7 Ways Whole Plant-Based Foods Help You Lose Weight Without Counting Calories

Most people who try to lose weight usually count calories and reduce portions. While this may work in the short term, it can be difficult, if not impossible, to sustain over time.

Can you really lose weight without counting calories? The answer is yes – if you eat the right foods.

Early this year, PCRM – Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine – published research showing that a healthy plant-based vegetarian diet helps you lose weight without counting calories.

This meta-analysis, conducted by PCRM, was published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics on Thursday, January 22, 2015. A total of 15 studies were reviewed, that were conducted with 755 participants in Finland, Norway, Poland, Spain, Sweden, and the United States. The studies, some short as four weeks, with others last as long as two years; showed an average weight loss of 10 pounds over a 44-week period.

Neal Barnard, M.D., lead author of the study, president of the Physicians Committee, and an adjunct associate professor of medicine at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, was quoted as saying:

“The take-home message is that a plant-based diet can help you lose weight without counting calories and without ramping up your exercise routine. We hope health care providers will take note and prescribe this approach to patients looking to manage their weight and health.”

Here’s the 7 ways whole plant-based diets work to help you lose weight without counting calories.

Green Nutrition News 25 Aug 15

1. The main ‘secret’ ingredient of whole plant based diets can be summed up in one important F word: FIBRE.

Or for those in the US – fiber. Fibre is a special type of carbohydrate found only in plants that cannot be digested by the body. It is naturally low in calories, yet it helps fill us up, and is critical in preventing or combating such conditions as high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, cancer and heart disease.

2. Choosing whole plant foods means you avoid consuming foods made with white, refined flour and sugar, which tend to be calorie-dense but nutrient-poor.

This means consuming mostly whole vegetables (raw and cooked – especially dark leafy greens), whole fruit, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains, such as oats, brown rice and protein-rich quinoa. Avoid foods that are processed to the point where they lose most of their fibre and other micro-nutrients (such as fruit juice). Choosing whole plantbased food means choosing plant food that is in, or close to, its natural state.

3. If you eat mostly, or all whole, natural foods, you don’t have to worry about getting too much (or not enough) fat, carbs, or protein.

The beauty of healthy, whole plant foods is that they are balanced in all the very best nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants and phyto-chemicals, and, (not to mention; again) fibre.


4. Whole plant foods are mostly low in fat, which has more than double the calories of protein or carbohydrates.

With the exceptions such as raw nuts, seeds, avocado and whole olives (not oil) which are healthy sources of  good fats, essential omega 3, omega 6 and protein. Several studies have also shown that eating small amounts of nuts helps with weight loss because the fibre and protein help you feel full longer.

5. Whole plants foods are naturally low in salt and sugar.

Even the natural sugar in fruit is of the low GI variety, as the fibre in whole fruit ensures as low release of the energy.

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6. Plant foods provide a kaleidoscope of colours, tastes, and textures that add interest, flavour and variety to food – without piling on the pounds!

Instead of mixing fatty, creamy sauces and dressings, or adding lots of butter, cheese or refined oils, you can utilise the vast range of natural herbs, seasonings and spices that add both zest and healthy nutrients to your dishes – without adding extra calories.

7. Whole plant foods are non-addictive and health-promoting.

Foods that are high in fat, salt and sugar (think cheese, pastries, sweets, fried food, processed meats) tend to over-stimulate our palate, and can lead to food addiction, or at least over-consumption. Fast, or ‘junk’ food is a prime example of this. Sugary white buns, fatty meats and cheese, rich sauces and condiments, ice cream, fried chips – all these type of foods are loaded with calories, are not very filling, and can have a devastating effect on our health.


It turns out that the best diet to lose weight – and keep it off – is also the most protective against the main killer diseases that afflict so many people in our society; including cancer, heart disease, stroke, dementia, type 2 diabetes and obesity.

The answer to the question, ‘what is the best diet to enable you to have and maintain a healthy weight and body?’ is simple: whole-foods, plant-based.

Let me know in the comments what you think is the best eating plan for you, or if you have any questions.

Tom Perry

Losing Weight On Plantbased Diet

This week my top 5 nutrition news items includes a study that showed people on a vegetarian diet lost more weight than omnivores (vegans lost the most!); a recent case study of a doctor who lost 75 pounds (34 kg) simply by switching to a plant-based diet; research showing that healthy vegan diets can ease the pain and other symptoms of diabetes; further proof that plant-based vegetarian diets boost metabolism (independent of exercise), and evidence that phytates in pulses and beans protect against colon cancer.

Green Nutrition News Aug 17

Shed Pounds – Go Veg!

A recent study published online showed that people on a vegetarian diet overall lost more weight than people on an average American diet.

Vegetarian, or plant-based diets have been linked to a decreased risk of type-2 diabetes and coronary heart disease. Recent studies have also showed people can lose weight if they cut out meat.

Researchers affiliated with Harvard University T.H. Chan School of Public Health analysed published clinical trials that looked at the effects of vegetarian diets on weight loss.

The research team focused on lacto-ovo vegetarian diets that allow milk and eggs as well as vegan diets with no animal products, and compared them with non-vegetarian diets. Results of the meta-analysis, published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, found that those on vegetarian diets lost around 4.4 pounds more than the control group, while those on a vegan diet lost 5.5 pounds.

More Fruit & Veg = Less Calories

One possible reason for the weight loss may be the large amount of fruit, vegetables and whole grains consumed by people on the vegetarian/vegan diets, and the fact the plant-based foods usually have fewer calories than animal-based foods, according to the researchers.

It has been established that whole plant foods like vegetables, fruit and beans have the highest density of nutrients and the lowest calories; not to mention plenty of zero-calorie fibre that helps fill you up without putting on weight. This meta-analysis is yet more proof of what we already know!


How a family doctor lost 75 pounds without portion control

The Forks Over Knives website recently featured another ‘good-news’ plant-based diet story about a family doctor who rediscovered good health and learned how to get off the ‘weight-loss roller-coaster’.

This 6’2″ (188 cm) doctor, Dr Steve Lawenda, weighed up to 255 lbs (115 kg) at his peak, qualifying him as obese.

Steve only knew of 2 strategies for weight loss: eating less and/or exercising more. Steve found that eating less, namely calorie counting or portion control, repeatedly failed, leaving him hungry and craving more of his favorite foods.

Diets Don’t Work

He found that his weight continually fluctuated over years of intermittent portion control and periods of exercise. As Steve notes, he wasn’t alone following this familiar cycle. Statistics show that calorie-restricted diets fail 95% of the time. In other words, dieting doesn’t work!

Steve found out about the science and logic of a whole-foods, plant-based diet from the book Eat to Live by Dr. Joel Fuhrman; watching the inspirational Forks Over Knives documentary; and later reading books from Drs. Caldwell Esselstyn (Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease), T. Colin Campbell (The China Study), and John McDougall (The Starch Solution).

Eat More (Plants) – Weigh Less

For the first time Steve was aware of a weight-loss strategy that involved eating MORE of something (whole plant foods), not less, and where portion control and calorie counting were not only unnecessary, but discouraged.

Steve was amazed to realize that he could eat as much as he wanted, feel full every day, and yet see his weight drop at such a steady pace. As Steve puts it, this seemed to defy some law of physics; and it felt great!

The end result was that Steve lost 75 pounds (34 kg) with relative ease over eight months, and he has maintained this loss for over a year and a half. Steve now realizes that he wasn’t a failure; the food he was eating failed him.

Steve found that he enjoyed eating vegetables in soups and salads, and came to realize that many of his favorite cuisines, including Italian, Mexican, Chinese, and Thai, had many delicious plant-based dishes. Steve found he could make relatively simple modifications to favorite dishes that still preserved their taste and essence. He even found ways to continue enjoying ice cream and chocolate – with delicious whole-food, plant-based versions of these treats.

