Thursday, April 5, 2012

How to convert omnis to veganism

It can be tough living with an omni. It's expensive, inconvenient, and oftentimes smelly.

I've always been careful about not coming across as preachy or evangelical about veganism. One time when I was in a bad mood, I did have a bit of a go at a family member / let's just say that this person quickly became defensive and ultimately tuned me out. Fair enough. Lesson learned. Instead I just started being a positive example to those around me. Enjoying my fruit, eating in abundance, losing some weight and inches, being happy and energetic, quitting caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, drugs....

Fast forward three years to April 2011. My dear hubby announces that he's becoming vegetarian. And bless him, he hasn't touched meat since. This from a man who could eat meat at every meal. Fast forward another few months and he quit the dairy. Pretty big step for a gym guy who's been told all these years that he needs whey protein powders.

He quit the eggs soon after that. Now, he doesn't quite call himself vegan, because he's not careful about avoiding the sneaky animal products that invariably appear in packaged foods (jarred pasta sauce, for example). But it's been a huge 12 months for him and I couldn't be happier about the progress he's made. Me being the household cook also makes it easier for him to be vegan, since I only buy vegan products.

As for the other people in my life? Well, I notice that my work colleagues are bringing a LOT more fruit in for their snacks. Many of them are reducing the amount of meat they consume. My extended family eats a lot more fruit. My mother, who previously hated most fruits, is even starting to eat more of it. And best of all, my very young family members are loving their fruit, rice, and beans.

I get a lot of questions like "how are you so cheerful this early in the morning", "how are you able to do this much activity in a day", "how do you get your skin to look like that", "how is it you don't burn in the sun", etc. All of these questions are answered truthfully but succinctly. And then I quietly slip them the 30 bananas a day pamphlet (available at

I hope this gives some hope to people who are embarking or considering this lifestyle! Apparently a person needs to hear the vegan message about 50 times before they even consider it. No problem - we could be number 5, 17, or 38. Heck, it took 3 years for the person living with me to start making a change.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Raw food in winter? Really?

Quite frankly, I don't like winter. And yeah, it can be pretty tough sticking to a raw diet when all I want to do is curl up on the couch with a book and some hot soup.

Raw foods can be tricky at the best of times, most of all in winter. Produce can be crappy in terms of price, quality, and variety. The days are short, nights are cold, and eating a slice of juicy watermelon or a perfectly ripe mango on a hot evening seems very far away.

Raw food in winter is possible - as long as one is smart about it. Here are a few things I've learned in the last two and something years....

1. Raw food doesn't equal COLD food. Eat food at room temperature, not straight out of the fridge. This may require taking food out of the fridge a few hours in advance. If you're like me and forget to do this, simply immersing whole fruits and vegetables in warm water for ten minutes usually does the trick.

2. Eat enough. Seriously. Our energy needs go up in cold weather. It's quite surprising how much more food we need. And since whole plant foods generally have a low calorie density, this can mean a large volume of food. An extra 500 calories, for example, would be about seven oranges or ten mandarins. On the plus side, it means eating more food.

3. Move! It's such a drag sometimes to exercise in winter, but it really works wonders in heating us up - from the inside out. Even a minute of lunges or pushups will at least get the chill out of your bones. Rain or snow is no excuse... home workouts can be fantastic and you don't even need any special equipment. Check for some amazing routines that can be done in 20-30 minutes. Or if you have a special someone, why not create your own workout? *wink wink*

4. Crank up the heat, get a hot water bottle, have a hot shower, pile on the socks/scarves/coats/blankets.... why rely on food to heat us up, when we're able to create our own heat?

It's just about being smart. People still eat ice-cream in winter and hot food in summer, right?

Saturday, May 14, 2011

So what's to eat?

What exactly does a raw foodist eat? Fruit, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. That's the basic formula.

BUT... there can be many different types of raw diets from this basic formula. And some of these diets are clearly healthier than others.

Raw plant foods tend to run low in calories. Fruit generally has under 10% calories from protein. According to cron-o-meter, persimmons are around 2%, bananas and grapes 4%, and oranges around 6%. Even avocados, which are a fruit, only 4% calories from protein.

Leafy greens tend to have a little more protein, romaine has 17% calories from protein and spinach is a real champ at 30%.

Nuts and seeds are mistakenly believed to be high in protein... but actually, they contain far more calories from fat than protein. Pine nuts are 7%, walnuts 8%, cashew nuts 11%, almonds 13%, and pumpkin seeds 17%.

Compare to roasted chicken (78%) or silken tofu (45%).

Why is this important? Well, since raw plant foods tend to be low in protein, we must obtain calories from either fats or carbohydrates to survive. A high fat raw diet consists mostly of nuts, seeds, and avocados. A high carbohydrate raw diet consists mostly of fruit.

What about a moderate fat, moderate carbohydrate diet?

High levels of fat in the bloodstream reduces the effectiveness of insulin (this hormone is important for shuttling glucose into the cells where it can be used for energy or converted to glycogen for storage). Reduced insulin effectiveness = high levels of circulating glucose, and this can lead to neuropathy and heart disease (among other things). Persistently elevated blood glucose can also lead to systemic candidia infection, as this fungus likes to feed on sugar. The culprit in disorders involving blood sugar imbalance appears to be FAT, not SUGAR. More reading is available here at Doug Graham's excellent website.

