Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Vegan one year on - successes and lessons learnt.

Last March I started a six week experiment to see if going vegan would improve my rapidly deteriorating fingernails.  The fact that I'm vegan one year on is testimony to the fact it did work.  In the process I uncovered a dairy allergy. Gee its great to have a full sense of smell now I haven't got blocked sinuses. A December visit to the optometrist left both me and the optometrist surprised as my vision had improved and he wanted to know what I had done - the only think I could think of was the change in diet.

What I've learnt along the way.
While I had supreme health for nine months a bout of stress just before year's end and too much summer fruit made my chronic problem with candida flare up.  It didn't seem to want to respond to my normal strategies so I consulted my general practitioner who referred me on for advice.  It turned out too much fruit (including goji berries), sweeteners such as agave syrup and too much spice in the curries I'd been having had unbalanced my system and surprisingly olive oil and chamomile turned out to be a problem for me as well.

This lead to a serious rethink on the recipe front. My beloved sprouts are still a big part of my diet.  Especially mung beans, broccoli, alfalfa, germinated brown rice and quinoa. As I needed probiotics to rebalance the system  I've come up with a barley sprout powder, probiotic powder and fibre (inulin) drink that I have twice a day and as I rather like the drink its a bright part of the day.  Green leafy vegetables are another big part of the diet, especially for the work's lunch box and I'm worried about the increased pesticide intake. I did a first aid course once with a lady who worked on one of those farms that grows greens for supermarkets and she told me about all the chemicals they use.  As the local organic shops don't keep a big range of greens I've been busy expanding the current veggie patch and my partner is going to build me a bigger purpose made area attached to the house - to grow things like margoram, oregano, sorrel, rocket, perilla, chicories and japanese parsley - so I can just walk out the kitchen door and pick what I want.  Now root vegetables, not being fruit, have attracted my renewed interest of late.  I highly recommend getting a julienne peeler - these allow you to thinly shred root vegetables - great for quick stir fries or eating raw and much easier to clean than graters, especiallly if your only preparing food for yourself.  Parsnips, turnips, swedes and radishes all get chucked into my meals.  At the moment I go easy on the the carrots, beets and sweet potatoes due to their high sugar content . While tomatoes and cucumbers are technically fruit they seem to be ok so I'm having a few.  I've replaced my favourite spicy tofu with plain organic. For nuts my favourites are macadamia's, walnuts and hazelnuts but I use quite a few other nuts and seeds as well, especially as added texture and flavour in salads. For drinks I'm sticking to white tea (a type of green tea), nettle tea and our gorgeous water that comes straight out of the ground in the hills above our property. While some say you don't need to, and my blood levels are good, I'm nonetheless choosing to supplement with B12, kelp, organic derived iron and vitamin D. I'm also having bitters before meals and trying to incorporate a few bitter greens in my meals.  This is just what seems to suit me and wouldn't necessarily work for everyone - although it should me noted that on the whole the western diet is too sweet and doesn't incorporate all the diverse flavours you'd normally find in more asian cuisines. I was tired for a couple of weeks while I cut the sugar down but now I'm well again and feeling great.

I got a magazine on Friday with a write up of an interview with a David Wolfe and it was interesting to hear that he favours a raw diet but not too many of the very sweet fruits and said to go easy on the nuts. He likes to browse the wild foods in what ever area he's visiting.  Another useful thing he said was if you are travelling try to find where the farmers markets and organic shops are.  Cucumbers also keep quite well if you are travelling around and need something to snack on.  He recommends putting together a bit of a snack pack.