Calcium Requirements for Vegans Found Lower based on WHO Data

MAIN FINDINGS

Based on data from the WHO (World Health Organization), the Recommended Daily Intake (RDI)* of calcium for adults on a fully plant-based diet is 660 mg/day, not 1,000 mg/day as suggested by official recommendations (U.S. & Western Europe) intended for people consuming the Standard Western Diet.
For the (minority of) vegans consuming salt-free diets, the RDI is even lower, at 480mg/day.

Animal protein and sodium (salt) deeply influence calcium losses and calcium balance.

Besides putting unnecessary pressure on calcium intakes, the current official RDI of 1,000mg calcium/day is misguiding people on plant-based diets (even more so with lower salt intakes) to observe calcium intakes that may lead to the typical adverse effects of calcium excess.

Vegans and vegan/plant-based information websites are invited to verify the calculations presented here, and if they agree with the demonstration, update their information to this new RDI of 660mg/day. It is time to quit perpetuating an RDI intended for people consuming 60g+ of animal protein per day.

* Disclaimer: The RDI proposed in the present article is calculated using WHO’s calcium model which accounts for animal protein and sodium. Unfortunately, it is not an official recommendation as it should be. These numbers are not endorsed (yet?) by the WHO nor the FAO.

 

PART 1  – DEMONSTRATION

INTRODUCTION

Many vegans are aware that there are some nutritional precautions they must take, which are specific to their dietary lifestyle. Typically, it is important for everybody in our sanitized world – but in particular for vegans – to take a vitamin B12 supplement or B12-fortified.

However, in the transition to a plant-based diet, it is common for people to bring with them (and perpetuate) a number of carnist nutritional myths, or concerns that are by no means exclusive to plant-based diets. Besides B12, other nutrients of common concern are:  protein, iron, omega-3, or calcium.
It’s important to study evidence and demystify these topics, relieve unnecessary concerns, and help refocus attention where it should really be as far as plant-based health is concerned.

Today, I will cover the one of the least covered of these subjects: Calcium requirements in the context of plant-based nutrition.

To my current knowledge, there exists no calcium RDI formulated anywhere specifically for people on plant-based diets. Yet, the World Health Organization has offered them to us, on a very slightly veiled golden platter, since 1997. How was  something this big ignored and never implemented? It is a mystery to me. Hopefully this article helps correct this.

This is how it started.

 

THE CHALLENGE OF MEETING THE STANDARD WESTERN DIET’S RDI WITH WHOLE PLANT FOODS

Meeting the calcium RDI of 1,00o mg is fairly easy when relying on transformed soy products and/or fortified foods and beverages. As you can see below, as little as 150 g/day of a very common type of tofu would easily meet the RDI of 1000 mg/day, and various combinations might as well.


Per 100g (WARNING: these values may vary, most drastically in transformed and fortified products):
Traditional soy products: Edamame: 63 mg; Tempeh: 96 mg; tofu made only with calcium sulfate: 683 mg; tofu made with nigari and calcium sulfate: 282 mg; silken tofu: 31 mg;
Plant milks: Pacific® fortified oat milk: 146 mg; low-calcium soy milk : 42 mg; Other fortified plant milks: wide range;
Legumes: lentils: 19 mg; chickpeas: 49 mg; black beans: 27 mg;
Other starch/carbs sources: sweet potato: 38 mg; potato: 5 mg; brown rice: 10 mg; whole-wheat pasta: 13 mg; rolled oats: 52 mg.
Green leafy vegetables: raw kale: 150 mg; amaranth leaves: 209 mg; bok choi: 96 mg; mustard greens: 118 mg;
Fruits (per 1 medium piece): orange: 52 mg; apple: 11 mg; bananas: 6 mg;
Fungi: shiitake: 3 mg; white mushroom: 6 mg; oyster mushroom: 3 mg;


Both calcium-fortified foods or transformed soy products rely on calcium salts. Adding calcium salts to whole plant foods is a form of indirect calcium supplementation.

The real challenge appears when for whatever reason you either don’t or seldom eat them, or eat them in small amounts only.

When relying exclusively on unprocessed plant foods – which excludes fortified/processed foods mentioned earlier – it is still possible to meet 1,000 mg. It would however require carefully combining high-calcium foods.

Example of a high-calcium plant-based sample menu (to be completed with other foods to meet caloric needs) using only unprocessed, non-fortified, whole plant foods:
1 cup rolled oats, 2.5 cups of cooked amaranth leaves, 2 large oranges, 2 cups chickpeas.
Total calories: 1160 kcal;
Calcium content: 1038 mg (based on Cronometer/USDA database)

In practice, very few people on plant-based diets, including whole-food plant-based, eat anything like this artificially high-calcium diet.

So, quite naturally, some questions come to mind:

  • Why is the calcium RDI so ridiculously high?!
  • Is there something about a plant-based diet that should reduce the amount calcium we need?
  • Conversely, is there something about the Standard Western Diet that makes the calcium RDI abnormally high?
  • How did mostly plant-based populations throughout the world manage to grow bones and age healthfully on diets with no tofu, no fortification, and likely at far less than 1000 mg of calcium/day?

Answer: They weren’t given health objectives based on observing a majority of overweight and obese people eating the Standard Western Diet.

 

METHOD & RESOURCES FOR DEMONSTRATION

The demonstration below is intentionally done in a detailed, step-by-step manner, and to some extent using slightly less academic language. This is so that anyone wondering where these numbers came from can follow and run the calculations for themselves as verification. I used nothing more than high-school level maths.

Unless stated otherwise, all the calculations are based on the data presented in the WHO (World Health Organization) document “Vitamin and mineral requirements in human nutrition, Second edition” which is free to download. The images below are captured from this document.

The WHO report above supports one of the highest and most conservative RDIs for calcium: that for the U.S.A. and parts of Western Europe.

 

DETAILS OF CAPITAL IMPORTANCE: EFFECT OF ANIMAL PROTEIN AND SODIUM ON CALCIUM BALANCE

According to this report, several factors influence the calcium needs. I learned that animal protein and sodium (= mainly salt) intake play an absolutely major role in the calcium RDIs because both dramatically increase calcium loss.

Ok, so accounting for urine and sweat losses (which includes hair and nails) calcium balance happens either at 840, 600, or 450 mg of calcium per day, depending on different scenarios of low-[animal] protein and/or low-salt.

That is huge! You wouldn’t thinks RDIs would vary so much based on dietary lifestyle.

That really struck me!
I immediately wondered what about no animal protein? Or no salt like we do at home?
What calcium intakes correspond to these?

So I went searching for the numbers on the relationships between sodium/calcium and between animal protein/calcium.

 

IN NUMBERS, HOW DOES SODIUM AND ANIMAL PROTEIN INCREASE CALCIUM EXCRETION?

Effect of animal protein on calcium excretion

Page 79:

Comments:
1 g of protein reduces absorbed calcium by 1 mg
“Low-protein” on the graph meant 20g of animal protein/day.
Cutting further that 20g lowers the straight line of excretion by “20g points” on the vertical axis.

Effect of sodium on calcium excretion

(…)

(…)

For someone who has no salt nor high-sodium foods (i.e.: voluntary SOS-free dietary lifestyles, or very low sodium diets for medical reasons such as kidney diseases) the daily intake is somewhere around 100mg sodium/day (from my personal rough estimations). ~100mg is is negligible compared to 3.45g. To simplify the calculations, we will round that up that to zero sodium.

“Low sodium” on the graph meant 50mmol of sodium (1.15 g sodium, ~3 g salt) which in passing, is below the current limit of 1.5g (sodium) set by the American Heart Association.

100 mmol of sodium takes out 40g of calcium, so 50 mmol takes out 20 mg. Going from “low sodium” to salt-free cuts that 50 mmol of sodium from the diet, which lowers the straight line of excretion by “20 mg points” on the vertical axis.

Total of “no sodium” + “no animal protein” : 20 mg + 20 mg = 40 mg, a reduction in excretion by exactly as much as the previous jumps.

If you’re plant-based with an average salt intake in Western Diets (~9g salt/day in the U.S., NZ, etc.), you’re looking at this:


Now the million dollar question is…what are these “?” values, precisely?
I never liked graphic resolutions of equations because it’s imprecise in a number of ways. So let’s see if we can find some equations. This is where it starts requiring high-school level mathematics. But don’t worry, we will use an online calculator to solve this.

 

EQUATIONS FOR CALCIUM ABSORPTION AND CALCIUM EXCRETION vs. CALCIUM INTAKE


Here they are:
Ca_absorbed = 174 log(Ca_intake) – 909 (note: the log here is a natural log)
Ca_excreted = 0.078.Ca_intake + 137 (note: urine losses only)
Ca_excreted = 0.078.Ca_intake + 197 (note: inclusive of +60mg of “skin” losses – see section 4.4.4 – Insensible losses)

Using x for calcium intake (horizontal axis) and y for calcium absorbed or excreted (vertical axis) the equations are:

For calcium absorption:
y = 174 log(x) – 909

For calcium excretion, we have different scenarios:

Scenarios with animal protein

Average [animal] protein (60g/day) + average sodium (3.45 g sodium/day ~ 8.6 g salt/day) :
y = 0.078 x + 197
Calcium balance equation:
absorption = excretion
174 log(x) – 909  = 0.078x + 197

Low [animal] protein  OR Low sodium => decrease of excreted calcium by 40mg
We take the calcium excretion equation above and remove 40mg:
y = 0.078 x + 197 – 40 which is the same as:
 y = 0.078 x + 157
Calcium balance equation:
174 log(x) – 909  = 0.078x + 157

Low [animal] protein AND Low sodium => further 40mg not excreted
y = 0.078 x + 117
Calcium balance equation:
174 log(x) – 909  = 0.078x + 117

Scenarios with plant-based diets

No [animal] protein AND average sodium=> further 20mg not excreted compared to same with low animal protein
y = 0.078 x + 137
Calcium balance equation:
174 log(x) – 909  = 0.078x + 137

No [animal] protein AND No salt => further 60mg not excreted because no salt: 40 mg for low-sodium + 20 mg for the further elimination of salt.
y = 0.078 x + 77
Calcium balance equation:
174 log(x) – 909  = 0.078x + 77

SOLVING THE EQUATIONS

Throw that into a solver to get the x value (calcium intake) at equilibrium. I could have done that with a scientific calculator, or using the Matlab software, but so that everyone can check for themselves, I used a public, free-of-charge solver: WolframAlpha. Click on the above equations to see them being solved.

