Especially after the popularity of Veganuary, veganism is hugely on the rise. Another term that is now floating around is 'plant based' which is used heavily in the groundbreaking new Netflix documentary The Game Changers. We take a look at the important distinctions between 'vegan' and 'plant based'.
Is Vegan the same as plant based?
The simplest answer to this is that no, vegan and plant based are not the same thing. All people who are plant based are vegan, but not all vegans are plant based. By extension, being plant-based is a sub-division of veganism.
It's important to remember that eating a vegan diet is not always intrinsically healthy, and that is where veganism and plant based differ the most. As a vegan, you are not eating any animal products or foods made with animal derivatives. This means no red meat, poultry, dairy, or eggs and is often done for ethical and environmental reasons rather than health reasons.
However, this means that a vegan could still eat unhealthy foods like potato chips, fries, and white bread. In fact, it would be easy for a vegan to be deficient in important vitamins and nutrients and to be more unhealthy than a meat-eater. As a vegan, you might try very hard to replicate all of your old favourites like cheese and meat but in doing so you could harm your health.
A lot of processed vegan alternatives like 'vegan cheese' and 'vegan burgers' contain a lot of chemicals and although they're better for animal welfare and the environment than eating meat, that's not beneficial to you. Always, the more natural the better. If you're a vegan, it's important to try and maintain a healthy diet and not just focus on eliminating entire food groups and replacing them with chemically-enhanced franken-burgers and sugary carbs.
On the contrary, those who are plant-based only eat foods that are, you guessed it, plant based. This means foods like beans, legumes, pulses, fruits, and vegetables. All of these foods are inherently healthy and therefore a plant-based vegan would expect to be more healthy than a non plant based vegan. Some plant-based eaters go one step further and follow a completely raw food diet, which means eating solely uncooked foods.
What do you eat on a plant based diet?
A plant-based diet is sometimes thought of as being restrictive, but it's absolutely not and if you try transitioning from being an omnivore to being plant-based, you may well discover a lot of new foods you've never tried before. On a plant-based diet, you only eat foods that are whole and natural such as fruits, vegetables, pulses, nuts and seeds, beans, whole grains, and legumes. Of course, any plant based diet is open to interpretation and what works best for you.
It's important for vegans and those on a plant-based diet to get enough protein and vitamin B3, as these are the macro- and micro-nutrients that can be difficult to get enough of on a meat-free diet. There are plenty of plant-based protein sources that those on a vegan diet can enjoy, mostly from beans, whole grains, pulses, seeds, nuts, and legumes.
Read more: Healthy Vegan Brownie Recipe
Vegan grocery shopping list
This is what a typical vegan grocery shopping list might look like in order to enjoy a varied and balanced diet that is healthy and provides enough of the right nutrients.
- Black beans
- Wholewheat pasta
- Brown rice
- Almond/soy milk
- Coconut milk/coconut cream
- Green beans
- Kidney beans
- Vegan protein powder
From these ingredients there are lots of delicious and healthy recipes you can create, from homemade vegan beanie burgers to vegan protein mousse and tasty salads.
Thinking about going vegan? Check out our tips for going vegan
Want to try more vegan recipes? Try this vegan blueberry muffin recipe or this vegan ice cream sundae recipe.
If you're trying to lose weight, improve sporting performance, or improve your physique, knowing about macros could help you. We're here with everything you need to know about this important aspect of fitness and health.
What are macros?
The word 'macros' in a fitness context is short for 'macronutrients' and refers to the three building blocks of our food: fats, protein, and carbohydrates. Every food in existence is made up of varying ratios of these 'macros'. Macronutrients aren't what makes a food inherently 'healthy' or 'unhealthy' – for that we instead look at micronutrients which refers to vitamins and minerals. Fruit and vegetables are rich in micronutrients which makes them healthy, whereas junk food contains little to no micronutrients which is why it's unhealthy. Of course, this isn't the only thing that makes junk food unhealthy, but it explains that it's not unhealthy just because it's high in fat or carbs.
