Potential Vitamin and Mineral Deficiency Risks on a Vegan Diet
What is the best way to get the nutrients of concern on a plant-based diet?
In my Daily Dozen, I recommend at least one daily serving of cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, two daily servings of greens, the healthiest foods on the planet, and two servings a day of other vegetables, such as carrots.
The humble carrot is unique in that it is one of two vegetables that may actually become healthier through cooking. No matter how you prepare them—even by boiling—carrots, as well as celery, appear to gain in antioxidant power.
A plant-based diet may help prevent, treat, or reverse heart disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and other leading causes of death, and plant-based diet intervention groups have reported significant improvement in their physical functioning, general health, vitality, and mental health. Plant-based eating can improve not only body weight, blood sugar levels, and ability to control cholesterol, but also emotional states, such as depression, anxiety, fatigue, sense of well-being, and daily functioning.
How can one diet do all that? Because plant-based foods contain more than 100,000 biologically active components—more specifically, more than 100,000 phyto-nutrients, phyto for the Greek word for plant. We can’t just take these phytonutrients in a pill, either. When it comes to food, the whole is often greater than the sum of its parts. Beta carotene pills, for example, may actually increase cancer risk, as opposed to eating the whole carrot, including its carotenoid antioxidants, which may lower our risk.
So, we should focus on dietary intake, not supplementary intake. Apparently, antioxidant supplements just do not have the same cancer-fighting effects as produce, and colorful foods are often healthier because of their antioxidant pigments, such as the beta-carotene that makes carrots and sweet potatoes orange, the lycopene antioxidant pigment that makes tomatoes red, or the anthocyanin pigments that make blueberries blue. The colors are the antioxidants.
The information on this page has been compiled from Dr. Greger’s research. Sources for each video listed can be found by going to the video’s page and clicking on the Sources Cited tab. References may also be found at the back of his books.
Image Credit: Thomas Wilken / Pixabay. This image has been modified.
What is the best way to get the nutrients of concern on a plant-based diet?
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High doses of lycopene—the red pigment in tomatoes—were put to the test to see if it could prevent precancerous prostate lesions from turning into full-blown cancer.
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Dietary diversity is important because each plant family has a unique combination of phytonutrients that may bind to specific proteins within our body.
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Smoothies (and blended soups and sauces) offer a convenient way to boost both the quantity and quality of fruit and vegetable intake by reducing food particle size to help maximize nutrient absorption.
The consumption of animal fat appears to increase the growth of gut bacteria that turn our bile acids into carcinogens.
If we increased our consumption of conventionally-produced fruits and vegetables, how much cancer would be prevented versus how much cancer might be caused by the additional pesticide exposure?
The movement to remove fast food operations from hospitals parallels the successful movement in the 80s to bar hospital tobacco sales.
Which foods are best at removing carcinogenic bile acids from the body: asparagus, beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, collards, eggplant, green beans, kale, mustard greens, okra, or peppers? And do they work better raw or cooked?
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Kale and collard greens contain vision-protecting plant nutrients, such as zeaxanthin, that may significantly lower the risk of glaucoma—a leading cause of blindness.
Even nine servings of fruits and vegetables a day may not reach the minimum recommended intake of antioxidants if one doesn’t make the right choices.
Interventions to improve child nutrition at school have included everything from reducing cookie size, adding fruit to classroom cupcake celebrations, and giving vegetables attractive names, to more comprehensive strategies such as “veggiecation” curricula, and transforming school cafeterias.
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Which was associated with lowest breast cancer risk in African-American women? Apples, bananas, broccoli, cabbage, cantaloupe, carrots, collard greens, grapefruit, oranges, spinach, tomatoes, or sweet potatoes?
The risk of glaucoma, the second leading cause of blindness, appears to be dramatically reduced by kale or collard greens consumption, thanks to the phytonutrient pigments lutein and zeaxanthin.
The variety of fruit and vegetable consumption may decrease disease risk, independent of quantity.
In addition to quantity and quality, the variety of fruits and vegetables consumed matters, as many phytonutrients are not evenly distributed among the various families and parts of plants.
If nitrates can boost athletic performance and protect against heart disease, which vegetables have the most—beans, bulb vegetables (like garlic and onions), fruiting vegetables (like eggplant and squash), greens (such as arugula), mushrooms, root vegetables (such as carrots and beets), or stem vegetables (such as celery and rhubarb)?
Different fruits and vegetables appear to support different cognitive domains of the brain, so both variety and quantity are important.
Mushrooms may help prevent breast cancer by acting as an aromatase inhibitor to block breast tumor estrogen production.
To help deflect criticism from the cholesterol content of their product, the egg industry touts the benefits of two phytonutrients, lutein and zeaxanthin, that have indeed been shown to be beneficial in protecting one’s eyesight against vision-threatening conditions, such as cataracts and macular degeneration. But how do eggs stack up against plant-based sources?
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How much has the nutrient content of food crops declined over the last 50 years?