Archive for the tag - vegan

Are Vegan Desserts Healthier?

I have a sweet tooth and love dessert. When I go out with my friends, I’ve noticed that a lot of cafes and some restaurants offer vegan desserts. I’m not vegan, but I was wondering if these desserts are healthy?

From,
Liz

tart_1857Hey Liz,

If any food is vegan, it simply means that it’s made without any animal products including dairy like milk or butter. The term vegan isn’t synonymous with healthy. Just like non-vegan foods, some vegan options are healthy and some are not.

As such, not all vegan desserts are created equal.

Case in point, vegan cupcakes, cookies, cakes and pies. Just like traditional baked goods, these vegan desserts are loaded with unhealthy ingredients like corn syrup, sugar, white flour, unhealthy oils and so on. As such, these vegan baked goods aren’t a healthy choice. Instead, just like traditional baked goods, they can be a special treat – or something of which you might only eat a few bites.

On the other hand, a bowl of fresh cut fruit is both vegan and nutritious. My three ingredient cookies are also a healthy and vegan dessert choice.

The bottom line, the list of ingredients is the determining factor in whether or not a dessert is healthy – and not simply the label of vegan.

Love,Davey

 

Is Eating Only Bananas Healthy?

Dear Davey,

I watched a YouTube video about a woman who eats only bananas. She said that the diet has improved her life and that she’s lost a lot of fat. Is this diet really something that I should try?

From,
Shane

banana-man-eat-400x400Hey Shane,

Eating only bananas isn’t a great idea. Why? Because bananas lack important nutrients that your body needs. Bananas have almost no vitamin A, no calcium, no vitamin d, no vitamin b-12, almost no iron and just a gram of protein. They also lack significant quantities of the essential fats that your body needs.

The banana diet is actually an offshoot of a more popular diet that was designed by Dr. Douglas Graham. It’s called the 80/10/10 diet. In a nutshell, this diet says that at least 80% of your calories should come from carbohydrates. Another 10% can come from each protein and fats. The diet is raw and vegan, meaning that all food sources are plant-based and uncooked. As such, the diet is big on fruits and vegetables. There’s no meat or even grains as part of this diet.

As with any diet, there are pros and cons.

In terms of cons, it is very difficult to keep vast quantities of ripe fruits and vegetables in your home. When we buy produce from the grocery store, it usually isn’t ripe – so the timing can be a challenge. Also, because the diet is very strict, it’s difficult to maintain at social gatherings and restaurants. Like any raw diet, sustainability and proper education can be a challenge.

In terms of pros, look no further than the many 80/10/10 enthusiasts. For fans, this diet is life-changing. Practitioners note having tremendous amounts of energy, body fat loss, improved sleep and better productivity.

My recommendation is this: Diets are very personal.

You know who you are and what you’re able to do. The right diet for me might not be the right diet for you. Eating entirely fruits and vegetables isn’t something that floats my boat, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that this diet isn’t a possibility for the next person. And just because a diet is difficult to maintain doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s impossible for you. For most people, I recommend a very realistic diet of lean meats, nuts, beans, whole grains, fruits and generous amounts of vegetables. In fact, you can read all about it in my Insanely Easy Guide to Eating Smarter.

But none of that means that the 80/10/10 diet is necessarily a bad choice for you. Diets are personal.

Love,
Davey

Are Fake Meats Healthy?

Dear Davey,

I recently became a vegetarian for health and moral reasons and have been eating a lot of fake meat products. Though they are vegetarian, the products try to mimic the taste and texture of real meat. From a health perspective, are these fake meat products any better?

From,
Jeff

fakemeatDear Jeff,

It’s true that plant-based diets are associated with a number of health benefits – and that most Americans would be well served by cutting their red meat consumption. But not all vegetarian foods are created equal.

When we talk about fake or mock meat products, we’re not talking about tofu or tempeh. We’re talking about vegetarian foods that are specifically created to imitate the look and feel of real meat. Like tofurkey, fakin’ bacon, chick’n and veggie burgers that are intended to taste like meat.

On the one hand, mock meats can be helpful when transitioning to a vegetarian diet. They’re like a stepping stone and can serve as a gateway to a plant-based diet, especially if and individual is craving the flavor or texture of meat. And, because mock meats are entirely vegetarian, there’s no guilt or possibility of animal cruelty.

