Sunday, February 18, 2007

How To Avoid Constipation on a Vegetarian Diet

Question For Savvy Vegetarian: I just started a veggie diet and am trying to do vegan as well. It has been about 2 months and we decided for health resons to change over. My question is after all I read about veganism etc...people are saying that constipation should never be an issue. Of course I am writing because it is an issue. I eat oatmeal for breakfast with flax seeds, salads for lunch, with maybe some toast with peanut butter, and for dinner I usually make a whole grain pasta, or bean dish, etc...I have been trying to eliminate processed foods. - L.C.

Advice From Savvy Vegetarian:

Dear L.C.,

There are several reasons why people often become constipated when they first go veg, in spite of eating healthier than they ever have:

1. They eat a lot of heavy, bulky food that's hard to digest, like lots of whole grains and beans, tofu, nut butters, etc, and not enough juicy foods, like fruit and vegetables.

2. They don't have enough fat or liquid in their diet to help all that fiber and bulk to go through their digestive systems easily. Bulky, high fiber foods will soak up the water they need from your body, drying things out and causing back-ups. Fats like olive oil, flax oil, or any other oils are necessary to replace the fat you used to have in your diet. They lubricate your digestive system, soften fiber, and have nutrients you don't get anywhere else.

3. They haven't cleansed their digestive system of the accumulated waste from their former meat based diet. Meat digests poorly, as do highly refined, processed foods, fast food, junk foods - and leave behind a lot of sludge (called ama in Ayurveda). Add a lot of bulky, high fiber foods on top of that, without enough fat or liquid, and constipation is the result.

How To Avoid Constipation and Have Good Digestion On A Vegetarian Diet:

A lot of this advice comes from my my own experiences going veg, as well as my study of Ayurveda over the last twenty years. The Ayurvedic tradition is 5000 years old - that's a lot of time to get it right. I've also attached the SV Nutrition Report for you.

1. Being properly hydrated is the main thing for good digestion (our bodies are mostly water). Drink 2 - 4 quarts of room temperature or warm water daily, including at least a quart of warm water first thing in the morning (gets things moving). If you're using RO water, or distilled water, add minerals. Concentrace may be available in your local natural food store, or find it online - here's one source: Trace Minerals) Have other liquids also throughout the day, avoiding cold liquids, soft drinks, caffeine - all of which interfere with digestion. Until you are well hydrated, you may pee a lot, but that will balance out. The extra liquid flushes waste and toxins that have built up in your body.

2. Don't be afraid of fat. You need healthy fat. If you start gaining weight, cut back a bit, but don't go low fat unless you're on a strict weight reduction diet. Add unrefined, cold pressed oil, organic if possible, to everything you cook, including oatmeal. Your digestive system, your joints, your skin, all the organs of your body will thank you.

3. Grind flax seeds in a spice grinder before adding them to your oatmeal. The hard covering is otherwise impenetrable. And/or add flax oil. Raisins, chopped figs or dates are nice in oatmeal and have a laxative effect. Nuts and seeds are good too. Start with cold water, even soak overnight if possible, and cook with plenty of water until creamy. See Basic Oatmeal on Savvy Veg.

4. Ditch the peanut butter (hard to digest). Try hummus, avocado (high in omega 3 oils), almond butter, cashew butter, tahini, veggie spread - reduce the amount of nut butter you're eating in favor of whole nuts. Ayurveda says that nuts and seeds should be soaked, and almonds should be blanched. That's good if you can do it, but at least eat in moderation and chew well. A handful is a good serving size.

5. Besides salads, eat cooked veg, soups, stews - softens the fiber, making for easier digestion. See SV Recipes for ideas.
Veggies should predominate, followed by grains, then beans or lentils, then fruit. There should be a lot of liquid in various forms: in soups and stews, oil, sauces, salads, green veg, herb tea, fruit, etc.

6. Have herbs and spices with your foods. Cumin, coriander, ginger, asefetida, fennel, turmeric, bay leaf, cinnamon, cardamom, cayenne are all loaded with micro nutrients, help digestion, and prevent gas. Avoid too much salt.

7. Soak beans and cook until soft if you're cooking them yourself. Rinse well if using canned beans. I've attached the SV Bean Report for you.

8. Proportions: Eat less of the dense, high protein foods. You don't need nearly as much protein as you might think. See the Savvy Veg Article:
Protein and Vegetarian Diet. Veggies should predominate, followed by grains, then beans or lentils, then fruit. There should be a lot of liquid in various forms: in soups and stews, oil, sauces, salads, green veg, herb tea, fruit, etc.