As Dr Steve says, “Not only does this lifestyle consistently improve the lives of those making the change, but it also has the potential, over time, to transform healthcare as we know it—reversing obesity and related chronic diseases, and reducing skyrocketing healthcare costs”.


Are Vegan Diets Effective Against Diabetes?

A May 2015 article on the Gazette Review reported on a small pilot study suggesting that switching to a plant-based diet helps ease diabetic neuropathy, which refers to nerve damage and pain caused by the effects of diabetes.

Over half of adults with type-2 diabetes may develop diabetic neuropathy, which occurs when your blood is not circulating normally and has high levels of glucose. This can lead to ulcers and all kinds of infections on the legs and feet, and is the leading cause of limb amputation for those who suffer from the disease.

In this study, featured in the journal Nutrition & Diabetes, and led by doctors and nutritionists at the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), researchers chose 17 overweight adults with diabetic neuropathy on a low-fat, high fibre vegan diet for 20 weeks. The group of adults attended nutrition classes every week and took a vitamin B12 supplement, a very important nutrient that is good for the nerves (I take a daily supplement with B12, and encourage other vegans to do the same).

Going Vegan Improves Diabetic Symptoms

The study participants were compared with 17 other adults, who received vitamin B12 but were not on the vegan diet. People on the plant-based diet said they felt better and had less pain. Tests done to these people also showed better blood circulation, improved nerve function, and ability to control their levels of glucose, which helped them to lower the dose of their medication. As an added bonus, the participants lost an average of 14 pounds.

A dietary intervention reduces the pain associated with diabetic neuropathy, apparently by improving insulin resistance” notes Neal Barnard, M.D., president of the Physicians Committee. “The same diet also improves body weight and reduces cholesterol and blood pressure.”

According to PCRM, 60% percent of diabetes patients suffer from peripheral neuropathy, which is associated with hypertension, obesity, gait disturbances, amputations, anxiety, depression, and reduced quality of life.

The dietary intervention is easy to prescribe and easy to follow,” says Cameron Wells, M.P.H., R.D., acting director of nutrition education for the Physicians Committee. “Steel-cut oats, leafy greens, and lentils are widely available at most food markets and fit well into most budgets.”

steelcut oats

Vegetarian Diets Increase Metabolism

According to a study published in Nutrients in July and reported on PCRM Breaking News online, vegetarian diets are associated with higher metabolic rates. A total of 24 vegetarian and 26 non-vegetarian participants had their diets; metabolic rates; biochemical analyses and inflammatory markers monitored.

Eat Plant-based and Boost your Metabolism by 16%

The study also showed that vegetarians lowered their cholesterol levels and had higher levels of anti-inflammatory cytokines compared with non-vegetarians, and complements other research that shows vegetarian/plant-based diets increase metabolism. Studies carried out by Dr Neal Barnard and the Physicians Committee, and detailed in the 21 Day Vegan Kickstart program, found a 16 percent increase in after-meal metabolism that lasts for about three hours after each meal.

Preventing Colon Cancer – is it Fibre or Phytates?

As Dr Michael Greger of Nutrition Facts advises, the most important environmental risk factor for cancer is diet.

Studies have highlighted the health-promoting plant-based substances known as phytonutrients, which have proven beneficial effects on certain cancers.

Pulses and beans, including chickpeas, split peas and lentils are packed with nutrients, but how do they protect against degenerative disease such as cancer? The reason may be due to non-nutritive compounds, or even so-called “antinutrient” compounds like phytates.


Fight Cancer with Phytates

Previously phytates have been criticized for binding to certain minerals like iron, zinc and manganese and slowing their absorption. However, this dietary feature of phytates may be more of a boon than a burden.

In the US and Australia colon, or bowel/colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death. This is not the case in parts of world where a predominantly whole-food plant-based diet is consumed.

The famous surgeon Denis Burkitt spent 24 years in Uganda and most of the hospitals he contacted there had never seen a case of colon cancer. Dr Burkitt thought that it was the fibre in the Ugandan’s whole plant foods diet that was so protective.

Some studies have since questioned Dr Burkitt’s theory. For example, Danes appear to have more colon cancer than Finns, yet Danes consume almost twice the dietary fibre.

An Adventist study highlighted in Dr Greger’s video Phytates for the Prevention of Cancer found “excess risk of cancer for higher intakes of both red meat and white meat, suggesting all meats contribute to colon cancer formation — about twice the risk for red meat eaters, and three times the risk for those eating chicken and fish”.

As Dr Greger explains, “phytate is known to be a powerful inhibitor of the iron-mediated production of hydroxyl radicals, a particularly dangerous type of free radical. So the standard American diet may be a double whammy, the heme iron in muscle meat plus the lack of phytate in refined plant foods to extinguish the iron radicals”.

People who eat meat can reduce their risk of colon cancer in two ways: by cutting down on meat; or by eating more beans, which are an excellent source of phytates. To improve your chance of avoiding colon cancer even further, why not do both?


Tom Perry

The Secret Ingredient For Health And Weight Loss

Green Nutrition News 8 Aug

What if I told you that I had a secret food ingredient that is guaranteed to help you feel full for hours, aids in digestion, reduces your risk of diabetes, heart disease, cancer and high cholesterol, helps flush fat out of your system, adds texture to food, keeps you regular, and has ZERO calories? Would you want to get some of this? What would you be willing to pay for this magic supplement?

As it turns out, not only does this fantastic food component exist abundantly in nature, it costs you virtually NOTHING! So what is the big F-word for health and weight loss? The answer is simple: fibre (or, if you’re in the US, fiber).

According to research published in The Journal of Nutrition the ‘secret’, proven way to prevent weight gain or even encourage weight loss without dieting is, of course, to consume more fibre.

As reported in a recent ‘Eating Well’ article, researchers at Brigham Young University in Utah followed the eating habits of 252 middle-aged women for nearly two years and found that those who increased their fibre intake generally lost weight. Women who decreased the fibre in their diets gained weight.

The research scientists found that increasing fibre by 8 grams for every 1,000 calories consumed resulted in losing about 4½ pounds (2kg) over the course of the study.

While it helps you feel full, “fibre has no calories,” says Larry Tucker, Ph.D., lead researcher and professor in the Department of Exercise Sciences at Brigham Young.

Plantbased for weightloss

How much fibre should you eat?

The USDA recommends 14 grams of fibre for every 1,000 calories consumed by healthy adults. So a person eating 2,000 calories a day should aim to get at least 28 grams (or more) of fibre daily.

Most Australians do not consume enough fibre. On average, most Australians consume 20–25g of fibre daily, whereas the Australian Heart Foundation recommends that adults should aim to consume approximately 25–30g daily.

You could easily meet or exceed the recommended amount of daily fibre by eating the following healthy plant foods over the course of a day:

  • ½ cup oatmeal (3 grams fibre)
  • 1 small banana (3 grams)
  • ½ cup cooked red or black beans (7 grams)
  • 1 small apple (5 grams)
  • ½ cup lentils (8 grams)
  • and ½ cup blueberries (3 grams)



Dangers of a low-fibre diet

Reducing the amount of fibre-rich, whole plant foods in your diet is dangerous to your health. Disorders that can arise from a low-fibre diet include:

  • Constipation
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Diverticulitis
  • Haemorrhoids
  • Heart disease
  • Bowel cancer

Note that animal products have no fibre at all, so the more meat, dairy and eggs you consume, the less room in your diet for this important food component.


What is dietary fibre?

Dietary fibre is a type of complex carbohydrate made up of the indigestible parts or compounds of plants, which pass relatively unchanged through our stomach and intestines. Other terms for dietary fibre include ‘bulk’ and ‘roughage’, which can be misleading since some forms of fibre are water-soluble and aren’t bulky or rough at all.

Unlike other food components such as fats, proteins or carbohydrates that your body breaks down and absorbs, your body doesn’t digest fibre. Rather, fibre passes relatively intact through your stomach, small intestine, and colon, and out of your body.

