How To Gain Weight on a Vegan Diet

A raw vegan diet is one of the best ways to lose weight, but this shouldn’t be everyone’s goal. If you’re starting the diet and you’re already quite skinny, chances are you’re going to end up even skinnier if you don’t make some adjustments. If your goal is to gain weight on a vegan diet, you should try to do it in a healthy way rather than going for the junk food.

Jared Leto is one famous vegan who once gained an amazing amount of weight for a film role, but he did it in a very unhealthy way. Perhaps time wasn’t on his side because of his schedule and filming, but you have time, so you should make sure that you eat the right foods so that you put on a healthy percentage of muscle and fat.

Gaining weight is usually as simple as just choosing the right foods. Although genetics does play a role, and sometimes a person can have defiecncies and food intolerances which makes it more difficult.

Being underweight and being overweight can have their own unique risks, so it’s important to reach a weight where you feel healthy and you are happy with how you look.

Risks of having a low body weight

Although I practice a calorie restriction diet, I’m fully aware of the risks of maintaining a low body weight. When you have a low body weight it’s crucial that you maintain your body with excellent nutrition and are cautious about the dangers. You really should aim to find a balance. Yes, lean is healthy, but there can be some symptoms associated with it if your weight drops too much.

  • Orthostatic hypotension – This symptom often appears when you’re sitting down and then you suddenly get up off the chair and feel dizzy.
  • Hormonal imbalance – Women can have menstrual cycle irregularities and loss of their period.
  • Reduced bone density – You may be at greater risk of osteoporosis if you maintain a low body weight and are not actively training to strengthen and maintain bone mass.
  • Sleep disturbances – If an animal goes without food for too long, it will have significantly reduced sleep. The same appears to be true for humans. People who restrict calories significantly and have a very low body weight have difficulty staying asleep for a full 8 hours.
  • Poor immune function – One of the biggest risks for someone who maintains a low body weight is overcoming serious infections.
  • Poor wound healing – Low-calorie intake and body weight may lead to slower wound healing until calorie intake is increased.
  • Heart problems – Losing weight fast or losing an extreme amount of weight can lead to arrhythmias.
  • Always feeling cold – It’s common for people to start feeling really cold as they decrease calorie intake. If you live in a cold climate, this could become a problem.
  • Medication reactions – Having a low body weight might make you more susceptible to the side effects of medication.
  • Social pressures – Concern from friends and family may cause anxiety and other issues which can affect your health.

It’s very possible to maintain a low body weight, be healthy and manage the risks, but it’s worth acknowledging a few of the drawbacks that you can encounter.

There are usually a few reasons why someone wants to gain weight on a vegan diet

  • Looking to gain an athletic and healthy physique
  • Training to become a bodybuilder
  • Their weight has dropped too low after starting a vegan diet and it was unintentional
  • Pressure from friends and family about how thin they look (this is common, even if you are at a healthy weight. People just aren’t used to it).
  • Eating disorders
  • Health conditions which make it risky to maintain a low body weight

Most of the time extreme weight loss on a vegan diet will be unintentional. A vegan diet is a really effective way to lose weight.  But whatever the reason, the main thing you should aim for is to be happy and healthy.

How to gain weight without losing your health

When you start trying to gain weight, you might feel quite bloated as you adjust to the amount of food you have to eat to be in caloric surplus, but these feelings can be reduced by changing some of the foods you eat.

Over time your body will adapt, stomach grows, and you’ll start to feel more comfortable with the number of meals and portion sizes you need to eat.

Many studies show that vegans are the skinniest of the bunch. Skinnier than vegetarians, omnivores, and those on a carnivorous diet. But it’s not impossible to gain weight if you want.

I recommend you also check out my article on how to start a vegan diet for some extra tips and ideas for foods to eat.

1. Eat more food and increase calories

I know, I’m stating the obvious. But there’s no getting around the fact that you need consume more food which is more calorically dense and also increase the number of meals you’re having each day.

So if you normally have two meals during the day, consider having 3 big meals and one or two snacks in between them.

Choose foods which really increase your caloric intake without making you feel too full. These would be foods like sweet potatoes, olive oil, avocado, beans, vegan vegetable burgers, soy milk etc. You can also consume healthy treats like dry fruit, or have some chocolate, which is high in fat and has a lot of calories per serving.

Drinking smoothies or meal replacement shakes are also another excellent way of getting lots of plant-based nutrition and increasing your calorie intake. These can be especially useful if you’re quite busy and find yourself missing meals often. Protein bars can be another option for you.

Check out some more ideas here on how to increase calorie intake.

Also, don’t forget to check out how many calories you’re actually eating by using a tool to track it. That would be a great starting point so you can tell how many calories you need to aim for each day to gain weight at a steady pace.

2. Change your macronutrient balance

Use a programme like CRON-O-METER to check out the percentage of carbohydrates, fats, and protein you’re consuming.

I found that eating a lot of carbohydrates made it difficult to gain weight. The way I saw better gains was to increase the number of healthy fats in my diet from nuts, seeds, avocado and olive oil.

Protein powders were also very helpful too. Find out more about the benefits of drinking protein shakes on a vegan diet.

All three macronutrients are important in the diet and each serves a purpose, but plant-foods tend to be really high in water, low in calories and can get you feeling full fast. This will make it much harder to consume the amount of food you need to gain the weight.

Fat, on the other hand, has 9 k/calories per gram and can be added to many different meals easily. Even if you were to have a piece of wholemeal bread, you can put a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil on there and a banana. Simple and fast!