On the other hand, mock meats really aren’t that healthy. Let’s compare real chicken to the vegetarian product, chick’n. Real chicken is a healthy, lean meat that contains only one ingredient… chicken. Chick’n, conversely, contains the following ingredients:

PATTY – WATER, SOY PROTEIN CONCENTRATE, SOY PROTEIN ISOLATE, TEXTURED WHEAT PROTEIN (WHEAT GLUTEN, WHEAT FLOUR), CONTAINS LESS THAN 2% OF WHEAT GLUTEN, YEAST EXTRACT, METHYLCELLULOSE, SALT, SPICE (CONTAINS BLACK PEPPER), NATURAL FLAVOR (NON-MEAT), HYDROLYZED SOYBEAN AND CORN PROTEIN, HYDROLYZED CORN GLUTEN, ONION POWDER, SUGAR, SUCCINIC ACID, THIAMINE HYDROCHLORIDE (VITAMIN B1). BATTER – WATER, WHEAT FLOUR, YELLOW CORN FLOUR, SALT. BREADING – WHEAT FLOUR, DEXTROSE, SALT, DRIED YEAST, CARAMEL COLOR, YELLOW CORN FLOUR, EXTRACTIVES OF PAPRIKA AND ANNATTO FOR COLOR. BROWNED IN CORN OIL.

Yikes.

Masquerading plants as meat takes a lot of processing. Fake meat products often contain many artificial ingredients and preservatives, lots of sodium and sometimes MSG. From a purely health perspective, you’re better off eating chicken.

The reality is, mock meat products are never going to taste like real meat. Though I’m not a vegetarian, I’ve tried many of these products. At best, they’re mediocre. And I don’t think anyone wants to settle for a mediocre diet.

Instead of disguising plants as meat, why not enjoy the delicious flavor that fruits, beans, nuts, vegetables and grains have to offer? Processed vegetables will never taste as good as a burger – but a burger will never taste as good as a fresh, colorful and delicious salad! Rather than settle for a veggie burger, grill up a flavorful portobello mushroom topped with tomatoes, avocado and lettuce. Sandwich the mushroom between two whole wheat buns.

Rather than eat fake meat products that fall short, celebrate vegetables and grains and fruits for the delicious and nourishing foods that they are.

Love,
Davey

Is A Raw Diet Healthier?

rawdietI get a lot of questions about raw diets – and if they’re a health alternative or simply over-hyped.

As with most things in the health and fitness world, the answer isn’t cut and dry or black and white. If you’re looking for a simple yes or no, you won’t find it.

It’s accurate to say that there are aspects of a raw diet that are very healthy. Most raw diets are heavily plant-based – and most of us aren’t getting enough fruits and vegetables. Diets that include plenty of nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables are associated with a number of health benefits.

Raw diets also eliminate most processed foods. As such, raw diets tend to have lower amounts of sugar, sodium and trans fats.

It’s also true that some foods are healthier when eaten raw. Heat can destroy some nutrients and reduce the benefits of certain foods. For example, the benefits of extra virgin olive oil are greatly reduced once it’s heated beyond 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Moreover, by eating raw foods, you never have to worry about charring meats – and the carcinogens created by that process.

However, not all foods are healthier when consumed raw.

David Katz, M.D., who is director of the Yale Prevention Research Center, notes:

Raw food advocacy ignores the fact that some foods are more nutritious when cooked. The nutrient lycopene makes tomatoes red. It is a potent carotenoid antioxidant, long thought to reduce prostate cancer risk, although that effect per se is in doubt. Lycopene is fat-soluble, and much more “bioavailable” – that is to say, available for absorption and making contributions to our health – when tomatoes are heated in combination with an oil. Tomato sauces with olive oil are ideal, and raise blood lycopene levels far more effectively than eating raw tomatoes.

There’s another reason we cook food. To kill harmful bacteria and thus prevent us from getting sick. Uncooked and unpasteurized foods are more prone to illness; as such, raw diets aren’t recommended for young children, pregnant individuals or the elderly. If you have a weak immune system or chronic illness, then a raw diet probably isn’t a good fit.

Nutritional deficiencies can also become problematic. Protein and calcium, for example, are commonly deficient in raw diets. While it’s possible to get a balanced diet while eating raw, the reality is most people are ill-equipped or lacking the time and effort to formulate a proper nutrition plan.

For most of us, it makes more sense to incorporate those aspects of raw dieting that are healthy and sustainable rather than following the diet fully and completely.