9. 100% whole grains, especially wheat and rice, are heavy going until your digestion is fully functional, and used to your new diet. So it's okey to eat some refined grains with your whole grains. Regular pasta, for instance. Or half unbleached white flour in your muffins. Try other grains besides wheat and rice, like quinoa, millet, barley, and buckwheat, for example.

10. Gentle exercise like walking, swimming, bicycling, yoga are all good for digestion - if you work up a sweat, don't forget to drink more water.

11. Try to satisfy your sweet cravings with fresh sweet fruit, or juice, or dates. Try occasionally to make your own treats. Then you can control the ingredients, especially the sugar and fat, which for most recipes, can be cut in half or more without affecting the taste. Of course it's okay to have chocolate occasionally.

12. Eat your main meal at lunch, when your digestion is at it's peak. Eat lighter for supper, and try not to eat after early evening - your digestive system needs twelve hours of fasting to clean house. A relaxed unhurried attitude and atmosphere for eating is also good for digestion. Food is to enjoy!

Hope this helps!

All the best, Judy Kingsbury
Savvy Vegetarian

Thursday, June 29, 2006

New Vegetarian, Fish and Photography

Question For Savvy Vegetarian:

Hey! I just became a vegetarian because I saw the 'Meet Your Meat' video. When I told my mom I wanted to be a vegetarian, she asked me if I was still going to eat chicken and fish or not. At first I said no, but then I started thinking that if they're not being treated as bad as the pigs, cows, and chickens, then maybe I should start out eating fish then work my way off it. If I do end up eating fish, it will just be for a little while because I still think it's wrong to take them away from their homes and natural habitat. What do you think I should do as a starting vegetarian?

Savvy Veg Advice: I think you should take it easy, and gradually learn about vegetarian nutrition and how to cook vegetarian food. It takes a long time to become vegetarian, at least to do it right so you don't starve. So yes, it would be okay if you ate fish and eggs for a while, and gradually introduce new foods to replace them. The free reports I sent should be helpful.

I also had another question: Before I decided to be a vegetarian, I wanted to get into photography and developing pictures at home. But then I heard that the film contains gelatin (gross!) so now I'm having second thoughts about it. I was really interested in photography, and still am, but I don't know if those poor animals' lives would be worth the time and money. What do you think?

Savvy Veg Answer: Yes, film contains gelatin, but fortunately, there's digital photography. You can do all the same things with a digital camera, but - no film, no developing to pay for, you can edit your pictures on Photoshop and make them better, take 10 times more pictures at a time, and print your pictures. There's a big range of quality in digital cameras, from simple point and shoot to professional level - pick the one that works best for your budget and needs.

Good luck with your diet and your photography career! Let me know if you have more questions.

All the best,
Judy Kingsbury

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Indian Lacto-Veg Wants To Lose Weight

Question For Savvy Vegetarian:

I want to reduce about 10kg (22 lb). At present I am 85kg (195 lb) and aged 62 years having high blood pressure controlled with med. Sugar near border but ok generally.

Savvy Veg Advice:

Dear R.S.,

I hope you are under a doctor's care, regarding your diet. I can only give you the following general tips, as I am not a medical or nutritional advisor.

These are some widely accepted principles for weight loss: Reduce saturated fat, as in butter, ghee, coconut oil, milk and cheese. Use high quality cold-pressed, unprocessed vegetable oils in moderation. Reduce high fat foods such as tofu, panir, ghee, nuts, fried foods. Eat more fresh fruit, vegetables, salads, whole grains,and legumes. Drink herbal teas, fresh juices, or water, rather than carbonated, sweet or caffeinated drinks. Avoid sugar in general, and reduce salt. Follow an exercise program appropriate for your age and health, approved by your doctor.

All of the above may help you to lower your calorie intake, and gradually reduce weight, and may also have a good effect on blood pressure and blood sugar levels. Consult your doctor before modifying your diet.

I hope this helps - I've attached the SV Vegetarian Nutrition Report for you. Please let me know if you have more questions.

All the best,
Judy Kingsbury
Savvy Vegetarian

Friday, June 02, 2006

Do Yoga Teachers Have To Be Veg?

Question For Savvy Vegetarian:

I am going veggie, because I am going to become a yoga teacher. Part of the yogic lifestyle is vegetarianism.

When I eat a vegetarian meal, I am not usually satisfied. I feel like I'm eating side dishes with no entree. I try to include protein like cheese and nuts in my meals, but I'm still left unsatisfied. Any suggestions?