Types of fibre

There are two categories of fibre, commonly classified as soluble (dissolves in water) or insoluble (doesn’t dissolve), and we need to eat both in our daily diets. They are:

  • Soluble fibre – includes pectins, gums and mucilage, which are found mainly in plant cells. This type of fibre dissolves in water to form a gel-like material. One of its major roles is to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. Good sources of soluble fibre include fruits, vegetables, oat bran, barley, seed husks, flaxseed, psyllium, dried beans, citrus fruits, carrots, barley, lentils, peas, and soy products.
  • Insoluble fibre – includes cellulose, hemicelluloses and lignin, which make up the structural parts of plant cell walls. A major role of insoluble fibre is to add bulk to faeces and to prevent constipation and associated problems such as haemorrhoids. This type of fibre promotes the movement of waste material through your digestive system and increases stool bulk, which helps with constipation. Good sources include wheat bran, corn bran, rice bran, the skins of fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, dried beans and whole-grain foods.

organic apples

Health benefits of fibre

Both types of fibre are beneficial to the body and most plant foods contain a mixture of both types – soluble and insoluble fibre. However, the amount of each type varies in different plant foods. To receive the greatest health benefit, eat a wide variety of high-fibre (whole plant-based) foods.

Individuals with high intakes of dietary fibre appear to be at significantly lower risk for developing coronary heart disease, stroke, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, and certain gastrointestinal diseases. Increasing fibre intake lowers blood pressure and serum cholesterol levels. Increased intake of soluble fibre improves glycaemia and insulin sensitivity in non-diabetic and diabetic individuals.

Why fibre is important for healthy weight loss

  • High-fibre foods require more chewing time, which gives your body time to register when you’re no longer hungry, so you’re less likely to overeat.
  • A high-fibre diet tends to make meals feel larger and linger longer, so you stay full for a greater amount of time.
  • High-fibre diets also tend to be less “energy dense,” which means they have fewer calories for the same volume of food.

Your best food choices for fibre

Your best choices for fibre are healthy whole plant foods. These include:

  • Whole-grain foods
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Beans, peas and other legumes
  • Nuts and seeds

Remember, fibre is only found in abundance in relatively unprocessed, whole plant foods. Refined or processed foods such as canned fruits and vegetables, pulp-free juices, white breads and pastas, and non-whole-grain cereals are lower in fibre. The grain-refining process removes the outer coat (bran) from the grain, which lowers its fibre content, as does removing the skin from fruits and vegetables.


6 Ways To Fit Fibre Into Your Food

  1. Bulk-up at breakfast. For breakfast choose a high-fibre breakfast cereal such as rolled oats or a whole-grain cereal. Or try baked beans on whole wheat toast
  2. Have the whole grain. Choose breads that list whole wheat, whole-wheat flour or another whole grain as the first ingredient on the label. Have brown rice, wild rice, barley, whole-wheat pasta and bulgur, instead of white rice and pasta.
  3. Vegify your mealsAdd fresh or frozen vegetables to soups and sauces. For example, mix chopped frozen broccoli into prepared spaghetti sauce or toss fresh baby carrots into stews.
  4. Love your legumesLentils, beans, and peas excellent sources of fibre. Use lentils and beans in curries, stews, salads, Mexican dishes and soups.
  5. Go fruityApples, bananas, oranges, pears and berries are all good sources of fibre.
  6. Plant-power snacks. Instead of cookies, cake or chocolate, snack on fresh fruits, raw vegetables, low-fat popcorn and whole-grain crackers. An occasional handful of nuts or dried fruits also is a healthy, high-fibre snack, although be aware that nuts and dried fruits are high in calories.

High-fibre foods are not only important to assist and sustain weight loss, but they’re good for your health. Be careful adding too much fibre to your meals at once, however, as this can lead to intestinal gas, abdominal bloating and cramping. Gradually increase your dietary fibre over a period of a few weeks. This allows the natural bacteria in your digestive system to adjust to the change.

Finally, drink plenty of water. Fibre works best when it absorbs water, making your stool soft and bulky.

Where Do You Get Your Fibre

Information sources:

Tom Perry

Beating Temptation, Diverticulosis, Grains, Gluten and Obesity

This week my top 5 nutrition news items includes an article by James Clear about the health-promoting power of saying “I don’t”; the prevalence of and preventative measures against diverticulosis; a diet swap which highlights the dangers of the Western diet; how dramatically lower grain consumption in Australia hasn’t stopped obesity, and the misconceptions around gluten-intolerance and the supposed health benefits of gluten-free foods.

Green Nutrition News Aug

How to avoid temptation and distraction

So, you want to give up or reduce your consumption of meat, dairy, eggs, sweets or junk food? Or perhaps you want to start working out regularly, drop a dress size (or two!), or just start eating healthier? What mindset and motivational words help you the most?

In this article by author and motivational expert James Clear, the very words we use when we set out on a quest to eat healthier or exercise more make a difference. Maybe a big difference! As James says, saying ‘no’ to unnecessary commitments and daily distractions can help you to focus and recover, while saying ‘no’ to temptation can help you stay on track and achieve your health goals.

In one study, a group of students were split into two. One group was told that when faced with temptation, they would say “I can’t do X”, while the other group was told they would say “I don’t do X”. When offered the choice between a chocolate bar or a granola health bar, 61% of the “I can’t do X” students chose the chocolate bar, while only 36% of the “I don’t do X” went for the chocolate.

The same researchers formed a group of 30 women for another study, that were split into 3 groups of 10, and told to think of a long–term health and wellness goal that was important to them. If they felt tempted to lapse on their goals, the first group was told: “just say no”; the second group was told “I can’t…miss my workout today” (for example), and the third group was told to implement the ‘don’t’ strategy, such as “I don’t miss workouts”.

After 10 days of implementing these strategies to meet their health goals, the women reported their findings:

  • Group 1 (the “just say no” group) had3 out of 10 members who persisted with their goals for the entire 10 days.
  • Group 2 (the “can’t” group) had1 out of 10 members who persisted with her goal for the entire 10 days.
  • Group 3 (the “don’t” group) had an incredible8 out of 10 members who persisted with their goals for the entire 10 days.

Why “I don’t” works better than “I can’t”

As James explains, “every time you tell yourself “I can’t”, you’re creating a feedback loop that is a reminder of your limitations. This terminology indicates that you’re forcing yourself to do something you don’t want to do.”

However, adds James, “when you tell yourself “I don’t”, you’re creating a feedback loop that reminds you of your control and power over the situation. It’s a phrase that can propel you towards breaking your bad habits and following your good ones.”

According to Heidi Grant Halvorson, the director of the Motivation Science Center at Columbia University, “I don’t” is experienced as a choice, so it feels empowering. It’s an affirmation of your determination and willpower. “I can’t” isn’t a choice. It’s a restriction, it’s being imposed upon you. So thinking “I can’t” undermines your sense of power and personal agency”.

So next time you’re offered food you know you shouldn’t eat, or you think of avoiding exercise, just try saying: “I don’t eat that” or “I don’t skip workouts”, and let us know how it works for you!

Diverticulosis: When Our Most Common Gut Disorder Hardly Existed


Dr Michael Greger from Nutrition Facts presents information about diverticulosis, a condition that occurs when abnormal pouches form in the wall of the colon (large intestine). When these pouches become inflamed and infected the diagnosis becomes diverticulitis, and both conditions come under the heading ‘Diverticular Disease’.

According to the State of Victoria, Australia, government’s Better Health Channel, “diverticulitis is often a medical emergency, requiring immediate medical attention and, frequently, admission to hospital. Mild attacks can be treated at home, but should always be assessed promptly”.

How common is Diverticulosis?

More than two-thirds of Americans over age 60 have diverticulosis and in Australia more than half of people aged over 70 have the condition, but it is less common in Asia, and almost unknown in Africa. According to Dr Greger, Diverticular Disease is our most common gut disorder, affecting up to 70% of people living in industrialized countries by age 60.