Below is the solving of the calcium balance equation for average animal protein and average sodium just to check if we got things right:


Why did we take the lowest solution of the two ? Because any solution above 2,000 mg is not a valid solution because the absorption curve  is valid only from 0 to 2,000 mg.

So it gives me ~840 for the first equation. It’s no surprise, that’s the value in the WHO document, found with the same equations. We’re finding the same result, that’s a good start!

Now, what about “no animal protein”? or that + salt-free?

Scroll up and click on the equations above to see the calcium intakes at equilibrium, it’s the lowest of the two values among the solutions Wolfam finds.

CUSTOMISED CALCIUM INTAKES AT EQUILIBRIUM (OR EAR)

The calcium intakes at calcium balance are the following. They’re basically the solutions to the equations listed in the previous section. Note that by definition these values are the EARs (Estimated Average Intakes). This means the intakes below will meet the needs of 50% of the total population.

Scenarios with animal protein

Average [animal] protein (60 g) + average sodium (3.45 g sodium/day ~ 8.6 g salt/day):
Ca_intake = 840 mg;

Low [animal] protein (20 g) OR Low sodium (1.15 g/day ~3 g salt/day):
Ca_intake = 599 mg;

Low [animal] protein (20 g) AND Low sodium (1.15 g/day ~3 g salt/day):
Ca_intake = 444 mg;

Scenarios with plant-based diets

No [animal] protein AND Average sodium (3.45 g sodium/day ~ 8.6 g salt/day):
Ca_intake = 514 mg !

No [animal] protein AND No Salt
Ca_intake = 336 mg !!!

These intakes would cover the needs of only 50% of people in the respective populations.
How much calcium to meet the needs of almost all the respective populations though? In other words,  what are the RDIs?
That’s what we’re going to find out now.

 

CUSTOMISED CALCIUM RDI VALUES BY DIETARY LIFESTYLE

This is how you get an RDI (Recommended Daily Intake) from the EAR (Estimated Average Requirement) we just calculated.

Page 2:

Do we have the value of the “standard deviation” somewhere ?

Searching, and…Yes we do! The full equation for calcium absorption  had “± 71 (SD)” at the end. Now is the time to use that standard deviation.

Following the above method to determine RDI (which is the same as RNI) from the EARs we get:

SD = 71
2 × SD = 142

RDIs = EAR + 142

Scenarios with animal protein

Average [animal] protein + average sodium (3.45 g sodium/day ~ 8.6 g salt/day):
Calcium RDI = 840 + 142 = 982 mg/day.
With no surprise, that is very close to the official RDI of 1,000 mg.
Official RDI are often rounded up to number easy to remember.

Low [animal] protein (20 g)  OR Low sodium (1.15 g/day ~3 g salt/day):
Calcium RDI = 599 + 142 = 741 mg/day

Low [animal] protein (20 g) AND Low sodium (1.15 g/day ~3 g salt/day):
Calcium RDI = 444 + 142 = 586 mg/day

Scenarios with plant-based diets

No [animal] protein AND average sodium (3.45 g sodium/day ~ 8.6 g salt/day)
Calcium RDI = 514 + 142 = 656 mg/day (~660 mg)

No [animal] protein AND No salt
Calcium RDI = 336 + 142 = 478 mg/day (~480 mg)

 

COMPARISON WITH PUBLISHED SCIENCE ON CALCIUM BALANCE IN PLANT BASED-DIETS

The above calculations based on official WHO models for calcium requirements matches a number of others studies and articles on the lower calcium needs in plant-based nutrition:

  1. October 2007: Calcium Requirements Much Lower Than Previously Estimated, by Dr McDougall.
    In this article Dr. McDougall suggests intakes around 500mg/day are sufficient.
    cites:
    Calcium requirements: new estimations for men and women by cross-sectional statistical analyses of calcium balance data from metabolic studies.
    This study examined calcium balance, sweat losses were ignored because considered negligible after measuring them.
  2. June 2016: Long-Term Low Intake of Dietary Calcium and Fracture Risk in Older Adults With Plant-Based Diet: A Longitudinal Study From the China Health and Nutrition Survey
    This study on lifelong senior vegans in China finds the lowest rates of bone fracture happen in a range of calcium roughly from 250mg – 650 mg all genders considers.
  3. December 2014: How to Get Calcium Without Dairy, by Dr. Thomas Campbell.
    Quote: ” if all of your calories are coming from whole plant foods, including plenty of fruits, greens, beans and other vegetables, you don’t need to think twice about calcium requirements or do any fancy math or milligram counting. You’ll be fine.”
    cites:
    Appleby P, Roddam A, Allen N, Key T. Comparative fracture risk in vegetarians and nonvegetarians in EPIC-Oxford. Eur J Clin Nutr 2007;61:1400-6.
    Note: This study suggested that vegans with intake below ~500 mg/day had more bone fractures than carnists. However, in a critique of this study, Dr. McDougall observed that the vegans were younger, healthier (lower BMI) and far more physically active. Although the study tried to adjust for that, “vegans had no hip fractures, compared to 30 in the meat eaters, 9 in the fish eaters, and 14 in the vegetarians (dairy)”. He adds:
    “The observation that the fractures were of the wrist, arm, and ankle, and not the hip, to me, means the fractures were due to trauma caused by physical activity and not due to weakened bones.”

 

CONCLUSION

The WHO/FAO matches with the most conservative and highest calcium RDIs in the world: U.S.A & Western Europe.

Using this model and applying it to plant-based diets and low-sodium diets yielded surprisingly low calcium RDIs. The plant-based calcium RDIs are more easily achievable with little to no thought put into nutrition, provided:

  • a well-planned mostly unprocessed diet (more nutrient-dense, from whole foods) even on its own,
  • and/or a particularly low sodium intake
  • and/or calcium-fortified foods.

This is consistent with observations/suggestions from previous research on calcium intake and health in plant-based populations.

 

Acknowledgements

I would like to thank one of the people I view as a role model and mentor, the lovely, brilliant and generous Jenny Cameron. Jenny pointed me towards the calcium chapter of the WHO publication when I asked if any official recommendation suggested lower nutrient requirements for people on plant-only nutrition. Now, I and hopefully many other plant-based folks, have a clearer idea what exactly these requirements are – at least according to one of the most official and publicly recognized institutions that publish dietary health guidelines: the World Health Organization (WHO).

PART 2 – DISCUSSION

(still in the process of writing – table of contents below)

RDI-related questions

• What is an RDI worth anyway?
• Factors affecting absorption
• Shouldn’t the RDI depend on body size too?
• Menopausal women (& “Ageing” men)
• Infants, Children & Adolescents

A concern about calcium excess

• Is it harmful to consume 1,000 mg calcium on a plant-based diet?

Improving calcium balance and bone health

• Reducing/cutting animal protein vs. increasing calcium
• Salt Reduction: An additional strategy for osteoporosis & bone fracture prevention?
• Is it relevant for vegans to reduce salt intake?

• Open Questions

Chana Masala (Chickpea Curry)

Chana Masala

Chana Masala (Chickpea curry)
 
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I started off with Hema's recipe but found it far too hot and corianderish (seed) for my personal taste. Also simplified greatly the roasting processes. I'm very happy with this recipe now. My ethnically/gastronomically-Indian partner just told me it tasted amazing, and exactly like that Chana Masala we had at that restaurant where we both thought was the best-tasting we've ever had so far in the healthy-food category. So I think my improving this recipe is over and it's time to share it with you 🙂 You'll need to make a trip to the local Indian/Asian shop to do full justice to any Indian cooking including this dish. These are the must-have Indian spices you'll only find in any Indian shops : asofetida & amchur (which is green/unripe mango powder). The rest is usually commonly found even in supermarkets.
Author:
Recipe type: low-fat, whole-food, plant-based
Cuisine: South Asian
Serves: 4~6 adult meals if served with rice
Ingredients
  • 3 cups dried chickpeas, soaked overnight
  • 3 large onions finely chopped
  • 220g of salt-free or low-salt tomato paste concentrate OR 1kg of grated tomatoes (to be reduced later)
  • A few stalks of fresh coriander (5 g)
WHOLE SPICES FOR ROASTING
  • 3 small sticks cinnamon (finger-sized or two inches)
  • 6 cardamom pods
  • 6 bay leaves
  • 1 Tbsp cumin seeds
OTHER SPICES
  • ¼th tsp asafoetida
  • 1 tsp grated ginger, densely packed
  • 1½ tsp turmeric
  • 1½ tsp cayenne (OR 1 fresh hot chilli halved lengthwise)
  • 1½ tsp unripe mango powder (look/ask for amchur in any Indian/South Asian shop, do not replace with mango!)
  • 2 Tbsp Garam Masala (or Make your own)
Instructions
  1. Put the soaked chickpeas to cook for 1h30 on medium heat in a regular pot (without a lid) or ~20 minutes in a pressure cooker. Do not stir them. They should be very soft and melt in the mouth when you press them with your tongue. Don't put too much water, ideally you wouldn't need to strain them later.
  2. Put some brown rice to cook as well to go with the Chana Masala later.
  3. Chop the coriander finely.
  4. Prepare the Garam Masala.
  5. Cut the onions finely. To save time, I use a mandoline to slice them, and a chopper (or a knife). Set aside.
  6. If you're using fresh tomatoes, grate them now to a purée. Set aside.
  7. Grate the ginger
  8. On low to medium heat, roast the spices "for roasting" for a few minutes. To prevent burning the the small/thin spices/herbs, put the biggest items first until roasted, then add the the smaller ones, so in this order: Cinnamon, cardamom, then bay leaves & cumin. Stir well, whenever it starts being fragrant and slightly smoking, add the onion immediately.
  9. Set the heat to the maximum and keep stirring the onions "dry". They will give off a lot of steam and start caramelizing.
  10. When the bottom of your pot starts being brown, reduce the heat to medium.
  11. Add either the grated tomatoes, or the tomato paste + ~1 litre of water.
  12. Add the "other spices" and the coriander, stir well and let cook for ~20 minutes. Stir now and then to prevent sticking at the bottom. Turn off the heat when the sauce is rather thick.
  13. Mix gently with the chickpeas. Enjoy!
Notes
Garnish with fresh coriander and slices of purple onion.
Serve either on rice or as a side with chapati (Indian wholemeal flatbread).