P.S. Going veggie is especially difficult for me because I'm pickey. I don't usually like vegetables after they've been cooked or heated. Can I live on cold salad? - M.P.

Savvy Veg Advice:

Dear M.P.,

It doesn't sound like you really want to go veg, M., but more that you think you should go veg, which isn't the best reason. I know many people who practice yoga and aren't complete vegetarians. Since you practice yoga, you should know that forcing your body to do something doesn't work.

If your conscience is stronger than your inclinations, then give yourself lots of time to make the transition - years maybe - while you explore all the veggie food possibilities and find a diet that works for you. You can live on cold salad if you want, but you don't have to! There's such a huge variety of delicious things to eat in a vegetarian diet.

All the best,
Judy Kingsbury
Savvy Vegetarian

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Family Makes Fun Of Veggie Lifestyle

Question For Savvy Vegetarian:

I need lots of help returning to a vegetarian lifestyle. My family makes fun of me, and I am lacking time to make elaborate meals. - L.M.

Savvy Veg Advice:

Dear L.M.,

You don't give your age, circumstances, or what your family situation is, although they sound like a typical family. Hardest on those they love! Try not to let them push your buttons - if there's no response, it's not nearly as much fun to make fun.

And it isn't necessary to make elaborate meals, or to go veg again overnight. Take it easy. If you're cooking for non-vegetarians, make one dish that you can eat, and/or add to - cheese, beans, nuts, tofu, tempeh, etc. Go for one dish meals, and set aside a portion without meat for yourself. If you make a veg stew or soup, grains, or beans, make extra and freeze serving size portions for yourself. Keep a few instant meals around for when you're pressed for time.

Check out Savvy Veg for recipes that are simple and easy to make, or get a cookbook like Nava Atlas's Five Ingredient Gourmet.

Thank you for subscribing to SV Updates. I've attached the SV Social Report as a Word document. I've also included the veg-nonveg report, thinking that it might be helpful to you.

All the best,
Judy Kingsbury,
Savvy Vegetarian

Friday, April 28, 2006

Going Veg With Food Allergies

Question for Savvy Vegetarian:

I am hoping you can help me with my dilemma. I want to become vegetarian, possibly vegan but I have medically verified allergies, some of which are life threatening, to almost every fruit, vegetable, nut, and seed that I have tried. What can I do? My situation has put me in a difficult position.- P.T.

Savvy Veg Advice:

Dear P.T.

I would imagine that your allergies seriously restrict your diet now, and I don't think that being vegetarian could make things worse. It's even possible your allergies could improve with a change in diet, especially if you went organic.

There's a book called the Food Allergy Survival Guide by vegans, Joanne Stepaniak and Dina Aronson, that I recommend. Sprouting could be useful for you. I think you'd be surprised at what you can do. There's such a wide variety of food available on a vegetarian diet -I'm optimistic that you could feed yourself.

I wouldn't say not to go vegan, but don't commit until you explore all your options.

All the best,
Judy Kingsbury
Savvy Vegetarian

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Does Vegetarian Diet Help Constipation?

Question for Savvy Vegetarian:

I am 26 yrs old and most of my life I have struggled with constipation, which led me to develop hemmoroids, I recently had them removed and the doctor has me drinking citrucel and metamucil, however these fiber supplements are hard for me to swallow, and I can't quite find the right balance in the pill form. I have been doing research on the vegetarian lifestyle and I would like to know if this would help me become healthier and feel better? - C.R.

Savvy Veg Advice

Dear C.R.,
Ouch! Poor you!
A vegetarian diet would definitely help, especially one that has a lot of liquid and fiber. In general, if you're prone to constipation, that means that you're a 'dry' or 'vata' person, in ayurvedic terms, and need a juicier diet. That means favoring fruits and vegetables, cooked grains, and legumes; also soups, stews, cooked cereal, salads, fresh fruit, juices, herbal teas, water etc. over drier and heavier foods. Easy on the cheese, chocolate, caffeine, too - they have a drying and binding effect.

There's a lot of research to support these suggestions, and I also know it works from my own experience. Adjusting my diet to my physical characteristics through Ayurveda was very helpful to me. Regular mild exercise like walking is good too.

Ayurvedic tips on constipation are available at MAPI (Maharishi Ayurvedic Products International)

Of course, you should check with your doctor before you make radical dietary changes while you recover from surgery.

I hope the SV 10 Tips and Nutrition Reports are helpful - please let me know how you're doing - Judy K. at Savvy Vegetarian