If your fat intake comprises of around 10% of your diet right now, consider raising that to 20-30% and raise your protein intake to 15%. The rest will come from calorically dense carbohydrates. But of course, don’t forget the greens! I’m not saying don’t eat them, but don’t make a gigantic salad with them which takes you an hour to eat.

3. Smoothies are easy calories

Although I’m not a big green smoothie drinker as I used to be (I prefer to have whole meals), I still drink them a few times a week. During my weight gain phase, they were great because I could get in a lot of calories and not feel extremely full doing so.

You can throw so many different foods into a smoothie and usually, it comes out tasting great. Usually. 😉

Well, there’s been a few times where the smoothie has gone to waste because of bad food combinations, but there are plenty of ideas out there for some tasty smoothies.

Throw in some fruits like mangos, pineapple, avocado, bananas, flaxseeds, vegan protein powder, almond milk (or other vegan milk) with about 30% greens like baby spinach and you’re good! Oh and the water… Don’t forget that.

4. Add in healthy snacks

It’s movie time and you’re ready to sit down to enjoy. Why not get some snacks in during this time? It could be some grapes, mixed nuts, dried fruit, vegan muffins or vegan yogurt.

We tend to eat more when we’re not paying attention. Whether it be watching TV or being at the computer.

5. Less running more weights

If you’re doing intense cardio workouts, why not change that up for some walks, gardening and other activities which don’t burn up a lot of calories?

Go to the gym and start lifting weights to build up muscle. This will help improve your confidence, muscle tone, balance, posture, reduce the risk of osteoporosis. It will also improve your mood and help reduce glucose levels by increasing insulin sensitivity.

Consider doing some yoga as well. It’s a low impact and low calorie and amazing for your health.

Maybe even get a trainer if you can afford it. They will be able to shape your body in the way you want.

 6. Don’t rush it

Crash dieting is not a good idea and neither is rapid weight gain. Any shock to the system is not good and can lead to long-term health complications down the line.

If you’re just gaining a pound a week, then that’s fantastic, you don’t really need to gain faster than that. This isn’t a race, but you’re trying to get yourself in the best shape possible.

Of course, if you’re competing competitively in a sport then that’s a different story. You’re likely going to see bigger gains from the hard training and change in diet. But for the average person who has a pretty normal lifestyle, go slow and steady.

What you should not do

I’ve seen many different diets come and go over the last 15 years, and the ones I am certainly not a fan of are these mono-food diets. 30 bananas a day comes to mind. I simply do not think this is healthy and you’re missing out on a whole range of phytonutrients, not to mention a large amount of sugar you’re getting from the fruit.

  • Don’t eat 30 of anything a day whether it be mangos, bananas, dates or whatever. It’s not healthy in the long term.
  • Don’t eat until the point where you feel like you’re going to be sick.
  • Don’t rush while you eat. You want to digest the food well so you can absorb the nutrients.
  • Don’t rely on vegan cookies or any vegan junk food. They can be good for a treat every now and then, but should only be a small part of the diet.
  • Don’t add white sugar to your smoothies (I’ve seen vegans do this), and avoid high sugar drinks that have no nutritional value. Drink water or tea.

My own experience gaining weight healthily

Last I just want to share my story about my own weight gain.

I’ve been eating a largely raw food, plant-based diet now for over 15 years and there was a time when I was really skinny. These days my body is more athletic and lean and I never get any comments about being too skinny.

Ten years ago I was at my lowest BMI ever, it was around 16.3. Yeah, I know, crazy right? It was intentional because I had been practicing calorie restriction in order to slow down aging. I restricted my calorie intake to around 1550 k/cal per day and this is where my BMI dropped to before things started to stabilize.

According to blood work and other measurements of health, I was super healthy. But obviously, I never looked that way due to my low body weight.

I also felt that it was quite risky to maintain such a low body weight, so at some point, I decided to increase my calorie intake and raise my BMI to where I felt I looked healthier and was able to still maintain very good biomarkers (glucose, cholesterol, inflammation markers etc.)

When you’re at such a low weight, it can be quite difficult to gain it back, at least at first. I had to change the foods I was eating to include more calorically-dense foods and also cut back a bit on cardio workouts and start lifting weights instead to build muscle mass.

When you’re trying to gain weight, you’ don’t want to just pile on pounds of fat without increasing muscle mass. This will ensure that you have good insulin sensitivity and low glucose levels.

So anyway, I gained around 15 lbs and that put me around a BMI of 19.5, which falls within the healthy BMI range.

It’s still quite lean, but it still fits in with my practice of CR. For my body frame, this appears to be more healthy for me, but for someone with a larger frame, it might still look too skinny.

I gained this weight in just over three months. Which sounds like a lot of time for such a small amount of weight, but much of this was muscle.

In recent years my metabolism appears to have slowed down a lot, and now I’m able to maintain a BMI of 19.5 with a calorie intake of around 1600 k/cal per day. This works out perfectly for me!

Conclusion

A vegan diet can lead to significant weight loss which can be concerning if you already have a low body weight. But usually there is nothing wrong, but calorie intake has dropped a lot and you’re not making up for it by choosing foods which are high in calories.

This is pretty common in the raw food community, but once you understand ab it about nutrition and which foods to eat, it’s easy to maintain a healthy a susutainable weight on a vegan diet.

Vegan Breakfast for Healthy Skin and Hair

Starting off the morning with a good breakfast can really impact how you feel and look for the rest of the day. If you want glowing skin and beautiful thick hair, then opt for a breakfast which is loaded with vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats.

Most people who start their day do so in a rush. It can be a coffee, a few biscuits, or a cereal with heaps of sugar. And sure they have some nutritional value, but they’re not the best choices. And many people end up with a crash in the early afternoon.