Sub-categories of macronutrients include fibre and sugar, which are classed as carbohydrates, and alcohol, which is sometimes referred to as 'the fourth macro'. Macros have set calorie amounts – 1g of carbs contains 4 calories, as does 1g of protein, while 1g of fat contains 9 calories. This is why foods high in fat are naturally higher in calories, but not necessarily more unhealthy. For example, nuts and seeds are very calorific because of their fat content but they are very good for our health. Just don't eat too many in one go!
Ultimately, weight loss or weight gain is dictated by your daily calorie intake vs expenditure, however looking deeper at counting your macros can help you make sure you're getting enough of the right nutrients as well as improving your fitness and sporting performance. Someone who is slim due to not eating lots of calories may seem healthy, but if they're not eating the right combination of macros and micronutrients, they aren't really healthy at all.
Each macronutrient is important for our health for a different reason. Fat is important because some vitamins are can only be absorbed by our bodies when we consume fat, it also insulates us and helps our brains function properly. Carbohydrates fuel us while protein repairs damaged muscles and promotes new tissue growth. No single macro should ever be vilified and we need all of them to have a healthy, functioning body. The ratio you choose will depend entirely on your lifestyle and fitness goals.
Which macro split should I use?
One of the most extreme macro splits that is popular at the moment is the keto diet. People following the keto diet aim to enter a state called 'ketosis' whereby the body uses fat for energy instead of carbs. The most common keto macro split is 70% fat, 25% protein, 5% carbs, but some people are known to have gone as extreme as 90% fat with only 5% reserved for each carbs and protein.
Keto is a very extreme diet and the long-term health effects have not been conclusively studied. For the average person, it is definitely better to follow a more traditional macro split.
Macros for weight loss
The average adult when trying to lose weight should focus primarily on their calorie balance – how many calories you eat versus how many you burn on a daily basis. Being in a calorie deficit is the only way to lose weight, and how much of a calorie deficit you're in will dictate how quickly you lose weight.
A safe and well-trusted daily deficit of 500 calories will see you lose around 1lb per week. Any weight loss diet must be sustainable for it to work and for you to see real results. Therefore, an extreme macro ratio will not be helpful. Instead, you'll want to opt for a very sensible macro split of 40% carbs, 30% protein, 30% fat. This will ensure you are getting enough of each macro and will not feel deprived and can still eat delicious, filling foods such as brown rice, quinoa, poultry, fish, nuts, seeds, and vegetables. It will also ensure you still have plenty of energy and can exercise safely.
Macros for bodybuilding
When bodybuilding or powerlifting, an athlete will need more protein than the average adult due to the necessity to build more muscle. A classic macro split for bodybuilding or powerlifting is 40% protein, 40% fat, 20% carbs. Like the keto diet, this is a relatively low carb diet, albeit nowhere near as extreme. Another high protein macro split which is more balanced is 40% protein, 30% carbs, 30% fat. Both of these ratios would be beneficial for someone who lifts heavy weights regularly (5-6 times a week) and doesn't do much cardio (such as running).
If It Fits Your Macros (IIFYM)
A diet/lifestyle often touted on social media is something called IIFYM – If It Fits Your Macros. This is the idea that so long as the foods you're eating fit your daily macro outlines, you can eat whatever you want. As touched upon above, some foods are far inferior to others due to their lack of real nutrients (vitamins, minerals, fibre).
People who promote IIFYM claim they can eat chocolate, pizza, fast food, and porridge oats smothered in peanut butter every day without any negative side effects, and are often in very good shape themselves. Unfortunately, the truth is this isn't possible for the average adult. Without adequate fibre, vitamins, and minerals, you will become very unhealthy very quickly and will suffer from all number of health issues from constipation or diarrhoea to headaches, lethargy, and vitamin-deficiencies.
