Becoming vegan or joining a raw food community sure will introduce you to some new terminology as well as convenient (or confusing) abbreviations. It took me quite some time to get used to, and once you are down with the lingo yourself, it is easy to forget how unclear these things can be to those not yet invited. This is my attempt to break things down and explain what kind of vegan I am and what everything entails. I do want to note, however, that I am no expert in this area, nor is my research by no means over. There is always room for improvement and new knowledge, and so I intend to educate myself as long as I live and commit to whatever lifestyle makes me feel the best, which happens to be a vegan lifestyle. I also want to refer back to my previous post in this FAQ category named Me Being a Vegan where I explain my thoughts on veganism and what it is to me. Please read that post before diving into this one.
Now first of all, there are many different varieties of veganism. Some eat more or less the same way as they did before they turned vegan, but consume meat and dairy substitutes which consist of soy, grains, almonds or beans etc. Some vegans omit grains and gluten, some omit sugars, mostly refined, (Low Carb), some omit fats (High Carb), and some omit other things that may affect their digestion or for other health reasons. There are also raw vegans, which means they eat no cooked food, or food that has been heated over 42° C. This is so all the nutrients and enzymes can be preserved, resulting in a much healthier and richer food intake.
In this blog, and in this post, I will only address what kind of vegan I am, which is a high carb low fat vegan with a high raw approach (Raw till 4). Wow, that is a mouthful! However, my lifestyle is much simpler than the actual terms denote.
So, first of all I shall begin with explaining what all of this means. I mostly follow the 80/10/10 raw food diet presented by Dr. Douglas Graham. This diet has an approach where your daily intake of calories, preferably more than 2500 kcal per day, should consist of 80% from carbohydrates, such as fruits and berries. 10% should come from protein, which is found in vegetables – especially green ones. The final 10% comes from fat, but never cold pressed versions or other kinds of fats that are not naturally found in nature. The fat referred to comes from fruits, nuts and vegetables, such as durian, cashews, and avocado. This approach means you get to eat how many carbohydrates as you possibly want, as long as they come from the right source. The rest should be kept to a minimum.
I truly recommend everyone to read this book! It really opened my eyes and helped me understand my body, health and mind. It is filled with research and great, comprehensive information, and most of the information mentioned in this post will be found in this book. However, I will not be referencing every bit of information. Click on the picture to reach Amazon where you can listen to or read the first parts of the book.
A Side Note on Protein
What people always seem to criticize vegans for is their ”lack of protein”. This is a common misconception since this is something that has always been told to us. ”You need your protein! Protein never makes you gain weight. Without protein, you will never have muscles! It will help you become lean and slim. Protein is all you need. The rest is bad for you”. Well, no wonder the market for protein powders is able to skyrocket these days. The truth, indeed, is that protein helps you grow. But, since adults are done growing, we are in no need of neither breast milk nor meat. There are many studies that suggest that humans only need about 10-20% of protein per day. The World Health Organization has stated that men and women only need about 5% of their daily calories from protein (McDougall 2007). I advise you either read Graham’s book, or that you do your own research in order to find out more about this.
So, back to the diet!
This is not something that you should try for only a few months, this is something that you commit to for the long run, and patience is required if you want to see real results. My aspiration is to become fully raw one day, but as for now I am happy to follow the 80/10/10 diet two thirds of the day. In other words, I follow an approach called Raw till 4. This means I eat fully raw, smashing in the calories from carbohydrates during the day, and then have a high carbohydrate cooked vegan meal for dinner (after 4 p.m.). Everything that I eat in a day is low in protein, low in sodium, has no active yeast, low in fat, gluten free, free of refined sugars and 100% vegan, and I also try to find as many organic ingredients as possible.
The carbohydrates I eat before 4 p.m. mainly come from fruit. Please visit my other categories in order to find recipes on smoothies and other delicious fruit meals. If you are interested in reading about what I usually eat in a day, I recommend you read the post named What I Usually Eat in a Day which can be found in the FAQ category.
Practically, all you need is water, fiber, glucose, vitamins, and minerals. The rest, such as fat and protein, will accompany the former anyway, and are never substances which you will have to actively seek out.
