Plant-Based Diet: Why I Promote It And Why We Need To Debunk False Myths

Since I’m back from my juice detox week in Bali, a few people have asked me if I switched to a vegetarian or vegan diet so I wanted to share with you what my current diet looks like and why I am eating the way I am currently eating.

I actually don’t like using labels to describe someone’s diet. Paleo, vegan, vegetarian, ketogenic, macrobiotic – all these labels make it very hard for us to be flexible and to enjoy eating out at restaurants with friends or family. Rather than having to say “Sorry, I can’t join you, there is nothing I can eat”, learning how to make smart decisions in these situations and getting away from the black or white attitude towards food, will reduce your stress and tension around food choices and increase your happiness.

How I Eat

Since I am back from my juice-detox, I noticed a significant improvement in my digestion, energy, body composition and mental clarity. What’s most important, I am noticing that I am much calmer than before and it is easier for me to get into a meditative state if I want to.

I have been cutting out all meat and eggs, and significantly reduced my intake of dietary fats. Probably 80% of my total food intake comes from fruits and vegetables. I have had wild fish probably around 1-2x/week with dinner for the past three weeks or so, but do not really crave it.

At the end of this article I share what I eat on a typical day.

Where Do You Get Your Protein From?

This is the number one question that everyone on a plant-based diet gets bombarded with. However, rather than asking “Dude, where do you get your protein from?”, the question should be “Dude, where do you get your amino acids from?

To understand this, you need to understand chemistry. Protein as it comes in a piece of meat, fish, or an egg, cannot actually be used by the body. What your body needs and is able to convert into useful energy are amino acids, the molecules that make up a protein. These amino acids are what can be absorbed into the digestive system to then create new protein structures in the body. While amino acids can be used right away and do not task the digestive system, it requires a great deal of digestive capacity to take apart dietary protein. The digestion of protein is therefore very metabolically expensive. Cooking dietary protein makes it even more difficult to digest because heat changes the structure of the molecules inside the protein, making it more “firm” and harder to take apart.

Why is this a problem?

Gut issues are one of the main health complaints in our modern, fast-paced society. This is due to a variety of reasons, the top reason being stress (both mental and physical). As discussed above, the digestion of protein requires a lot of energy and strong digestive capacity. To be more specific, protein digestion requires a lot of stomach acid (HCL) and HCL is a million times more acidic than your blood which means it takes a lot of energy to produce it. This further impairs the ability to digest protein.

Undigested protein is detrimental to health. This is something I have experienced during the 6 colonic hydrotherapy sessions I had during my detox program. Protein that is not being digested, remains in the colon, putrefies, and becomes debris that can stay inside your colon for several years! This becomes the perfect breeding ground for parasites and pathogenic bacteria which create toxicity, inflammation, stress, and other severe health issues.

When you follow a “low protein diet”, which should actually be called “a diet that allows you to digest your protein”, you will experience

  • Less gas and bloating (after adjusting to the higher fiber intake)
  • Less odor in your stool
  • Less heartburn

 What About Fats?  

Fats, especially saturated ones, are even harder to digest than protein. This is due to their strong structure that cannot be taken apart very easily, which becomes evident when you look at the high heating point of saturated fats such as coconut oil or butter. Another characteristic that adds an element of difficulty to fat digestion is that fat cannot dissolve in water. Because fat does not like water, it clumps together and forms globules that travel down to your intestines. In fact, the fat that you have ingested is not being digested at all until it reaches the intestine. The fat globules remain in your intestine until bile, which is produced in the liver and stored in the gallbladder, mixes with the large fat droplets and breaks them down into smaller fat droplets. This is an important step because pancreatic lipase, the fat-digesting enzyme, can only act on these small droplets. The final two products of lipid digestion are free fatty acids and monoglycerides, which then reassemble to form micelles. This is the major difference between the digestion of fats compared to carbohydrates and proteins which are not being altered once they are broken down into their functional units, monosaccharides and amino acids, respectively.

So in short, fat digestion is so complex and inefficient, compared to the digestion of fruits, because it requires a lot of energy, it requires a well-functioning liver and bile production, as well as sufficient amounts of pancreatic lipase.

What About The Ketogenic Diet?

Again, with any diet it is important to understand its effect on our physiology. Keto is a famine physiology. In the simplest explanation, the ketogenic diet is for someone in a famine who has no access to food, except some meat and other protein, which can be stored in the body for a long period of time. The reason why individuals feel more energized when they start a ketogenic diet is because they are eating more adrenalized meats. This can be great to help someone “reset” from a chronic health condition but it must be understood that this diet should be paired with the appropriate lifestyle. Someone on this diet should not perform high intense workouts such as crossfit, neither should that person have high stress levels.

