Rosanna: Why the vegan lifestyle works for me
Published 12/02/2013 | 06:00
Picture of health: Model Rosanna eats vegtables with every meal.
As a long-time vegetarian, I finally made the switch to a fully plant-based vegan diet just over eighteen months ago. I'm in the final few months of a three-year course in naturopathic nutrition and bio-medicine, so my studies into human nutrition, based on the very latest clinical research, proved a catalyst for my decision to give up all animal products literally overnight and really increase my fruit and vegetable intake.
Within two weeks I began to notice the many benefits, including improved energy levels, sleep, mental clarity and calmness, immunity, fitness and muscle tone. While the world has become obsessed with calorie-counting, I have learned the true secret to improved long-term health and weight management – and what's more, it's really easy.
I believe that nutrient-density is what really matters. Calories certainly have their place, but humans are not robotic machines. We are all biochemically unique individuals with different strengths, weaknesses and nutritional needs based on lifestyle and genetic factors.
By filling your body with the nutrients its crying out for, you will naturally rebalance your body, improve your health and beat cravings while reducing your toxic load and boosting energy levels.
Starving your body to lose weight is no fun and will never work as a long-term solution, so I focus on eating a wide range of fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds and gluten-free whole grains like quinoa, to obtain every macro and micro-nutrient I require.
I listen to what my body needs, continually cleanse from the inside, fill up on fresh veggies at every meal and never worry about consuming too much or too little. It's a win-win situation!
Here are some of my top tips for boosting your health and reducing your toxic load:
1 We all know that we should be eating more fresh fruit and vegetables. They're packed with the vitamins, minerals, free radical-fighting phytochemicals and anti-oxidants, as well as tummy-friendly fibre to keep our bodies and minds healthy, youthful, disease-free and functioning at their very best.
While most of us are familiar with the message to eat our five-a-day, new research actually recommends at least seven servings of fruit and veg for women daily, and nine for men.
This may sound like a lot since a portion is a medium-size piece of fruit or three to four heaped tablespoons of vegetables. But green smoothies are one of my favourite ways of getting a large amount of these foods in at one time.
They're extremely quick and easy to make and all you need is a blender. Every morning for breakfast, I whip up a green smoothie to share with my fiancé, and he also swears by them for keeping him healthy and energised.
We both need a simple, filling but nutritious solution in the morning, so I pour our drinks into airtight containers and we take them with us. They're especially good to drink first thing as the plant cells have been already broken down by the blending so their nutrients are freely available to our bodies.
They require minimal digestive energy to enter our blood, leaving us feeling energised and nourished. They're also extremely cleansing to our system first thing, so I don't recommend adding any sort of heavier foods like yoghurt, nuts/seeds or milk.
Here is the recipe I use:
• 150g of kale or baby spinach
• 2 stalks of celery
• 1 ripe banana,
• 1 green apple
• 6 large chunks of fresh pineapple
• Squeeze of lemon or lime
• Tablespoon of chopped fresh ginger
• Glass of cold water
• Crushed ice to chill
2 Humans are the only species on earth to drink the milk of another animal as adults. To me, this is utterly bizarre. It's really no surprise that at least 75pc of the world's population is genetically unable to properly digest milk and other dairy products and are lactose intolerant, as I believe it goes against what nature intended for our nutrition.
Milk is to make a small newborn mammal grow quickly and double in size. It's rich in protein and fat, and dairy products can be full of unnatural hormones, antibiotics, insulin-like growth factor and even pus cells.
Along with refined sugar, white flour and chemical sweeteners, I absolutely avoid dairy under all circumstances. Remove it from your diet and watch your beauty, vitality and energy levels increase within a matter of weeks.
The consumption of dairy products has been linked in studies to many health complaints and allergies, such as sinus issues, asthma, eczema, acne and even hormone-dependant cancers such as breast cancer.
