Last Tuesday, I participated in a Twitter Chat with two other vegan health/nutrition writers: Michael Greger, M.D., who runs the fantastic (and useful) Nutrition Facts website, in addition to being the director of public health and animal agriculture for the Humane Society, and Julieanna Hever, R.D., who is the author of the Complete Idiot’s Guide to Plant-Based Nutrition. We were to take 15 questions, all relayed via Twitter, and respond with short, to-the-point, tweets. Along the way, we took questions from Twitter followers who had tuned into the chat.
I had no idea that Twitter chats could be so fun! Not only was it great to address some of the major vegan health questions in one sitting, but it was also fun to connect with a new group of readers. I had a great time, and I hope this will be the first of many. For those of you who couldn’t tune in, I wanted to relay some of the highlights of the convo, which are also available in this transcript.
As you’ll see, everything came in the form of 15 short answer questions from VegNews. And each of us—Michael, Juileanna, and I—offered our best response:
@VegNews: Everyone talks about a whole-foods, plant-based diet. What does that mean to you?
Julieanna: To me, a whole food, plant-based diet = eating as close to nature as possible, relying on food as thy medicine.
Gena: To me, it means grains, legumes, and veggies w/ as little processing as you can manage.
Michael: Whole foods? Food as grown!
@VegNews: Q2: It’s so easy to be a “junk food” vegan, where do you draw the line with processed food?
Julieanna: If you’re healthy there’s nothing wrong w/ having treats once in a while as long as your diet is primarily whole foods
Gena: “Junk food” vegan? Some faux meats or cheeses or treats are fine on occasion, just not as the norm. That’s my line.
Michael: Junk foods: it’s the day to day stuff that matters.
@VegNews Q3: What are your 5 must-eat foods for optimal health?
Julieanna: I always say, “Let thy greens be thy medicine and thy medicine by thy greens”
Gena: Top 5 healthy foods? all greens, hemp seeds, legumes, berries, avocados
@VegNews: Q4: When working with clients, do you usually say “vegan” or “plant-based”?
Gena: I say “vegan,” personally. The word implies more than diet/health alone.
@VegNews: Q5 What vitamins and supplements do you recommend that vegans take daily?
Michael: B-12 is the biggie.
Gena: I say a multi w/ B-12, and cal + Vit D supplement for most women. EFA can be useful for some.
Julieanna: Definitely take vit B12! Test for vit D levels, ensure adequate Omega-3, iodine, and Vit C from food if possible.
@VegNews: Q6: OK experts, give us the inside scoop. What are the go-to, easy, cheap weeknight meals that you actually make and eat?
Michael: Green burrito: canned refried beans wrapped in steamed collard green with jarred salsa.
Julieanna: go-to dinners are: chili, stew, soup, lasagna, hummus, burritos, and always include salad w/ a good, oil-free dressing
@VegNews Q7: How about the most important meal of the day? What do you have for breakfast to get started right?
Gena: I usually do chia seed pudding w fruit, oats w berries + flax, or nutritious smoothie w vegan protein.
Julieanna: I love fresh fruit OR a green smoothie OR a green juice OR oatmeal and always tea
Michael: Best breakfast? Green smoothie!
@VegNews: Q8: for those of us who are new to eating veg, we must ask: What are the best sources of protein?
Gena: Hemp, legumes, grains, vegetables, tempeh
@VegNews Q9: What are some of the most common misconceptions about eating healthfully as a vegan, and what can we do to refute them?
Gena: That vegan diet is lacking in anything we can’t substitute! But on the flip side, idea that anything vegan is also healthy
Julieanna: Biggest healthy vegan myth = lack of delicious food and variety! Experiment and share awesome recipes!!
Michael: recipes like those in Julieanna’s books! Misconception? How about beans and gas?
@VegNews Q10: What’s the most inspirational story you know of someone turning their health around on a vegan diet?
Julieanna: I daily c ppl reversing heart disease, diabetes, obesity. Just met a young man who gout out of wheelchair and off MS meds
Gena: So many, but I just remember my own: healing from digestive problems and eating disorder history
@VegNews Q11: How about healthy recipes that you love? Are there cookbooks you go to again and again?
Julieanna: Love cookbooks by @dreenaburton @veganchefbev @globalvegan
@VegNews Q12: How much soy is too much?
Gena: Soy? I think moderate weekly amounts of non-GMO and organic soy is perfectly healthy and good. Constant processed = bad.
Julieanna: Seems that 3 servings is a good max for soy per day. Make sure it is from whole soy products too!
@VegNews Q13: For our experts, what are the questions that people should be asking their doctors? Essential tests to be taken?
Julieanna: Definitely as your Doc to test for Vit D deficiency & regular lipid panel (for cholesterol), Hgb/Hct (for iron)
@VegNews Q14: What are your favorite resources for planning balanced meals?
Julieanna: To plan meals, I listen to my body 1st and experiment with recipes that sound yummy. always include lots of veggies!
Gena (didn’t catch this question, but would have answered…): try to include a source of protein, healthy fat, and complex carb!
@VegNews Q15: What’s the single best piece of nutrition advice you can give?
Julieanna: My best advice: experiment w/ recipes/ingredients, maintain a variety of plants, show the world how awesome #vegan is!!!
Gena: What Julieanna said, and eat enough. Do not crash diet for pseudoscience or attaining a foolish ideal.
Other questions that came up:
What about a strictly raw diet?
Julieanna: Eat a diet that is high in raw foods. 100% is not necessary and can even backfire!
Gena: I think 100% raw is not optimal for most people, but high raw works beautifully for many people (incl me!)
Michael: Some veggies are actually healthier cooked (nutrient availability).
What about oils?
Gena: I’m def in favor of high quality flax, hemp, avocado oils in wise moderation.
Julieanna: As we started out chat: whole foods always preferable, nuts and seeds healthiest sources of fat.
Gena: The low fat, high fruit thing is too restrictive IMHO.
Is fruit bad for you?
Julieanna: Fruit is fabulous! Fiber slows absorption of sugar and is chock full of nutrition! Don’t be afraid of fruit!
For more, check out the transcript.
Where do you guys stand on these issues? What do you think of our answers? Our subtle differences as professionals? What questions would you have asked if you had been on the chat? Hit me!