This diet is counterproductive for people with high stress and cortisol levels because cortisol raises blood sugar. The major macronutrient in the ketogenic diet is fat and if there is a lot of fat floating around in the blood stream, it will have to be cleared first to protect the liver and pancreas. This impairs the clearance of sugar from the blood, which is present in the blood as a result of high cortisol even if no sugar has been consumed. This is why a ketogenic diet in someone with high cortisol levels can become a problem and actually lead to insulin resistance over time. You can read more about this here.

In short the ketogenic diet is beneficial if

  • It is used a therapeutic tool for neurologic health issues (under professional supervision) or as a short-term tool for weight loss
  • It is accompanied by a low stress lifestyle
    • Low intensity activities such as walking, gentle yoga, etc.
    • Very little stress at work and in relationships
  • It is applied in cold temperatures such as during the winter months

What About Nutrient Deficiencies Such As B12?  

You have probably noticed that most vegans and vegetarians do not look very health and energized. This is definitely due to nutrient deficiencies. However, the reason for their nutrient deficiencies is not the lack of nutrient-rich meats in their diet, but rather the excessive amounts of grains that they are consuming. There a several reasons why and how grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds deplete the body of important minerals and vitamins:

  • Grains and legumes are very high in so-called anti-nutrients such as phytates and lectins, which inhibit the absorption of the vitamins contained in these foods. So even though foods like quinoa, brown rice, beans, etc. are high in B-vitamins and other nutrients, these cannot be fully absorbed by the body due to their anti-nutrient content.
  • Grains, nuts, and legumes cause villus atrophy, which are the small finger-like structures in the small intestine that are responsible for the absorption of nutrients from foods. Although you may think that the long transit time of these high-fiber foods is beneficial for your digestion, it actually wreaks havoc on your intestines and your overall health if these foods are eaten frequently and in large amounts.
  • The digestion of B12 and iron require a lot of stomach acid. Someone who is chronically ill is more likely to be deficient in B12 due to a decreased production of HCL and compromised digestive health. In these cases, supplementing with these nutrients is much easier and less stressful for the body. B12 is not necessarily found in high amounts in plant foods, but plants contain beneficial bacteria that have the ability to produce B12 in the gut.

In short, an unhealthy vegetarian diet is one that contains loads of grains, legumes nuts, seeds, and legumes. A healthy approach to a vegan or vegetarian diet would be to limit or eliminate these foods and to make plants and fruits the main part of the diet.

What About Yeast/SIBO?

You have probably heard that someone who is dealing with yeast issues should stay away from fruits and follow a Candida-diet. However, someone with yeast issues may actually do really well with more fruit.  Yeast is usually in the small or large intestine but fruit gets metabolized very high up in the liver and doesn’t actually make it down all the way to the intestines.

Gut Health

Compared to protein and fats, fruits and veggies have a cleansing effect on our digestive tract, because they do not lead to the build up of residues or waste material in the colon. Plus, you can get a big variety of different kinds of vegetbales and fruits which is crucial for a healthy gut microbiome. Meats and fats do not provide this variety.

What feeds our gut bacteria is fiber, which we can get from many sources of fruits and vegetables and different types of veggies and fruits feed different strains of bacteria which means you are developing a big variety of beneficial bacteria, which is pretty much the definition of a healthy gut.

The most important point to keep in mind when making the decision which foods you eat or which diet you want to follow is that food is energy. Food is responsible for our thoughts, for the actions that we take, and it should provide fuel to your purpose or passion.

Food does not only fuel our body but also our spirit. I feel like fruits and vegetables have the most spiritual connection to it, which is probably why I feel so good on my current diet.

What I Eat In A Day

My typical diet looks like this at the moment:

After rising:

  • Water with lemon
  • Coconut water with spirulina

Breakfast: Fruit smoothie

  • 1-2 bananas
  • 1 date
  • 1 cup berries
  • 1 handful spinach or celery stalks
  • 1 cup of water or coconut milk

smoothie

Post-workout:

  • Same as breakfast smoothie with the addition of 1-2 TBSP of Great Lakes Gelatin and coconut water instead of coconut milk or plain water.

Lunch: Salad (as much as I want)

  • Lettuce, leafy greens, cucumber, tomato, sprouts, avocado, berries, papaya (sometimes I add a handful of raw nuts or seeds)

Mid-afternoon snack (if I feel hungry)

  • Piece of fruit or raw veggies with avocado

avocado

Dinner (as much as I want)

  • Vegetable soup or steamed vegetables topped with nori

If I’m still hungry before I go to bed I’ll have another piece of fresh fruit or a few dates. I usually also drink a herbal tea before bed.

Please contact me if you have more questions about this eating philosophy and/or if

  • You are unsure if your current diet is right for you
  • You have a chronic health condition but are unsure if this diet would be helpful to heal
  • You need help selecting the necessary supplements for you
  • You don’t know how many calories you should be eating
  • You are training hard and are afraid you’ll “lose your gains” on this diet
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