How can we prevent Diverticulosis?

More than a hundred years ago, in early 1900’s America, Diverticular Disease was virtually unknown, with only a total of 25 cases reported in 1907. Within a single lifespan of about 70 years, the disease was rampant.

In 1971, surgeons Neil Painter and Denis Burkitt suggested that Diverticular Disease was a deficiency disease, caused by a deficiency of fibre. It has been found that more than 50% of African Americans in their 50s have Diverticular Disease, but only less than 1% of Africans, eating a traditional plant-based diet, have the disease (that equates to 2 cases out of 4,000).

Does Fibre really protect against Diverticulosis?

In his second video in this series, Dr Greger explains how one widely-reported study from the University of North Carolina, which claimed to show that fibre didn’t prevent diverticulosis, failed to highlight the fact the study group eating the ‘higher fibre’ diet were still well under the minimum recommendations for fibre intake (about 32 grams a day). This renders the study findings useless, as it only compared one fibre-deficient diet (25 grams a day) to another fibre-deficient diet (8 grams a day).

By contrast, populations in rural Uganda, where they essentially have no diverticulosis, regularly consume ‘large plates of leafy vegetables’, with a fibre intake of 70-90 grams of fibre a day; 3-4 times more than consumed in North America and most other western countries.

In a recent study of 47,000 people, it was confirmed: “consuming a vegetarian diet and a high intake of dietary fibre were both associated with a lower risk of both hospitalization and death from diverticular disease”….and the group with the lowest risk (78% lower risk) of diverticular disease? Yes, you guessed it, the fully plant-based vegans!

Diet swap shows Western diet causes harm


In a recent study reported in the Brisbane Times, researchers from the University of Pittsburgh asked 20 Americans to swap their diet with 20 Africans for 2 weeks.

The Americans were fed a typical African diet including beans and pulses, high in fibre and low in fat. By contrast the Africans consumed a high-fat, low-fibre western-style diet, with plenty of burgers and fries.

While you don’t have to be Einstein to guess which diet was healthier, what was surprising was the speed the subject’s bodies responded to their dietary changes, with the low-fat African diet significantly reducing bio-markers of colon cancer risk.

In just two weeks, a change in diet from a Westernised composition to a traditional African high-fibre, low-fat diet reduced these biomarkers of cancer risk, indicating that it is likely never too late to modify the risk of colon cancer,” lead researcher Dr Stephen O’Keefe was quoted as saying.

As a result of the study, researchers estimate that up to one third of bowel cancer cases could be avoided by improving your diet.

Fibre is not just fantastic for your bowels. Another new study found that eating more fibre is one simple way to lose weight and improve your overall health.

By changing one thing, people in the fibre group were able to improve their diet and lose weight and improve their overall markers for metabolic syndrome,” said the study’s lead author.

Lower grain consumption hasn’t stopped obesity in Australia


In just 3 years from 2011 to 2014, Australia’s core grain consumption reportedly dropped by a whopping 30%. It is thought that fad diets such as Paleo and Gluten-Free have contributed to this rapid decline in grain consumption.

According to dietician and general manager of Australia’s Grains and Legumes Nutrition Council, Michelle Broom, people, and women in particular, were missing out on important nutrients.

Core grains provide fibre, iron and folate,” said Ms Broom, while the rate of gluten allergies and coeliac disease is constant at 1 to 2 per cent of the population.

Sarah Hyland, who is researching consumer attitudes to food and nutrition, was quoted in the report: “There is an increase in obesity rates amongst everybody in the last seven years, which is ironic, because we’re eating less grain, but getting fatter.”

Little Green Habits tip: go for the ‘whole’ grain, with less or minimal processing, such as rolled oats, or wholemeal pasta. White flour and white flour products have most of the fibre and nutrients of the original grain stripped out of them.

Think you’re gluten sensitive? Chances are, you’re not


In June 2015 a Huff Post article reported on a recent study in the journal Digestion, that found 86% of individuals who believed they were gluten sensitive could tolerate it.

Individuals with the hereditary auto-immune coeliac disease, which affects about 1% of Americans, or 3 million people, must avoid gluten.

Apart from those with extremely rare wheat allergies, the other group of recommended gluten-avoiders include those with gluten sensitivity; about 6% of the US population, or around 18 million people.

Despite these relatively low figures, an estimated 30% of shoppers are choosing “gluten-free” options, and 41% of U.S. adults believe “gluten-free” foods are better for everyone. Many popular gluten-free foods, such as cookies, crackers, snack bars and chips, are not necessarily healthier, however, and are often lower in nutrients and higher in sugars, sodium and fat than their gluten-free counterparts.

People want to believe that they are gluten intolerant because it’s a way for them to avoid carbs, because they also think carbs make them fat,” according to registered dietician Vandana Sheth, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

This study showed that, as with coeliac disease and wheat allergies, gluten sensitivity is not nearly as prevalent as many believe. Eating a gluten-free diet isn’t necessarily healthier, and it is not recommended for weight loss – instead, it could lead to weight gain.

Many gluten-free products are higher in calories, fat, sodium and sugar because they need to enhance the flavor and texture to make up for the lack of gluten,” explained registered dietician Marina Chaparro, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

For the vast majority of us, the best way to achieve a healthy weight and to avoid chronic disease is to consume a diet high in vegetables, fruit, beans, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds.


Tom Perry

Demystifying Protein – Animal vs Plant Protein

One of the most common questions vegans or vegetarians get is “where do you get your protein?” Animal foods such as meat and eggs are seen by many people as the gold standard of this macronutrient. Plant foods, on the other hand, are often seen as deficient and lacking in ‘complete’ protein. The truth is quite different, so how does the myth of plant-protein deficiency keep being recycled as fact? Well, let’s start by looking at the facts.

DNA Strand

Why is protein so important?

Protein, according to Julieanna Hever, the Plant-Based dietitian,  in her book ‘The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Plant-Based Nutrition’ plays a crucial role in most – if not all – structural and functional mechanisms of the human body. Protein makes up part of every cell in the body, including muscles, organs, hair, nails, skin, teeth, ligaments, cartilage and tendons, and, although not as efficient as carbohydrate, acts as source of energy. The building blocks of protein are a total of 20 amino acids. Your body can produce 11 of these amino acids, and there are 9 amino acids you must get from your diet.

Plant protein

If you consume enough calories from a variety of whole plant foods, you will get enough protein. Even mainly carbohydrate foods such as bananas, potatoes and rice have 5, 8 and 9 percent respectively of their calories as protein. The real plant-food superstars of protein though are beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds. For example, lentils have 36 percent of their calories as protein, and leafy green vegetables have almost half their calories from protein. Soybeans and its by-products such as tempeh and soybean curd, or tofu, are high in protein, which does have all essential amino acids.

Don’t you need complete protein?

Because most plant foods have less of one or some of the essential 9 amino acids, it was thought that you would need to combine certain plant foods to make up for this ‘deficiency’. This notion was based on the idea that you need all 9 essential amino acids at every meal. Animal foods have all essential amino acids, and, except for a few examples such as soybeans and quinoa, most plant foods don’t. However the fact is that your body needs amino acids, not foods with ‘complete’ proteins, and a varied plant-based diet has every amino acid you need.


How much protein do you need?

According to the US Department of Agriculture, the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein for the average adult is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight. In Australia, the amounts are very similar: The recommended dietary intake (RDI) for protein (measured in grams per kilogram of bodyweight) is:

  • 0.75 g/kg for adult women
  • 0.84 g/kg for adult men
  • Around 1 g/kg for pregnant and breastfeeding women, and for men and women over 70 years.