Over the years I’ve experimented with different routines and foods in the morning, and what I’ve noticed is that eating a mostly raw food breakfast makes me feel my best and look my best.

I don’t subscribe to eating completely raw, I don’t think it’s necessary, but having fresh fruits and vegetables in our diet can really change the way we look within a short period of time. The hair takes a little longer, but you’ll notice the difference after being consistent for some time.

Before, I used to start off my day with a green smoothie. And I think that’s okay because you’re getting the fiber, vitamins, and minerals you need, but it can also damage your teeth, sometimes give a blood sugar spike (include blueberries to prevent that spike), and to be honest, smoothies can get a little boring after a while.

Since I’ve been eating this breakfast, my HbA1c level was measured at 4.8%. You could skip the wholemeal bread and replace it with a veggie wrap like iceberg lettuce if you wish. That also lowers the calories significantly as well.

Also, check out my post for more tips on growing hair on a vegan diet.

My daily vegan breakfast!

My breakfast takes about 25 minutes to make, so it’s not exactly easy for those in a rush early in the morning or on-the-go, but if you have a bit of time, try it out!

Avocado

avocado contain healthy fats to improve skin health

Avocado is loaded with healthy fats such as alpha-linolenic acid (220 mg of omega 3 per avocado) and monounsaturated fats. These help keep your skin glowing and hair shiny by increasing lipids and hydrating your skin and hair. They also possess anti-inflammatory properties, which will reduce redness and improve skin radiance.

Avocados are also full of carotenoids which help give you a healthy glow which is perceived as healthier than getting a tan from sun exposure according to research!  Also contains B vitamins, vitamin C, vitamin E which help keep the skin and hair healthy by fighting free radical damage.

Avocado is my favorite food in the whole world! I start off my day with one whole avocado. It goes with many different foods, including smoothies, and it’s packed full of goodness!

Avocado is fairly high in calories, so if you’re eating a woman and are eating a low-calorie diet, you might want to cut it in half and put the rest in the refrigerator for the next day.

Spinach

spinach contain lutein and antioxidants for good skin

Spinach is really a powerhouse when it comes to its nutritional profile. Debate whether or not it’s a ‘superfood’, but it’s certainly one which holds its own among the healthiest foods to eat.

Spinach contains a lot of lutein, which has been proven to improve skin lipids, increase the water content of the skin decrease, and reduce fine lines. Lutein also has significant antioxidant effects and reduces damage from UV rays.

Being a carotenoid, it accumulates in the skin and helps create a natural healthy ‘glow’ to the skin.

Spinach also contains significant amounts of iron. Eating 100g of raw spinach will provide you with about 34% of your iron needs. And of course, this is important for carrying oxygen around your body to your skin and hair follicles! Vegans need to be especially careful about making sure they get enough iron in their diet.

Spinach is also loaded with vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene, which is converted to vitamin A in the body and helps improve skin health. Carotene can also cause a change in skin color making it look healthier.

Spinach also contains significant amounts of vitamin C, Vitamin E, Potassium, and Magnesium. All of which are important for skin and hair health.

And finally, spinach has a high water content which will help keep you hydrated.

Cucumber

cucumber helps hydrate the skin

Cucumber is comprised of 96% water. Most people have probably seen someone put them over their eyes to help skin hydration and remove dark circles, but simply eating them will give you lots of hydration!

Cucumber also contains many nutrients beneficial for skin and hair health like magnesium, potassium, vitamin A, and silica.

Make sure that you leave the skin on the cucumber because this is where many of the nutrients including silica are concentrated in.

Sweet cherry tomatoes and sauce

tomatoes contain lycopene for healthy skin

I also add a few cherry tomatoes to my breakfast for their delicious sweet taste and powerful antioxidants. Lycopene is concentrated in the skin of the tomatoes but is more bioavailable when cooked. I normally eat them raw with my breakfast but cook them for other meals.

Lycopene is a known DHT inhibitor which can help prevent hair loss and improve prostate health in men. It also helps protect the skin against photodamage, as well as improve skin health and alter skin color as it accumulates.

I also add a bit of ketchup because it is processed and has a lot more lycopene per gram than raw tomatoes.

Spring onions

spring onions contain sulfur for good skin

Spring onions are part of the allium family of vegetables and much of their benefit is thanks to their high sulfur compounds. These help improve blood flow which will give a nosy rosy glow and also improve blood flow to hair follicles.

I find spring onions a little milder than red onions and that’s why I choose to add them instead.

Spring onions also are a great source of vitamin C, vitamin A, and Vitamin K.

Red bell peppers

I also add half a Red bell pepper to my breakfast for the taste and also for its very high vitamin C content.

Red bell peppers also are full of powerful antioxidants such as lutein, beta-cryptoxanthin, and zeaxanthin. All of which are known to improve skin and hair health according to research.

Bell peppers are also a great source of silicon which can improve hair growth and skin health.

 

 

bell peppers contain large amounts of vitmain c for skin health

Mexican spicy bean burger

Breakfast is served! 🙂

Mexican bean burgers are spicy and delicious! Not too filling, but t

hey have about 200 kcal as well as 5.1 grams of protein and just 2.3 g of sugar.

They contain kidney beans, haricot beans, dried potato, tomato puree, and spices such as cumin, chili flakes, paprika, oregano, cayenne pepper (great for blood flow!), parsley, black pepper, and garlic powder. Also contains onion, green pepper, carrot and sweet corn.

I also add a few raisins 🙂

Drink

And after my breakfast, I wash it down with a cup of green tea with ginger and turmeric. Green tea has contained antioxidants such as EGCG which helps improve skin health and blocks DHT to prevent hair loss.

