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To Meat or not to Meat? Going Vegan….

From the age of 8, after visiting the farm and learning that meat on our plates came from some of these cute furry animals, I refused to eat meat (much to the annoyance of my parents). I was that child that point blank would no longer consume anything meat related. The substitute for meat whilst growing up was mostly soya based meat-like products. I was also lactose intolerant and suffered from migraines, upset stomach and hives after eating cheese or having milk. The alternative most of these products were soya milks and yoghurts. Thankfully I have never been a lover of cheese so am never tempted to divulge unlike some of us. As I grew up throughout my teens, my eating was not great nor was my knowledge of my nutrition. Reflecting on my past, I would class myself as a ‘bad vegetarian/vegan’ as most of my diet was some form of bread, cereal (I loved dry cereal!), pasta and vegetables. I had no understanding of how to fuel my body. By the time I was 16, I was anaemic so occasionally took iron tablets to help with my fatigue and I also suffered with erratic and extremely heavy periods. The anaemia was blamed on my lack of meat proteins and I was also put on the contraceptive pill to regulate my periods. At the age of 26, after a lot of convincing I began to eat white meats and fish. By the age of 28 I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) and at 30 I was severely anaemic despite eating now white and red meat.

After extensive research on PCOS (please refer to my other blogs for more info) I no longer touched any form of SOYA based products due to their detrimental side effects on the human body including cancerous affects and a huge correlation to PCOS. Soy is used in tofu, soy milk and various dairy and meat substitutes. It is also used in fermented foods like miso, natto and tempeh, which are commonly consumed in some Asian countries. Soy has been linked to causing breast cancer in women, thyroid enlargement, infertility in men and women and also causing early onset of puberty in infants.

After 5 years of eating meat products I was still anaemic and made the decision to remove as much meat from my lifestyle as possible. I had gained so much insight into nutrition over the years of my career as a Personal Trainer that I now felt confident to do it the correct way. The cons outweigh the pros of meat consumption in my opinion but perhaps these will help you to decide if meat and dairy are really enriching your life.

Supermarket meat is produced in mass production. These animals have been reared for their flesh for humans to consume. Females are repeatedly impregnated and babies are torn away from their mothers, kept in disgusting and over crowded conditions. They are then fed a mixture of toxins, chemicals, drugs and injected with hormones to accelerate their growth but these cause a number of health problems on the animals….leading to increasing cases of illnesses and diseases in meat eaters! Alongside all of this, the animals’ stress levels from the conditions and fear that they endure are through the roof causing changes of behaviours and diseases in the animals such depression, anxiety, heart conditions and cancers. Consuming meats from animals that are packed full of stress hormones and illnesses can affect the human body’s ability to produce and release our our own hormones which can lead to hormonal and developmental problems including mental illnesses, depression, impotence and many many more.

In order to keep these animals big and strong for us, they are injected with hormones including steroids. Hormones are fat molecules that stay in in fat tissues and continue to accumulate (i.e in a fresh piece of steak). These hormones are then passed into our systems when we digest these meats building up inside leading to prostate cancer in men. Women have higher fat percentages in their bodies so we are at a higher risk of breast cancer from these hormones. The additional hormones in meat can also lead to early onset of puberty such as very early periods in girls and the possibility of breasts ( some of us refer to these as MOOBs) in males. The additional hormones such as steroids are also linked to obesity. They unbalance our hormones affecting growth and reproductivity. As they are man-made hormones (synthetic), our bodies have great difficulty in removing them so instead become toxins leading to weight gain especially around the hips, thighs and stomach area in men and women.

Lets begin with the “fresh” meat in our superstores. These contain a lot of additives to extend the meats shelf lives. They are injected with a solution of water with sodium & potassium salts as well as antioxidants and flavourings. And scarily enough, there are no requirements to detail this on their packaging. These can all be seen to contribute with breathing problems such as asthma, shortness of breath, behavioural changes such as hyperactivity and heart damage. A high intake of sodium nitrate when pregnant can also increase the risk of Type I diabetes in children.

Onto processed meats which are usually preserved by curing, salting, smoking, canning or drying. These can include bacon, sausages, ham, canned meats and so on. Processed meats are consistently linked with harmful effects on health including High Blood Pressure, Heart Disease, Bowel Cancer and Stomach Cancer. Processed meats contain variety of harmful chemicals including Nitrate. Sodium Nitrate is used to:

  1. Preserve the colour of some meats (red and pinks)

  2. Improve the meat flavour

  3. Prevent the growth of bacteria and reduce the risk of food poisoning.

Grilling or frying these meats produce Nitrosamines which are linked directly to Bowel Cancer. The Sodium Chloride (table salt) also found in processed meats are shown to produce high blood pressure, heart disease and lead to stomach cancer.

Frozen meats are stored in starch to keep the frozen goods fresh. Starch also adds to the taste and texture of the food also. Starch is basically glucose that enters into our blood streams as blood sugar, and high amounts can lead to Type II diabetes. Frozen meats as well as fresh meats can be very rich in trans fats that increase the risk of heart disease as the trans fats clog the arteries. Added salt preserves the frozen meat which will increase the blood pressure. MSG (monosodium glutamate) can also be found in frozen meats which is shown to cause nausea, headaches, chest pain, palpitations, fatigue, breathing difficulties and more! So think twice before you grab that frozen pizza next time!

