How to Make a Plant-Based Meal (Savory)

How to Make a Plant-Based Meal (Savory)

Here is a general framework I use to make a simple, balanced and delicious savory whole food plant-based meal:

 

1. Choose Non-Starchy Vegetables

Examples include: broccoli, cabbage (cruciferous veggies) bell pepper, zucchini, spinach (green leafy veggies).These foods are lowest in calories, made up mostly of water, fiber, protein and many micronutrients and vitamin precursor molecules.

2. Choose Protein: Legumes

Examples include: Legumes (beans, lentils, peas) are the most protein-dense plant-based whole food and include many minerals, soluble fiber that feeds gut bacteria and brings benefits to digestive health and antioxidants.

3. Add Starchy Vegetable and/or Whole Grains

Examples include: potatoes, carrots, beets (roots/tubers), oats, wheat, barley (whole grains).
Whole grains and certain vegetables contain more complex carbohydrates (referred to as starch) though also contain some fat and protein. Whole grains and starchy foods are more often recommended since they retain more nutrients, are more satiating and are not associated with the glycemic effects of more refined foods. Some refined foods may still be included if wanted though and can be useful for active individuals needing more calories. 

4. Add Fat (Nuts, Seeds, Other) + Toppings/Condiments

Examples include: almonds, hemp seeds, avocado + salt, spices, nutritional yeast and other toppings. It’s important food higher in fat to plant-based meals, because many other foods like veggies and legumes are low in fat. In addition to adding more flavor to the meal, fat can help to absorb fat-soluble vitamins and pro-vitamin molecules from veggies. Toppings and condiments can compliment the meal with additional nutrients, for example iodine in iodized salt or B vitamins in fortified nutritional yeast. Some oils may be included too, but I prefer more whole fat sources, because you get more nutrients.

Peachtree Road Race: Recap, Training and Travel Tips

Peachtree Road Race: Recap, Training and Travel Tips

With about 60,000 runners, the Peachtree Road Race is now one of the largest 10K races in the world. Organized by the Atlanta Track Club and held on U.S. Independence Day each year, the first race in 1970 included only 110 runners and was won by former Florida Track Club member and U.S. Olympian Jeff Galloway. In its 50th year, the race includes about 15,000 spectators lined along the course and draws together the Atlanta community, out-of-towners and an international field of elite runners. I’m sharing a recap of my experience running my first Peachtree Road Race along with training, travel and planning tips if you are interested in running this race next.

PEACHTREE ROAD RACE DETAILS

DATE: July 4th each year
LOCATION: Atlanta, Georgia
DISTANCE: 10 kilometers (6.2 miles)
COURSE: Road, start by Lenox Square, runs mostly straight with some slight curves along Peachtree Road with a decline down in the first half, then an incline up, with the largest climb of the race up Cardiac Hill, and the last half of the course includes some smaller up and down elevation changes, with one 45 degree left turn on 10th St before finishing by Piedmont Park.
REGISTRATION: Lottery, began in mid-March with notice of acceptance or rejection in April (exception is automatic acceptance for Atlanta Track Club members).
START WAVES: Qualifying Standards, placement based on your projected 10k finish time calculated from a finish time from a previous race of any distance that you can submit during registration. For information on registration, wave standards and placement, visit atlantatrackclub.org/participant-information-start.

HIGHLIGHTS THIS YEAR

Since it was the 50th anniversary of the race, there was extra prize money on the line for elite runners as incentives for placing and breaking course records. There were some notable names, including American elite women Emily Sisson and Jennifer Rhines and elite men Tyler Pennel and Abdi Abdirahman. Male Kenyan runner Rhonex Kipruto ran 27:01, the fastest 10K finish time on United States soil and as a course record at Peachtree this year (his personal best is 26:46, 2nd fastest time in the world). Female Kenyan runner Brigid Kosgei set a new course record in the elite women’s division in a neck-and-neck finish with Agnes Tirop, finishing in 30:22. Male and female wheelchair division race finish time records were broken too. At the expo, there were also special walls, photo ops and gear for all runners to commemorate the 50th year.

Rhonex Kipruto finishing first overall in the men’s division race. Video by Beatrice Torres.

Brigid Kosgei and Agnes Tirop in a foot race for the women’s division win. Photo by Beatrice Torres.