Turmeric and ginger contain powerful anti-inflammatory compounds which help improve and may help block DHT which is which cause hair loss in men.

Get your ‘5 a day’ (or more) in by the morning

You’ll feel much better, look healthier, and you’ll be providing your body with all the nutrients and antioxidants it needs to help you look your best.

I’m convinced that just after sleep, how we start off our morning can have a significant impact on how we look and feel throughout the day.

And if you keep eating healthy and being consistent with it, you’ll have beautiful healthy skin and gorgeous silky hair in no time!

 

White Tea With Pomegranate – Health Benefits

White tea with Pomegranate is a great combination and provides unique and powerful antioxidants for better health and wellness. White tea has a more delicate and has a milder taste than green tea. And with the natural sweetness and tangy flavor of pomegranate, this combination is a delightful drink if you’re looking for something different.

The first time I had tasted this tea was in a hotel in Oxford. It might’ve been the first time I had ever tasted pomegranate actually, and I’m glad that I tried it out! Before trying out this tea, I had always had my green tea infused with lemon, strawberry or ginger.

White tea isn’t nearly as popular as black and green tea, but pomegranate is a popular fruit here and most people have probably come across them before.

But for those who’ve never heard of white tea and pomegranate, let’s see what they’re all about.

What is White Tea?

White tea actually comes from the same plant as green and black tea (Camellia sinensis). It’s grown in some of the same areas of the world, mainly in China, Thailand, and other Asian countries.

The main difference with white tea is that it undergoes very little processing, and the leaves are harvested at the tip when they are very young. This is the reason why it has such a mild and delicate flavor.

For this reason, white tea is suitable medium to add other flavors from fruits and herbs. The flavor of the tea is not overpowering any other ingredient and blends in very well.

For people who find green tea too bitter and strong, white tea is a great alternative and provides a lot of the same benefits as green tea because of its high polyphenol content.

Health benefits

White tea has not been studied as much as green tea, but since they share many of the same compounds, it’s expected that they share similar health benefits. In fact, some research suggests that white tea may have unique and more powerful benefits over green tea.

#1 Protects against cavities

Gum disease and tooth decay is a serious health problem and not just a cosmetic one. Gum disease is thought to be linked with heart disease, neurodegenerative disease, and possibly even cancer. The reasons are thought to be because of bacterial toxins and inflammation caused by the disease.

So then, how can white tea help prevent cavities and gum disease?

in a study published in 2016, researchers used a white tea mouthrinse to see if it has an effect on plaque development.

White tea was shown to be effective in inhibiting the growth of bacteria which cause plaque build-up and tooth decay. However, the result was not as strong as a chlorhexidine mouthwash. Nevertheless, white tea could be a useful preventative alongside normal dental hygiene [1].

White tea and its antioxidants may also help prevent inflammatory and the destructive process of periodontal disease by blocking MMP enzymes and inhibiting bacterial growth.

#2 Protect against sun damage and skin wrinkling

white tea may stop skin aging
Source Anti-collagenase, anti-elastase and anti-oxidant activities of extracts from 21 plants. (cc license.2.0

The high level of polyphenols in tea known as catechins have been shown in studies to protect against the damaging effects of UV rays by inhibiting various enzymes which cause the breakdown of collagen in the skin.

With their powerful free radical scavenging effects and ability to dampen the immune system response to prevent inflammation and tissue destruction, as well as up-regulate DNA repair, white tea may help prevent the development of skin aging.

Studies have also been conducted showing that topical extracts of white tea (2%) is effective in treating photoaging and preventing wrinkle formation in the skin [2]. In humans, tea polyphenols have been linked to improved elastic content in skin[3]

And finally, in a study published in 2009, researchers looked at the effect of 21 plants on their anti-elastase and antioxidant activities. They found that white tea out of the 21 plants had the highest level of phenolic content and had significant anti-elastase and anti-collagenase activities.

Applied topically, white tea may also help treat hyperpigmentation due to it being a potent tyrosinase inhibitor.

#3 Reduces fat and boosts metabolism

People who are struggling to lose fat might benefit from drinking white tea due to its high concentration of polyphenols which is able to promote the breakdown of fat cells by increasing lipolysis-activity. And not only that, it also may help prevent the formation of new fat cells!

White tea might, therefore, be a great way to boost metabolism and further help weight loss if you’re finding yourself stuck at your current weight and are still looking to shed a few more pounds of fat. [4]

#4 Protects against cancer

White tea also contains compounds which may cause cancer cells to self-destruct and die. The only good cancer cell is a dead cancer cell.

Although the study using white tea extract was done in a test tube, we know from multiple studies with green tea (a more popular beverage) that it has protective effects against cancer in humans.

The study showed that white tea was able to effectively prevent the colon cancer cells from spreading and at the same time it was able to protect healthy cells.

Tip: consider adding some fresh citrus fruit with your tea. Vitamin C can increase absorption and catechin levels in the gut.

#5 Protects against toxicity

White tea has been found to protect against various types of toxicity. In a recent study, to be published in June 2018, white tea was able to protect against benzo(a)pyrene-induced toxicity and liver dysfunction.

Studies have also shown that the compounds in white tea may protect against neurotoxicity.

#6 Improves cognition

Due to the polyphenols found in white tea, as well as l-theanine, white tea may be able to improve cognitive function and reducing the progression of cognitive progression in the elderly according to a pilot study.

Although the study used green tea, the same compounds are found (sometimes in higher amounts) in white tea than green tea, and therefore similar results should be observed with white tea. [5]

What is Pomegranate?

