Many people have been asking me lately about why so many successful vegan food bloggers have started to develop sickness after so many years of eating a plant-based diet and/or eat meat or other animal products.
First of all, who am I to judge anyone for the food choices they make? And honestly I don’t feel like I have the right answer either. Since changing my diet to eat a whole foods plant-based diet 15 years ago, I’ve been also incorporating small quantities of fish and seafood in my eating pattern. My experience with eating like this is that it works for me and I’ve been mostly content with my general level of energy.
Plant-based and animal foods have both been part of the human diet throughout history, so there is little sense in judging anyone who decides to eat in one way or another. I guess that as human beings with intellect we have the power to make choices, nowadays more than ever, about the foods we eat.
Rather than imposing one right or correct food pattern, I am more interested in understanding, experiencing and sensing what foods do to us i.e. how they impact our energy levels, our behavior, our emotions and our wellbeing. I have never been interested in telling people what they should or should not eat, I would rather share both the ancient and modern wisdom of food as a supplier of energy and a source of medicine, inspiring people to use this knowledge to improve their health and wellbeing.
From my own experience, I can only say that the knowledge and principles that I gained by studying the theory behind the whole foods plant-based diet (through writers like T. Colin Campbell and Neal Barnard) and the macrobiotic diet (based on the teachings of Michio Kushi) helped me to heal from a very severe skin condition. Following these principles have enabled me to feel calmer, stronger, more flexible and more energized. Not only do I feel better, but I also haven’t taken any medication for the last 15 years (my grand mother would have said “tfu tfu tfu”), healing any mild complaints by adjusting my food pattern.
What I personally find very helpful is understanding the principle of yin and yang through the study of macrobiotics. When I started to understand foods according to the yin and yang principles and put this into practice in my own daily life, that’s when I really went deeper into my connection with food. It switched from the notion of right or wrong, good or bad and healthy or unhealthy to “what works well for me?” at the moment. What do I need based on how I feel? And later as I became a professional chef and teacher, I started to ask myself what other people needed and how I could contribute to their wellbeing by selecting and preparing the best foods for their condition. A judgement has turned into an observation. A fixed position has turned into a curved constantly moving line.
Understanding yin and yang has helped me to answer many questions which modern science hasn’t been able to answer. Why do people fall ill? How can we prevent sickness, or even heal from disease, with the help of food and lifestyle changes? Why does one person experience certain symptoms while others don’t? How can we calm a hysterical baby? Why do certain people (ahem) crave chocolate every night? What can we cook when we’re feeling tired, stressed, grumpy or overactive? What can we cook to calm ourselves down? How can we age gracefully? Why do people who follow a strict macrobiotic diet always look so grey and grumpy? And also, why do vegan food bloggers start to eat meat? It’s all about yin and yang.
Most vegan food bloggers eat foods which are categorized as more yin within the plant-based diet. These include fruit, raw foods, nuts and seeds. There is nothing wrong with these items, as long as they are part of a nutritionally and energetically balanced plant-based menu which includes whole grains, legumes/beans (cooked from scratch and not from a can), fermented foods and strengthening vegetables and cooking styles. When we skip these strengthening items in our daily menu, our diet isn’t only lacking in nutrients but also in strengthening (yang) energy. After many years of eating mainly raw fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds, the chance that we will start to feel weak and potentially develop (a yin type of) sickness is quite high.
Within this community I also see a lot of processing and blending of foods. I even remember one writer who published a popular book about whole foods which were all juiced, processed or blended. When we process foods, even in our own kitchen, we destroy or remove the fibers which made them so healthy in the first place and the food becomes very weakening. The best way to process foods is to chew them well with our teeth which mixes them with digestive enzymes and strengthens the intestines. When we skip this process, our intestines become weaker, and our general vitality and strength suffers.
On top of that, many bloggers have started to promote ultra-processed products as a way of supporting themselves economically. Ultra-processed foods, such as meat and dairy replacements, weaken the intestines and are best avoided. We would do better to consume foods in their natural form and process them naturally by cutting, grating, grinding, cooking and chewing. A diet based on ultra-processed animal food replacements is extremely weakening, especially for our inner “ki” (energy), strength, willpower, sexuality, natural immunity and identity.
Nature will always find a way of creating balance so when we are eating a diet high in extreme yin (weakening) foods and low in good strong yang (strengthening) elements, we will naturally be attracted to extreme yang foods such as eggs, cheese and meat. Is there anything wrong with what these bloggers did? No, they just found their balance between yin and yang.
Does that mean there’s something wrong with a plant-based diet? No, but if we want to make it sustainable for ourselves, we need to make sure that there’s a good balance between yin and yang or, at the very least, that we include a sufficient supply of nutrients and strengthening elements. Simply said, alongside fruit, salads, nuts and seeds, we need to incorporate strengthening foods such as whole grains, beans, a variety of vegetables prepared using different cooking styles, seaweed (very strengthening and rich in minerals) and fermented foods.
To make this nice and simple, I divided my latest book Plantbased into 8 chapters: 1) Whole grains 2) Beans & proteins 3) Root vegetables 4) Sweet round vegetables 5) Green vegetables 6) Seaweed 7) Fermented foods 8) Fruit and desserts (yes, fruit is a dessert, not your main meal 😉). In each chapter I explain the nutritional and energetic properties of each food group, followed by lots of easy and delicious recipes.
If there any (vegan?) food bloggers out there who are (still) interested in receiving a copy of my book, let me know! I’d be happy to send you one! 😉