HOW I RAN

After a great performance at the Philadelphia Half Marathon last year, I had to drop out or defer from a few races this past Spring due to tendontis above my knee that I developed after the race. Upon full recovery, I was able to get in some solid weeks of training with Team Florida Track Club, but feel that I could have used more time to prep for the demands of Peachtree. I was more concerned with returning to training without re-injury. I included a 5K race in late May as a tune-up race. Then about one week before the race, I developed the same hamstring tendon issue that caused me to miss 2 months of running prior to the Philadelphia Half. I took two days completely off, included all kinds of mobility work and ran my last runs slow and easy prior to the race. I was still able to run Peachtree without stopping, but just at a slower pace than expected finishing in 43:09 (~6:57/mi) as the tightness affected my stride and slowed me down. However, it was a fun race and I’ll certainly be back to give this course my full effort in better shape.

TRAINING TIPS

 

  • RUN IN THE HEAT: If living in a warmer area, it can help to acclimate to race weather conditions.
  • PREPARE FOR HILLS: Including some easy runs and long runs on a hilly route and hill repeats can help.
  • INCREASE CARBS: According to a recent study, running in the heat can increase carb intake needs.
  • HYDRATE: Adequate water and electrolyte intake through food or drink before, during and after runs.
  • RUN BY FEEL: Effort may feel harder, pace may slow and breaks in warmer conditions can be beneficial.

The graphic below from Team Florida Track Club shows how running can be affected and how someone may go about setting expectations at various temperatures:

 

REGISTRATION TIPS

  • SUBMIT YOUR FASTEST PREVIOUS RACE TIME: To qualify for one of the waves with an earlier start time and run in lower temperatures. Elite, seeded and A wave runners started by 7 AM with temperatures in the mid 70s and other waves in much larger groups started about every 5 minutes after as temperatures rose to the mid 80s °F later on in the morning. If you forget to submit a previous race during online registration, you’ll be placed into one of the later start waves so don’t forget to submit one.
  • REGISTER AS EARLY AS POSSIBLE: The registration period was about two weeks long before the lottery was held and participants were randomly accepted or rejected. According to the Atlanta Track Club, everyone has a fair shot in the lottery regardless of day and time of registration and your qualifying time is only taken into account for wave placement after the lottery if you are accepted. 

 

TRAVEL TIPS

I was fortunate to live just about a 4 hour drive away from home. I stopped by the expo in downtown at the Atlanta Convention Center the day before the race in early afternoon to avoid larger crowds and traffic later in the day. I bought a parking permit for the main yellow lot across the street from the Atlanta Convention Center in advance online to save some money and time.

 

  • BOOK A HOTEL BY THE START LINE: Better to be within walking distance to the start line so you can sleep in later and not stress about joining the crowds of people likely taking the MARTA to get from further down the road to the start area. I booked early, once I was accepted into the race, to save on money and time later on.
  • YOU BUY MARTA PASSES AT EXPO: If you’re staying by the start line, you’ll want a one way ticket back for you and a round trip or multiple stop ticket for any of your friends or family members watching you race to avoid having to walk the 6.2 miles back or to take a ride share back along a busier road since the whole course along Peachtree Road will be closed to traffic most of the morning. 
  • TRAVEL WITH SOMEONE ELSE YOU KNOW: For safety reasons, it can be beneficial to attend the race with a friend, significant other or family member rather than alone. Plan communication, proximity and meet up sites well to avoid getting lost, because it is a large race and city.

FOOD TIPS

  • DON’T TRY ANYTHING NEW ON RACE DAY THAT YOU DIDN’T PRACTICE WITH: Everyone’s food preferences and needs varies, especially during training and prior to and during a race, and should not change too much for any race. It could increase the chance of something going wrong, especially combined with race day nerves, that can negatively impact your performance. Common tips are to eat familiar foods that you ate during training runs, especially long runs or race-specific runs, and that you found easy for you to digest to carry you through the run feeling well.
  • PACK YOUR FOOD FOR THE TRIP AND FIND FOOD SPOTS AND STORES IN THE AREA: Saves money and you’re able to conveniently eat the foods that you practiced with during your travel to Atlanta. Alternatively, you can find food shops or stores at the airport or stop along the way for food if you drive. Wherever I travel for a race, I like to find a large supermarket with many quick grab-and-go options either local or a Whole Foods Market where others I travel with and I can find our food preferences and also buy additional snack or hygiene items if forgotten. There is a Whole Foods Market on Peachtree Road within walking distances from hotels near the start line and in other areas in Atlanta.
  • YOU DON’T NEED TO CARB LOAD AND MAY NOT NEED TO FUEL DURING THE RACE: For a 10k, you don’t need to load up on carbohydrates to store energy unlike common recommendations for longer races like a marathon. In regards to fueling during the race, it will depend on how fast you are. Speedy runners who expect to cover the distance in under 40 minutes don’t need to worry about taking in fuel, but if you typically run between 45-60 minutes oral longer to complete 10 kilometers, you might consider taking in fuel during the race.
  • POST RACE FOOD OPTIONS AT THE FINISH ARE GREAT: After crossing the finish line, there is a big post-race gathering in Piedmont Park where you are given your medal, water, clip bars and other refreshments. After cooling off there, you can head over to the Partner Village, where there was tons of catered food options this year: all varieties of bagels, muffins, cookies and sandwiches, including vegetarian/vegan options like hummus wraps, and drinks like coffee and Smart Water. In the Partner Village, there were also tents with fans and mist machines to stay cool, mats and foam rollers and access to the side of the course to watch and cheer on the rest of the runners coming in to the finish. 