Pomegranates are considered berries and the fruit are tiny, measuring just 2-5 inches. It is certainly one type of fruit that is overlooked often and not as popular as it should be, especially given its numerous health benefits.

It is loaded with vitamins, minerals, and powerful antioxidants such as punicalagins, punicic acid, tannins, and anthocyanins. Together, these make the fruit what could be considered a superfood and one which has strong health-promoting effects if consumed regularly.

Some teas may contain more pomegranate than others, and therefore the concentration of these compounds will vary. However, you can also create your own and add as much as you like. 🙂

Health benefits

These are just a few of the known health benefits of pomegranates according to the latest research.

#1 Reduces inflammation

Inflammation is destructive when out of control, but pomegranate might be able to help. Research has shown that various parts of the fruit such as the peels, flowers, seeds and the juice have significant anti-inflammatory effects in the gut. [6]

In a study published in 2010 in the American Society of Nephrology, researchers found that pomegranate juice was able to significantly reduce inflammation, tissue destruction and complications such as infection in kidney disease patients.

The combination of pomegranate and white tea may be a powerful combination in preventing inflammation in the body.

#2 Improves heart health

Heart disease is one of the biggest killers in the world, but something which can often be prevented by adopting a healthy lifestyle. Well, add pomegranate to the list of beneficial fruits for heart-health.

Studies have shown that just a small amount of pomegranate a day can lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol and decrease plaque build-up in your arteries.

#3 Skin benefits

Pomegranate has shown to improve the ability of the skin to heal and wounds to close up faster by improving the organization of collagen and reducing overproduction of inflammatory cells. Pomegranate juice has also been found to block UV-B damage and therefore reduce skin aging caused by the sun.

#4 Improves oral health

The combination of white tea and pomegranate could boost the oral health of those who consume it. Pomegranate has been shown to strongly inhibit C. albicans and also bacterial growth which is responsible for plaque buildup in and tooth decay.

How to consume

White tea with pomegranate should be consumed on a regular basis to enjoy its health benefits.

Brew the tea without the addition of milk, because milk can bind to some of the beneficial compounds and reduce the health-promoting effects of the tea. And the tea without anything else added tastes much better.

Brew for about 2-3 minutes for the perfect tea!

Brands you should try out:

  • Buckingham Palace white tea, Rose, and pomegranate tea bags
  • Twinings Tea tea with Pomegranate
  • Lipton White tea with blueberry and Pomegranate
  • Check out teas to help you sleep and relax

Is Garlic Good for High Blood Pressure and Cholesterol?

High blood pressure testing
High blood pressure is a silent killer. Get tested!

Garlic has some amazing health benefits, one of them being its ability to significantly decrease blood pressure and reduce the risk of stroke and heart attacks. They call high blood pressure a ‘silent killer’ because the symptoms aren’t obvious. So how can you protect yourself using garlic and what is the best way to take it?

Garlic is an ingredient used a lot in different types of food. The problem is that the garlic is often cooked at high temperatures and the allicin, which is one of the main sulfur compounds in garlic, is significantly reduced to non-existent in the end product.

Garlic contains around 33 sulfur compounds in total, many of them have been identified as having positive effects on the human body. Allicin is really the star though, but it breaks down into various other compounds quite rapidly once ingested.

So the first rule of getting the most out of garlic is to simply eat it raw, and consume within about 10-15 minutes of it being crushed.

But now you run into another problem: if you eat a lot of garlic to really get the amazing benefits garlic has to offer, you will end up smelling like garlic. So garlic supplements are one ideal way you can take garlic for high blood pressure without the smell.

I personally consume two garlic cloves per day as well as taking 2-4 garlic capsules containing allicin.

How does garlic help blood pressure?

garlic in the diet may reduce blood pressure

Garlic has been extensively studied for its cardiovascular health benefits for a long time. Even as far back as the 1940s, researchers were investigating garlic’s health benefits.

Garlic, including Aged garlic extracts which contain S-alllylcysteine, have been shown to lower both diastolic and systolic blood pressure in humans. One of the ways that garlic is thought to work is by stimulating vascular hydrogen sulfide production and enhancing endothelial nitric oxide, which helps the blood vessels relax.

Even small decreases in blood pressure of just 10-20 mmHg can have massive effects on reducing the risk of heart attacks and strokes, especially in those with a systolic blood pressure of >140 mmHg and a diastolic of >90 mmHg.

It a meta-analysis of 61 prospective studies and over 1 million patients, it’s estimated that reducing blood pressure by that amount would reduce the number of deaths by 50%! [1]

Taking garlic either in the raw form of capsules may help reverse high blood pressure by restoring redox balances for eNOS-dependent pathways to promote vascular relaxation and lower blood pressure.

Garlic can promote vascular health in several ways

  • Garlic may act as a natural ACE-inhibitor, similar to medications that are used to treat high blood pressure
  • Garlic may help reduce inflammation and oxidative damage to the vascular wall
  •  Aged Garlic Extract has potent antiglycation effects, thereby helping reduce crosslinking and stiffening of the arteries with age
  • Garlic is a potent antimicrobial and may prevent and manage inflammatory conditions which raise levels of inflammatory cytokines and proteins which cause dysfunction to the vascular system

What is the evidence?

Garlic powder Supplements

According to research, garlic appears to be especially useful for people who are hypertensive. A meta-analysis was published in 2008 which looked at studies published between 1955 and 2007 showed that by examining 25 studies, they were able to show that garlic was able to reduce blood pressure significantly.