For example, a 75 kg adult male would need 63 g of protein per day. Consider this (brief) list of regular servings of plant foods and their corresponding protein quantities in grams:

  • Quinoa, half-cup cooked: 11.1 g
  • Tofu, raw, firm, half-cup: 19.9 g
  • Barley, pearled, 1 cup cooked: 16.4 g
  • Chickpeas, 1 cup cooked: 14.5 g
  • Lentils, 1 cup cooked: 17.9 g
  • Baked beans, 1 cup: 12.1 g

Can you have too much animal protein?

There are many high-protein, low-carb diets around today, in particular Paleo and its variations. Typically, lots of meat, no grains or starches, and some veggies feature prominently in such diets. But can you get too much meat and protein?

According to dietitian Amanda Benham, the Human Herbivore,  diets such as Paleo and Atkins “…encourage unhealthy eating patterns such as high consumption of animal products (…meat, eggs, cheese etc.), which are loaded with saturated fats and cholesterol and devoid of fibre and other beneficial plant components.”

Dr Neal Barnard and the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) say that “a diet that is high in protein can actually contribute to disease and other health problems.” The PCRM advice is that too much animal protein can lead to increased risk of osteoporosis, as high protein intake is known to encourage urinary calcium losses. An excess of animal protein and foods in the diet can also lead to increased cancer risk, impaired kidney function, heart disease and weight-loss sabotage.

Cornell University Professor Emeritus of Nutritional Biochemistry, Dr T Colin Campbell, and author of The China Study, tells us that animal protein is a potent carcinogen.

According to Dr Campbell, “Casein [the main protein of cow’s milk] is the most relevant chemical carcinogen ever identified.”


How to get enough healthy plant protein

It is important to get enough protein, however too much animal protein can be harmful to your health. The following guidelines are based on those developed by PCRM:

  • Have a least 5 servings of grains each day, which may include half a cup of hot cereal, 1 ounce of dry cereal, or one slice of wholemeal bread. Each serving contains about 3 grams of protein.
  • Consume three or more servings of vegetables each day. This may include 1 cup of raw vegetables, half a cup of cooked vegetables, or half a cup of vegetable juice (I use my NutriBullet to make vegetable and fruit blended beverages). Each serving contains roughly 2 grams of protein.
  • Try to have 2 to 3 servings of legumes each day, including half a cup of cooked beans, 4 ounces of tofu or tempeh, 8 ounces of soymilk, and 1 ounce of nuts. While protein content can vary significantly, each serving may contain about 4 to 10 grams of protein. Meat analogues and substitutes are also great sources of protein that can be added to your daily diet. (Thanks to PCRM for this checklist).

Still not convinced?

If you’re skeptical about plant foods being able to meet your protein needs, think about the sheer bulk and muscle power of such plant-eaters as gorillas, elephants and rhinos. In the human race, consider the ultra-fit vegan athletes that don’t rely on any animal products for their super-human achievements. Strongman Patrik Baboumian, marathon champion Brendan Brazier and fighter Mac Danzig are elite athletes who swear that a plant-based is the secret behind their success. Patrik Baboumian, an Armenian-German, known as the herbivore strongman with 50-cm biceps, was quoted regarding his change to a vegetarian, then later vegan diet:

”I was amazed by the great gains in lean body-mass and strength I got with the meat-free diet,” says Patrik.

Former professional Ironman triathlete and two-time Canadian 50km Ultra Marathon Champion Brendan Brazier , swears by a whole-food vegan diet. He was also quoted in the article:

“Through good nutrition we can thrive in life without the need for stimulants, sugars and pharmaceuticals, and the Vegetarian, Vegan and Raw Plant Based Whole Food choices are the best,” Brendan says.

American MMA (mixed martial arts) and UFC fighter Mac Danzig has been a vegan since 2004 and follows a high carbohydrate, low fat raw vegan diet. According to the 33-year-old Mac, who has 21 wins under his belt from 33 bouts enjoys a diet rich in nuts, seeds, avocados, and coconuts and “feels amazing”. Maybe it was time you started feeling “amazing” too?

Tom Perry

Protein Myth, Vegan Athletes and Plantbased Diet For Weight Loss


GNN #04

This week my top 5 nutrition news items focus on that perennial source of controversy with vegetarian or vegan diets – protein.

We have the current high-protein vs high-carb diet dichotomy, then there’s animal vs plant protein, and there’s the inevitable question that arises when people don’t eat meat or animal products: “where do you get your protein?”

Hopefully these articles will help to answer these questions. Not to mention the fact that, as a 190cm / 6ft 3” male, I have easily obtained enough dietary protein from plant sources since I went vegetarian (and later vegan) in 1982!

Slaying The Protein Myth

In 2014 Forks Over Knives published an article by vegan ultra-athlete, author and speaker Rich Roll titled ‘Slaying the Protein Myth’. In this article Rich Roll identifies the relentless marketing messages from the wealthy and powerful animal food industry that, naturally, would have us all believe that their products are necessary for protein intake.

Speaking as a plant-based athlete, Rich Roll can confidently say that not only is consumption of animal protein unnecessary, “it’s killing us, luring us to feast on a rotunda of factory-farmed, hormone- and pesticide-laden, low-fiber foods extremely high in saturated fat.” Rich then poses the questions; does it matter if we get our protein from plants, and how much do we need?

As Rich notes, the nine essential amino acids our body needs can readily be synthesized by a variety of plant foods, which, after all, is where herbivorous animals get it from. The danger lies not in getting too little protein, but in consuming too much animal protein. Not only is there evidence that excess protein intake is often stored in fat cells, Rich Roll writes, it contributes to the onset of a variety of diseases, such as osteoporosis, cancer, impaired kidney function, and heart disease.

Compare this to the plant-based lifestyle, which Rich Roll says repaired his health and “revitalized” his “middle-aged self” to teenage proportions.

If you’re not convinced, Rich Roll invites you to consider all the well-known, plant-based athletes (see below), and the huge, powerful animals which build their muscular bulk on raw plant foods, such as elephants, rhinos and gorillas.

Do Vegetarians and Vegans Eat Enough Protein?

The fact is adults require about 42 grams of protein intake each day, and vegetarians/vegans consume, on average, 70% more protein than the recommended intake (over 70 grams).

Another article on the Forks Over Knives website, based on Dr Michael Greger’s Nutrition Facts research, answers the question that many ask, or think of; do vegetarians/vegans get enough protein?

The real dietary deficiency in the US and other wealthy western countries (including Australia) is not protein, but fibre, which is found only in whole plant foods like beans, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

A lack of adequate dietary fibre intake has been associated with a higher risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and various cancers, as well as higher cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar.

Short answer is yes. As long as they eat enough calories to meet their dietary intake, vegetarians and vegans get enough protein.

Dr. Ornish On The Hazards Of The High-Protein Trend

In a recent op-ed piece in the New York Times, physician, author, researcher, and plant-based diet guru Dr. Dean Ornish challenges current notions about the importance of dietary animal protein and fats.

As Dr. Ornish observes, many people have claimed that obesity is linked to the high consumption of sugar and starch, and not enough meat, fat and eggs. Recently the US Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee lifted recommendations that restricted dietary cholesterol (only found in animal foods), citing research showing that dietary cholesterol doesn’t have a major impact on cholesterol levels.

Contrary to popular claims that people have abandoned meat and fat for sugary processed foods, Americans consumed 67% more added fat, 39% more sugar, and 41% more meat in 2000 than that they did in 1950, and nearly 25% more calories than they had in 1970.

The Australian Health Survey found that Aussies are eating 30 per cent less fruit and vegetables than 15 years ago, with one in four adults eating no vegetables on an average day and only 7 per cent eating the daily recommended five servings. Meanwhile, we have also decreased our grain consumption, with Australians consuming 29 per cent fewer core grain foods in 2014 than in 2011, while six per cent did not eat any at all. Instead, we are filling up more on take away food high in saturated fat, animal products, and sugar. Meat consumption in Australia has increased from 103 kg in 1962 to 111 kg per person in 2011, with chicken and pork significantly increasing their market share, and Australians allocating about 40 percent of their food expenditure on meat. As Dr Ornish notes, it’s no wonder people are fatter and unhealthier.