 

Banana & Blueberry Walnut Cake – Unprocessed – Extracted-Sugar-Free

banana-blueberry-cake-closeup-610
The last banana/walnut cake I had eaten was been pretty delicious, but unfortunately I found out it had some maple syrup and coconut oil, and was risen using baking powder. This means extracted sugar, fat and an artificial salt. That was too bad! But…on the good side, it was based on whole oats and bananas. That kept me pretty excited to make an irreproachably clean one since that day, and at long last, I did! See above!

“But…walnuts?”
We had walnuts (and others nuts) in the pantry that we have been barely touching since learning about how nuts are actually not all that great for health despite their being “whole-food fats”, especially when they’re so easy to abuse. It was a matter of time until we’d figure out ways to finish our stock in a way that wouldn’t be detrimental to our health…you know…like a raw cake! I can’t think of a better use for walnuts than in this cake. Even as little as 50g in one whole cake loaf makes a gorgeous difference. Trust me, you will feel the walnut taste! It’s wonderful without too.

muffin_inside_610“Rising a cake without baking powder nor baking soda?”
Yes Ma’am, Yes Sir!
How to use the walnuts being sorted out, I still had to figure out the right good dough consistency to improve on my previously tacky/goey cakes, and tadaaa…

Yeast just works. You just need to embrace a different relationship to time, and opt-out from instant-everything…Spend some quality time with your loved ones, or enjoy a long hot bath with your favourite music, while this beauty takes its time to rise.

Also, leave the sponge cake expectations in the dungeon, along with refined flours and artificial rising agents (mineral salts) it requires…Those are not food. Yeast is food that can rise other food.
Be thankful for that and make the best of it.

So here is a beautiful cake that uses only whole foods for sweetness, no oil, nor any artificial or sodium-containing ingredients.
This is as unprocessed as it gets folks…and I intend to keep it that way!

Banana & Blueberry Walnut Cake – Unprocessed – Extracted-Sugar-Free
 
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Author:
Recipe type: low-fat, whole-food, plant-based, no oil, sweetness from whole fruit, no salt
Serves: 1 loaf cake
Ingredients
  • 3 cups of wholegrain rolled oats (300g)
  • ½ cups chickpea flour or besan (40g) – relax, it doesn't give a chickpea taste 🙂
  • 3 tsp instant yeast (or 4 tsp of activated dried yeast, activated in as little water as possible)
  • 5 very ripe bananas (600g of banana flesh)
  • 1 + ½ cups frozen blueberries (180g) optional)
  • ⅓ cup walnuts (50g)
  • Sweet spices to taste (optional, I used 1 tsp of a mix of ground star anise and cinnamon that was sitting around)
  • For sweetening: 1 cup of currants.
Instructions
  1. Blend the rolled oats into a flour. Pour in a mixing bowl.
  2. Add chickpea flour, spices and instant yeast (if you're using that) and combine well.
  3. Peel and mash your bananas with your clean hands.
  4. Use some of the banana mash in the blender with ½ cup of currants and blend, add more banana mash if it's too dry.
  5. Pour back in the mixing bowl, if you're using activated dried yeast add it now, and mix with hands until you get a uniform dough.
  6. Add the frozen blueberries, the other ½ cup of currants (whole), and the walnuts and mix another couple of minutes to incorporate them nicely.
  7. Line your loaf tin with baking sheet, pour batter and let sit until it doubles volume. This will most definitely more than an hour because the frozen blueberries will keep the batter cold for a while, which prevents the yeast from making babies and bubbles. You might be able to save time by thawing first, the blueberries might get mashed and look messier.
  8. When the dough has risen, pre-heat oven at 180°C (360 °F) and bake for about 40 minutes. Use a knife or toothpick, when the cake is done baking, there will be some streaks almost transparent. It it comes out full of whitish dough it needs more baking.
  9. Let cool and enjoy.
Notes
If you are recovering cardiovascular disease or allergic to nuts, just skip the walnuts. I put blueberries and sweet spices so that it still remains exciting without walnuts.
We've had this plain and with our whole-food lemon and orange marmalades. It's delicious!
Finally, this works as a muffin batter too.

 

Orange Marmalade – Sweet – Whole Foods (Extracted-Sugar-Free)

orange_marmalde_610
Growing up, orange marmalade was never really my thing. It was that strange stuff from Brit cuisine, that looks really good, but tastes unbearably bitter. Such a shame when that was the only jam in the fridge.

But like all things, try it long enough and you develop a liking for it. I’ve learned to love marmalade, so much so that since going whole-food plant-based, I’ve actually missed the pleasure of some of the jams I was much, much, addicted to.

But here’s another problem solved now: Sweet jams/preserves can be made with sweet fruits or sweet dried fruits.

cake-with-marmalade_610
This is a sequel to my Black Lemon Marmalade, which used currants as a sweet base and gave an unusual appearance for a marmalade, along with a taste to die for. I was curious what fresh green seedless grapes can do. The answer is: wonders!

The recipe below makes a sweet marmalade. It is appreciably sweet but do not expect something as outrageously sweet as commercial marmalades that barely have any fruit to them and are basically flavoured pure sugar. This recipe is also barely bitter at all, which should make marmalade far more interesting to most people. But if you love a bitter marmalade I’m not letting you down either (See Notes in the recipe).

Spread that citrusy deliciousness on anything you fancy, cakes, scones, or a healthy bread like my whole-food bread here.

Orange Marmalade – Sweet – Whole Foods (Extracted-Sugar-Free)
 
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Who needs sugar when you have grapes? Here's a pleasantly-sweet and non-bitter marmalade recipe, that used whole fresh fruits, and nothing else, particularly no extracted nor processed sugar of any kind. Now you can enjoy marmalade again.
Author:
Recipe type: low-fat whole-food plant-based
Cuisine: International
Serves: 200~250g
Ingredients
  • 500g seedless green grapes, blended
  • 1 orange, washed
  • 1 lemon
Instructions
  1. Peel the orange and lemon. There are some ways to do that nicely using a knife, look it up. We will not use the lemon peel.
  2. Cut the peeled orange and lemon in half, remove seeds. You can cut in slices and aim that towards a light to see through if you left any seeds behind.
  3. Blend the orange, lemon, and grapes.
  4. Cut the orange peel in thin strips.
  5. Put everything in a pot on medium heat until it reduces and starts to bubble like caramel.
  6. Cover and keep on very low heat for 2 to 3 hours mixing regularly every 15 to 30 minutes to prevent burning at the bottom of the pot.
  7. Let cool and keep in a clean closed container.
Notes
Should keep at least for 1~2 weeks in the fridge, if you can resist it that long! I have not yet tried the whole sterilizing thing and keeping long-term out of the fridge, but I will eventually.
For a more bitter taste, sub some orange peel/flesh for grapefruit, or some of the peel for lemon peel.

 

[Recipe] Black Lemon Marmalade – Sweet – Sugar-Free

lemon-marmelade_610
Sugar-free doesn’t mean sweet-less!
When I first advised my family to quit extracted sugars, their first reaction was “But it must be really bland!”. Classic! But far from it!

I want sweetness, I love sweetness, my palate needs sweetness to be satisfied. I just want it to come from health-promoting whole plant foods, rather than disease-causing extracts of sweet whole foods. I won’t develop here, on what sugars to avoid and by what to replace them. Instead I’ll give a recipe to proof the concept in one of the sweetest human-made foods you can have: a jam. Or more precisely, marmalade.

Here, currants are chosen because they have a more neutral taste than raisins and sultanas.

Doesn’t look exactly like a marmalade? The heck with it! Tastes wonderful to me! Blind-test this on your friends to it, I bet they won’t know the difference.

Spread this on a chapati and with a nice cuppa…Mhhh…
Damn it I’m hungry now! 😀

[Recipe] Black Lemon Marmalade – Sweet and Sugar-free
 
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An easy, whole-food sugar-free lemon marmalade that's sweet, bitter, and slightly sour. Everything the marmalade love is here, using only real foods, not their extracts.
Author:
Recipe type: low-fat, whole-foods, plant-based, sugar-free, oil-free, salt-free
Cuisine: International
Serves: 200g
Ingredients
  • 1 large lemon (or two small ones otherwise) with a thick peel if possible, organic or spray-free
  • 100g of (dried) currants! (not raisins or sultanas, not "blackcurrants", "redcurrants" or "white currants", use currants!).
Instructions
  1. Peel the lemon, cut peel in small cubes
  2. Once peeled, cut the lemon in half, keep one half (we won't use the other half). Remove seeds. Cut in small bits as well. Rinse your hands (so the acidity doesn't burn).
  3. In a pot, add the raisins, diced peel, and the cut lemon flesh with 1 cup of water.
  4. Bring a boil, and let simmer on low heat for 2 hours with a lid on.
  5. Set timers to check regularly enough to stir, mash (with a potato masher or a clean glass jar), or add water if the bottom starts to stick. The texture should be that of a thick marmalade, not too liquid. Open lid to let excess water evaporate if needed. Never scratch the bottom if it burned.
Storage
  1. Preserves in the fridge for at least 1 week. Can be frozen (try in ice-trays to take out only the small portions you need) but I can't vouch for texture yet at this point. You might try to sterilize it with various jams sterilization methods.
Notes
Feel free to play around with various combinations of (organic or spray-free) lime, lemon, oranges and other citrus fruit.
Feel free also to play around with how sweet, sour, or citrusy you want it by adding respectively, currants, citrus flesh, or peel.
Warning: The peel or some limes is unbearably bitter, I've experienced that problem with limes that had a very thin peel.