  • They showed that there was a mean decrease in systolic blood pressure (SBP) of 4.6 +/- 2.8 mmHg for the group consuming garlic compared to the placebo
  • They showed that there was a mean decrease in the hypertensive subgroup of 8.4 +/- 2.8 mmHg for SBP
  • They also showed that garlic was able to reduce diastolic blood pressure by 7.3 +/- 1.5 mmHg compared to the placebo

Read more on the meta-analysis here.

Another more recent meta-analysis was also performed and published in the Journal of Nutrition shows that Garlic lowers blood pressure in hypertensive individuals and lowers cholesterol.

The looked at 20 clinical trials with 970 patients and showed in the hypertensive subgroups there was a systolic blood pressure decrease of 8.7 +/0 2.2 mmHg and diastolic blood pressure decrease of 6.1 +/- 1.3 mmHg.

Cholesterol was also looked at and they saw a decrease of 10% if the garlic supplement was taken for at least 2 months and baseline cholesterol was over 200 mg/dL.

Aged Garlic

In another study published in 2013, researchers used Aged Garlic Extract in a double-blind randomized placebo-controlled trial for 12 weeks.

There were 79 patients in the study who had uncontrolled systolic hypertension.

Three groups took different doses of garlic: 240 mg, 480 mg, and 960 mg.

The 4th group took the placebo.

The group who took 480 mg of Aged Garlic Extract per day over the 12 weeks appeared to benefit most from the garlic.

In the group taking 480 mg of garlic, systolic blood pressure was reduced by 11.8 +/- 5.4 mmHg compared to the placebo. The group taking just one garlic capsule a day did not show any significant benefit in lowering blood pressure. [3].

Kwai Garlic

Kwai garlic in these meta-analyses did not show any improvement in blood pressure. This is a popular garlic tablet that many people take for heart health, but it appears that it is not effective for reducing hypertension in humans.

Fresh Garlic

Fresh garlic intake has been linked to lower blood pressure but the evidence is weak. People who tend to include garlic in their diet also have healthier diets in general.

To match the doses of garlic used in these studies to treat high blood pressure, one would have to consume between 1-3 fresh cloves of garlic per day or more.

This is quite easy to do, and 2 cloves of garlic a day shouldn’t be a problem. If you start increasing your garlic consumption to 3-4 per day or more, you might begin to smell of garlic. 🙂

Flaws in some garlic studies

Some of the studies performed on garlic are quite old and did not utilize more effective garlic supplements with stabilized allicin.

The amount of garlic one gets from certain garlic tablets can vary dramatically depending on the conditions of the stomach and how the powder is encapsulated.

Nevertheless, garlic has many wonderful health properties and should be consumed on a regular basis! Research suggests that overall, fresh garlic is healthy for you and that taking garlic supplement may be a convenient and easy way (without the smell) of getting those beneficial compounds.

Conclusion

Garlic appears to be effective for blood pressure, especially when taken as a supplement. However, if you are fine with consuming a few cloves of garlic each day, then you may be able to replicate these effects as seen in the studies on blood pressure by consuming up to 3 cloves per day.

I like to consume both fresh garlic and take garlic supplements and get the benefits of both.

And finally, for people who have a sensitive stomach, I would recommend taking a garlic supplement instead of eating raw garlic every day. Raw garlic can cause burning and stomach upset, especially if consumed with little food.

More tips for lowering blood pressure with diet by Dr. Michael Gregor

References

  1. Age-specific relevance of usual blood pressure to vascular mortality: a meta-analysis of individual data for one million adults in 61 prospective studies. Lewington S, Clarke R, Qizilbash N, Peto R, Collins R, Prospective Studies Collaboration. Lancet. 2002 Dec 14; 360(9349):1903
  2. Effect of garlic on blood pressure: A systematic review and meta-analysis BMC Cardiovasc Disord. 2008; 8: 13. Published online 2008 Jun 16:  10.1186/1471-2261-8-13
  3. Aged garlic extract reduces blood pressure in hypertensives: a dose-response trial Eur J Clin Nutr. 2013 Jan; 67(1): 64–70. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3561616/

Best Milk Substitute for Vegans to Use in Cereal and Other Foods

Milk is a staple of many people’s diets, but us vegans have to look for substitutes that we can use in our diet. Fortunately, we are spoiled for choice for non-dairy milk, and you can be sure that you won’t feel that you miss dairy at all.

These vegan milk substitutes are often fortified with Vitamin D and Calcium to make up for what you’re not getting any more from regular dairy milk.

And because there are so many choices, different types of milk can be used for different things. They are perfect for cereal, tea, hot chocolate, baking, smoothies or even protein drinks.

In this article, I will go over the best substitutes to milk on a vegan diet! 🙂

Why Vegan Milk is a healthier choice

Drinking non-dairy milk can have many benefits and even for non-vegans. If I had known about these milk-substitutes before I was vegan, I would have swapped out dairy in a heartbeat. Not just because they taste so good, but because of the negative health effects of dairy.

  1. Regular milk produces a large spike in insulin and IGF-1, this can increase the risk of cancer and has been shown to worsen acne.
  2. Many people have lactose intolerance. This means they lack the enzyme lactase which is required to break down lactose present in the milk. This can lead to chronic stomach issues like flatulence, diarrhea, upset stomach, cramps and pain.
  3. Studies have shown that hormones present in milk might be implicated in the development of chronic disease in humans and even cancer.
  4. Antibiotic usage is high in animals. They can be used prophylactically to prevent disease where animals are in close proximity to each other. This may be a reason for increasing antibiotic resistance that we’re seeing.
  5. Some vegan milk alternatives contain beneficial compounds which may improve and be protective against certain diseases.