According to Dr. Ornish, research shows that “animal protein may significantly increase the risk of premature mortality from all causes, among them cardiovascular disease, cancer and Type 2 diabetes.” He makes the point that low-carb, high-animal protein diets promote heart disease in ways other than just their effects on cholesterol levels.

The problem with meat and egg yolks is that their increased production of TMAO – trimethylamine N-oxide significantly increases the risk of coronary heart disease and cancer. Furthermore, animal protein increases IGF-1, an insulin-like growth hormone, and chronic inflammation, an underlying factor in many chronic diseases.

Dr. Ornish has proven in randomized, controlled trials that a whole-foods, plant-based lifestyle can reverse the progression of severe coronary heart disease. After a few weeks of these trials, episodes of chest pain reduced by 91%. After 5 years, there were 2.5 times fewer cardiac events, and blood flow to the heart improved by 300%.

It is possible, writes Dr. Ornish, that these diet and lifestyle changes can alter your genes, turning on the ones that keep you healthy, and turning off genes that promote disease; and even lengthen telomeres – the ends of our chromosones that control aging.

Dr. Ornish found in his research that the more people followed a whole food plant based lifestyle, controlled stress, did regular exercise, and reduced the amount of fat and cholesterol they consumed, the more improvement in their health was measured. As Dr. Ornish puts it, “what you gain is so much more than what you give up.”

10 Male Athletes You Didn’t Know Were Vegan

As legendary US gridiron quarterback Joe Namath once said of his transition to vegetarianism, “It shows that you don’t need meat to play football.”

This list of famous vegan male athletes surely slam-dunks the archaic notion that plant based athletes don’t get enough protein, particularly animal protein, to build serious muscle strength and power.

Some of the names listed may be well known to you, such as healthy vegan diet athletes, authors and plant based advocates Rich Roll and Brendan Brazier, but some, like Mike Tyson, might raise a few eyebrows. It’s good to see an Aussie make the list too: one of our celebrated Olympic swimming champions, the ‘Seaweed Streak’, Murray Rose.

Bodybuilders, Mixed Martial Arts fighters, super-strong men; this roll call of male vegan athletic superstars demonstrates emphatically that strength and endurance can be easily developed on a fully plant based diet.

Plant-Based: Officially The Best Diet For Weight Loss

Plantbased for weightloss

You’ll always find us banging on at Little Green Habits about how a whole food plant based diet is best for long-term health and sustained weight loss. Well, now it’s official!

As recently widely reported, including the New Daily, you can save the planet, your health and your waistline by simply going veggo.

Despite the oft-repeated claims that vegetarians and vegans will waste away due to lack of animal protein, and that scarfing loads of animal protein is best to fill you up and trim off the kilos, a study recently published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine found that, on average, vegetarian dieters lost an extra 2 kilos (and vegans an extra 2.5 kilos) than those who ate animal products.

Lead author Dr. Ru-Yi Huang stated:

“Vegetarian diets are more effective than non-vegetarian diets for weight loss.”

Deakin University (Melbourne, Australia) Associate Professor Tim Crowe, who reviewed the study, said that:

Even if you do it for the short term, [going vegetarian] can be an effective way to lose a small amount of weight.

Associate Professor and nutrition expert Tim Crowe encouraged people to follow a mostly plant based diet, low in sugar, and with regular exercise. “Those are the keys to long term health,” Associate Professor Crowe said. For the sake of your health, weight loss, animals and the environment, I heartily agree!

Tom Perry

Green Nutrition News – Obesity epidemic, how much is too much fruit and is buying organic really worth it?

My top nutrition news items this week include information from Dr Fuhrman about the increasing obesity epidemic; while Dr Greger poses the questions on his Nutrition Facts websites how much is too much fruit, and is buying organic really worth it?

GNN #03

Our Obesity Epidemic – getting worse, not better

Dr Joel Fuhrman recently posted an article about the continuing rise of obesity in the United States. As Dr Fuhrman writes, in the 28 years between 1980 and 2008, the prevalence of obesity in adults in the US more than doubled from 15% to 34%.

Today, 35.7% of Americans are obese, and a total of 68.8% are either overweight or obese.

Here in Australia, the rates of overweight and obesity amongst adults have doubled over the past two decades with Australia now being ranked as one of the fattest developed nations.

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), 63% of Australian adults are overweight or obese, and 25% of children are overweight or obese. Being overweight and obese is the second highest contributor to burden of disease, after dietary risks. Smoking is the third highest.

Why are so many people overweight?

As Dr Fuhrman says: diets don’t work. Dr Fuhrman’s belief is that Americans are not only out of touch with their hunger and fullness signals, but are addicted to their disease-causing Standard American Diet (SAD).

According to Dr Fuhrman, “trying to lose weight by eating smaller amounts of the same foods fails over and over; you do not feel satisfied by the small portions, and between meals you suffer from the uncomfortable cravings and withdrawal symptoms (headaches, light-headedness, etc.) associated with unhealthy foods”.

What is the answer?

Dr Fuhrman prescribes a high-nutrient eating style, based on larger amounts of vegetables, which helps remove addictive cravings and withdrawal symptoms.

High-nutrient, health-promoting whole plant foods provide adequate micronutrients that don’t produce toxic withdrawal symptoms; and reduce the desire to overeat.

Whole plant foods and recipes recommended by Dr Fuhrman not only satisfy you with fewer calories, but also accelerate loss of body fat. This is the most effective strategy for weight loss, disease-reversal, and enhanced longevity.


How Much Fruit Is Too Much?

With all the publicity about the dangers of too much sugar in our diets, some people have questioned whether the fructose in fresh fruit might be a problem.

This is of particular relevance to diabetics, who might be impacted with the consumption of too much fruit, which contains fructose. As is often the case, Dr Michael Greger deftly answers this question in his Nutrition Facts online videos and articles.

In answering the question is added fructose different to the naturally occurring fructose in fruit; research shows clearly that fresh fruit has protective benefits refined sugars lack.

In one study people who ate a whopping 20 pieces of fruit a day, which translates to about 4 times the upper adult limit of fructose toxicity, experienced “no adverse effects (and possible benefits) for body weight, blood pressure, and insulin and lipid levels after 12 to 24 weeks”. In another similar study no adverse effects were reported, with an added bonus 38-point drop in LDL (bad) cholesterol.

Quoting from the Harvard Health Letter, “the nutritional problems of fructose and sugar come when they are added to foods. Fruit, on the other hand, is beneficial in almost any amount [emphasis added]”.

 organic farming

Is buying organic really worth it?

Most vegans and vegetarians are big supporters of organic farming, without use of harmful chemical fertilizers or pesticides.

Intuitively, this seems like the right thing to promote. The question arises then, should we be focusing not only on encouraging people to eat more vegetables, fruit, and healthy, natural plant foods, but also on buying (often more expensive) organic produce as well? Dr Greger of Nutrition Facts addresses this question in a series of videos.

Are Organic Foods more Nutritious?

Hundreds of studies comparing organic to conventional produce didn’t find significant differences for most of the traditional nutrients like vitamins and minerals. The conclusion was there is no strong evidence to support the perception that organically produced foods are more nutritious. The studies, did, however, find higher levels of phenolic phytonutrients, which are cancer-protective anti-oxidants. It could be argued, though, that simply by purchasing an extra serve of conventional produce (usually cheaper than organic); the same levels of phenolic phytonutrients could be obtained for around the same cost.

Are Organic Foods safer?

As Dr Greger puts it, “…organic foods may not have more nutrients per dollar, [but] consumption of organic foods may reduce exposure to pesticide residues and antibiotic-resistant bacteria”.

Studies have shown that although the risk of consuming food poisoning bacteria was the same with organic or conventional meat, exposure to multidrug resistant bacteria, resistant to multiple classes of antibiotics was lower with the organic meat.