 

Caramelising Onions Without any Oil or Fat – Method #2

If you are looking for a quick short but detailed recipe on a gold platter, wrong house, sorry. You can stay, please do by all means, but I warn: I try more and more to empower people’s sense of self-determination: thinking, finding, deciding things for themselves. You might think “Yeah I love that!”, sure. What that also means is no more detailed “straight-to-the-point” recipes for you, because that falls under spoon-feeding. Okay…maybe I will still write recipes, but that’s not what I want to do here.

This article will display one instance of the process of problem solving. Although you will find cues to make it yourself if you search or try, my point here is to write an article about food innovation, problem solving and advocacy.

A recipe is always the final result of some exploration. It’s the exploration I want to share, and want you to experience for yourself, more than just telling what I found. In other words, life is sculpting, not the sculpture. The relationship I’m comfortable having with you is one where you allow me to respect your potential, intellect, curiosity and sense of self-determination.

There are two ways of solving problems creatively: incrementally, and with a leap.

Incrementally, to solve the problem of caramelising onions without oil, you’d replace oil by added water. One increment further, you would try with no water at all and count on the water in the onions or whatever veggie you are “stir-frying”.

It works, but an avid user of onions, this method gave me some challenges after doing a lot of it: it took too much active time for my liking, involved a lot of stirring and adding water. The result is amazing caramelised onions, but I wondered “Can we do better?”.

Also, I had been chatting with restaurant owners that simply explained to me that oil is used primarily for convenience more than taste. After all, oil is capable of heating up to about 200°C, and because it’s liquid, that “liquid pan” can get anywhere on and in the food and help cook it faster. Recipes talking about caramelising onions typically take about 5 to 10 minutes. So OK, cooks want to get meals ready fast for their hungry customers I totally get that. Now “Can I find something that gives them that convenience and taste, AND at the same time, does not use oil and therefore results in the low-fat foods that prevent the much unnecessary heart disease?

Thinking a bit less incrementally lead to method #2. Now we’re getting the same thing, not doing the same thing.

My strategy was the following, really just using common sense, and more importantly, acting on it. One action leads to a question, that question leads to another action, and so on until you find a way. It pays off almost every single time, not in one try, but overall.

This is how I posed the problem of solving bulk onion caramelizing.

Hypothesises:

  1. People like onions caramelised, We must give them onions caramelised.
  2. The method must not include added fat of any kind
  3. The process must be simple, convenient, easy.

Some question were inescapable:

“Why do caramelised onions taste like caramelised onions?”
Answer: Because they are caramelised?

“What exactly does “caramelising” mean anyway?”
When sugars (not just the extracted/processed ones, even those in whole foods) are exposed to certain temperatures, for certain amounts of time, eventually caramelisation takes place. It changes the way the sugars naturally present in food taste.

“Oh ok…so what are these temperatures then?”
Well since it’s oil we’re trying to replace, how hot does the oil get when it touches the food we caramelise? I ask you, I know the answer. Do search it you will need it to solve a puzzle later.

Now that you have this number in mind, be ready for an epiphany:  solving this puzzle. should give you a wonderful idea.

The result of that idea is this :

_20160724_160711_-CARAMELIZED-ONIONS_-610

CARAMELIZED-ONION_610
“Uh…baked onions already exist, aren’t you re-inventing the wheel?”
True. Baked onions exist. I found out only after, and actually I’m glad I didn’t know about them, it could have held me back, it’s easy *not* to transcend the things we know exist.
Blank sheet of paper, let’s go!
I worked towards something that already exists, putting onions in an oven, whole. Sure…

The novelty here, if any, is not to use this process not to make an oil-free version of baked onions, but as a means to mass produce oil-free caramelized onion. That’s relevant.

In fact, I am happy baked onions already exist! Because if the concept is known to people, I can use that to introduce “baked onions”, only oil-free + as an *ingredient* for anything that needs caramelised onions!

I’d care little even if someone “invented” that use before me (wouldn’t be surprised + don’t care). What I do care about is that things like this *be used* to make people’s lives better. It does not matter who invents what solution. There are more solutions already available than people willing to search and implement them. In order to do some good justice to these solutions, we can’t tell people “just do this, trust me, it will solve your problem”. if a solution was found by thinking for ourselves, that’s the spirit that needs to be spread, not just the solution itself. A lot of the problems we seek to help others solve exist primarily because people are used to spoon-feeding in the first place. Spoon-feeding is what allowed for instance the meat and dairy industry to shove their hazardous products in people’s mouths along with the beliefs that it’s good for us.
The same way you don’t solve violence with violence, you don’t solve the ill-intended spoon-feeding with well-meaning spoon-feeding. Spoon-feeding in itself, is the root problem.
Also, it’s not enough to generate solutions and be critical enough to be able to discriminate the good from the bad ones, we need to individually research solutions, create solutions and most importantly share solutions.

As you can see I intentionally take time to lay down in great detail one “textbook case” of the process that led me to this way of mass-producing caramelized onions and therefore solving an important problem I was facing.

I did not give you the two-line recipe, because I care more about the readers learning to use fully their same brain as mine, in ways that find solutions to their problems. If I can do it, surely anyone can.

“Isn’t oven-caramelising onions a big waste of electric energy?
Well, relatively? Short answer is “No, far from it!”
A regular oven first comfortably one to two trays, at ~15 medium onions per tray. That’s roughly one to two hours (likely, cooking time increases with quantity) for 15 to 30 caramelised onions.
Prior to that I had spent 20 minutes, on medium heat. Slaving over that pot as well, so that was 20 minutes of *my time* too.
Do the maths. My guesstimation right now favours, a lower financial cost than with oil (medical costs included) and all oil-free methods compared: definitely less active human time, and quite possibly less processing energy (electricity, gas, etc). Any objections? Anyone got better? If you have either, please do share. I will be the first trying, using it, and telling people about it!

“I am not much of a reader, and I just realised I had to go through all of this article when you could have just said – Whole onions in oven caramelize – 5 words, boom!”
Again, wrong address, sorry. If it takes a slow reader 15 minutes to read this, I had to go through many, many hours of caramelizing small amounts of onions with sub-optimal, slave-over-the-pot, non-scalable methods, until I got to this. The best possible solutions to complex problems are virtually always of a humiliatingly simple nature. In hindsight it’s always trivial. But this is the truth: complicated incremental solutions can already be difficult to find and require some creativity. Finding simple solutions is actually far more difficult, you will see when you try if you haven’t tried already. And what’s even more difficult than this, is teaching that kind of problem solving, instead of teaching the solutions.

[Recipe] Tomato sauce for Pizza – Low-fat – Unprocessed

pizza_sauce_610
As a kitchen-unskilled 20-year-old student on junk foods, I used to rely heavily on processed pasta sauces. I didn’t know any better.

The years passed, I slowly taught my way out of kitchen illiteracy. But one thing I kept wondering though is: “How on Earth do these  processed sauces get that wonderful Italian aroma of herbs?”. So I spied on the ingredients of tomato pastes I liked and always saw rosemary, oregano, thyme in the ingredients, among other things. But every time I used these, I ended up with a tomato paste so very bitter it was borderline inedible. The mystery was on: How to get authentic strong and appetising flavours and smell of aromatic in herbs in sauces. I soon found out by accident…

“How on Earth do these darn processed sauces get that wonderful Italian aroma of herbs?”

Why was it bitter instead of tasting/smelling of wonderful herbs?

Because oil! I figured that out only after ditching oil as part of going whole-food plant-based. It was the oil that completely ruined the Mediterranean taste of thyme, rosemary and oregano. Use those generously, and cook them in a water base,  and I promise that you will finally capture the essence of those delicious Italian smells and tastes.
These herbs are also a lot more forgiving in terms of taste when you put too much provided it’s in a water base.

[Recipe] Tomato sauce for Pizza – Low-fat – Unprocessed
 
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A sauce that has everything you want in a pizza base: it's thick, sweet, garlicky and tomatoey
Author:
Recipe type: low-fat, whole foods, plant nutrition, vegan, no oil, no salt, no sugar
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4 pizzas
Ingredients
  • 1 jar 500g of single-ingredient minimally-processed tomato paste (For NZ/OZ: Homebrand @Countdown/Woolworth contains salt at only 21mg sodium /100g), or the equivalent in home-reduced whole tomatoes (1.5 to 2kgs tomatoes gives 500 grams of reduced tomato paste)
  • 2 onions diced
  • 3~4 cloves of garlic chopped finely
  • 1 tsp rosemary (dried)
  • 1 tsp oregano (dried)
  • 1 tsp thyme (dried, rubbed)
  • Hot chilli: to taste.
  • Optional to adjust sweetness: Dates. If instead of sweet ripe tomatoes you get excuses for tomatoes, the hard unripe and sour stuff, you will need to balance out the sweetness. Maybe use up to ~50g dates blended until smooth with as little water as possible. To taste.
  • Optional to adjust sourness: Tamarind, lemon, or apple cider vinegar. If you get a very sweet batch of tomatoes, or like sourness, maybe use up to 1 tbsp single-ingredient tamarind paste (sweet and sour). To taste.
Instructions
  1. Cook all ingredients (except tomato paste and dates) on low-fire with as little water as possible.
  2. You want to keep this as thick as possible so this is the trick that I use: When the ingredients above are soft, use the cooking water (cooled) to blend dates.
  3. Pour the blended dates back in the pot, throw in the tomato paste and keep on the lowest setting with no cover for it to lose moisture and become thick.
Notes
Optional: If you have time, you can caramelise the onions + garlic first, by water-frying them (no oil) on slightly less than medium heat.