 

WHAT I ATE

I kept my way of eating the same, but slightly shifted towards foods lower in fiber food as I practiced before past races and key runs. I included foods like white rice, sweet potatoes, fruits and veggies with a higher water content like cucumber and lower fiber protein foods like tofu and tempeh in place of beans. Race morning, I ate 2 medjool dates and drank black tea and water.

RACE TIPS

 

  • GET TO THE RACE START AT LEAST AN HOUR BEFORE YOUR START TIME: So you have time for your warm up run, exercises, bathroom, etc. The start area is by a large hotel and shopping mall plaza in Lenox Square that you can warm up in along the roads and parking lots. I found there was an adequate amount of porta-potties, though lines may be longer for larger groups of people starting at later times.
  • ALLOW ENOUGH TIME TO GET INTO YOUR START WAVE: it seemed like most runners, with the exception of elites, were directed to enter their corrals from an entrance up a hill further near the back rather than cutting through from the front or side closer near the start line.
  • DON’T START OUT TOO FAST: This was a common tip I was told by others who ran it the previous year referring to how the first half of the course is a gradual downhill over which you may compensate by running faster, but you want to save energy for the second half of the course that has more uphill.

Hope this review helps you and that you enjoy your time in the race if you run it next. If you can stick around for the Atlanta 4th of July festivities, there are fireworks in Centennial Olympic Park and at other areas in the city. Let me know if you have any questions or need clarification on any tips I shared.

 

 

Non-Diet Approach to Plant Based Eating: All Foods Fit

Non-Diet Approach to Plant Based Eating: All Foods Fit

Plant-based diets or ways of eating made up mostly of food derived from plants, may sometimes be muddled up with “diets” or a certain set of foods to which one restricts oneself, either to lose weight or for medical reasons. The intentions behind plant-based eating can include reasons beyond the priority of health, such as personal ethics and values towards the effects of food choices on animal welfare and environment, which allows for all food needs and preferences and differentiates it from “diets”.

ALL FOOD (THAT YOU CONSIDER FOOD) FITS

Someone can choose a more plant-based way of eating, such as vegetarian or vegan, which avoids certain or all animal products, because of personal ethical values towards that food. Avoiding these foods for those reasons is not considered a restriction, which is not possible, because that person does not consider those foods as food or as part of his or her “food environment”, as Taylor Wolfram, MS, RDN, LDN calls it in this blog post on how to balance ethics and intuitive eating.  

We each are able to choose which foods are a part of our personal food environment. Accessibility, budget, culture, needs, preferences and values towards food are some factors that can affect our chosen food environments and can change over time. Culture often has the greatest influence on our food choices, but it’s okay to deviate from what is considered the traditional way of eating to accommodate the values within your food environment. As an example of differing values and viewpoints, think of how some cultures include traditions of eating cows and not dogs, while others include traditions of eating dogs and not cows. An American will likely oppose the eating of dogs, because they are brought up in a culture of seeing dogs as pets and not an option as food likely due to their ethical values. Such personal values change. Think about being brought up in a culture with a tradition of eating dogs and developing values, which you have now, that cause you to avoid doing so. 

The key is that foods are not avoided due to unnecessary values involved in “dieting”, such as eating for weight loss or covering for an eating disorder. It is not wrong to have a goal to lose weight and adapt your way of eating to accommodate that goal. The issue with “diets” though is that they tend to be a one-size-fits-all way without a focus on individual differences. They are more prone to causing feelings of restriction and negative self wellness and promoting one “healthiest” way of eating for everyone when there is no such thing. Plant-based eating can encompass a broad range of different customizable ways, even within vegetarian and vegan eating, to meet personal needs and preferences as well as values and other factors within one’s food environment if applicable.  

The foods that someone may not considered as options, such as meat, dairy, eggs and/or other animal products, are not necessarily “unhealthy” and it’s okay to include them if they fit within your food environment. I grew up including those foods for 20 years and then have not included them for the past 4 years and equally have been in good personal health. I choose foods that I enjoy and that fuel me, but that fit my personal values as far as is practical. I used to enjoy the taste of chicken and salmon and the sight or smell of it can bring back memories of enjoyment, but my values towards my personal food choices prevent me from considering it as food and wanting to eat it again. It’s not a result of discipline, but rather what Fraser Bayley of Evolving Alpha calls a paradigm shift in which your viewpoint changes. If my values were to shift and I wanted to eat these foods again then I would.   

No, plant-based is not synonymous with “healthy” (which can mean something different to everyone) as refined foods, such as donuts, can be be plant-based, yet are not as health promoting as less processed foods. In any way of eating though, I’d consider it more “unhealthy” to completely restrict a food that they wants to eat. I encourage more whole food based ways of eating, but that does not mean more processed foods can’t be included. The point of plant-based eating should not be about completely avoiding foods that you want to it, but diet culture considers as “good” or “bad” for you from a health perspective.

To sum up, the intentions behind plant-based eating should not be about excluding the food and forms of food that you enjoy, but rather about avoiding the things that they are made of that you don’t consider as food due to your personal ethical values and replacing them with alternatives and introduced foods made with plant-based ingredients that you do consider as food.

THAT MEANS YOU DON’T HAVE TO AVOID COOKIES: TRY THESE GLUTEN-FREE VEGAN CHOCOLATE CHIPS COOKIES, RECIPE HERE.

FLEXIBILITY AND INTUITIVE EATING ARE IMPORTANT

Our current world is not the perfect environment for vegans, vegetarians and other predominantly plant-based eaters. However, it’s not about being perfect, which is not possible, but about carrying out your values to the greatest extent that is possible and practical to you. It’s not possible to contribute to zero animal deaths, zero food waste and other effects of food choices. It’s okay if you mistakenly or even purposefully eat certain animal-based products that you want or don’t want to eat. Everyone is on their own health journey and it is best to do what feels right for you right now, because you know your body best. It’s your personal choices and values based on your own experiences, knowledge, considerations and beliefs, not based on others. I talk about some of the challenges you may face eating more plant-based and ways to adapt and overcome them in this blog post.

While confidently embracing many parts of a vegan lifestyle as far as is possible and practical for me, I choose to not force personal values onto others, want to help with all ways of more plant-based eating and most often do not label my own lifestyle or way of eating except in cases where it helps to distinguish from what is traditional. Others who are new to a plant-based lifestyle may find it helpful to not include labels as they let go of restrictive rules that can be a part of “diets” and find what flexibly works best for them right now, which accommodates a wide range of options, from those who want to include one meatless meal a week to those who want to transition to eating fully plant-based. 

Intuitive eating is a response to “dieting” that embraces inclusiveness with all personal food choices and positive body images. It essentially encourages you to choose foods that fit your food environment and to become more in tune with what your body wants and needs as an individual rather than make certain food choices out of fear or guilt. Regardless of food choices, I think the non-diet message of intuitive eating can be important especially for athletes and active individuals in which nutrition and body images can be involved in their performance and young adults who begin to choose their independent food environments and values.

To sum up, intuitive eating practices can be applied within plant-based eating to encourage flexibility and practicality in accommodating individual wants and needs and to take the focus of food choices away from just weight and body image and more towards their broader effects that contribute to one’s personal values and should be the main reason for choosing more plant-based eating. 

 

BBQ Tempeh Burgers

BBQ Tempeh Burgers

BBQ tempeh is simple to prep, nutritious, flavorful and a great plant-based protein alternative to cook on grill or stove top and as part of any meal.

What is Tempeh?