What then of pesticide residue on plant foods?

According to Dr Greger, “There is a large body of evidence on the relation between exposure to pesticides and elevated rate of chronic diseases such as different types of cancers, diabetes, neurodegenerative disorders like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and ALS, as well as birth defects and reproductive disorders, but they’re talking about people who live or work around pesticides.”

Measuring the levels of pesticide residue running through the bodies of both children and adults after alternating between a predominantly organic and conventional diet, found that “eating organic provides a dramatic and immediate protective effect against exposures to pesticides commonly used in agricultural production”.

These dietary studies showed that during the week with mostly organic consumption, pesticide exposure was significantly reduced – by a nearly 90% drop in exposure.

Dr Greger concluded, “Consumption of organic foods provides protection against pesticides”. However, does protection against pesticides mean protection against disease? Currently, we don’t have the studies to prove this either way. In the meantime, consumption of organic food is a logical precaution.

organic apples

Are Organic Foods Healthier

As Dr Greger observes in this video report, “by eating organic we can reduce our exposure to pesticides, but it remains unclear whether such a reduction in exposure is clinically relevant”.

In some studies, organic consumers report being significantly healthier than conventional consumers. However, they also tend to eat more plant foods, less soda and less alcohol, processed meat or milk, and just eat healthier in general. No wonder they feel much better!

Dr Greger notes that the “Million Women Study in the UK was the first to examine the association between the consumption of organic food and subsequent risk of cancer. The only significant risk reduction they found, though, was for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma”.

Certainly, studies have shown that higher levels of pesticides have been linked to higher incidence of conditions including ADHD, testicular cancer and birth defects. It is unclear, though, whether the increased pesticide levels were due to other factors such as higher consumption of animal products and environmental exposure by farm workers.

To date, there haven’t been, according Dr Greger, any ‘interventional trials’, comparing people raised on organic diets compared to those raised on conventional diets – except, as Dr Greger drolly observes, studies done on fruit flies!

Organic Food Benefits – overrated or underrated?

For 25 years pesticides have been classed as probable carcinogens, potentially damaging our DNA, genes or chromosomes. Most of the damage, however, seems to be done to the farm workers in close contact with these chemicals. Exposure to pesticide residue on produce is at levels well below acceptable limits.

There is still scientific controversy about the safety of pesticide levels, even under the safe limit. Cadmium levels, about half that in organic produce, is another highly toxic heavy metal that accumulates in the body and may be linked to phosphate fertilizers used in conventional crops.

On the flip side, the ‘organic’ food market has grown substantially over the years, and isn’t always a guarantee of health. People may falsely judge organic Oreo cookies, for example, as having less calories than regular Oreos, and believe there is less need for exercise when consuming these ‘organic’ junk foods.


People tend to overestimate the nutritional benefits of organic food, and overestimate the risk of pesticides. In the US they erroneously believe that as many people die from pesticides residues on conventional foods as die from motor vehicle accidents. Some buyers of organic food might think that eating conventional produce is almost as bad as smoking a pack of cigarettes! The danger of this type of thinking is that it could lead to an overall decrease in fruit and vegetable consumption.

According to a study cited by Dr Greger, if half the US population increased their fruit and vegetable consumption by just one serving a day, an estimated 20,000 cancer cases might be avoided each year. Even if you allow for an additional 10 cases of cancer caused by the pesticide residue ingested due to the extra fruit and vegetable consumption; that represents potentially 19,990 fewer cases of cancer each year!

I’ll leave the last word on this subject to Dr Greger:

“We get a tremendous benefit from eating conventional fruits and vegetables that far outweighs whatever tiny bump in risk from the pesticides, but hey, why accept any risk at all when you can choose organic? I agree, but we should never let concern about pesticides stop us from stuffing our face with as many fruits and vegetables as possible”.

Tom Perry

Low-Carb Diets, Plant Protein, Vegan Tour of India, Superfoods and Breaking up with Cheese

Green Nutrition News – Top 5 Nutrition News Items

This week our top 5 nutrition news items include information from Dr Greger about the reasons why low-carb diets ultimately fail; how to get your protein from plants instead of animals; Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) vegan tour of India; on breaking up with cheese, and Rich Roll’s podcast interview with superfoods and wellness advocate Darin Olien.

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Where Low Carb Diets Fail

Dr Michael Greger, physician, author, nutrition expert and publisher of the Nutrition Facts website, recently appeared on a YouTube channel explaining why low-carb diets ultimately fail.

While acknowledging that low-carb diets such as Atkins and Paleo can lead to weight loss in some people, Dr Greger said that any diet can lead to weight loss, but that doesn’t mean it’s healthy or sustainable. Dr Greger noted that previous advice to reduce fat did lead to some refined carbohydrate junk foods being marketed as ‘low fat’ to cash in on this health advice. It is these types of processed carbs, often filled with sugar and salt, which should be avoided in favour of healthy natural carbs including fruit and vegetables.

When you are severely carb-depleted you go into a state of ‘ketosis’, which is, as Dr Greger puts it, a state of “sickness”. This can depress your appetite and cause weight loss in the short term (as well as unpleasant side effects like bad breath!). These unhealthy diets can never be sustained, however, particularly once a person goes ‘off’ the diet, and resumes more regular eating patterns.

The key, as Dr Greger advises, is to choose the diet with the greatest chance of longevity, with the lowest rates of disease, and which also helps people achieve and maintain a healthy weight; that is, a healthy plant-based diet.

 chickpea-316594_1280How to get your protein from plants, not animals

A recent Post Bulletin article shares information from Sue Lofgren, a registered dietician at Olmsted Medical Center in the US, about protein, what it is, where to find it and a sample menu of how to get over 60 grams of protein on a vegetarian diet.

Sue gives the daily recommended allowance of protein for men and women, and notes that all foods except fruit and fat contain protein. The bottom line is that if you eat a variety of foods each day you will most likely get enough protein.

Soy products (tempeh and tofu), beans, peas, lentils, peanuts, grains, nuts and nut butters, seeds and seed butters and vegetables all contain protein. Plant-based proteins except soybeans and some grains (such as quinoa) are sometimes referred to as “incomplete proteins” because they lack one or more of the nine essential amino acids that make up “complete protein”. In practice this is not a problem as, according to Sue, “eating a variety of protein sources throughout the day will ensure you get all nine essential amino acids”.

If you are thinking of using a protein supplement, like a protein powder, Sue recommends speaking first with your healthcare provider. As Sue advises, a balanced diet from healthy natural foods is the best way to get the nutrients and energy your body needs.


US-based doctor’s group promotes vegan life in India

Recently The Indian Express online reported a story about a tour of India by representatives of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM: a non-profit health organization with 12,000 physicians established in 1985 in the US).

In an email interview with Zeeshan Ali of PCRM is quoted as saying:

“A low-fat vegan diet, combined with a nutrition education program, is clinically proven to boost weight loss, lower blood pressure, improve total cholesterol, restore insulin function, alleviate chronic pain, particularly headaches, migraines, and joint pain. It also boosts your mood and combats chronic fatigue. Plant-based dietary patterns are associated with a reduced risk for certain forms of cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.”

As far as nutrients such as protein or iron are concerned, Mr Ali says:

“A plant-based vegan diet provides an abundance of micronutrients we often fall short on while ensuring adequate intake of the three macronutrients: carbohydrates, protein, and fat. We recommend 80 percent of calories come from carbohydrates, 10 percent from fat and 10 percent from protein.

“Choosing colourful, low-fat, plant-based foods often ensures this ratio, or a comparable one that will leave you feeling great. Especially good protein sources include whole-wheat pasta, ancient grains, beans, peas and lentils, and even leafy greens like spinach and broccoli,” he added.


On breaking up with cheese

Vegan blogger Sara Hohn of Homemade Levity has written about her struggles giving up dairy cheese.