There are plenty of healthy alternatives such as rice, almond, hazelnut and coconut milks. These can all be used in the same way as milk and taste great.
Try almond butter instead of normal butter, and a square of very dark chocolate in place of milk chocolate. Also focus on eating plenty of calcium-rich plant foods such as almonds, sesame seeds, broccoli, cabbage, kale and spinach.
3 With the dismal days of January now a distant memory, and those New Year's resolutions being inevitably loosened, we may find ourselves more tempted to enjoy a tipple or three of a Saturday night.
While I would always advocate alcohol in sensible moderation plus plenty of water throughout the evening, there are times when we wake up knowing that we've indulged in one too many.
So what to do? We all know somebody who swears by a large mug of coffee, a slice of cold, doughy pizza or a full Irish breakfast. But it's an important time to support your body's nutritional needs, and especially your liver in its elimination of the toxic load you've landed it with.
These are my top tips for dealing with a hangover:
n Rehydrate and rebalance electrolytes Alcohol is a diuretic, so drinking it in excess will cause water and essential blood electrolytes to be excreted from your body. Coconut water and a bowl of chopped banana, pineapple and a selection of berries is a great combination to rebalance the body and boost energy. Coconut water is hydrating and packed with electrolytes, bananas are also a great source of potassium and natural sugar, the berries are full of healing antioxidants and the pineapple is one of the very best anti-inflammatory foods.
• Continue to re-hydrate
Tea, coffee and even green tea contain caffeine which won't help your efforts, so try drinking peppermint or ginger tea, which will also help to soothe an irritated stomach. If possible, take 20 drops of milk thistle in a small amount of water a couple of times during the day. This is a herbal tincture to help support the liver and it is available in health food shops.
• Boost your serotonin
A brisk 20-minute walk will help to boost energy levels by oxygenating body and brain. The exercise will also raise levels of feel-good brain chemical, serotonin.
A handful of raw pumpkin seeds are a good source of zinc, which is also an essential mineral to the production of serotonin. It's a great idea to include them in your daily diet.
4 We need to support our liver's detoxification. There are many essential nutrients required for the two normal phases of liver detoxification. Including these in your diet on a daily basis (and even more so after drinking alcohol) will help to support a sluggish or overloaded liver.
Specific enzymes in foods help to transform and then excrete synthetic chemicals in urine, sweat or bile. Everything that you ingest passes through the liver in some form, via the bloodstream. When the liver becomes overloaded, it develops problems and even a mildly sluggish liver can seriously affect our energy levels.
So it is up to us to feed the nutrients to our liver that it needs to support its important functions. Foods that contain the natural sulphurs to support liver detoxification include cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and kale, garlic, onions and mushrooms, and leafy greens.
A great meal choice after a night on the tiles would be stir-fried broccoli, onions, mushrooms and garlic on a leafy green salad.
5 It is always advisable to choose real food over synthetic supplements. Real food comes with the full intact package of fibre and other essential micronutrients to keep our bodies strong and healthy.
However, if you are thinking of switching to a plant-based diet, there are some supplements I would wholly recommend. First up is vitamin B12 – this is formed from bacteria in the soil and is found mostly in animal protein foods. It is essential for a healthy brain and nervous system, blood formation, DNA synthesis and the production of energy.
Look out for a liquid version that can be taken sub-lingually for optimal absorption. A severe B12 deficiency can lead to serious or even fatal side effects, including nervous system damage and pernicious anaemia.
Vitamin D3 is one I recommend to anyone not getting plenty of regular sunlight, as it is produced in the skin. So basically everyone living in Ireland! It is important for calcium regulation in blood, strong bones and a deficiency has even been linked to depression.
Finally, a good daily probiotic is a great way of boosting good bacteria in the gut and maintaining a healthy digestive system. It's extra important if you have recently been on a course of antibiotics. I take Udo's Choice Super 8 Probiotic, but make sure you take it on a full stomach for best results.