[Recipe] Khadija’s Moroccan Lentils – Oil-free – Unprocessed – Vegan

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Khadija's Moroccan Lentils – Oil-free – Unprocessed – Vegan
 
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Author:
Recipe type: low-fat, whole-food, plant-based, vegan, no oil, no salt, no sugar
Cuisine: Moroccan
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 440g dry lentils, preferably Puy lentils / French lentils soaked overnight.
  • 6 tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 20 g coriander (a few sprigs), chopped
  • 20 g parsley (a few sprigs), chopped
  • zest of half a lemon, sliced off with a knife (only the yellow part, not the white inside) and cut in small bits. Do not grate!
Spices
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp ground paprika
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp ground chilli
Instructions
  1. Water-fry the onions until caramelised/browned. If you want to save time, skip caramelisation, just put the onions in the pot.
  2. Immediately add tomatoes, enough water for the spices to be in generous amounts of water (about 1 cup or ~ 230mL should do)
  3. Add all the spices and lemon, stir well, cover, set on medium heat and let boil for 5~10 min.
  4. Add the lentils, stir well, and fill the pot with enough water to cover a few centimetres over the top of the lentil surface.
  5. Cover only until it starts to boil, then let cook on medium heat for until the lentils are soft.
  6. Check now and then if more water is needed. You want to end with creamy lentils like in the picture, not watery nor dry either.
  7. Turn off the heat and set aside.
  8. Add the chopped greens (coriander + parsley) and stir.
Notes
Feel free to play around with adding the following (to taste):
Some salt-free concentrated tomato paste that uses only tomatoes, or more tomatoes well reduced.
Carrots
Celery
Baked shiitake mushrooms (chopped) for a bit of a chew, or other mild-tasting mushrooms. If using shiitake mushrooms, make sure to bake them first, otherwise their taste would be overpowering and throw the flavours off-balance.

“Is this a whole food?” – A Guide to Whole-Food Alternatives to Common Processed Foods

If you are still wondering why on Earth it matters that foods should be whole foods, look into Whole foods FAQ. That article addresses the “Why?” part of the question. Why whole-foods? Why not processed foods? Why low-fat? Why no oil? Why no salt? Why no sugar? Basically explaining why there is a problem.

What about the solution?
Well, the present article is the “What?” part of question. What is a whole food? What is not? What to buy instead? What to do instead?


~ WHOLE-FOOD MENU ~

whole or not

INTRODUCTION
OILS/ADDED FATS
ALTERNATIVES TO OIL / ADDED FAT / HIGH-FAT FOODS
SWEETNESS AND SUGAR
ALTERNATIVES TO SUGAR TO SWEETEN FOOD
SALT
ALTERNATIVES TO SALT
RICE
LEGUMES, PULSES, BEANS, AND PEAS
PASTA
BREADS
DRESSINGS
LEAVENING / RISING DOUGHS / BAKING NEEDS
PICKLES, FERMENTED AND PRESERVED PLANT FOODS
HOW TO DO WHEN EATING OUT?
Do we really need restaurants and take-aways to “eat out”?
Restaurants, take-aways, cafés, and other food venues
COMMENTS? SUGGESTIONS?


INTRODUCTION

There are two ways I know to explain which foods are whole food, which are not, which are acceptable health-wise and which are not. Different people learn in different ways. Some prefer to learn by concepts, some prefer by examples.

If you learn with concepts, what to chose is easy, neat and concise:

“Eat nothing else but low-fat whole plant foods.
If it’s not entirely made of plants, don’t have it.
If it doesn’t look like a plant, make sure the low-fat whole plant food was used and nothing was discarded, nutritionally damaged, extracted nor added that is not a low-fat whole food plant itself.”

That’s it, done. I always prefer positive wording. Simple powerful concepts like this work really well for me. The whole-food concept is a like an alphabet. Once you get the new concept right, the pantry and fridge look more like it, and you then build upwards from that and can’t possibly go wrong. That approach can’t possibly be mistaken for something restrictive. There’s no right way to eat the wrong foods when it comes to health, so drop meals and products that contain processed foods altogether, don’t try to fix processed foods. That strange planet of delicious disease is already obsolete. Just focus on building a *whole* new edifice, that of delicious health, with solid whole-foods foundations.

Now, if you learn best through examples, it’s a bit different. There’s no other way for this than go through a “good/not good” list which may look like a long prohibitive list. But what is really prohibitive? Could it be the insane extent of our reliance on processed foods that is prohibitive to our health? Reading this, chances are that you leave animals alone and off the plate. So imagine making a list of all animal foods people should replace or stop having? It will inevitably be a long list, and will inevitably seem restrictive to some. But you would know better, you would know the reality of it from experience. You would know, that there is no restriction/prohibition when you actually eat far more nutrients, add more years to your life and more life to your years. You would know, it’s not about cutting/eliminating foods (or rather non-foods), it’s fundamentally about having the right foods and nothing else.

Particularly nowadays, and particularly in certain foods cultures, listing all the processed foods we should be weaning from or replacing to eat the right foods can be quite a mouthful!
But I braced myself today to put it all down so it can go to help whoever wants to go whole-food; starting from where many people are (processed foods from supermarkets, restaurants, cafés, take-aways) and moving to food compatible with health that you prepare yourself from whole plants.

Finally, I must insist on two points:

  • Of all processed foods or non-foods below, oil, salt, and sugar will be of particular concern due the particular health concern with these. Please do not use them and consider instead the easy alternatives offered below.
  • Every transition in life can take time to be operated painlessly and sustainably. This list should not scare you. It took us about a year from quitting sugar to being almost 100% whole-foods with no oil, salt, or sugar. With the advice below we could have done that much faster! If you can operate all these changes cold-tofu, do it, you have all the tools now! If you need time, do them one step at a time, just keep challenging yourself until you reach the destination. Pain should not be part of this journey. Do observe priorities: Start first with eliminating oil and high-fat foods. Meanwhile, reduce down to zero your use of sugar and salt gradually enough so it’s not a pain. Meanwhile also, replace the non-whole foods by whole foods. Start with those you eat most, what is it for you? pasta? bread? and rice? Then expand to other things. Expanding your whole-food repertoire can also be done adding whole foods you never had before. We’re learning for example how to prepare whole grain groats as a staple, or legumes. It’s not a very Anglo-saxon thing to do but if other cultures figured it out, and it’s whole foods, that’s more options for you!

OILS/ADDED FATS

In short: no oil *at all*, nothing that is high-fat. What does that mean? For an adult who is 100% oil-free low-fat whole-food nutrition (already a big pre-requisite) : no more than 1~2 tablespoons daily total of any combination of nuts/seeds/avocado. Coconut best avoided. Absolutely zero of all of these of recovering from cardiovascular disease.

Oils and fats are found naturally in all low-fat whole plant foods in sufficient amounts. By energy: kale: 12% (of calories are from fat); brown rice: 6%; potatoes : 1%, etc. Given enough diversity in a low-fat whole-food plant diet, *all* our fat nutritional needs are met, including omega-3. Yes, from just plants only. The addition of fat whether extracted from whole foods (i.e. oil) or even high-fat from whole foods (i.e. nuts and avocado) in large amounts  is not just unnecessary, but majorly harmful. It contributes greatly to cardiovascular and metabolic disease; ending in heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, higher incidence of cancer, and of a number of degenerative diseases. In short, the unforgiving price to pay for our by-default under-informed, over-optimistic illusion of “moderation”.


Not whole foods, because all oils are extracts, or TO NOT EAT:

Everything that is called “oil” when you buying it from a supermarket, an online store,  “health” store, organic shop, or even if you press it yourself from your uncle’s fair-trade organic locally-grown olives. It doesn’t matter. Do not have any oil, whether it’s:

  • Cold-pressed oils
  • Extra virgin oils
  • Extra virgin cold-pressed oils
  • Organic oils
  • High-end oils
  • High-quality oils
  • Vegetable oils
  • Coconut oils
  • Olive oil
  • <plant> oil
  • Minimally-processed oil
  • coconut cream
  • coconut milk
  • grated coconut
  • all chocolate (=> cocoa powder although not technically a whole food, is a high-fiber less-high-fat food, a far more acceptable alternative to chocolate if you’re going to use chocolate)

If you are recovering from any cardiovascular disease (from impotence all the way to  surviving a stroke or heart attack) the above was the #1 (plant) things you must start having  an absolute zero amount of, besides of course ditching absolutely everything of animal origin.


Whole foods, but use at most in very low amounts*:

* Very low amounts = ~1 teaspoon per person per meal, maximum. Absolute zero if recovering from cardiovascular disease.

  • nuts and seeds
  • cocoa beans
  • avocado

Whole foods, but best avoided or kept for occasional use*

* Occasional use = 1 tablespoon per person once a month at most maybe. Absolute zero if recovering from cardiovascular disease.

  • coconut flesh from fresh coconut (even then still among the worst possible whole-food fat there is, almost entirely saturated fat). At home we cut one yearly and freeze it for the whole year. That’s becoming how much coconut we have yearly for two people. Amazing taste, but not worth it as a staple.

ALTERNATIVES TO OIL / ADDED FAT / HIGH-FAT FOODS

Just skip the oil. Below is how to do that for common instances where most people use oil. I know it’s hard at first to think it’s even possible to prepare food without oil. But, trust me, let go of being anxious around this, everything below is based on 6 months of kitchen experience of home-cooking without any oil at all.

How to replace oil to heat up spices
If you need to develop the aroma of certain seeds like is done in Indian cooking, just dry roast on less-than-medium heat for a few minutes while stirring, then add wet foods (like chopped onions/garlic) first, then ground spices.

How to replace oils for stir-fries and caramelizing onions/garlic:

There are a few alternative options to oil-frying:

  • Water-frying on high heat with just enough water so it won’t stick nor burn. Add ground spices if needed only after the onions/garlic have softened and become transparent.
  • OR: Chop onions and garlic very finely and stir on less-than-medium heat in a pan on its own (no added water). Because it is chopped finely it will cook at similar temperatures as with oil, without burning because finely-cut onions/garlic give off their own water.
  • OR: If stir-frying or frying is important to give a certain taste to food: consider baking instead. It works for French fries, potato wedges, garlic, bell-pepper etc. If you ever find that it makes the foods too dry, then bake a combination of dry/hard foods along with moist/wet foods. You will end up with nice glossy foods that look and feel exactly as if they were stir-fried.

These may not always give exactly the same result as with oil of course, but close enough that  people will not even notice you changed something.

How to replace oil/added fat in baking:

Don’t be anxious, just skip the oil, it works in many cases for cakes, breads, etc.

