom Sandin, was a faculty advisor and professor to the astronaut Ron McNair. My dad was interviewed about Ron McNair in a recent article, called “The Wonder of It All”. I just read the article and realized I had written some lyrics in a song called “Small Wonders”, about seeing the Earth from space, with the phrase “the wonder of it all”…
“And from far away
Even the Earth looks small
There’s a quiet beauty
And the wonder of it all
Is how it looks so calm”
Given what the entire world is going through right now, I love the image of looking at the Earth from space and imagining that we are all in this together and we will get through this!
Here’s the link to the incredible article. So proud of my father and impressed with Ron McNair!
Critics and “crickets”
This post is an attempt to inform, inspire, and hopefully even save lives for National Bullying Prevention Month…. please feel free to share!
First, let’s talk about the critics….
Academic, career, health and wellness counseling
After writing an article about telehealth, I was intrigued by the possibility of providing online therapy someday. I am grateful to say that I am now offering online consulting and counseling. As a professional counselor licensed in North Carolina, I can work with any client in the state of North Carolina online. And as a mental health consultant and as a certified health coach, I can work with clients in any state online.
There are many benefits to telehealth, which I wrote about in this article in 2017.
I accept Aetna and BCBS, as well as online payments. Please see my profile on Psychology Today for more information about my work.
Safe and Sound
When we think of the idea of “safety”, we often think of our physical safety. There are safety goggles, safety belts, workplace safety, and safety pins, which are designed to keep us protected from physical harm.
But there is also emotional safety, which relates to our health and wellness just as much as physical safety does.
According to clinical professor of psychiatry Dr. Dan Siegel, we all have a basic need to feel “safe, seen, soothed, and secure.” There are so many situations in relationships, at work, at school, and in the community where we may not feel a true sense of emotional or physical safety. If you live or work in an environment where you don’t feel safe, it can affect you emotionally, intellectually, physically, and even spiritually.
There are many ways, conscious or unconscious, that we try to protect ourselves from physical or psychological threats. Some ways we work to make ourselves feel safe, strong, and connected to others are healthy, such as eating nutritious food, being physically active, playing music, bonding with family and friends, “pet therapy”, prayer and service to others, and practicing mindfulness meditation and movement arts like dance, yoga, and Tai Chi. Some ways that we try to make ourselves feel safe are not as healthy, such as using behaviors or substances to provide a sense of comfort and protection in a stressful environment or situation. There are often natural, adaptive, protective, and even unconscious reasons for why we started to act, feel, and think in those less healthy ways. So, acceptance and compassion for ourselves and others as a “work in progress” is important, while also realizing that, with the right knowledge and support, we can feel safe to try making healthy changes. Advances in neuroscience, with research by Dr. Shauna Shapiro, Dr. Dan Siegel, Dr. Kristin Neff, Dr. Rick Hanson, and many others, show that you can actually change your brain function and structure for the better, just by how you think. These changes in your brain then improve how you think, feel, and act, at all levels, mind, body, and spirit. But you have to let go of shame and judgement as you do the work of transforming your life, focusing instead on positive attitudes of acceptance, hope, genuine love, kindness and compassion, in order to change your brain in a healthy way.
Everyone needs kindness and compassion when trying something new, when making difficult changes or decisions, and when dealing with loss, trauma, failure, and disappointment. With support from health and wellness professionals that address the mind, body, and spirit, you can begin to naturally let go of emotional and physical pain, continue to grow healthy and strong, and learn to feel truly safe.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love.
But the greatest of these is love.
When we are trying to make sense of these times and to do and say whatever we can to make the world a better place to live, it can be challenging. I believe that love will always be more powerful than anything that is not love.
There are so many examples of how goodness, even in the smallest acts of kindness, can change hearts and transform lives when done with the faith, hope, and love of God.
Faith, as small as a mustard seed, can move mountains. You may be moving the mountain one stone at a time, but it can be done, with faith in a higher purpose and with others that have that calling.
Having just a glimmer of hope can make all the difference in emotional and physical healing. We are moved when we see even the smallest example of encouragement offered to someone who needs it. We need hope to believe in ourselves and others. Hope keeps us going when life is hard.
Our attempts at love, no matter how meager, become so much more powerful when we let God love through us. Like a single candle, love can light up the darkness. Like a small stone thrown in the lake, love can create so many waves. As with all the resources God gives us, God multiplies our love, no matter how limited it may seem, when we choose to love with grace and mercy, compassion and forgiveness.
When you think that your efforts, no matter how small, can’t make a positive difference, think of Margaret Mead’s quote, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
Here is a song I wrote called “Small Wonders” about how something small can make a big difference.