Thursday, June 13, 2024

Vegan Vitality VS. Protein Power

Never has the truism, ‘One man’s food is another man’s poison’ been more potent. With the rising trend of people turning Vegan to reduce their environmental footprint or then swearing by a Keto diet that ensures weight loss after eating loads of protein-rich food, Eastlife spoke to Christian Eason a committed Vegan and to Darrell Wong, a die-hard Keto convert—both on the opposite side of the food spectrum. Find out how a change of eating habits helped them both achieve their perfect health goals.

Vegan and loving it

A committed Vegan for the last 20 years, Christian Eason says he has never been tempted to be a carnivore.

Christian Eason

The 38-year-old monitoring and refrigeration technician at Rollex Medical in East Tamaki says that it was his love for animals and the idea of embracing a healthy lifestyle that made him a firm convert at the age of 18.

“After I got over the first couple of weeks, I never had the desire to go back to eating steaks.”

Interestingly, Christian has the word ‘Vegan’, etched on his arm.

“Years ago, when a mate said let’s go to the tattoo parlour, I wanted something that defined me. To make a commitment to this lifestyle I was going to lead” says the father-of-two.

While Christian will never openly advocate switching to a Vegan diet unless someone asks him about it, he attributes his personal wellbeing to being vegan.

“The food is easy to digest, you never feel bloated, it reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. Also, you can easily grow your own food,” says the super-fit vegan who initially lost a lot of weight with the change of diet. Also, being an essential worker during Covid lockdown, he discovered he survived the pandemic without being ill.

Dealing with limited food options at restaurants and local cafés is something Christian has a good strategy for. He calls up restaurants he frequents, a week in advance. “I like to give them advance notice to prepare something special as a lot of people don’t understand the finer nuances of a Vegan diet. There have been times when they think it is a Vegan burger they are serving but then the mayonnaise drizzled on the burger is not Vegan,” he points out. “One must learn to ask questions, when you order food.” However, it’s got a lot easier in the last seven years, with a lot more options, he concedes.

A vegan diet comprises of no animal, no by-products, no honey, no gelatine.

Lucky for Christian, he is a good cook and enjoys whipping up a feast for his family. His kitchen is well stocked with a lot of herbs and spices that boost flavours.

With a passion for cooking since he was seven years old, his family highly recommend the chickpea cutlets, daal curry, Gumbo and lemon potatoes and the cupcakes, he serves.

Apart from the local supermarkets that have a limited selection of Vegan supplies, Christian shops at Fig & Plum in Howick, E-Pacs Vegan and Vegetarian Supermarket, at Nadine Place, Smart Supermarket at the Botany Hub.

His advice to people turning vegan is: Make sure you read the labels carefully.

Confessions of a very fit Ketovore

A health enthusiast, Darrell Wong who works out intensely at the gym says he has been in the best health since his Uni days, thanks to a Ketovore diet he follows.

Darrell Wong

It’s difficult to tell but Darrell Wong says he has struggled to control his weight.

“I’m 168cm (5’6”) and on average 83-85kg since leaving university,” says the 62-year-old Kiwi of Chinese ethnicity. “Occasionally I’d diet or do a lot of running and get down to 81 kg and several times over the past 30 years I’ve got as high as 90kg. Initially, I ate a predominantly low-ish fat, high carbohydrate Chinese diet with rice and noodles being staples and a western diet with plenty of veggies,” says Darrell who starts his day with a meaty diet.

In Oct 2021 Darrell had a hip replacement operation which went well except, he came out of the surgery at 88kg. It was around that time he met an old flatmate from university days who was recovering from cancer. “He looked like when I flatted with him 40 years ago! He said he was intermittent fasting (IF). I’d never heard of it,” he recollects.

After reading up on the science behind IF, Darrell realised he was very fit but still unhealthy (based on blood tests)!

He discovered he had symptoms of metabolic syndrome.

“I had two negative markers out of five and one marginal one, which meant I was very close to having metabolic syndrome or I had it! My waist measurement doubled was more than my height (indicator of visceral fat around my liver and other organs).” He decided to commit to IF on 1 Jan 2022.

“I recorded my weight every day, whether I went to the gym or went for a walk. While my overall goal was to be metabolically heathy, my aim was mainly to reduce weight and my waistline. I could get the added benefits of reduced insulin resistance, reduced inflammation and increased autophagy.

“It simply meant no eating i.e. fasting for 16 hours followed by an 8 hour eating window. (16/8). After a week I switched to an 18 hour fast with a 6 hour eating window (18/6). Occasionally, I’d do 20 hour fast with a 4 hour eating window.”

With no insulin in his body, the molecule that stops fat being utilised for energy, Darrell found he was consistently losing weight.

“I was burning fat for energy, 18 hours a day. By late 2022, at about 74kgs, I wanted to see if I could reach my weight from my university days…. 72kgs. One night one of my good mates and I decided to see what our BMI’s were. We were both overweight and even if I reached 72kg I needed to be 67.5 kg to get on the upper border of normal range!”

After more research… on vegan, Mediterranean, low carb, ketogenic and carnivore diets Darrell felt he couldn’t sustain a vegan diet (“besides many plants produce poisons so animals and insects won’t eat them!”) also, a Mediterranean diet had carbs which would spike insulin. A low carb Ketogenic diet was doable.

He gave Ketogenic diet a try in conjunction with IF, starting 1 Jan 2023.

After exploding some myths/beliefs about better need for fibre, vitamins, eating meat causing cancer, mono saturated fats cause high triglycerides, LDL causes heart disease, Darrell decided to change things up.

“It’s quite difficult to undo 40 years of beliefs but my aim was to speed up weight loss and improve blood markers e.g., blood glucose, triglycerides and HDL. I had blood tests in January and late March to get some metrics on what my diet was doing to me!”

Along with intermittent fasting (18/6) Darrell stuck to a Ketovore diet. A stricter forms of a low carb diet (< 50-100g per day). A Ketogenic diet utilises ketones converted from fat as a fuel source.

“I ate whole foods (no processed foods) until full and removed all processed vegetable seed oils from my diet. 75-80 per cent of energy came from good mono saturated fats e.g., butter, tallow, lard, suet. I also use olive/avocado oil, both good sources of Omega 3 and Omega 6 essential fatty acids.

“Twenty to twenty-five per cent calorific input is animal protein e.g., eggs, beef, lamb, pork, chicken, fish and shellfish. Meat, the ultimate in an elimination diet (if you suffer from allergies), provides all the essential amino acids in an easily used form for humans, and contains most of the vitamins and trace elements we require.”

At 65-66kg, with a 31 inches waistline, Darrell is in great shape now.

“My triglycerides have fallen well below 1.0 mmol/L and HDL is well over 2.0mmol/ L. Blood sugars dropped over 10 per cent from previous reading which was already within normal limits. I’ve experienced plenty of energy, very few aches/pains, mentally sharper, no allergies, illnesses and most importantly I can keep this going. It’s an achievable lifestyle change!”

Darrell’s advice: if you’ve struggled with your weight or are pre diabetic, talk to your doctor and give Ketovore a go!

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