In cakes and breads, oil serves the purpose of holding moisture, that can be done with prune paste. The amount of prune paste* is amount of oil needed divided by 3, there will not be a prune taste. Don’t worry your final food will not taste of prunes. Try for yourself, we did, as recommended in the China Study Cookbook.

*For Wellington, large bags of prunes can be found at reasonably low cost, in bulk, at Moore Wilsons. Store them in the freezer, and you’re good to go for ages.

Other ingredients help hold moisture as well: certain flours more than others, aquafaba, ground flaxseed, applesauce, and other whole-food vegan egg replacements. Also wet foods like applesauce, zucchini, beetroot, bananas, give great moisture-holding.

For dressings and dips:

See Section below “Dressings”.

To prevent sticking:

Use baking paper, non-stick pans, cast iron pans if you don’t like non-stick coatings, or even any regular stainless steel pot with lower heat.

SWEETNESS AND SUGAR

Most sugars even the “brown” ones are generally extracted saps from trees or flowers, roots or corn, etc. Them being brown or having some nutrients does not make thin either health promoting not whole-foods. They are of similar concern as white sugar.

The sugars naturally found and consumed in whole foods do not pose health problems.

Commercial sweeteners are absolutely not whole foods, they are not even foods. Do not use them.

Besides, some do pose health concerns (like stevia or aspartame) others are experimental (erythritol) and may well be the next aspartame or MSG scandal, a risk we don’t run with corn or dates natural sweetness. The only safe whole-food sweetener I know that is a powerful natural sweeteener called Luo Han Guo (more below)

Sweetening sources that are not whole foods – DO NOT USE

Anything that doesn’t look like a whole plant food, and with the word sugar, syrup, or molasses in it, to list only a few:

  • raw cane sugar (or Sucanat)
  • raw sugar
  • brown sugar
  • coconut sugar
  • palm sugar
  • blackstrap molasses
  • maple syrup
  • rice syrup
  • malt syrup

ALTERNATIVES TO SUGAR TO SWEETEN FOOD

The most powerful alternative to sugar is to let your taste buds have less sweet foods so that they can learn to become more sensitive to the natural sweet taste of food and beverages. That should allow you to enjoy beverages with no added sweetness of any kind, and to enjoy food at a lower sweetness level. This being said, there is nothing wrong with enjoying sweetness or sweet foods, as long as that comes from whole foods and not extracted sugars.
There are some very common whole-food sources of sweet flavour that you can use:

  • Apple sauce
  • Date paste
  • Date sugar, homemade only, when it’s made from dried pulverized dates = “date flour”, not the commercial “date sugar” which is often date-extracted sugar and therefore just as mertabolically hazardous as any other sugar.
  • Prune paste
  • Banana
  • Raisins, currants, sultanas and other dried fruits but read the ingredients: some come loaded with oil, sugar, preservatives which you can tell form the ingredients or the sodium content for preservatives.
  • Sweet potatoes like baked orange kumara
  • Jackfruit*
  • Sweet corn
  • Whole-food sweetener: Luo Han Guo*, found in the near tea in many Chinese Shops. Boiled in water it is a very potent natural sweetener with, a long history of usage and not a single known health concern to my best current knowledge after researching it. It might be pulverizable into a powder for use in cooking, baking etc.

* For NZ-Wellington: This can be found at Yan’s Supermarket off Webb Street, or in NZ Lower Hutt’s Davis Trading for Lo Han Guo, see tea section.

SALT

The issue with salt has little to do with whole-food or not. Salt is simply not a food, so the wholeness (process salt vs unprocessed sea salt) is secondary and does not matter at all. Added salt is used as a flavour enhancer, for people who have grown a habit for it and not yet weaned off.

Unfortunately it is the source of unnecessary stress/damage on cardiovascular health because it creates a state of hypertension to push the sodium out of the body.

Hypertension leads to serious health concerns, and is considered a cardiovascular disease, yet it is virtually entirely caused by eating a lot of salt or preserved/processed foods. The sodium naturally occuring in plants is more than we need.

There is no right way to eat the wrong foods so all the salts below are salts and should never be part of food:

DO NOT USE:

  • Himalayan pink salt
  • Sea salt
  • Kosher salt
  • Celtic salt
  • Guerande salt
  • black salt (also known as “kala namak”)
  • blue salt
  • soy sauce
  • or anything with the word “salt” in it or with outrageously high amounts/concentrations of salt or sodium in it.

If you buy partially processed products (like the jarred salt-free tomato paste we use off-season*) always read the ingredients and nutritional content. Sodium per 100g in  whole foods is rarely ever above a few dozens: 5 mg, 10mg, 20mg are numbers that shouldn’t worry you. Just make sure it’s mg (milligrams) not grams like I see sometimes. If you start seeing hundreds, something’s wrong, except for a tiny handful or expections that are naturally high-sodium inside them.

Be aware that salt and sodium also are virtually everywhere in processed foods, from canned foods to cookies, to even dried fruit! In restaurants you may order salt-free food but if they relied on processed foods like pasta, or sauces, etc, those also come generously loaded with sodium. As I said in introduction, do not waste your time trying to fix a broken system, build your own, without any of the otherwise inescapable nonsense.

ALTERNATIVES TO SALT

Quitting all salt, and processed foods, is the single best alternative to salt and sodium.
It can be done painlessly over 3 weeks to 3 months. After only 3 weeks most people start developing a dislike for salted foods and a preference for unsalted foods. Yes, your taste buds are magical, and you need to harness this power you already have.

Immortalizing the moment when we stopped using salt at home :)

Immortalizing the moment when we stopped using salt at home 🙂

What to do about flavour? Preparing food for people that are used to salt?

Simply use more of natural flavours!

We put more of the flavourful foods in our cooking: slightly more spices, more carrots, more celery, more onion, garlic, more whole-food sweetness to lift up the taste without salt, more sourness (from lemon or tamarind) or more whole-food sweetness from dates or other naturally sweet foods. If you hit the tongue right it won’t need a bang from salt, even the highly-demanding tongues and palates of people who have not yet weaned off salt.

People on low-sodium dietary lifestyles have used all sorts of spices instead of salt. They like to go by “salt alternatives” and “salt replacements”. I don’t like those phrasings because when you don’t need salt, you don’t need to replace salt.

I offer to transcend the idea of even replacing salt, and simply understanding that our tongue (and nose) is full of sensors for all sorts of things (for the tongue: sweetness, sourness, bitterness…) and your tongue likes a good whip to be happy. So whip up your tongue (wut-tish!) with everything you have that is an actual food, it will thank you for it.
When we quit salt, my first natural urge was to add sourness (lemon/lime) to everything, but that’s just me.
My tongue loves sour,  bitter, sweet but not too chilli-hot, I like pungent but not too garliquey. For my partner it’s completely different. My partner likes NOT sour, NOT bitter, NOT as sweet as I do. She likes VERY spicy, NOT pungent, but VERY garliquey. If food isn’t chili-hot, for her, it’s not food! For me it’s the same but with sour.
So each person’s tongue likes to be whiped its own way. Find your taste spot and give it what it needs!

How to do about salt-containing products? like canned chickpeas, dried fruits with high sodium, spice mixes, etc? Simple: dont’ use them. Find salt-free options if it’s trivial to find, or just save time and make your own.

If you have concerns about health:

  1. The sodium in whole plant foods is far more than sufficient to meet our body’s needs in sodium. Look around, how many land mammals and animals do you see walking around with salt shaker? Salt does not contribute to health.
  2. For iodine which is important, you don’t have to have get it from chronic hypertension (i.e. salt, iodized), just introduce unprocessed seaweeds *gradually* (for safety) and check their iodine content before using them. While you sort that out an iodine supplement is very encouraged. I wrote a guide to common New Zealand seaweeds you can forage, how to desalt them, and their iodine content.

RICE

Not whole-foods:

  • Any white rice, because it is “milled” = removing the nutrient-rich outer layer (rice bran), then polished after milling to make it look good again.

Whole-food alternatives to milled/polished white rice:

  • Brown rice
  • Red rice
  • Black rice
  • Brown Basmati rice
  • Brown Jasmine rice
  • Brown Thai rice

Note: There are different “whole” grades of the rices below. Some rices that look whole (with a bran on top) are actually partially milled (to remove bran partially) or partially polished. Producers undoubtedly derive extra profits from bran as a by-product, sold as animal feed, for rice bran oil, etc. Ideally you want a rice that is unmilled and unpolished. Visual examination might be enough, I’ll start paying attention and see if I notice differences.

LEGUMES, PULSES, BEANS, AND PEAS

Not whole foods:

  • Split peas
  • Split beans
  • Red lentils (they are what’s left when you remove the highly-nutritious brans)

Whole-food alternatives to split legumes:

  • The unsplit whole grains, i.e. your typical chickpeas or lentils or beans with their skin.

PASTA

Not whole-food:

  • Standard pasta. This is why:

Whole-food alternative to white pasta:

  • Wholemeal or whole grain pasta
  • Any pasta made at home from whole grains or whole grain semolina.

Note: Commercial use of the term “whole” can be abused in “wholemeal” pasta due to expectable partial amounts of whole semolina or recombined whole semolina made from refined semolina some extracted bran or fiber to give a whole “feel”.

BREADS

Not whole-food:

Most breads marketed as “whole meal” or “whole grain” use most often only a small amount of whole-meal flour 10% to 25% only typically. The rest is baker’s white flour, a highly- refined product. Besides whole-food aspects, baker’s flours or bread flours and the wheats they come from are generally under a lot of pressure to be high-protein, high-gluten, and have extremely specific characteristics all highly focused on one thing: to make their final processing standardized and idiot-proof. That requires both high selection of the wheat, and high processing, both of which make the job easy for bakers but has led to wheats that can nutritionally poor since nutrition never was the concern, unnecessarily high-protein, unnecessarily high-gluten, and which generally seem to cause more health issues than more traditional wheats, not specifically selected or refined for bread or bakers. Few people that are not bakers or cereal producers know this.