So it's either high fat or high fruit. But which one?

This seems to be a hugely controversial issue amongst raw foodists. I personally am in the low fat camp because I agree that humans are physiologically designed to eat a high carbohydrate diet. Our muscles and organs run most efficiently on glucose. On the flip side, a high far diet is associated with health problems like obesity and cardiovascular disease. More information about this is available on Dr. Graham's website and at 30 Bananas a day. Our bodies digest carbohydrate foods very quickly, which allows rapid extraction of energy and nutrients. Some fruits, like melons, can digest in under half an hour. High fat foods, on the other hand, can take up to six hours or more to clear our stomach.

Dr. Gabriel Cousens and Dr. Robert Young (amongst others) tout the benefits of a low sugar, high fat diet. In a nutshell, they suggest that a high fruit diet causes acidity in the body, which leads to degenerative illness. In my personal experience, I felt pretty good on a high fat raw diet, but I didn't start to THRIVE until I switched to a high carbohydrate raw diet.

In my opinion, the reason why people do well when transitioning from a cooked diet to a (usually high fat) raw diet is because of the foods that they have eliminated from their body - namely, animal products and processed foods (e.g. bread, tofu). However, in the long term, I don't think a high fat raw diet is sustainable.

What about "gourmet" raw? As raw food has grown in popularity, raw food restaurants and raw products have proliferated. Menus are still based on fruit, vegetables, nuts, and seeds... but often also include questionably raw condiments such as salt, agave nectar, oils, etc. Go to a raw food restaurant and you can eat enchiladas, burgers, and pasta... with a big piece of raw cheesecake or pie to finish. Creative, yes. Fun, sure. But healthy? I wouldn't base my diet on gourmet raw foods. Perhaps an "occasional treat" just like a non-raw burger or cheesecake would be. One high fat meal can certainly fit into a low fat raw diet, provided that the preceeding and subsequent meals are kept low fat.

How does one go about eating a low fat raw vegan (LFRV) diet? It's pretty simple. Doug Graham's book The 80-10-10 diet is a great read and provides many answers to questions that people have about the LFRV diet. The prescription is: eat as many fruits as you care for at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and follow the dinner meal with a salad if necessary. The crucial words here are "as many as you care for" - we're not talking about an orange or a handful of grapes. No, it may be twelve oranges or ten cups of grapes. Or ten bananas blended up into a smoothie. Or an entire watermelon. Or seven mangoes. Etcetera.

One thing I love about this way of eating - there's no deprivation. It's about abundance. And before you ask "but won't I get fat eating all that fruit" - just check out the folks at 30 Bananas a Day.

For me, personally, this has been SO MUCH MORE than a "diet" or a "way of eating". LFRV has truly changed my perspective on the world, myself, and my relationships. That's definitely an entire blog post alone, so I shall save that for next time.


Thursday, April 28, 2011

What is this blog?

This blog is a place to share my journey living a low fat raw vegan lifestyle in Australia.

I'll be sharing some of my experiences transitioning to this lifestyle from a SAD (standard Australian diet) eater. Only a few years ago I was still consuming animal flesh, bovine mammary excretions (aka dairy) and chicken ovulations. I never ever would have believed that I could willingly give up animal products. And now that I have.... I can't ever imagine turning back.

I became vegetarian for a couple of weeks, and then one day watched a documentary that changed my life. Earthlings. Check out - truly enlightening.

Becoming vegan took a bit more effort than simply "cutting out meat". After all, there are hidden animal products everywhere. Would you expect to find milk powder in vegetable burgers? What about fish in packaged breadcrumbs? Egg-based glaze on bread?

Or how about some of the hidden non-vegan ingredients? Gelatine. Cochineal. Tallow. Lanolin.

It takes time and patience... but, like moving to a new neighbourhood, you eventually get the hang of it. The important thing is not to beat yourself up if you do accidentally consume animal products. Learn from the mistake and move on.

After becoming vegan, I became introduced to raw veganism. I immediately dismissed the idea initially, but every few months ago I'd stumble across some forum or website touting the benefits of a RAW plant-based diet. Could I really give up my breakfast oatmeal, or my lentil soups, or my tofu stir-fry? Funnily enough, I had entertained similar thoughts when becoming vegetarian and vegan.

Moving to a raw plant-based diet was an even bigger adjustment, because it involved the transition away from cooked food. I started out eating a typical high-fat raw diet (with "gourmet" raw recipes) and then progressed to a low fat raw diet. In hindsight, I probably would have moved to a low fat COOKED diet, and then to a low fat raw diet.

The distinction between the different types of raw/cooked diets (i.e. low fat versus high fat) is an important one, which I will expand upon in the future.

This blog is about living healthfully, nutrition, fitness, emotional poise, veganism, animal rights... and more. My only goal with this blog is to share my experience and perhaps open up others' minds to new possibilities. The ultimate message is that no matter who we are and where we have come from, change IS possible. We may not be able to see that possibility in this moment... but every moment is a new one, and the moment of change may be right around the corner.

Peace to all x