Tempeh is a soy-product that originates from Indonesia and Southeast Asian cuisine. It is made by binding whole soaked and partially cooked soybeans, sometimes along with whole grains, together into a dense bar through culturing and fermentation with Rhizopus oligosporus, a fungus starter. The whole bean form and fermentation process gives tempeh a firm compact texture, earthy taste and higher amounts of protein, fiber and other nutrients and can be easier to digest due compared to tofu. Tempeh can be found in supermarkets or even at farmer’s markets. Gainesville, FL for example has local businesses like The Tempeh Shop and Arto Moro Tempeh that make tempeh in town using soybeans and other materials grown in the United States. They offer tempeh varieties other than soy-based, including yellow split pea and black eyed pea.

How to Prep and Use Tempeh

Steaming or boiling tempeh prior to cooking it can help to further neutralize the earthy taste and possibly improve nutrient absorption . This also softens it to allow more flavor from whatever you season or marinate it with to soak through the surface. Dry spice mixes or sauces are a great option. I particularly like to use BBQ sauce when wanting that flavor in a plant-based alternative like these BBQ tempeh burgers. After the optional steaming or boiling, they can be pan cooked, baked or grilled just until browned and heated through. Tempeh can also be sliced, chopped or crumbled up and added into stir fries, salads and many other dishes in place of meat.

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BBQ Tempeh Burgers

BBQ tempeh is simple to prep, nutritious, flavorful and a great plant-based protein alternative to cook on grill or stove top and as part of any meal.

  • Author: Cedric Torres
  • Prep Time: 15 min
  • Cook Time: 10 min
  • Total Time: 25 minutes
  • Yield: 2 burgers 1x
Scale

Ingredients

  • 8oz block organic soy tempeh
  • ½ cup BBQ sauce
  • 2 hamburger buns

Instructions

Prep

  1. Cut the tempeh block in half. Fill a large pot with water, place a colander on top, place cut tempeh into the colander, cover with lid, place pot on stove top and turn on heat to high to steam for 10 minutes.
  2. Then remove the tempeh, dump out the water and proceed with next cooking steps.

 

Stove Top

  1. Add the BBQ sauce to a pot or pan, bring to a simmer, add the tempeh and cook the tempeh in the sauce for 5 to 10 minutes, turning it over half way through and moving it around in the sauce to keep it evenly coated.

Grill

  1. Coat the tempeh evenly in the BBQ sauce and place on grill or preferably let marinate for some time to soak up the flavor prior to placing on the grill to cook just until browned on both sides.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids: Plant Based Alternatives To Fish

Omega 3 Fatty Acids: Plant Based Alternatives To Fish

Omega sounds like part of college Greek life, right? We’re talking here about Omega 3 fatty acids, which are essential to get as our bodies can’t make them. The most common ways we are advised to do so is through eating fish or supplementing with fish oil. The current dietary recommendation is to include one to two servings of fatty fish each week. Fishing is suggested to be unsustainable and environmentally damaging and along with other reasons that some people have for not consuming seafood or other animal-based sources, alternatives need to be addressed. Plant-based omega 3 fat sources are a solution, but are they as efficient in supplying what we need?

NOTE: This post is not intended to give dietary advice. Contact a registered dietitian if that is what you are seeking. Statements are my own or referenced from researched sources to share information helping people interested in plant-based alternatives to seafood. This post is not intended to disapprove of seafood businesses and organizations or one’s personal choice to consume seafood.

Fishing Is Suggested to be Unsustainable and Environment Damaging

Fish is commercially supplied for us to eat, for making fish oil supplements and for fish feed in aqua farming. The demand for fish and fish oil has risen to a point that it may threaten fish populations and the environments they live in. Waste from boats and pollution from land into the water can contribute and also threaten the quality and safety of seafood for consumers. While we don’t know yet to what degree the risk if any it poses to our health, fish are known to ingest or absorb plastic particles, chemicals and others contaminants in the water. Mercury is one concern, but there are many other residues that can become concentrated in their organs and flesh and pass up the food chain to accumulate in humans. That may not influence consumer decisions as much compared to concerns for animal welfare and a desire for sustainable sources.

Seafood suppliers and organizations have suggested more sustainable fishing practices. They encourage consumers to choose fish lower in the food chain more often and sustainable options described as fish with minimal environmental impact. However, the form of fishing described with the lowest environmental impact is hand caught or line fishing, which would be inefficient in supplying everyone with such fish. Sustainable seafood would rely on aqua farming for a higher yield, which is connected with the concerns people have that cause them to choose sustainable seafood in the first place. Not everyone has access to a local supply of fish either and this seafood would come at a higher price. Sustainable like traditional seafood policy also allows suppliers and menus to label fish simply as “fish” rather than the specific species.