Commercial breads also come with high amounts of salt/sodium. About a gram of salt per 100g, and I know from personal experience it’s outstandingly easy to eat not just 100g of bread a day, but many hundred grams, which is utterly unnecessary hypertension on our blood vessels and the organs they supply.

Whole-food alternative to store-bought non whole-food breads:

I already wasted ample time looking for truly 100% whole and salt-free bread, let me save you some time. Like many quests to find healthy foods processed by industry, looking for a truly whole and salt-free bread in shops and bakeries was a quest for the Yeti, the Bigfoot, and the Unicorn combined. I would have made enough bread healthy bread for the year by actually not looking for one.

Solution? Make your own bread at home, with baker’s yeast or a sourdough culture, no salt, and if you want to flavour it maybe throw some fennel seeding in the dough. That’s what we’ve been doing.

If you are a breadoholic, invest 50~100$ into a kneading machine and visit op-shops for secondhand baking trays, rolling pins, whatever you may need.

We don’t often make bread anymore, maybe once or twice a month, about 2 kg, and it never lasts as long as we wish it did! At that pace, I actually love and very much enjoy the (minimal) kneading that is required. No machine or fancy equipment here. Home bread-making can be made very easy and very  time-efficient.

There are many recipes online to make bread from 100% whole flour from any grain or seeds that’s suitable to you.

DRESSINGS

Not wholefoods:

  • Pretty much all commercial dressings, primarily due to oil, sugar, salt and other refined ingredients.

Whole-food alternatives to dressings:

  • Find recipes for oil-free dressings, and remove salt, replace sugars by whole sweet foods, and high-fat foods by low-fat foods.
  • Create your own: Play with sweet whole foods (e.g. apples, raisins and dates), sour whole foods (like lemon or lime) and instead of fatty base like oil or cashews use a starchy base like blended and cooked pea, beans, or grains with enough water will make a nice and runny cream.

LEAVENING / RISING DOUGHS / BAKING NEEDS

Not whole-foods:

  • Baking powder (+ extra concern with sodium content as it is sodium bicarbonate)
  • Baking soda (+ extra concern with sodium content as it often contains sodium bicarbonate or other sodium salts)
  • Citric acid
  • Tartaric acid
  • Various essences, either natural or artificial flavours

Whole-food alternatives to baking needs:

  • Baking yeast
  • Sourdough cultures
  • Aromas: spices, spice-seeds (fennel, caraway, etc), herbs, real vanilla, grated lemon, dried fruit, orange peels, bananas, etc.

This will not rise instantly, the rising processes takes longer, but good news: you don’t have to sit and stare at breads and cakes leaven! Yeasts are shy and prefer making babies when no one is starring at them and desperately waiting for them to be done 😛 Set an alarm and go on about your life while it’s rising 🙂

PICKLES, FERMENTED AND PRESERVED PLANT FOODS

These are of particular concern to health not because of the whole-foods being pickled, but because of the ridiculous amounts of salt, oil, sugar and preservatives used to keep those.

I created a project group on Facebook especially for the purpose of pickling and fermenting foods without resorting to any salt, sugar or oil: sauerkraut, pickled lemon, etc.
Whole-food plant-based fermentation, no oil, no sugar, no salt

Salt-free purple cabbage sauerkraut culturing as I write

Salt-free purple cabbage sauerkraut culturing as I write

HOW TO DO WHEN EATING OUT?

It’s a very good question!
We all like to go out, have lunch and dinners with friends.
How do we do?

At this point of time, my partner and I eat about 90% of our meals from home-made food. It’s all low-fat, whole-food vegan, with no oil, no salt, no sugar.

We eat from restaurants and cafés about twice a week, that the 10%. The food we eat out is not always perfect, but we try, and it’s been worth trying so far, even if sometimes it’s a bit of a sport. Restaurants like all businesses care first and foremost about one thing, that is making profit. The health officer in that trade is you and you alone, so you get what you encourage and ask for. Restaurants follow what the people holding the money want, and these people need to express their needs.

Do we really need restaurants and take-aways to “eat out”?

Everything you didn’t make yourself from scratch using whole plant foods is eating out. If you got your act sorted out, that eating out remains the only possible source of unhealthy eating.
Before zooming on restaurants and take-ways, let’s talk about “eating out”.
First of all there are a number of reasons why people eat out. Convenience, hanging out with people, getting food inspiration, etc…A number of these needs can be met without having to go to a restaurant. Since it can be a bit of challenge getting truly healthy whole foods from restaurants, with the help of like-minded friends we have been federating a culture of healthy eating among our friends and communities. So we’re having more potlucks, more dinners and meals at each others house, etc. To some extent, so many restaurants could exist only on a base of lack of community bonds, lack of time spent in the kitchen, and lack of direct sharing in people’s life. This is easy to remedy: Share and make foods for yourself *and* your friends!

Picture-163_bis

That’s our growing whole-food gang, meeting for a lovely autumn picnic. We’re heading towards doing this at least twice a month.

There is also nothing wrong with bringing your own food to work, going to the company/school canteen with your boxes, and sitting at your friends table with your own food. The spotlight won’t be on you too long if you know why you’re doing it and how to articulate it. In fact you may get them to join you…who doesn’t want to spare themselves a heart attack? diabetes? hypertension and all the plagues of animal-based eating?

Restaurants, take-aways, cafés and other food venues

When eating out we skip everything that is deep-fried, or fried, expect stir-fries, more below on this. What’s left is either vegan or not, and to keep choices large, I include non-vegan options so I can explore if it can be veganized (in passing that encourages vegan options). If something is a stir-fry, I ask to water-fry as I ask for “vegan, no oil, no salt, no sugar”.

“No oil” is currently the most frightening new challenge for most restaurants. Oil is still very central to restaurant/café kitchens and it often seems unconceivable for them to not use oil, either for cooking convenience, time-saving, or for taste. It’s not rare that the person taking our order would go and check with the kitchen to see if they can do that.

Good news though: most often restaurants can remove oil, sugar or salt to some relevant amount, if not entirely. There is of course the odd one out where the waiter “vegan, no oil, no salt, no sugar” and the food comes either stir-fried with oil, or drizzed with it, or far too salty or sweet, it happened…but quite rarely. There is also the odd one out where a restaurant would insist “The chef doesnt’ want to do a stir-fry with no oil, he/she/it needs oil”. Other times, they would honestly say they wish but they can’t because the food is batch-prepared with oil, sugar, or salt. But most of the time they can remove something, if not all.

Where my face is not familiar yet, waiters taking my food order the first time often (unwittingly) patronizingly tell me that the food will not be very good. But that’s their worried untrained palate speaking, so it’s worth insisting that they shouldn’t worry about taste and that I eat like that everyday and like it a lot. They can get surprisingly insisting that your palate will not find it tasty basically, afraid perhaps to serve a customer a very unpalatable experience that may convert into bad business. But be “kindly firm” in those cases. And when you’re done with your meal and thank them before leaving, tell them what you thought about the food (it’s usually good!). It’s usually only the first time, it gets smooth and easy when you go regularly to the same food places. Once you develop relationships with them, if they’re open to it, they eventually get interested into your motivations to order in this unusual way for them.

A friend, Caitlin, also gave me the tip of ordering a few hours in advance, ahead of peak hours. Not sure why that works, but it works for her and for other people apparently.

We have had some really lovely restaurant experiences, some waiters, chefs or restaurants owners that would have dealt with disease themselves or through a close person. They’d know about why eating the way we do is vitally important, and they were accommodating. Such a breeze when that happens!

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Rangoli Restaurant, Kapiti, NZ. Highly recommended!

Such an accommodating place served us this, everything is no oil, no salt, no sugar. 3 out of 4 plates here are low-fat whole foods: Kachumber (Indian salad), wholemeal bread (Indian roti), and the best chana masala (Indian chickpea curry) I’ve had in my life. Only the rice on the top left is not a whole food, but white rice. Not bad at all overall relatively. The restaurant is Rangoli, in Kapiti, NZ. Great friendly/kind service, rather cosy, amazing food, some vegan wines too.

So far, I talked oil, salt, sugar, but that doesn’t make a tofu burger whole-food, does it?
No it doesn’t. At this point of time, most breads in restaurants are white breads (less so in Indian restaurants), pasta is still always refined white pasta, rice is not yet routinely brown rice or another whole rice, etc…We make do our best with what we have at hand. More and more, I do ask though about the wholeness of the pasta, rice, breads. I would know the answer in advance most of the time, so why do I keep asking? Because customers’ questions always act as subtle requests and they are! It can start very constructive educational conversations for the staff and restaurant, as well as for us in terms of the challenges that they encounter, which we may able to help with.

A restaurant we often go to even started to put on the menu that whole-food options are available with no oil, sugar or salt. The owner, it turns out, already had a preference for oil-free food and whole foods and just needed someone to request it to feel motivated to pursue that route.

Adulis Restaurant, Wellington, NZ. Highly recommended!

This restaurant is in Wellington NZ:  Adulis African restaurant, proposing currently essentially Ethiopian/Sudanese foods. Currently in the process of going using more whole foods and pro-actively encouraging options with no oil, salt, sugar. Wonderful! This is at long last the future that many of us have been waiting for, it’s amazing! And again, restaurant owner also very cheerful and friendly person, and so is staff generally. That’s becoming more and more one of regular healthy go-tos.

COMMENTS? SUGGESTIONS?

Was this helpful to you?
What did you learn from this?
Do you feel I forget something important in this list?
Is there something you want to suggest adding?
Do you have short videos (< 5 min) that show clearly the products we’re used to being processed from a whole food to an extracted, refined, nutritionally damaged product?
What struggles are you facing with going WFPN (whole-food plant nutrition)?
or with quitting salt, sugar, and oil?

Post you comments below!

Whole foods FAQ – Why whole-food plant-based? Why no oil, no salt or no sugar?

This is a list of frequently asked questions regarding whole-food plant nutrition and the health benefits that are associated. For each question/topic, a series of educational resources are provided, mostly in video format.

Contents:

  1. What are whole foods?!
  2. Why low-fat whole-food plant nutrition?
    (more commonly known as “whole-food plant-based” or WFPB)
  3. Why low-fat and no oil?
  4. Why no sugar?
  5. Why no salt?

