Have you heard the term “junk food vegan”?
It tends to float around vegan-friendly spaces every now and then. With vegan options becoming much more mainstream, particularly vegan convenience foods, some vegans are quite happy to identify as junk food vegans. We can have our comfort faves without harming animals! Without dairy or eggs or other animal-based allergens!
A bit controversial for a nutritionist to say, but in a nutshell I’m very happy as a long-term vegan as well to see these food options make it to mainstream grocery stores and restaurants. The exact reasons that people – not just vegans, but omnivores too! – are choosing them more often doesn’t really matter to me.
What does matter to me is where a highly-processed diet collides with health issues like hormone imbalances.
And the reason for the overlap is probably not what you think. (Spoiler: it has pretty much nothing to do with soy!)
I firmly believe that there’s a place for comfort faves in any lifestyle, but when it comes to issues like hormone imbalances, a little extra consideration and planning is required to get things on track.
The overlap occurs where junk food vegans and people with hormone imbalances are often – drumroll – deficient in the same nutrients! This includes vitamin D, magnesium, vitamin B12 (and the whole B complex for that matter), omega-3, calcium, iron, zinc, iodine, specific amino acids, and more.
So what can one do as both a junk food vegan and someone with hormone issues?
Here are 3 ways to start supporting your hormones without giving up your newfound vegan faves:
- Include more whole-food recipes or options in at least one more meal per day. For example: is there a way to make that vegan mac and cheese with more hidden veggies, higher protein, healthier fats? Adding a cup of frozen broccoli or kale that you steamed separately or dropped into the pot with the cooking pasta is a great start. The key here is to start boosting nutrient density overall so that you provide more of the raw materials your body needs to make and signal hormones.
- Choose a hormone-friendly star ingredient to incorporate into at least one meal per day, and ideally each meal. Remember that broccoli/kale? They’re part of a family of vegetables called cruciferous or Brassica vegetables, and they contain a group of antioxidants that help your body process excess estrogens for elimination (i.e. they’re hormone superstars!). Other hormone superstars that are easy to add to almost anything include ground flax, pumpkin seeds, sweet potatoes, oats, spearmint, fermented foods, and raw cacao powder.
- This one might hurt a little, but watch portion sizes and pay attention to when you feel full. A lot of people struggle with overeating, especially when the food is new and amazing, so some signs to watch for include: stomach feels “heavy”, like the food isn’t moving, even an hour or more after finishing; distention of the abdomen (you need to unbutton your pants); feeling sleepy or otherwise low energy shortly after eating; headaches and/or nausea after eating; feeling thirsty (especially if you’ve had too much salt); reflux or burping/gas; the same food somehow doesn’t taste as good as when you started… This may take some practice at first, especially if you’re like me and you’re inclined to clear your plate no matter the size, so the trick is to try to get comfortable with the idea that you don’t need to! Remember to eat slowly, savour well, and chew thoroughly.
If you’re looking for more whole-food vegan comfort food ideas to make at home while also incorporating some of those hormone superstars (which also happens to include mac & cheese as well as cake), I got you! Grab the free World Vegan Month Basically Delicious Vegan Recipe Bundle here.