Minimizing ocean damage from fishing to an extent that keeps the seafood industry thriving simply slows the damage rather than offer as solution to eliminate the cause of it. Understandably, some people enjoy fish and are allowed to eat what they want. Those interested in following a way of eating that does not include fish or animal sources of omega 3 fats based on environmental and health reasons or additional personal circumstances need alternatives to get omega 3s. Before addressing them, it’s important to first introduce the forms of omega 3 fatty acids, their roles and sources.

Different Forms of Omega-3 Fats Each with a Different Roles

Our bodies can naturally make some of the fats we need, except for omega-3 (and omega-6) fats, which must be obtain from food and are therefore called essential fats.

There are three main forms of omega-3 fats found in our food supply that we know of and each have different important roles in our bodies. Simply explained:

  • Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids synthesized from short-chain fatty acids. They are found mostly in oily fish and in smaller amounts in other animal-based sources. Like omega-6 fats, their roles are to either make energy through oxidation or to integrate as phospholipids into cell membranes. They are precursors to molecules involved in the inflammation process and have a role in brain health.
  • Alpha-linoleic acid (ALA) are short-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids that can be converted to the long-chain fatty acids. They are known to be found mostly in nuts and seeds, with the highest amounts being in flax, chia and hemp seeds, walnuts, vegetable oils, green leafy vegetables and certain fatty animal products that are grass-fed or omega-3 supplemented. They are involved in the inflammation process too and have a role in cardiovascular health.

Due to their different roles and benefits in the body, both EPA, DHA and ALA sources of food are recommended to be consumed.

The Conversion of ALA to EPA and DHA is Suggested to be Inefficient

ALA can be converted to EPA and DHA through a series of reactions involving enzymes and intermediates. This process has been suggested to be inefficient. What can make it inefficient?

One explanation is that there are rate limiting reactions that are the slowest and determine the overall rate or time, and therefore the efficiency, of the conversion pathway in forming products. The result is not all of the original reactant appears to get converted into the product and is used in other purposes. One such rate limiting step is the conversion of ALA to a higher intermediate that is catalyzed by the enzyme delta-6-desaturase.

Conversion can vary from person to person based on other factors, including gender and age as well as overall diet. Omega 6 fatty acids are known to compete with omega 3 fatty acids for some of the same enzymes, which can affect conversion rates too. Most studies have shown that adequate high doses of ALA can convert more efficiently to EPA, but conversion to DHA does not occur.

However, inefficient conversion from ALA is based on earlier studies performed using humans who consume fish or other direct sources of preformed EPA and DHA. Some have even suggested that the vegan and vegetarian diets observed tend to be low in ALA food sources. More studies have yet to be performed on vegans or people who do not intake direct sources of DHA from seafood, algae or other animal products and fortified foods and who intake enough ALA food sources (and adjust for the other factors addressed like individual differences and omega 6 intake). Only one such study has been performed so far and offers an insight into the Omega 3 conversion process and optimizing it through what we eat.

Conversion Is Likely More Efficient Without DHA Source

The EPIC-Norfolk Cohort Study on dietary intake and status of omega 3 fatty acids in fish-eating and non-fish-eating groups of people found that the reactant (ALA) to product (DHA) ratio was higher, suggesting higher conversion, among non-fish-eater vegans and vegetarians compared to fish-eaters.

These results can be explained by other studies that also look into the process at the cell and molecular level, including one suggesting ALA intake can adequately meet brain DHA requirements. Preformed DHA is suggested to cause the gene that expresses for the production of the enzyme elongase involved in the conversion process to turn off. Only in people who do not intake preformed DHA is the gene that produces the enzyme able to stay on and convert more ALA up through to DHA. It may be the body’s mechanism of signaling when it has enough DHA and doesn’t need to convert more ALA to DHA.

Understanding how we may be able to optimize the omega 3 pathway for better conversion to EPA and DHA in this way would be a huge breakthrough in dietary recommendations for plant-based non-fish eaters. Current recommendations include taking an algae-based omega 3 supplement, which contains DHA, though this may cause a similar inefficient conversion from ALA due to the direct DHA source. Another possible way to increase conversion would be to bypass one of the rate-limiting enzymes by including a food source that contains one the intermediates between ALA and EPA. In the next post, I will share this and other food sources of plant based omega 3 fatty acids.

Thanks for reading!

Cedric