What I learnt eating more plant based

As a nutritionist I spend a lot of time helping my clients prevent chronic diseases and I dedicate a lot of time understanding nutrition science and food as medicine.

I have learnt that certain foods which are really normal foods we eat daily can show remarkable capacity to protect you from disease and improving your gut health.

I found these foods were mostly from the plant based category and that is why I decided to eat strict plant based for a month and see what happens in my body.

The top plant based foods I recommend we eat daily or as often as possible include;

Legumes- These nutritional powerhouses contain important macro and micro nutrients like protein, iron, zinc, folate, fiber and potassium. Legumes has been shown to reduce the risk of cancer, diabetes and promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut.

For those following a keto diet, argue that legumes increases inflammation in the body. Based on my studies, every bodies DNA is different and what spikes inflammation for you, might not spike inflammation for me. So it’s rather broad to make that assumption.

I highly recommend you eat beans for a few days and see how your body responds. Gas and bloat are common side effects, but it does eventually subside as your body becomes more accustomed to eating beans daily.

There are also ways of making the beans more digestible, by soaking, sprouting or activating them. Read more on that topic here – https://www.vegetariantimes.com/skills/how-to-soak-sprout-nuts-seeds-grains-beans

Fruit- Berries in particular offer serious protection against cancer, boost immune cell activity and protect the liver and brain.

I enjoy adding one piece of fruit to my breakfast shake and I love fresh raw juices.

Greens- Dark leafy greens in particular. Eating greens including cruciferous is likely one of the best ways to prolong your life. Greens are low in calories, yet super high in nutrients. Use them as your base in all your meals.

I love baby spinach. It’s my favorite green. I drizzle it with some fresh lemon juice and balsamic vinegar to flavor them. It really is a free food meaning it can be eaten in large amounts without the excess calories.

Nuts and seeds- A small handful of these guys a few times a week as a healthy snack will improve your health with remarkable disease fighting properties.

After being vegan for one full month, I love it so much I decided to prolong my experiment. I followed a strict vegan diet for 4 months. I learnt a lot about my health in that time. I decided to narrow it down to a pro and con list.

Pro’s of following a strict plant based diet

  1. Cooking became easier and more simple. Fortunately, I really like plant based foods. So it wasn’t such a big change at first.
  2. I wasted less. I found that I had less packaging to re cycle compared to when I used to eat meat and dairy.
  3. I saved a lot of money. Buying meat can often be an anxious exercise for me, as I am very pedantic about where the meat is sourced, which is also often more expensive. I.e. grass fed.
  4. I lost 5 kilograms. Following a vegan diet made me eat more cleaner foods. So I made better choices, weight loss was an added benefit.
  5. My skin health improved a great deal. I kept getting compliments about radiant, glowing skin.
  6. My cholesterol levels dropped. I have been completely cholesterol free since. Diets high in saturated fats, trans fats, and cholesterol—found in meat, dairy products, and eggs—raise cholesterol levels, plants do the opposite.

Con’s of following a strict plant based diet

  1. I often craved the taste of animal protein, which made me add more salt, oil and spices to my food than before.
  2. I craved cheese. Melted cheese especially.
  3. Eating plant based is not always healthier. Vegan meals are often very rich in carbohydrates.
  4. I felt more gassy from eating beans. I did try ‘activating’ the beans beforehand. It helped a little bit.
  5. My diet lacked omega 3’s. I noticed a lot of inflammation in skin in terms of eczema on my scalp and rough patches on my arms.
  6. I never really felt full after meals. There was always room for a little snack or dessert after meals. I then started increasing my portion sizes and I think that definitely helped a great deal.
  7. I felt more weak and fatigue. It forced me to supplement with B12 as vitamin B12 is an essential nutrient that’s almost exclusively found in animal-sourced foods, such as fish, meat, dairy products, and eggs.

In short, our DNA make up is all very different and what works for you might not work for me. This is what I learnt in the short 4 months I followed a strict plant based diet. I have now also started incorporating some fish back into my diet.

I haven’t eaten fish for more than 2 years based on what is going on in our oceans. I couldn’t imagine eating fish with all the plastic and pharmaceutical products being pushed into our oceans. However, I learnt from doing a DNA test, my DNA does struggle to break down excess omega 6 which spikes inflammation. Therefore in order to lower my inflammation I had to include more omega 3 rich foods into my diet. Fatty fish happens to be one of the best sources.

I now follow a more Mediterranean way of eating, because it helps me to prioritize my omega 3 fatty acids with the addition of fish. This is the part that is tricky for plant based eaters. A Mediterranean diet consists of mostly legumes, nuts and seeds, a ton of fresh fruit and vegetables and fish at least twice a week.

Find what works for you

There is a huge difference between adopting a strict plant based lifestyle and “going on a diet”. Should you wish to adopt a strict plant based diet I highly suggest you learn the benefits of a strict plant based lifestyle and the effect animal products have on our health, environment and humanity.

Helpful tips

Whether you go vegetarian, vegan, keto or simply cut down your consumption of certain foods you’re taking a step into the right direction. Don’t let yourself get caught up in trying to label yourself based on your diet.

Don’t allow yourself to become overwhelmed. Take your time, expect some mistakes, learn from them, and move on!

I would love to here from you

Comment below and share your personal experience in eating more plant based foods and how your body responded.

Dot you later! X

About the author

Qualified chef, Health Coach and Nutritionist based in Johannesburg & Cape Town, South Africa

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *