March is World Nutrition Month and we are celebrating by sharing some incredible knowledge and tips with you. As you know, collaboration is a huge part of our culture here at Raw Elements. You also likely know that our goal is always to inspire and educate those in our community. With these things in mind, we could not be more excited to present today’s blog post!
Below you will find comprehensive and easy-to-implement strategies for healthy eating and plant-based wellness from nine of our friends. We are grateful to the Raw Elements Ambassadors and Partners who took the time to share their expertise and insight with us, so that we could pass it along to YOU!
Michelle Wolfe – @muvelife
Nutrition is very important to me. The importance was rooted when my mom passed away from cancer when I was a young girl. I knew that living a full and healthy life would be much more likely if I placed importance on the quality of my food. I am a vegetarian who eats mostly plant-based foods. Here are a few ways in which I am able to maintain this diet:
- Plan ahead. I prepare and pack all snacks and meals in advance. This way, I am less likely to indulge in unhealthy food.
- Read labels. Although a packaged food may indicate that it’s plant-based, it doesn’t mean it’s healthy. I read labels to confirm the food I eat is low sugar and nutrient dense.
- Rotate foods. Eating too much of one thing can lead to food sensitivities. It also limits the variety of nutrients you can get from other foods.
- Listen to your body. If you feel unwell or develop unusual symptoms, listen to your body. It is trying to tell you something.
- Create your health team. Google doesn’t know everything. Team up with specialized health practitioners who can give you individualized advice.
Caroline Nash – @fittiebliss
When it comes to optimal health, nothing beats a varied diet full of whole, minimally processed food. By adopting a plant-based lifestyle you automatically support your beautiful machine of a body!
Here are my 5 top tips:
- “Taste the Rainbow”. Colourful plant-based foods are jam packed full of goodies, including phytonutrients, which help prevent disease.
- Combine foods. You can improve nutrient bioavailability by eating foods such as leafy greens with a healthy fat like avocado to increase the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E & K.
- Keep it fresh. Nutrients are lost from produce as soon as it is harvested, so the fresher the better. Support your local farmer and reduce that carbon footprint!
- Use natural pre-workout supplements. Coffee for example stimulates the central nervous system and cordyceps (a fungi) helps maintain steady energy. My go to is a Four Sigmatic Coffee and Cordyceps beverage.
- Fuel yourself post-workout. Your lovely muscles are like sponges and absorb the highest amount of nutrients after a training session where your muscles need to repair and replace glycogen stores. Consuming a protein and quicker absorbing carbohydrate will aid recovery. My go to is a smoothie made of Sunwarrior protein and fresh fruit.
Sukaina Bharwani – @healthandfoodjunkie
Nothing beats a vegan protein mocha latte with a little vegan chocolate treat! These have been my go to treats this winter.
I’m not completely vegan but I am trying to add more plant-based meals to my diet and opt for vegan based products where I can. There are a few non-vegan foods that I still enjoy, but I’m eating them in moderation and am more mindful of what I’m eating.
Following a more plant-based diet has numerous health benefits, including reducing the risk of many diseases, increasing cognitive health, and boosting antioxidant intake. Plus, there’s also the environmental benefits of reducing the consumption of animal and animal products, being more mindful of animal welfare, and sustainability.
Thinking about making the change? Take small steps – one meal at a time – to find foods that you enjoy and that will help make this a more sustainable lifestyle change. I believe that every little change can make a difference, so start there and see where it leads you.
A common question for many trying to adapt to a more plant-based diet is, “Where will I get my protein and iron from?” There are some great plant-based foods that can help here. For example, quinoa is considered a complete protein, as are hemp hearts, and a meal combining legumes and whole grains. There are also many plant-based foods that provide a good source of iron, too. Think dark green leafy vegetables, tofu, legumes, cashews, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, and black strap. Try to add a little citrus to your iron rich foods to help make them more bio-available and easier for the body to absorb.
Amber Romaniuk – @amberapproved
- Soak your nuts, grains, beans and seeds to improve digestibility.
- Chew your food slowly to support proper digestion.
- Hemp seeds, quinoa, buckwheat all are complete proteins. This means they contain all the amino acids that create a complete protein profile.
- Combine incomplete proteins like rice, beans, quinoa and lentils to make complete proteins.
- Be sure to monitor Vitamin B12 and iron levels. Add in foods like nutritional yeast or supplement with a B Complex and extra B12. Add in iron-rich foods including spinach, beans, lentils and whole grains.
- Take a high quality probiotic to support healthy gut flora levels. Some B vitamins are produced by the gut flora as well which support energy levels.
Amanda Gazzola – @amandagazzola
With the amount of information available on the internet today, there has been an explosion in the number of diets out there that claim to be the optimal way to eat. Paleo, keto, vegan and so on. Though the concept of consuming a vegan diet is certainly not new – many cultures have followed vegan or vegetarian diets for generations – the rise of social media, environmental awareness, and understanding of factory farming methods has led many to become interested in, or switch to, a vegan lifestyle.
Unfortunately, living a vegan lifestyle does have somewhat of a negative public perception when it comes to athletic performance, or even just building that lean, toned, muscular body, despite the growing number of performance athletes making the switch.
With that in mind, let’s go over a few of the nutrients and strategies that you need to be aware of to make sure you stay successful.
For vegans, eating more protein should be a priority. Making sure you are supplying your body with enough amino acids to support your muscles is key. Your muscles provide that definition and lean, toned look we are all going for. Vegan diets also tend to contain lower amounts of certain amino acids like leucine, so it’s important to up your intake. This is where plant-based protein powders are extremely helpful.
Essential Fatty Acids
Research surrounding long chain omega-3s has shown that they are incredibly important for optimal health. Whether its cardio-protection, mental health, anti-inflammation, or improving hair and skin, EPA and DHA omega-3’s are something we should be taking regularly. Thankfully, they are now produced in vegan-friendly (algae or algal oils) in supplement form.
While vegan diets can be quite vitamin rich, there are specific vitamins that you may wish to supplement. Simply put, B-12 is not regularly found in plant sources but is essential for optimal health, so it needs to be either consumed in fortified foods or in supplement form. Vitamin D may also be troublesome (especially if you aren’t one to be getting a lot of sun) and plant-based sources tend to not be well absorbed. Again, they make vegan friendly Vitamin D supplements now that address this concern.
Eating vegan, like any diet, is most powerful when you know what you need to be aware of. Whether you are vegan for health reasons or social reasons, you can still perform optimally as long as you prepare yourself properly and eat accordingly. Enjoy your health, performance and keep strong!
Believe in me, believing in you
Carley McConkey – @truenorth.wellness
Going plant-based, or just taking a few steps in that direction, can deliver some important health benefits. A well-planned vegan diet is high in fibre, vitamins and antioxidants. This healthy combination can help protect against many chronic diseases. Replacing refined grains with whole grains, boosting your intake of fruits and vegetables, and eating more legumes and healthy fats is a good place for most people to start.
- Consume a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, including leafy greens and dark orange vegetables, plus good sources of vitamin C like peppers, citrus fruit, and strawberries.
- Get most of your fat from healthy sources, like olive oil, nut butters, avocados, and seeds. Eat a good source of the essential omega-3 fat found in flaxseed, hemp seeds, chia and walnuts.
- Include good sources of protein in most meals, such as beans, legumes, tofu, tempeh, chia, hemp and peas.
- Take supplements when needed and get your levels tested. It’s important to include sources of vitamin B12, vitamin D, and iodine in your diet, this can be attained by consuming an appropriate mix of fortified foods, vitamin B12, vitamin D2, and kelp supplements, or by taking a good vegan daily multivitamin.
Jaclyn Irwin – @holistic.foodie
If you are vegan, it is important to make sure that you are eating a variety of foods. I find that a lot of times when people are following a vegan diet, they tend to eat a lot more carb-heavy meals, especially breakfast. Nutritionally speaking, there is nothing wrong with carbs at all, but it can become a bit much if you become reliant on them for breakfast, lunch and dinner, or if you find yourself eating the same things all the time. Ensuring that you are eating a varied diet is really important. Aim for a variety of plant foods, legumes, grains and good fats on your plate along with adequate supplementation if required. It is best to work with a nutritional practitioner and have bloodwork done to be sure you are getting everything you need.
Grace Van Berkum – @gracevanberkum
Balanced vegan eating means eating a variety of fresh foods from the earth that are live and filled with healing energy. Plant-based foods that are clean, whole, real, fresh, and filled with life. A balanced vegan diet encompasses a colourful and delicious blend of plant proteins, anti-inflammatory fats, enzymes, chlorophyll, phytonutrients, antioxidants, fiber, and hydration through a water-rich diet. A balanced vegan diet offers variety and rotation of foods to ensure abundant nutrition, vitamins, and minerals. A balanced vegan diet is filled with love from mother earth towards ourselves and others, including animals, and giving back to mother earth.
Stephanie Bonetta – @stephaniebonetta
Have you chosen to make the shift and eat a plant-based diet? Kudos to you as transitions are not always easy and with all the health information out there, it can get confusing and overwhelming. As a holistic nutritionist and mostly plant-based eater, I know how important it is to get all my vitamins, minerals and amino acids from organic, nutrient-dense food first! I make sure to incorporate raw nuts, seeds, beans, legumes, fruits, veggies and superfoods in every meal and snack I eat.
Here are a few of my top superfood favs:
- Medicinal mushrooms such as shiitake and reishi. These ‘shrooms are loaded with B and D vitamins, 18 amino acids which are the building blocks of protein and they strengthen our immune system! Use the fresh tubers to make delicious soups or buy them as organic powders to add to your smoothie or enjoy as a hot or cold caffeine-free bevie.
- Spirulina is an algae rich in essential fatty acids which support brain function. It’s also rich in iron, a micronutrient that supplies oxygen to the brain. Spirulina is 60-70% protein, so I like to add 1-2tsp in my fruit smoothie as the vitamin C helps our body absorb iron.
- Chlorella is another algae that you can put in your smoothie bowl or shake. It is also loaded with vitamins and minerals, amino acids and it has more B12 than liver! It is 58% protein and is considered a complete food but make sure you buy the broken cell membrane as the body will absorb it better. It is also a blood purifier and acts as a natural sunscreen protecting our skin against UVA/UVB rays.
- Bee pollen is another powerhouse nutrient-dense whole food. It is rich in vitamins B, C, essential fatty acids and copper, iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium, manganese and sodium. It is anti-microbial, anti-fatigue and strengthens our immune system.
- Fermented food such as sauerkraut, pickles, miso, sourdough bread, kombucha and kefir, to name a few of the ones I eat regularly, are an excellent way to help our stomach increase production of good intestinal bacteria which helps synthesize B12 so we can absorb it better.
As for supplements, such as iron and B12, make sure you get your blood serum levels tested yearly first and then you can see if you need to add a supplement to your already nutrient-dense diet.