Food as medicine

Author: Linda Sinden   Date Posted:6 May 2020 

Healthy Choices on a Vegan Diet

"Let your food be your medicine and your medicine be your food" (Hippocrates 460-359 BC).

For over 4000 years, physicians of natural medicine have used food as a preventative to disease and as an essential part of medicine. Food is a major determinant of health that lies largely in your hands. While you cannot control pollution, hereditary factors, the environment, and the social and emotional behaviour of other people, you can choose what and what not to eat. Food is so important to human existence, and because it is utilised many times each day, it has a major effect on the body.

Decades of experience, culminating in more than a million vegans today, have shown that an appropriate vegan diet supports good health at all stages of life and reduces the risk of heart disease. This has been confirmed by independent scientific studies.

Variety is the key

Like any other form of diet, some vegan diets are more nutritionally complete than others. White bread, hydrogenated margarine and chips qualify as a vegan meal, but too many of these kinds of meals will remove the usual benefit of a vegan diet in reducing the risk of heart disease. Bananas are a healthy food in moderation, but anyone trying to live on bananas alone is headed for deficiency in about ten important nutrients.

The key principle for health in any diet is to eat a wide variety of plant foods, including plenty of richly coloured vegetables and fruits. Each food has different benefits, so the fewer foods you eat the less likely it is that all your needs will be met. Vegetables and fruits provide plenty of vital vitamins and minerals along with a host of other beneficial plant chemicals; in general, the richer the colour the better.

Processed and refined foods

Over-processed foods that have lost much of their nutritional value or have been transformed into unnatural and harmful forms should be used sparingly, if at all. Hydrogenated vegetable oils are one of the worst forms of processed food. Hydrogenation produces unnatural trans-fats, which have an even worse effect than ordinary saturated fat in raising cholesterol and increasing the risk of heart disease. Hydrogenated fat is found in most fast foods, hard margarines, doughnuts and biscuits, and in some vegan sausages and burgers. Prefer unprocessed foods and products stating that there is no hydrogenated fat.

Refined grains should not be a major part of a vegan diet. Prefer whole grains which are associated with many health benefits. At the same time, especially for the very old or very young, it is important not to overtax the body with more fibre than it is comfortable with. 

Nutrition Essentials

In conventional nutrition, animal products are seen as a key source of protein, iron, zinc and vitamin B12, while dairy products are seen as a key source of calcium. However, zinc and iron are found in useful amounts in many whole grains, nuts, seeds and legumes and vegans are no more likely to become anaemic than anyone else. When following a Vegan diet it is important to have your B12 levels checked regularly.

  • Moringa Organic is a good choice to support optimal nurition
  • The Moringa leaf is exceptionally nutritious. When fresh, they are rich in vitamin C. When carefully dried, Moringa leaves contain 25 times the iron of spinach, 17 times the calcium of milk, 10 times the vitamin A of carrots, many times the potassium of bananas and every essential amino acid your body needs. The leaves are rich in protein, vitamin A, vitamin B, vitamin C and minerals.

How do I get enough Protein?

Your daily protein needs can be easily met on a vegan diet. Most plant foods contain protein, and it is now thought that one of the benefits of a vegan diet is that it contains adequate but not excessive protein as too much protein, especially animal protein, can lead to serious health problems.

Protein is found in most plant foods, although some are better sources than others. Legumes are a particularly good source while fruit and vegetables are fairly low in protein.

Rich plant-based sources of protein include Almonds, brown rice, cashew nuts, chickpeas, kidney beans, lentils, pumpkin seeds, quinoa, oats and tofu.

How do I get enough Iron?

There is enough iron for the body's needs in a good vegetarian diet that includes plenty of green vegetables, whole grains, some beans, peas and nuts. There is a common misconception that vegetarians and vegans are at greater risk of iron deficiency and anaemia than omnivores. However, millions of vegans live perfectly healthy lives, without the need for iron supplementation.

Good vegetarian sources of iron include: Chickpeas, Dried fruit (apricots, dates, raisin and figs), Green vegetables (spinach), lentils, molasses, nuts, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, tofu, Whole grains (brown rice, quinoa, whole meal bread)

The role of Vitamin C in iron absorption 

Eating foods that are a good source of Vitamin C (e.g. citrus fruits, tomatoes, strawberries, kiwifruit) at the same time as foods containing iron helps the body to absorb the iron more easily. Choose meals that contain both iron and Vitamin C in their natural forms.

  • Premium Amla Berry can be taken at meal times when intake of Vitamin C from natural sources would be helpful.

Some foods inhibit iron absorption

While Vitamin C increases iron uptake, plant phytates and tannins inhibit iron absorption. Avoid drinking (non-herbal) tea and coffee with meals as the tannins in these beverages bind with the iron and prevent it being absorbed by your body. Other foods that inhibit iron absorption include: cocoa and spinach (contain oxalates); whole grains and bran products (high in phytates).

  • Iron Rich tablets can be helpful for those on a Vegan diet.
  • Iron Absorb can be taken along with Iron Rich to support the ability to absorb iron.

How do I get enough Calcium?

There are many plant-based sources of calcium, which can provide all the calcium you need for optimum nutrition and good bone health.

By way of example, 130 grams of spinach can provide about the same amount of calcium as a cup of cow's milk. Calcium status is not simply a matter of calcium intake, but also of calcium absorption. A high calcium intake does not guarantee calcium absorption. High protein intake, particularly animal protein, can inhibit the absorption of calcium. Sodium (salt) and high caffeine consumption can also affect the absorption of calcium.

Good non dairy sources of calcium include: Dried fruit (figs or apricots), Green leafy vegetables (spinach or cabbage) and Tofu. 

Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Magnesium and Potassium

Vitamin C, vitamin K, magnesium and potassium are all required for good bone health. A healthy and varied diet, which includes at least five servings of vegetables and fruit each day, will help ensure an adequate intake of these and other micronutrients.

The role of Vitamin D in calcium absorption

Vitamin D assists in the absorption of calcium. Plants do not contain useful amounts of Vitamin D, but some plant foods are fortified with this vitamin. Sunshine is regarded as the best source of Vitamin D. Try to obtain at least 15 minutes of sun exposure on the hands and face each day. If you are not able to get adequate exposure to the sun talk to your doctor or dietician about supplementation.

The importance of weight-bearing exercise

Weight-bearing exercise is essential for optimum bone health, as it helps build and maintain bones.

  • Calcium rich tablets can be helpful at times when on a Vegan diet.
  • Calcium Absorb can be taken with Calcium rich to help support absorption.


Wishing you the bliss of healthy eating, this week and always.

Linda Sinden and the Get Balance Team

Linda Sinden has been a practising Maharishi Ayurveda Consultant since 1990 and is a regular contributor to our weekly Insights. She has a practice in Auckland, New Zealand and also provides phone or Skype sessions for those who need assistance, but don’t have a consultant in their vicinity.

Book an appointment with me

Email: Skype: Linda.Sinden 
Mobile: +64 212237525


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