Sara is one of those people who used to make entire meals from cheese, which surely must rank as one of the most addictive animal products. As Sara notes, who can deny that “gooey, salty, fatty, creamy foods are delicious?”

In this article, Sara shares some “whole food substitutes for cheese that can help you achieve the same types of flavors, without the dairy”.

Sara talks about focusing on adding lots of flavor to your plant-based food, including fresh herbs, sauces, dressings and spices, and making more of an effort in the kitchen to come up with tasty alternatives to cheese as a convenience food.

There are significant health issues with cheese highlighted in this article, including its high saturated fat and cholesterol content, and the links between dairy products and an increased risk of cancer and diabetes. Also mentioned is the cruelty of the dairy industry that ruthlessly exploits dairy cows and their offspring.

Several quality cheese substitutes are referred to in this article, which unfortunately for us in Australia are all US-based and unavailable. However, as Sara points out, you can make dairy free cheese from coconut milk, nuts, chickpea flour, even potatoes! She links to several vegan cheese recipes in her article.

If you’re wondering how you can give up, or reduce your reliance on dairy products, I recommend you read our 9 tips for giving up dairy, including cheese.

Have you tried any non-dairy cheeses or vegan cheese recipes? If you have, let us know what you think!

Superfoods for a superlife – in search of optimal longevity and nutrition

Rich Roll, plant-based vegan ultra-athlete, author, speaker, podcaster and blogger, featured Darin Olien on his podcast number 153. On this podcast, Darin shares insights and wisdom with Rich from his extraordinary adventure-based experiences as a widely recognized exotic superfoods hunter, wellness advocate and environmental activist.

To help himself heal from a football injury when he was young, Darin embarked on a twenty year quest to study exotic, indigenous herbs and superfoods across the globe. This included communing with thousands of rural farmers, growers and manufacturers in remote communities across Peru, Bhutan, the Amazon, the Himalayas, the South Pacific, Latin America and Asia. Now Darin sources high-quality, fair-trade superfoods and herbal commodities to market through his company, Darin’s Naturals.

In his work with fitness company Beachbody, Darin was instrumental in the development and ongoing formulation of the wildly successful whole-food supplement, Shakeology.

Darin chronicles his experience in his new book Superlife: The 5 Forces That Will Make You Healthy, Fit and Eternally Awesome – as well as on his website Superlife – where he demystifies health, fitness, nutrition, and longevity into simple daily actions designed to promote life-long wellness.

As Rich Roll observes, the term superfoods is prone to overuse. Are these foods truly “super” or is it all just exaggerated marketing hype? This is a conversation that explores that issue and much more. Recommended listening.

Hope you enjoy this week’s Green Nutrition News! Let me know what you think about any of the topics in the comment section below.

Tom Perry


Turmeric, Mushroom, Non-Dairy Icecream, Milk Myth and Curing Diabetes

Green Nutrition News – Top 5 nutrition news items

Each week we bring you the latest plant based nutrition news and articles so you can stay informed and empowered.

This week our top 5 nutrition news items include some of the amazing health benefits of turmeric; ways to make healthy non-dairy ice-cream; dispelling common myths about cow’s milk and calcium consumption; the cancer and immunity-protecting properties of the humble mushroom, and whether or not vegan diets help with diabetes.


Why Turmeric May Be a Vegetarian’s Best Friend

Turmeric, a perennial plant belonging to the ginger family, has been used as a spice in Asia for thousands of years. Turmeric can provide a rich, orange-yellow colour to foods, and is used in canned beverages, baked products, dairy products, ice cream, yogurt, yellow cakes, orange juice, biscuits, popcorn colour, cereals and sauces. Turmeric is a significant ingredient in most curry powders.

Turmeric also has known medicinal benefits. A recent press release published on 17 June 2015 reported a study that found the yellow pigment and active therapeutic ingredient of Turmeric, curcumin, enhanced the synthesis of DHA in the liver and brain from essential omega 3 fatty acid ALA.

According to researchers in the study, turmeric can be used to help convert plant derived omega-3 fats to DHA. This can potentially be helpful to individuals who do not eat animal-based food, or who are vegetarian/vegan.

Other studies highlighted by Dr Michael Greger on his Nutrition Facts website have shown turmeric/curcumin has protective effects against some cancers, including Multiple Myeloma, colon cancer, and some types of skin cancers .

Mushrooms Enhance Immune Function and Protect Against Cancer

A recent online article by Dr Joel Fuhrman noted the benefits of mushrooms in boosting immunity and protecting against breast and other types of cancer.

According to Dr Fuhrman, mushrooms have certain phyto-chemicals such as beta-glucan, which enhance the activity of certain types of immunity or ‘killer’ cells in the body, which attack and destroy virus-infected and cancerous cells. These immune-enhancers are thought to help the body fight off microbial invaders and developing tumors, and prevent respiratory infections.

Mushrooms also have compounds that protect against the proliferation of stomach, colorectal, breast, and prostate cancers.

Dr Fuhrman advises that mushrooms should only be eaten cooked. This is apparently because several raw culinary mushrooms contain a potentially carcinogenic substance called agaritine, and cooking mushrooms significantly reduces their agaritine content.

How to make dairy-free ice-cream at home

Do you ever feel the need for a delicious frozen treat that won’t ruin your diet, that’s simple to prepare and make at home? Well, dairy-free ice-cream could be your answer

Vicki Brett-Gach, a Certified Vegan Lifestyle Coach and Educator writing on the T Colin Campbell Centre for Nutritional Studies website, shows you how make fresh, healthy vegan ice cream or sorbet in your own kitchen.

Vicki uses an ice-cream machine, but provides tips on how to make these treats using a blender or food processor instead. She showcases several of her favourite mouth-watering recipes, including Cinnamon Spiced Ice Cream; Tart Lemon Pineapple Ice with Fresh Blueberries; Bartlett Pear Sorbet and more.

Vicki’s ice-cream recipes are very easy and straightforward to make, and typically use non-dairy milk and maple syrup for the dairy and sugar alternatives, or simply fruit and dried fruit in the case of sorbets.

You can also check out our very own Vegan Mango Ice Cream recipe which we regularly enjoy here at Littlegreenhabits HQ.

So give these recipes a try and let us know how you found them!

Milk-Myths: Getting clarity about calcium

Rosane Oliveira, DVM, PhD is Founding Director of the UC Davis Integrative Medicine program and Adjunct Assistant Professor at the Department of Public Health Sciences at the School of Medicine at the University of California, Davis.

Dr Oliveira recently wrote for the ‘Forks Over Knives’ website about calcium and dairy products. She explains how and why a whole food plant based diet can provide adequate calcium, and what can deplete calcium stores from your body.

A study showing the dangers of taking dietary calcium supplements is explored by Dr Oliveira, who notes in closing that:

“You don’t need dairy or supplements to get enough calcium (in fact they may be a hindrance rather than a help). As long as you eat a calorically sufficient whole-food, plant-based diet that drastically reduces or completely eliminates added sodium, you’ll get all the calcium you need.”

Are Vegan Diets effective against Diabetes?

An interesting study revealed last May in the Journal Nutrition & Diabetes was led by doctors and nutritionists at the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), a non-profit organization that looks for ways to reduce the amounts of medication being used by the patients with healthy diets.

Researchers in the study chose 17 overweight adults with diabetic neuropathy on a five month low-fat diet that consisted of fresh vegetables and high-fiber. This adult group also attended nutrition classes every week and took a vitamin B12 supplement

The participants were compared with 17 other adults, who received the vitamin but were not on the vegan diet. Those with the plant based diet said they felt better and had less pain. Tests done to participants also showed better blood circulation and nerve function. Not only that, the participants lost an average of 14 pounds.

Despite the encouraging findings of the study, doctors are not sure which part of the plant based diet caused the changes, if any. It could all just be them losing weight that made everything change, the researchers said.

Do you have Type 2 diabetes? Have you ever tried eating out as vegan? If so, have you noticed any changes?