1) What is a whole food and what is not?

As the name indicates, a food that is whole or integral.
Whole foods means edible foods in their whole, or natural, or recognizable form, that have not (or minimally) been refined, transformed, processed, or extracted.
Why the distinction is tremendously important from a health standpoint will be explained in later sections.

Examples:

  • A sunflower seed is a whole food, and sunflower oil pressed from the sunflower seeds and heavily refined is not a whole food. The high fat content is a concern too.
  • A beetroot is a whole food, and the sugar extracted and refined from beetroot is not a whole food.
  • Corn seeds from a corn cob are a whole food, but high-fructose corn syrup and corn starch are heavily processed extracts so those are not whole foods.
  • Whole-meal wheat flour directly obtained from grinding whole wheat grains is whole-food, but wheat bran or white flour because they use only part of the wheat seed are not whole foods.

Ok, now that you get it. Why is the distinction important? Excellent question! That’s all below. You will understand when you watch the fundamentals in Part 2.

2) Basic knowledge about low-fat whole food plant nutrition

Documentary Forks over Knives, sorry for this one I only have the trailer, you’ll have to check your Netflix, look for DVD at your library, or rent it on Amazon Prime or other Video-on-demand websites.
This an absolute must-watch.
Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O7ijukNzlUg

Documentary Planeat

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QCresEvQ_jM

Documentary Plant-pure Nation
Full video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=llQ7V9Jv5a0

3) Why “no oil” in whole-food?

Any oil is a processed food, squeezed out of a high-fat whole-food (avocado, nuts, olives, soy beans) or the high-fat part of a whole food (rice bran, etc). Of all processed foods, oil (and other pure or extracted fats) are of particularly major concern. Oil is not only empty calories (no nutrition) and high in calories (contributing to overweight, obesity and metabolic disease), but the main concern it is that all oils and extracted fats are pro-actively harmful in the human body in many ways. All oil? Yes. Even olive, coconut, canola or <you name it> oil? Yes. Even just “a little bit”? Yes. Are you sure? Yes, absolutely, this has been known to genuine science for decades.
How is oil harmful? Besides turning potentially healthy plant-based dishes into an undesirably high-fat meal, all oils cause inflammation in the arteries. Oil leads to stiff arteries (arteries are supposed to dilate nicely when needed). The build-up of plaque  gradually clogs arteries and blood vessels. This process actually starts in the womb of mothers eating a high-fat, oil-and-animal-containing diet. By age 10 many kids in modern societies show early signs of cardiovascular disease.
Oil harms blood flow in a number of ways.
1) Healthy arteries expand when needed to increase blood flow, arteries on oil and fat are stiff and struggle to do that, blood flow remains too low 2) Unhealthy arteries don’t allow blood to glide fast over their inner surface, think if as an uneven road full of with pot holes and speed bumps 3) On top of that, our blood after a high-fat meal becomes thick and sludgy until the next meal. 4) In the long of doing that, arteries get clogged, passage becomes narrow.

Result?
So sludgy blood, sticking to artery walls, in stiff arteries, that become even thinner overtime because of plaque blockage.

Vital things like oxygen, white blood cells (immune system), blood glucose (energy), protein and virtually all nutrients flow ridiculously slowly and don’t get where they need to be nearly as fast and efficiently as they normally should.
This manifests day to day through fatigue, limited physical performance, erectile dysfunction and poor lubrication in women, poor libido in both men and women, poor recovery after exercise, poor mental state, reduced cognitive performance etc.
In the longer run, plaque build-up causes heart attacks and strokes. This kills 1 in 3 Kiwis, when not suddenly, often after decades of meds, a stunted lifestyle and the depression that goes with it. Plaque build-up also contributes greatly to the onset of dementia where various parts of the brain stop receiving proper blood flow. Additionally, oils throws out of balance the quantity and ratios of omega-3 vs. omega 6 fats we’re supposed to eat. All plant foods which you don’t suspect to have fats in them (oats, kale, kumara, etc) have more than enough healthy fats, enough of (the anti-inflammatory – good) omega-3, and not too much of the harmful (pro-inflammatory – bad) omega-6. Supplementing with omega-3 oil or fish oil is not only unnecessary, but there’s evidence suggesting it may be harmful.
I hope by now it’s clear that “heart-healthy oils” is as rare as a “fun heart attack” or a “real unicorn.” In other words, there is no such thing.
The good news are, this can be avoided easily with a low-fat, whole food plant-based nutrition, which eliminates oil since it’s about foods that are whole (unprocessed). There is an abundant life away from oil, it’s easy and fun to discover how to prepare food without oil…You’ll notice the difference in terms of how you feel after eating…and the bonus is: oil-free kitchens are so much easier/faster to clean!

Make Yourself Heart Attack Proof – Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, MD
Full-video (ENG): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AYTf0z_zVs0

http://nutritionstudies.org/essential-facts-fats/
http://nutritionstudies.org/fat-plant-based-diets/

4) Why is sugar

What we’ll agree to call “sugar” is the processed sweetening  product resulting from the extraction of a sweet liquid from a whole plant. With animal foods this would include honey. In spite of confusing efforts to distinguish between “refined sugars” and other sugars, it’s important to keep in mind that all extracted sugar, is processed sugarall leading to similar problems whether it’s maple, agave, syrups, coconut sugar, molasses, raw/brown sugar or the good old white sugar. There are more than 60 different names for different sugars. What’s the issue with all these sugars?
Like with oil, it’s not only empty calories (no or poor nutrition) and high in calories (contributing to overweight and obesity), but the main concern is that extracted sugars are actively harmful to health in a variety of ways. Although sugar is perceived by the general public as the main culprit for chronic illness, it is in fact the animal products, high-fat diets and oil really are the top offenders. This said, sugar is still of concern, these are ways in which sugar is harmful:

  • Acts exactly like a drug on the brain: sending dopamine (reward system) into overdrive, leading to sugar addiction, increased sugar tolerance and cravings.
  • Negatively impacts mood: manic state on a sugar high, hypoglycaemic (overly alert irritable) on a sugar low.
  • Disturbs blood sugar control.
  • Inhibits the immune system for hours
  • Promotes liver toxicity (non-alcoholic fatty liver disease – “human foie-gras”)
  • Damages arteries (endothelial cells) and contributes to elevating triglycerides.
  • Promotes pathogenic flora (i.e. candida)
  • Harmful to dental health, contributes to cavities.
  • Empty calories (no or irrelevant nutrition), high caloric density, may contribute to overweight, obesity or difficulty losing weight.
  • Hypoglycaemia during sleep may disturb sleep

Documentary Sugar: The Bitter Truth
Full-video (ENG): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBnniua6-oM

If Fructose is Bad, What About Fruit? (5-min video)
http://nutritionfacts.org/video/if-fructose-is-bad-what-about-fruit/

While zero extracted sugar is ideal and should be aimed to for those who feel they can do it, for others it may be a bit daunting and a small sugar tolerance. The World Health Organisation (WHO) set a limit of not more than 5% of calories coming from these extracted sugars. This is about 3~6 teaspoons for women and up to 9 for men. Dr. McDougall is a bit more cautious, suggesting a maximum limit of 1 teaspoon per meal to help add flavour/appeal to healthy starchy foods. Sweetness is an important part of flavour, foods that taste good are vital to the adherence to a way of eating. My personal proposal is that sweetness is easily achieved whole or blended sweet fruits, either fresh or dry: examples, dates and currants, and desserts/baked goods bananas or blended (not juiced) sweet grapes.

5) Why “no salt” in whole-food?

Salt promotes increases blood pressure (hypertension) in many people. It may cause inflammation in the blood vessels in all people. More of concern, it worsens autoimmune diseases. Salt also conduces to water retention and dehydration. Dehydration in turn causes the blood to thicken and reduces cardiac output (sub-optimal cardiovascular function and cardiovascular risk factors). Calcium is also better retained on a low-salt diet (WHO).

“What about Celtic,  Himalayan or <your name it> salt?” Same deal, same problematic main molecule: sodium chloride.

IMPORTANT: For most people feeling healthy and with no known autoimmune disease, a focus eating unprocessed plant foods (no oil nor animal products) should be by far the top priority, before spending too much focus on salt reduction or elimination.

There is sufficient sodium in a whole-foods plant-based diets, ideal salt/added sodium consumption is zero.

While many people are capable of achieving this, for other people, a low-sodium intake will feel more sustainable. The WHO sets a maximum limit of 1,500 mg of sodium a day, which is about one half 1/2 tsp salt per day (one half of a teaspoon per day). Some health conditions (i.e. kidney disease) may require a lower limit.

If salt is used, the best way to use it is: 1) taste the food first 2) and if salt is needed sprinkle your iodised salt on top of the food. Avoid pre-mixing salt during food preparation.

Within weeks of consuming a low-salt or salt-free diet, taste buds adapt and develop a preference for these foods and an aversion/dislike for what used to be “normal” salt levels. Some weight loss may be experienced (peeing out the retained water).

For athletes and other people sweating a lot, adaptations happen when switching to a low-salt or salt-free diet to retain sodium more effectively. A progressive reduction/elimination may be wise.
There exist 100% salt-free very physically active populations that have been studied. They display outstandingly healthy blood pressure patterns and no sign of a sodium deficiency.

Cool bonuses: No more gross white marks on dark-colored shirts & t-shirts after you break a sweat in them.

High Blood Pressure May Be a Choice (5-min video)
http://nutritionfacts.org/video/high-blood-pressure-may-be-a-choice/

The Evidence That Salt Raises Blood Pressure (5-min video)
https://nutritionfacts.org/video/the-evidence-that-salt-raises-blood-pressure/

Manufactured controversy over Salt #1 (5-min video)
http://nutritionfacts.org/video/sprinkling-doubt-taking-sodium-skeptics-with-a-pinch-of-salt/

Manufactured controversy over Salt #2 (5-min video)
https://nutritionfacts.org/video/dietary-guidelines-with-a-grain-of-big-salt/

Cardiovascular damage caused by salt besides hypertension
http://nutritionfacts.org/video/sodium-and-arterial-function-a-salting-our-endothelium/