Best healthy vegan milk alternatives

Below are some of my favorite types of non-dairy milk substitutes which I include in my diet. I will typically rotate them over a period of weeks.

#1 Oat Milk

Oat milk is created from oats which are soaked in water, blended and strained. It’s delicious, nutritious and creamy. It’s great to use in smoothies and in cereals. You can also easily make your own oat milk and it’s quite inexpensive!

Oat milk is one of my favorite non-dairy substitutes that I keep going back to

Below are a few reasons why you should include oat milk in your diet.

  • Contains a significant amount of calcium which is great for bone health
  • Low in saturated fat which is known to raise LDL cholesterol
  • Great vegan substitute for people who have a nut allergy or allergic to soy
  • Contains beta-glucan which helps boost your immune system!
  • Great replacement for milk in cereals

If you’ve eaten oatmeal before then you’re probably going to like oat milk. Although it doesn’t taste exactly the same, it is pretty tasty and can be added to many types of foods and recipes.

#2 Almond Milk

Almond milk is probably on par with oat milk for being my favorite non-dairy, milk-substitute. After having consumed other types of vegan milk for years, almond milk was the very last one that I tried.

And it’s not like I didn’t like almonds (I love them!), but I just wasn’t curious enough to try it out until late 2016.

So now when I make my morning oatmeal, I will usually use almond milk with it.

Almond milk also has many potential health benefits. Below are a few of the reasons why you should try it.

  • If you have gluten intolerance, it’s a great substitute for both dairy and oat milk and has a similar texture
  • Often you’ll find that almond milk is fortified with vitamins and minerals to increase its nutritional content
  • It’s very low in calories
  • It’s very low in sugar and doesn’t cause blood sugar spikes
  • Tastes very nice with cereals like oatmeal

Almond milk is suitable to use in your tea, cereal, smoothies and you can even bake with it.

When choosing an almond milk, make sure it is unsweetened.

Three almond milk brands here without carrageenan and guar gum.

#3 Soy Milk

Soy milk can take a bit more getting used to for a lot of people. When I first tried plain soy milk I didn’t really like it at all, so I decided to add it to hot chocolate instead. Now soy milk comes in many different flavors, making it more popular with vegans as a milk substitute.

My main interest in adding soy milk to my diet at the time was due to the health benefits associated with soy that were being reported.

It was one of the first types of milk that I tried after going vegan when I was looking something which could replace the cow’s milk I was using in my diet.

Soy milk also has a great nutritional profile by providing minerals like calcium, potassium, zinc, and iron. Many soy milk brands also contain B12, B6, and Vitamin D.

A few of the health benefits which have been shown to be linked with increased soy consumption include the following:

  • Great for women who are postmenopausal due to its high phytoestrogen content
  • May decrease the risk of osteoporosis, especially in women due to isoflavones in soy milk
  • Soy milk might decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease by lowering cholesterol
  • Soy milk may decrease the risk of breast cancer in women and prostate cancer in men

Soy milk isn’t my favorite tasting milk, but it’s perfect for the hot chocolate that I occasionally enjoy.

If you’ve never tried soy milk before, the taste might surprise you, but you can get used to it. Or you can simply pick up a flavored version.

#4 Coconut Milk

The first time I ever tried coconut milk was in a Thai soup called Tom Kha when I went to California. It usually has chicken, but I substituted that for mushrooms. And I fell in love with the taste of coconut milk from that point. I

love warm coconut milk in soups to this day but I only have it every now and then due to its high amount of saturated fat.

That being said, some studies have shown that coconut milk may actually raise HDL cholesterol and lower LDL in the general population. [1] However, a vegan or person on a CR diet may experience the opposite and have their cholesterol raised.

Coconut milk is also high in calories but contains many different vitamins and minerals such as vitamin C, folate, iron, magnesium, potassium, copper, and selenium.

Here are some of the benefits of coconut milk

  • Coconut milk may help reduce inflammation in the body
  • Lauric acid found in coconuts may help reduce bacterial and viral infections
  • Coconut milk may help boost metabolism and help with weight loss according to research

Coconut milk can also be added to tea, smoothies, and perfect to cook with due to its low amount of polyunsaturated fat and high saturated fat content.

I would go easy on the coconut milk and have it as a treat. For me, the taste is a bit too addicting!

How to Go Vegan Without Losing Weight

weighing scales

A vegan diet is a fantastic way to lose weight and become healthier, but not everyone wishes to lose weight on the diet. In fact, some people struggle to maintain their weight, and this can be a problem for those who are already quite lean. So here’s how you can go vegan without losing weight.

See, the problem with a plant-based (healthy) vegan diet is that people are used to eating certain sized portions and a certain volume of food. And when you start eating healthily, you may not adjust the portion sizes accordingly to maintain your body weight.

Fruits and vegetables have a lot of water content and are generally low in calories. When I see family or friends try to diet, they’ll make these tiny little salads which are very energy-deficient. It’s no wonder why so many people fail on diets.

With a vegan diet, you can successfully lose weight, maintain it, or even become a bodybuilder if you want to.

It’s simply about choosing the right foods to eat.

How to maintain your weight

Studies have shown that when a person starts a vegan diet, they’ll dramatically decrease their calorie intake. Even when compared to vegetarians, vegans are often found to be leaner and healthier on average.

Unless you’re being intentional about trying to really go for calorie-dense foods and drinking lots of fruit smoothies which are loaded with sugar, you’ll most likely lose weight without even trying.

That’s awesome for someone who is a bit on the heavier side, but for people who already have a low BMI, it can lead to concern from family and friends.

