Detox and Build Up Your Immune System on a Plant-Based Diet
Could you tell us a bit about yourself (certifications, where you are from, etc). and your journey to a plant-based lifestyle?
I’m a plant-based registered dietitian. I graduated from West Chester University with my bachelors and masters degrees and completed my dietetic internship at Yale-New Haven Hospital in CT. After becoming an RD I moved to Tampa Bay, FL and formed my private practice, Prana Nutrition, LLC. I was a vegetarian in college but became interested in the research surrounding whole foods plant-based (WFPB) diets while living in Florida and I transitioned to a WFPB diet immediately. When I directly experienced the benefits of eating this way I was inspired to create my business so that others could thrive as well. In addition to plant-based nutrition, I specialize in food sensitivities. I’m also a registered yoga instructor and take an integrative mind-body approach with my clients.
What are the benefits of living a plant-based diet? Why is it worth trying a plant-based diet?
WFPB diets are drastically lower in saturated fat and contain no added cholesterol. By eliminating animal protein you’re significantly reducing the amount of diet-related inflammation in your body. Most of my clients reporting feeling an increase in energy, improvements in their skin, reduced constipation and other GI issues, and improvements in their blood lipid levels. From a global perspective, eating a plant-based diet requires less water and land use compared to animal agriculture, therefore decreasing our environmental footprint. Additionally, no animal lives were sacrificed in order for you to enjoy your plant-based meal!
A lot of people might assume that plant-based foods are automatically healthy. What is your guidance for people trying to navigate vegan junk food from healthy eating? Can processed foods be healthy?
I encourage my clients who are transitioning from the standard American diet (SAD) to use these foods only as a stepping-stone, and to try to get to the next step as soon as possible. Vegan junk foods, while tasty, are not health promoting and without adequate motivation and support it’s easy for someone to get stuck in this phase. Processed foods should be reserved for special occasions if optimum health and wellness is your goal.
In addition to addressing health issues, what ‘mis-truths’ about nutrition would you like to help dispel, if possible?
First off, soy does not cause cancer! Soy (like flaxseed, might I add) is a phytoestrogen and actually has shown to be preventative against things like heart disease and some cancers.
I’d also love for people to understand that unless you have celiac disease or confirmed gluten/wheat sensitivity, there is no benefit to omitting gluten from your diet. Whole grains offer prebiotics as well as fiber, vitamins and minerals and do not need to be avoided!
So many popular plant-based foods aren’t necessarily grown locally. How do you ensure that the foods you eat are both nutritious and also sustainable?
Whenever possible we should opt for in-season produce to help reduce our carbon footprint, and to maximize the nutrient density of our diet. It’s not possible, nor desirable to eat only locally grown food but we can support small businesses and the environment by shopping local as often as feasible. Frozen produce is just as healthy as fresh, and can offer a more sustainable alternative at times.
Based on your experience in nutrition and current trends, what do you think is the future of the plant-based food system and veganism in the next 10 years?
Right now we’re seeing a lot of financial investors supporting plant-based companies and there is a big consumer shift towards vegan foods. I would expect to see a tremendous growth in this industry in the next 10 years and I believe that eating a plant-based diet will be the norm by then, with meat eaters being the minority of the population (at least within major metro areas).
What are some simple hacks you suggest to add more plant-based foods into your diet?
Every time you prepare a meal ask yourself “where can I add more fruits or vegetables in this dish?” It might be adding a simple onion and bell pepper stir-fry as a side dish, or slicing fresh fruit for dessert, but these small bonuses add up over time when it comes to your health. My clients know that their plate should be filled with color and to rotate their foods every few days to avoid developing sensitivities and to increase their nutrient variety.
How can our readers detox on a plant-based or vegan diet? Any recommendations?
You can support your body’s natural detox systems (liver and kidneys) by fueling yourself with lots of fruits and veggies! Unless someone has a medical condition involving one of these organs, they’re constantly detoxing all the time.
How can our readers build up their immune system on a plant-based or vegan diet? Any recommendations?
By increasing your consumption of plant foods you’re automatically consuming more antioxidants, phytonutrients, vitamins and minerals – all of which contribute to a healthy immune system. When you decrease or remove animal products from your diet, you’re decreasing the amount of pro-inflammatory foods you consume, which will also help boost your immune system.
Can you share some plant-based diet recipes? Maybe you have some that are your favorites. Are there any plant-based foods that you like to include on a daily basis?
I make a smoothie every morning for breakfast and rotate the type of greens (spinach, kale, etc.) and fruit that I add to it. I mix in hemp seeds, oat milk, and protein powder. It gives me lasting energy up until lunch!
My absolute favorite black bean burger is from Forks Over Knives because it’s so simple to make and only involves five ingredients (https://www.forksoverknives.com/recipes/vegan-burgers-wraps/five-ingredient-veggie-burger/#gs.6mdbgh)
What would be your number one top for anybody looking to adopt a whole food plant-based diet?
Evaluate where you currently are with your diet and the make small, specific goals that build on each other. For example, if you’re eating the SAD then start by switching to the vegan alternatives. Then maybe you replace the vegan meats with WFPB foods like beans, tofu, tempeh, etc. and go from there. Be intentional and have realistic timeframes for each of your small goals. Before you know it you’ll be eating a plant-based diet!
Are there any supplements or vitamins that are required when it comes to a plant-based diet?
Supplementing with Vitamin B12 is non-negotiable as a vegan, however everyone’s biochemistry is unique and this can affect what, if any, additional supplements are required. I believe everyone should have a full micronutrient panel done twice a year, which is something I do with my clients to ensure there are no nutrient gaps that go unnoticed.
Speaking of supplements and vitamins, chlorophyll is the foundation of plants, would you recommend adding liquid chlorophyll + water to your diet? What are the benefits of chlorophyll water?
The combination of chlorophyllin with antioxidants like Vitamin C has the potential to provide additional health benefits and immune system support, while reducing inflammation. This is an easy way for consumers to boost their hydration and nutrient status without adding calories, fat, or sugar!
What are your favorite plant based or vegan books, podcasts or websites you recommened?
The China Study, Forks Over Knives, Plant Based Juniors (for parents of vegan children)
Where can we find you on social media? (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter)
Facebook: Prana Nutrition, LLC