While it's true you could maintain your weight on an IIFYM diet, you would not be getting the nutrients you need from junk foods like chocolate, chemical flavour drops, and other products popularly pushed by these social media stars. This is one to be avoided by most people.
James Mitchell @iifymitch regularly posts photos like the above on Instagram, but eating half a bar of chocolate on top of porridge oats for breakfast every day is not a good idea for anyone.
How to count macros
Once you have decided on the best macro ratio for you, you need to know how many calories you should be eating in a day. The easiest way to do this is using a TDEE Calculator. Your TDEE is your Total Daily Energy Expenditure and takes into consideration your daily activity level, your age, weight, gender, and other factors which will affect how many calories you burn on a daily basis.
Once you know your TDEE, you can adjust your calories in accordance with your goals. As mentioned above, if you're looking to lose weight, you should take 500 calories off your TDEE. If you want to pack on muscle, you should add calories.
So let's say your TDEE is 2,000 calories and you want to lose 1lb a week. Your daily calorie goal will be 1,500 calories.
If you've chosen the sustainable weight loss macro split of:
- 40% carbs
- 30% protein
- 30% fat
40% of 1,500 is 600
30% of 1,500 is 450
This will equate to:
- 600 calories from carbs
- 450 calories from protein
- 450 calories from fat
As we know, there are 4 calories in 1g of carbs and protein and 9 calories in 1g of fat. So that means our macros would be:
- 150g of carbs
- 112g of protein
- 50g of fat
You will need to keep a food diary and track exactly what you're eating so that you know what macros you are consuming. The easiest way to do this is with an app like MyFitnessPal as everything will be automated to make it easier.
It may seem like a lot of work at first, but once you have a routine in place and you know the calories and macros of the foods you eat most, you will find it much easier to count your macros.
We live in an age where food wastage is unprecedented and the modern conveniences of pre-packaged foods combined with ever shortening expiry dates means we throw away and waste a third of all food produced worldwide. Take a look at how you can eat healthily and cut back on waste, two things very close to our hearts here at Sundried.
Be savvy with expiry dates
Unfortunately, for those trying to stick to healthy eating it's the fresh fruits and vegetables which expire the quickest while the artificial junk food lasts for months or even years thanks to its many additives. However, it's important to be savvy when it comes to expiration dates so that you don't waste food for no reason.
Many foods have 'sell by' dates as well as 'use by' dates. The sell by date is simply a marker for the supermarket or store and you don't need to throw away the food by this date. Even some expiration dates can be taken with a pinch of salt as the food will last a lot longer, especially if refrigerated in some cases. You can also freeze foods which are close to their expiration dates to help them last longer.
Tip to reduce food waste: Don't throw away food simply because it's close to, on, or past its expiration date.
Use your common sense to decide when a food is past its best rather than sticking rigidly to expiry dates
Avoid pre-packaged foods
Enter any supermarket and the closest aisles to the door are always packed with pre-packaged food. Shops are now selling ready-made everything from packaged smashed avocado to stir fry kits with packaged chopped vegetables.
Many of these packaged foods are more expensive than their whole food counterparts because you are paying for convenience. But do you really need to buy smashed avocado in a plastic packet? Can't you just buy a whole, fresh avocado with no packaging whatsoever and smash it yourself?
These pre-packaged foods are adding single-use plastic unnecessarily and causing a lot of damage to the planet as well as being more costly to you as the consumer!
Tip to reduce waste: Always choose fresh, whole foods and don't put them into single-use plastic bags – they have their own natural packaging in the form of skin!
Why buy avocado in a wasteful plastic packet when an avocado comes in its own natural, biodegradable skin?
Make use of leftovers
A lot of food waste is caused because we cook too much and then throw away what we can't eat. Instead of making huge portions according a recipe and then throwing away what you can't eat, you can save the leftovers to have for lunch or dinner the next day or even for the rest of the week.
Planning your meals for the week ahead is a great way not only to reduce food waste but also to improve your health. By having a meal plan in place, you are less likely to just grab a ready meal or order a takeaway. You can make sure you have the right ingredients from your weekly shop and then eat everything you make without wasting any.