A Few Words on Low Carbohydrate Approaches
I have met countless people who believe in different kinds of approaches where low carbohydrate is key. Some of them seem to be successful at it, but unfortunately most of them are not. Almost every single one is cheating on their diet on a fairly regular basis, and these people also tend to hold on to a bit of excess weight. Why is that? Well, to begin with, they are not eating enough carbohydrates. People following a low carb high fat diet should think the other way around, reverse the formula for a healthy and successful way of living. The only problem is, people nowadays lack patience. They want their results now! And so the focus is set on weight loss, not on achieving optimum health. Eating less calories from carbohydrates may give you rapid weight loss results, but it is by no means a healthy way of doing so, or even sustainable.
Most of the low carb followers become carbohydrate-depleted, eating as little calories as they possibly can, or eating too many calories from fat, which causes them to feel depressed, unsatisfied, craving carbohydrate-rich foods and so on. This is when they end up cheating, give themselves in to binging what they should not be eating on their diet. They then feel guilty about it.
Losing weight quicker, seeing your results faster, is so motivating to most people that they forget what will truly benefit their health. This is why they even consider keeping up with all this low calorie madness. Most tend to end up yo-yoing between being on a diet and being off one, which affects their weight the exact same way. You lose the pounds, and then you gain them back on. If your truly unlucky, you will even gain a few extra ones. Also, you risk obtaining some serious health problems while going back and forth between diets. Your metabolism gets harmed and so does your thyroid gland.
As I have already mentioned, some people seem to be successful and claim they thrive on their low calorie lifestyle, and that is really great for them. Kudos to all of you! However, most of them are not vegan, which means they carry a bit of animal protein in their system. Humans are not designed to digest animal proteins, but are bodies have learned how to cope with it. Whenever we consume animal protein, it causes high acidity-levels in our bodies. To counter out the acidity, which is the well-known environment for cancer growth, and to neutralize it to become more alkaline, the body needs to provide with a very alkaline substance – calcium. The calcium within our bodies then gets extracted straight from our skeleton and teeth, which are the only sources for this substance, hence osteoporosis (Graham 2006, p.106). Have you ever wondered why milk and cheese never made these things go away for good despite them being such “great” sources for calcium? Because they are what is causing osteoporosis in the first place. That is why I prefer a vegan diet any day of the week.
So even if you assume you are healthy on a lifestyle which include animal products and animal bi-products, you are still in the biggest risk group in terms of getting cancer, heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis etc. Most people assume losing weight is what proves that you truly are healthy, but that has never been true. If so, anorectic or bulimic people would have won health-awards a long time ago. Do not confuse these things and think that they in any way are equal! Weight loss is always a result of a healthy lifestyle, but health has never been overlapped with cancer and other known diseases. I therefore assume that most people who claim to do well on a low carbohydrate lifestyle are actually referring to the size of their pants when saying so. As I said, I have not yet met anyone who does not cheat and struggle with cravings on a low carb lifestyle, and most of them are still not slim and toned.
A Final Word
The lifestyle I am living is not only simple, but it also increases my health in many great ways. I know it sounds as if it is extreme, but I assure you it really is not. It is incredibly easy to include in your life and there are always better options for bad foods available. Pick up a bunch of bananas and a pack of lettuce instead of a frozen meal when shopping for lunch. Chug a big smoothie full of fruit and berries instead of nibbling on a carrot and two scrambled eggs, which no one will get full and satisfied on anyway. Begin by incorporating more fruit into your diet and gradually work your way up to a Raw till 4 approach. Remember, you can eat as much as you want, and it is not only a privilege, but also necessary if you desire to acquire optimum health and weight loss. If you are uncertain at how many calories you consume a day, I suggest you use the calculation service at cronometer.com. It was very helpful in the beginning in order for me to make sure I was not eating too little.
Be happy and clean, stay fruity and green!
Graham, Douglas N. (2006). The 80/10/10 Diet – Balancing Your Health, Your Weight, and Your Life One Luscious Bite at a Time. FoodnSport Press, USA.
Freelee the Banana Girl’s channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/Freelea?feature=watch
McDougall, John (2007). “When Friends Ask: Where Do You Get Your Protein?” in McDougall Newsletter. April, Vol. 6, No. 4. http://www.drmcdougall.com/misc/2007nl/apr/protein.htm
WHO (on sodium): http://www.who.int/nutrition/publications/guidelines/sodium_intake/en/