Plant-based, vegetarian, and vegan diets
I became a vegetarian over 10 years ago. I chose not to eat red meat, chicken, or fish for animal welfare reasons. After my Parkinson’s diagnosis, I eliminated dairy products and became vegan.
Consumption of dairy, particularly milk, is linked to a greater risk of Parkinson’s. However, many vegan foods may be unhealthy. For example, a nondairy diet consisting of junk food could be labeled vegan despite the artificial ingredients.
A plant-based diet, on the other hand, consists of minimally processed fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, herbs, and spices. Plant-based diets exclude all animal products, including red meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy, so they are both vegetarian and vegan. Forks Over Knives breaks down vegan, vegetarian, and plant-based diets in this resource.
Plant-based diets and legislation
The state of New York recently passed a bill (pending the governor’s signature) that requires hospitals to offer plant-based meals to patients. I believe the emphasis on plant-based diets is here to stay and will become the norm over time.
My challenges with a plant-based diet
I miss Parmesan cheese (I used to put Parmesan on everything, from soup to salad to pasta), creamer for my cappuccino, yogurt, burgers, cheddar cheese for my veggie burgers, and chocolate mousse. But after much trial and error, I can finally say that I can live without them. Luckily, I can purchase nondairy substitutes at my local health food store or supermarket.
Where’s the beef?
Your supermarket may sell frozen veggie burgers. However, many veggie burgers are made with cheese or contain processed ingredients that I can’t pronounce. I have found one especially delightful burger that contains healthy ingredients and no dairy!
Violife’s Parmesan cheese consists of potato and rice starch and coconut oil. Violife is the tastiest substitute for Parmesan that I have found. It even smells like Parmesan!
I make this delicious, dairy-free cheese dip to top my veggie burgers and bean tacos. The main ingredients are raw cashews, raw almonds, almond milk, crushed red pepper, and nutritional yeast. A blender or food processor works just as well as a Vitamix.
What’s for dessert?
Tofu-based chocolate mousse is my favorite dessert now. This recipe calls for soft tofu, but I use firm tofu instead. You can tweak the maple syrup and cocoa to your liking. For a nondairy topping, Coyo makes a vanilla bean or original flavor coconut yogurt alternative.
For a really guilty pleasure, Ben & Jerry’s offers delicious, nondairy frozen desserts. They have too much sugar and too many processed ingredients for my taste, but I will eat them as a special treat once in a while. I have served Ben & Jerry’s to people on unrestricted diets, and they loved it. They thought they were eating ice cream!
Plant-based diets are the way to go, whether you’re making the change for the planet, animal welfare, or your health. You can find good dairy alternatives through trial and error.
“You can’t be an environmentalist, you can’t be an ocean steward, without truly walking the walk. And you can’t walk the walk in the world of the future, the world ahead of us, the world of our children, not eating a plant-based diet.” –James Cameron
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