If you’re new to a vegan diet, then it might be a bit confusing trying to figure out which foods you should eat that are both healthy and calorie-dense. So let’s take a look at some of the healthiest calorie-dense foods on a vegan diet to help you maintain your weight! 🙂

After you finish this article, also check out my guide on how to start a vegan diet for some more tips!

Vegan foods that are high in calories

potato

  1. Beans – I eat a variety of beans in my diet. They provide a lot of calories and are a great source of protein and fiber, as well as being one of the foods which are associated with longevity!
  2. Avocado – Every morning I start my day with an avocado! It is super healthy with its healthy fat profile and can be added to so many different foods. You can simply spread it on some bread, add to your plate of steamed vegetables. What I do is have wholemeal bread, avocado, Mexican bean burger and a small number of raisins. Quick, tasty, and easy!
  3. Nuts – Nuts are packed with nutrition and calories. Eat a variety of nuts like walnuts, almonds, brazil nuts. I like adding them to my oatmeal.
  4. Sweet Potatoes – Sweet potatoes are rich in beta-carotene and calorie-dense. They are a very healthy food, so include them often in your main meals and drizzle them with a bit of olive oil to help add extra calories and absorb the beta-carotene.
  5. Extra Virgin Olive Oil – High in monounsaturated fat and oleic acid which are anti-inflammatory and healthy. Just one tablespoon (13.5 g) of olive oil has 119 Calories.
  6. Vegan protein drinks – Drinking protein shakes with meals and after workouts is a great way to maintain muscle and healthy body composition.
  7. Healthy treats – Vegan organic chocolate can be eaten sparingly to help maintain a higher weight.
  8. Smoothies –  Smoothies can be a great way to get a lot of calories fast and easy. Green smoothies also rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber. To boost up calories, try adding avocado and seeds to your smoothies.

As you can see, iceberg lettuce doesn’t make it on the list! In order to maintain weight, you’re going to have to think differently about portion sizes and perhaps even track your calorie intake to see how many calories you’re getting. You might be seriously underestimated your calorie intake on this diet.

It’s very common for people to undereat significantly on a vegan diet and feel weak and dizzy. I think this is why so many people quit the diet. They make simple mistakes which could be easily avoided.

Get enough calories

To determine whether or not you’re getting enough calories, you can use different calculators online which will estimate how many calories need to maintain your bodyweight.

It’s a pretty simple concept: eat enough!

But I know from first-hand experience that eating enough calories on a plant-based, vegan diet, can be quite difficult because most of the foods are very low in calories.

When I first started a CR diet, I would have these huge bowls of vegetables which would take me literally an hour to finish. Seriously!

My stomach would be so full after the meal, but yet I was still losing a significant amount of weight each week. It never felt like I was restricting my calories at all. It felt like I was eating more food than ever before.

And sure, I was eating a far bigger volume of food than I was used to eating, but even then the total calorie intake for a typical day was barely 1500k/cal per day.

Now think about what I said earlier with people new to eating this way… They will normally have the same sized dishes, with a few chopped up lettuce leaves, tomatoes, a small potato and a carrot stick. This is simply not enough food.

On a vegan diet, you have so many options. Be open-minded and explore new things!

Exercising

woman doing yoga

How much are you exercising every day and what type of exercise?

If you like running, martial arts, or any other energy-intensive activity, these can take up a lot of calories, so you need to make sure you’re compensating by adding in extra calories.

You can also simply find a better balance. Maybe if you run a lot, but not competitively, cut back a bit and focus on other types of exercise like yoga, weight training to build muscle.

Going on a vegan diet, eating healthily, and training your body can get you an awesome physique in no time!

It will also help stimulate your appetite! 🙂

Other ideas to maintain weight

So now you have a better idea of the types of food you should include your diet to maintain your weight, let’s take a look at how you can adjust your daily habits as well.

  • Eat your meals at set times, and don’t miss them
  • Include healthy snacks in between your meals
  • Studies have shown that eating with other people increases food intake by up to 18%
  • One known trick is to use larger plates when serving food
  • Use herbs in your diet like peppermint, ginger, cinnamon, chamomile, lemon balm and others, which can prevent nausea and stimulate appetite. Adjusting to larger  food portion sizes can be difficult, but these should help
  • Don’t drink large amounts of water before meal time (fruits and veggie have a lot already!)
  • Make sure you don’t become deficient in vitamins and minerals which may reduce appetite. Zinc deficiency is one well-known cause of loss of appetite and vegan may be at risk.

Getting used to the larger portion sizes can be a difficult part. As I said earlier, I would eat so much food my stomach would be bloated and yet there was barely 500 k/cal in the meal.

Your stomach can adjust over time, so gradually increase your meal sizes if you have to.

How not to do it

choice between healthy and unhealthy vegan (meat) substitutes
Choose healthy vegan foods instead of vegan processed meat-alternatives

It might be tempting to go for the junk food to get those extra calories, but don’t do it. Be conscious about what you’re putting into your body.

Occasionally, it is fine to eat these foods, but the majority of your diet should be healthy. If you do this, you will maintain a healthy body weight, look great, and drastically reduce the risk of disease.

You may also even live a lot longer than average.

There are plenty of vegans out there who only eat junk food and are putting their health at risk. Junk food is junk food no matter if it’s vegan or not.

Be the best example to others by taking care of yourself in a healthy way.

Conclusion

A vegan diet can be an extremely healthy way of living and fit almost any type of lifestyle if done correctly. There are however many pitfalls which can be easy to fall into.

For a person to be successful on a vegan diet, it can take a bit of time adjusting and learning some of the basics.

With the right information, you can successfully maintain your weight on the diet and be in control of your health.