Tip to reduce waste: Plan your meals at the beginning of the week and use leftovers for lunch or dinner the next day.
Make use of store cupboard staples and canned food
So many people are guilty of grabbing a plastic bag of pre-packaged lettuce, never eating it, then throwing away the slimy remains at the end of the week. You need to be realistic with your meal plans and make use of food that can sit in your cupboard indefinitely. Many of the most healthy foods will last for a very long time; foods like rice, pasta, quinoa, and oats. Other foods such as beans, peas, and chickpeas can be bought in cans and will also last months if not years in your cupboard. Just eat them when you want and no need to waste anything!
If you have bad skin, it can really affect your confidence and make you feel like you need to do something about it. There are unlimited beauty products and brands out there that promise clear skin through a skincare routine, but in reality no matter what beauty products you use, achieving radiant, glowing skin really is down to diet and lifestyle. We take a look at the best food fixes for bad skin and what you should eat in order to improve your appearance naturally.
Matcha Green Tea
Drinking 10 cups of green tea a day definitely isn't realistic for everyone. It can have a bitter taste and will leave you running to the restroom every 5 minutes. However, a scoop of matcha green tea powder has all the same health benefits in one convenient shot, plus you're getting the whole leaf and all its added benefits. I add it to my daily homemade protein smoothie for a quick energy boost and vitamin top-up. Matcha green tea contains 137 times more antioxidants than regularly brewed green tea and these are great for eliminating free radicals in the body. Why's this great for your skin? It reduces the signs of ageing and will leave your skin looking radiant and glowing. It also contains high levels of selenium, which protects your skin cells from natural damage and also reduces the appearance of wrinkles.
If any food deserves the label 'superfood' it's spinach. Spinach is rich in indol-3-carbinol which stimulates enzymes in the liver to boost your body's natural detoxifying process. It is also proven to balance your hormones which can reduce bloating in the face as well as improving the appearance of acne.
Raspberries have anti-inflammatory properties which can reduce the appearance of swelling in tired, fatigued skin. They are rich in both Vitamin C and Vitamin E which can enhance the skin's appearance as well as reducing the effects of ageing.
If you suffer from a sensitive gut or often get painful stomach symptoms, forget a life on medication, you could benefit from a low FODMAP diet. But what is it? What does it mean? And which foods can you eat? We take a look.
What does FODMAP stand for?
FODMAP stands for fermentable oglio-, di-, mono-saccharides and polyols. These are the scientific terms used to refer to a class of carbohydrates which are highly likely to trigger digestive symptoms such as trapped wind, bloating, and stomach pain. Foods containing these FODMAPs are more likely to aggravate the gut, especially in sensitive people who suffer from conditions like Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and endometriosis.
What foods contain FODMAPs?
FODMAPs are mostly found in various carbohydrates. The below foods are high in the various FODMAPs:
- Dairy (milk, yogurt, cheese)
- Certain fruits, mainly mangoes, figs, and blackberries
Foods to avoid on a FODMAP diet
If you suffer from a sensitive gut and have chronic symptoms like bloating, gas, stomach pains, and an irritable bowel, you could benefit from following a low FODMAP diet. Additionally, if you suffer from a food intolerance such as Coeliac disease or a lactose intolerance, you could also benefit from following a low FODMAP diet.
When on a low FODMAP diet, you want to avoid high FODMAP foods. These include the above-mentioned foods like wheat, rye, dairy, and fruit. There are plenty of tasty and enjoyable low FODMAP foods that you can still eat, such as chives, chilli, mustard, ginger, and pepper.
Fruits that you should avoid on a FODMAP diet include mangoes, figs, and blackberries, however you can still enjoy bananas, blueberries, kiwis, and limes, all of which are low FODMAP fruits.
You should also avoid most legumes on a low FODMAP diet, however you can still enjoy brown rice, maize, oats, and quinoa.