Now what about fish? Fish flesh is contaminated with toxic chemicals as most live in polluted waters. These chemicals are known to cause cancers and brain degeneration. The fish absorb the chemicals through their skin and the bigger the fish the more contaminated as they eat the smaller fish. Most fish contains mercury which can cause kidney damage, liver damage, nervous system disorders, metal damage and cancer.

When we cook meats and fish at high temperatures such as grilling, frying, smoking, charring they produce Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) and Heterocyclic Amines (HCAs) which studies have shown to cause cancer. If you are cooking meats or fish focus on lower temperatures and slower cooking methods such as baking, roasting, poaching and stewing to prevent these harmful toxins being produced.

Finally lets look at dairy. Again, there are more hormones involved. Animals are injected weekly with synthetic hormones including bovine growth hormone alongside steroid hormones oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone to promote growth and development to produce more milk. These hormones have been shown to cause breast cancer, gynecomastia (MOOBs), infertility and diabetes. We are the only species on the planet that consumes breast milk not only from a different species (cows, goats) but we consume it as adults! So as well as the added injections of hormones theres the naturally occurring pregnancy hormones from the cows and goats that we digest. These are also contributing to added weight gain, particularly round the breast area in men and women alongside pushing early puberty in young children. Research has also shown the following:

  1. Dairy does NOT reduce fracture and it may in fact increase the risk by 50%

  2. Countries with the lowest rates of dairy consumption have the lowest rate of Osteoporosis (bone degeneration)

  3. Vitamin D is much more important to prevent fractures

  4. Dairy increases the risk of prostate cancer and increases the risk of of Insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) which is a known cancer promotor

  5. About 75% of the world can’t even digest dairy! (Lactose intolerant)

  6. Dairy is full of saturated fat causing heart disease

  7. Dairy contributes to sinus problems, anaemia, chronic constipation, ear infections, headaches and eczema

  8. There is more calcium in green leafy veg, sesame tahini, sea veg (seaweed), broccoli and almond milk than any dairy products!

So whats the next steps to removing meat, fish and dairy products from your diet? How will you get enough protein into your bodies? Lets start by looking at Amino Acids. These are the building blocks of protein to build and maintain the tissues in our bodies. All proteins are made from Amino Acids. When you eat anything from Steak to Chick Peas (or anything that contains any form of protein) your digestive system breaks it down to amino acids that are absorbed into your blood stream. From there they are used to make your organs, muscles, tissues etc. However, not all amino acids are essential. The body can make most amino acids using left over aminos and other raw materials in the body but some cannot be made. These are called Essential Amino Acids because you have to consume them in your diet in order to get them in the body. The 9 Essential Aminos are: Leucine, Isoleucine, Valine, Lysine, Phenylalanine, Threonine, Histidine, Methionine, and Tryptophan.

Animal proteins including eggs and dairy contain all essential amino acids known as complete proteins.

Plant proteins are different. Each plant has a different amino profile, for example legumes (beans, lentils) are high in Lysine but low in Tryptophan etc, but these are found in grains (rice etc). Grains are low in Lysine but when you eat legumes with grains they compliment each other to give you all the essential amino acids that you need. So for example black beans (legume) with rice (grain). Nuts and seeds are also complimentary with legumes. However, you do not need to eat complementary proteins with every meal. As long as you get variety of proteins throughout the day they which will give you ample amounts of amino acids you need. There are some complete plant based proteins that contain all the essential amino too, these include Quinoa, Amarath, Hemp & Chia seeds.

In order to eat a healthy vegan diet here are some of the things to take into consideration:

  1. Choose a variety of plant based proteins to include in your diet and keep mixing them up. Some examples include black beans, nuts, chickpeas, broccoli, quinoa, lentils and mushrooms

  2. Opt for some fish-free Omega 3 sources such as flaxseed, walnuts, chia seeds,hemp or DHA capsules to supplement your diet

  3. Enrich your diet with foods high in calcium such as black eyed peas, sesame seeds, kale, almond milk, rice milk, cashew milk, white beans, greens

  4. Add great sources of Vitamin D into your diet such as chia seeds, mushrooms, almond milk, a good quality Vitamin D supplement or good old sunshine!

  5. Foods to boost iron levels such as beans, nuts, quinoa, chickpeas, lentils, black-eyed peas or a gentle non-constipating iron supplement

  6. Take a good quality B12 supplement as it is low in most plant based food but also VERY common deficiency even in meat eaters!

Finally some example meals for you to get all your essential and complete amino acids include:

*Soups or stews that include legumes and grains

*Salads with beans and nuts/seeds

*Nut butter with corn or rice cakes (my fave snacks!)

*Beans and brown rice

*Coconut yoghurt (best brand is KoKo) with almonds

*Vegetable stir fry with quinoa

*Vegan protein powder smoothie (one that contains all essential aminos is ideal)

*And if you fancy guilt free treats, I have a great range of protein treats all made with a prestige protein powder that contains all essential aminos ranging from vegan chocolate protein brownies to vegan protein lemon balls available on my page 😘

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