But what do you think? Have you ever tried a raw diet?

Hemp Protein Vs. Whey Protein.

HempProtein5There are a lot of different proteins out there – but hemp protein is becoming increasingly popular. Though not as psychedelic as some may hope for, hemp protein is extracted from the husked seeds of the Cannabis sativa plant. And no, it won’t make you high.

Hemp protein can be a very high-quality protein and it’s loaded with fiber (which helps you feel full longer) and heart-healthy essential omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. It also tastes great!

So how does hemp protein compare to mainstream whey protein?

Proteins are rated with a Biological Value (BV) that refers to how well and how quickly your body can actually use the protein you consume. The BV for whey protein isolate and whey protein concentrate are generally around 159 and 104 respectively. Though I couldn’t find a reliable source for the BV of hemp protein, it’s generally considered to be much lower. In other words, hemp protein is absorbed slowly by the body – making it a poor choice for post-workout recovery when your body needs nutrients quickly. On the other hand, hemp protein is a smart choice for between meals and before bed – when a slow but steady supply of protein is needed.

Hemp protein is also a great option for vegans or for individuals with lactose issues. While whey protein is derived from milk, hemp protein is free from lactose or animal products. Many hemp advocates also believe that hemp protein is considerably easier to digest and doesn’t result in the bloating or cramps sometimes associated with whey protein consumption.

The bottom line: Hemp and whey protein have different uses. Hemp is great between meals and before bed while whey protein is best after your workout. As such, one is not a substitute for the other – but both proteins are able to bring a number of great benefits to your daily nutrition plan.

Which Protein is Best to Take at Night?

Muscles like these need are built by protein - but not all protein sources and supplements are created equal.

We know that protein is essential for muscle growth – and that not all types of protein are created equal. If you go to a nutrition store, you’ll see protein supplement varieties including whey concentrate, whey isolates, casein, soy, etc. Moreover, protein can be found naturally in foods like meat, fish, eggs, nuts and more.

So, which type of protein is best to take at night or before bed?

Each type of protein has it’s advantages. For example, whey isolates are a good value and very quick to be absorbed by the body. For this reason, they’re a great post-workout protein source when your body needs nutrients quickly. But when considering a protein to consume before bed, you’ll want something that will be absorbed slowly throughout the night.

Casein protein is the best slow-digesting protein – and it’s the perfect protein supplement to take before bed. Since casein takes anywhere from 5 – 8 hours to fully breakdown, you’ll fuel your body and your muscles throughout the night. Casein is derived from milk, so it may not be suitable for individuals with lactose sensitivities – and it’s not vegan.

Most bodybuilders or athletes get their casein as a powdered protein from nutrition stores. But, if you prefer, casein can be found naturally in foods like milk, cheese and cottage cheese. A single cup of cottage cheese, for example, can have 30 grams of protein – and much of it is casein.

Keep in mind, you can slow the absorption of non-casein proteins by combining them with foods that are slow to digest. Foods that are rich in fat or fiber take much longer to digest. Making a peanut-butter and soy protein/soy milk shake, for example, will result in a suitable nighttime alternative for vegans or people with lactose sensitivities.

The bottom line: When it comes to nighttime protein consumption, casein is king.

Does Being a Vegetarian Help You Lose Weight?

Hey Davey,

I have a question: Does being a vegetarian help with weight loss?

From,
Ashley

Hey Ashley,

It may – or it may not. Though people maintain vegetarian diets for a number of reasons (i.e., moral, religious, health, etc.), it’s not a weight loss program. It’s truly a lifestyle.

I, for example, could have a vegetarian diet that consists entirely of chocolate chip cookies and upside-down cake. Yum! But clearly, such a diet would be extremely unhealthy and result in weight gain.

Losing weight is really creating a calorie deficit. That is, you consumer fewer calories than you burn. It’s all about the type of foods you eat, the size of your servings and the quality and quantity of physical activity in which you engage. Whether you’re a carnivore or a herbivore, the formula is exactly the same.

Having said that, some individuals may find that vegetarian diets typically lack saturated fat (found in animal products) and are rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains and other filling – but nutritional – foods. For this reason, being a vegetarian may be more conducive to a healthier lifestyle. But it’s not a magic solution for losing weight.

Love,
Davey

Being Vegan is So Gay?

As a gay person, I understand the pain of oppression. I understand what it’s like to be denied equal treatment and fairness. And I also understand that an injustice to one is an injustice to all – whether it’s with women’s rights, racial discrimination… or the mistreatment of animals.

When Ari Solomon, columnist and animal rights activist, emailed me with an article titled “Being Vegan is So Gay,” I was struck by the intersections in our movements. Ari writes:

I went vegan… because I couldn’t stand knowing that I was paying other people to do to those animals what had been done, on a much smaller scale, to me. How could I say that I believed everyone deserved to be equal and have a chance to be happy when I was eating the remains of lives that had been wrought with misery and mercilessness.

Surely, if anyone can understand the mistreatment of animals in factory farms, it should be other oppressed populations. Like gay people. If you are pushing for equal, just and fair treatment for humans – how can you turn a blind eye to the food we buy and eat?

But unlike Ari, I don’t agree that the answer is necessarily veganism.

I think the consumption of meat, when done responsibly, is a very natural and beautiful thing. When we consume life – be it plant life or animal life – we’re participating in the great cycle of life, death and renewal that keeps this planet functioning.

For me, the answer is about being a conscious eater. Instead of buying factory farm meats, I buy grass-fed meats from Whole Foods or from local, pasture-centered family farms. In fact, Whole Foods even has a 5-Step animal welfare rating so that you can see how the animal was treated. It helps the consumer make wiser, more conscious choices.

But Ari is right: Oppression is oppression. The mistreatment of animals is an injustice, and it’s hypocritical for us to turn away.

What do you think? Do you think gay people – or other oppressed groups – have a special responsibility and duty to stand up for the rights of animals?

5 Protein Tips for Vegan Muscles!

Dear Davey,

I’ve been trying to build muscle and I take protein shakes right after I workout, but I don’t see much of a difference. I’ve been a vegan for almost 7 years now, so I don’t get much protein.

What are some things me and your other vegan followers can eat (excluding eggs, fish, and other animals) so we can get more protein in our bodies?

Thanks,
Davis

Dear Davis,

Most Americans get more than enough protein in their diets. But for weightlifters and exercise enthusiasts, the daily requirements for protein are much higher – and thus much harder to fulfill. While most adults require only 40 – 75 grams of protein, I require 140 grams. It’s no small feat.

Getting the required amount of protein is even more difficult for vegan exercisers, as vegans eat neither animals nor animal byproducts. Meat is an easy, high-quality source of protein, and even whey protein (the highest quality protein available) is derived from dairy. For vegans, meat, dairy and whey are out of the question.

So how can exercise enthusiasts balance protein needs with a vegan diet? I asked Noel, a vegan fitness model living in NYC (pictured above). He’s so passionate about vegan fitness, he even created a YouTube channel about it. Here are his recommendations:

  1. Eat lots of nuts. 1/4 a cup of nuts can have upwards of 8 to 9 grams of decent quality protein. Noel recommends soaking the nuts, as it makes digestion and vitamin absorption easier. It’s important to opt for unsalted varieties.
  2. Get to know quinoa. 100 grams of quinoa contains some 14 grams of high-quality protein. In fact, the protein in quinoa has a higher BV rating than either beef or chicken. Though quinoa is a seed, it can be used in a variety of dishes. Here are a bunch of quinoa recipes.
  3. Stock up on oatmeal. Though you might not realize it, a cup of oatmeal has 6 grams of relatively high quality protein. The quality of the protein, though less than beef or chicken, is slightly better than fish. It’s a great way to start the day!
  4. Spread the hummus. A half cup of commercial hummus has 10 grams of protein, and it makes a great addition to a sandwich – or a condiment for fresh veggies.
  5. Almond and peanut butter. As nuts are a good source of vegan protein, it only makes sense that almond and peanut butter are also wise choices and great additions for smoothies and snacks. Typically, a serving of nut butter will have 6 – 8 grams of protein.

To Noel’s list, I’d like to add tofu – which is packed with a whopping 40 grams of protein per cup. Soybeans, soy milk and pure soy protein are also a great addition – though there has been some speculation that excess soy consumption may have negative side effects. Nonetheless, soy protein is high in quality. Lentils, tempeh, beans, brown rice and even tahini are also good and protein-rich vegan options.

For vegans, it’s especially tough to get the recommended quantities of protein to support muscular maintenance and growth – but with a little planning, it’s not only possible… but delicious!

Love,
Davey