• REPLACING ANIMAL PROTEIN WITH PLANT PROTEIN

  • SEAWEED, SO DELICIOUS, SO NUTRITIOUS

  • WHAT ACTUALLY BELONGS ON THE MENU?

 How Do We Follow a Healthy Plant-Based Diet?

 A "Whole Food Plant Based Diet" (WFPBD) is a diet consisting of whole-grain products, vegetables, fruit, legumes, nuts and seeds, a limited amount of fats (especially unsaturated fats) and as little processed food as possible (i.e. ready-made meals that can be purchased in supermarkets, fruit juices, veggie burgers, charcuterie, pizzas, cereals such as cornflakes...). Unhealthy saturated fats, trans fatty acids, sugar, salt, preservatives, seasonings, etc. are all often added to processed foods. Omega-6 type vegetable oils should be consumed in moderation. It's best to get nutrients from foods as nature has provided them for us, and to prepare these foods in your own kitchen. Including a wide variety of vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, seeds and grain products in your diet is important. Also pay attention to how you prepare your food; try to incorporate both raw and cooked food in your daily meals. Certain nutrients are even healthier when eaten raw as opposed to cooked or steamed. Onions, for example, are best eaten raw, whereas tomatoes are far healthier when they have been cooked. 

Stew or steam vegetables. When cooked, many vitamins and nutrients are lost if the boiled water is poured away and not used. You can use this boiled water to make soup, for example.

We should strive for a ratio of 70 to 80% carbohydrates, 10 to 20% fats and 10% protein between the macronutrients.

Carbohydrates (sugars) are the main suppliers of energy for our body. Simple or fast sugars that are used in sweets, soft drinks, pastries and refined grain products (e.g. white bread, white rice) should be avoided as much as possible. These foods also carry little other nutritional value.

Our body needs the complex carbohydrates (slow digestible carbohydrates), starches, as can be found in whole grains and pastas, potatoes, sweet potatoes, legumes, whole-grain rice, whole wheat bread, bulgur, couscous, quinoa and natural sugars in fruit. These nutrients play an important role in supplying our body with the minimum recommended daily intake of 25 to 30 grams of fibre needed to keep our intestines (intestinal wall and intestinal flora) healthy to be able to function properly.

When it comes to fats, you should limit your intake of saturated fats as much as possible and choose products containing healthy, unsaturated fats instead. Think of nuts, seeds, olive oil, rapeseed oil, flaxseed, flaxseed oil... Try to avoid coconut oil, palm oil and cocoa butter, which all contain more saturated fats than animal fats.

We should be careful with fats in general. 1 gram of any kind of fat amounts to 9 kcal, whereas carbohydrates and proteins only contain 4 kcal for every gram consumed.

"The Worst To Best Fats You Can Eat"  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=poxJtNG6QyA

REPLACING ANIMAL PROTEIN WITH PLANT PROTEIN

When making the decision to no longer consume animal protein, it is important to look into different sources of plant-based proteins. A good option would be soybeans, for example. The protein found in soybeans contains all the essential amino acids that our bodies need, and it can be easily broken down in the digestive system. What's more, soy is in fact the only bean that offers healthy, unsaturated fats (omega-3, 6 and 9). It's also rich in minerals such as iron, magnesium and calcium.

Other good examples of plant-based protein foods are chickpeas, lentils, tofu, beans (kidney beans, adzuki beans, black beans, mung beans...), seitan, nuts (cashews, almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts...), seeds (flaxseed, pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, chia seeds...), rice and wheat.

You can use soy by leaving soybeans to soak overnight. Then boil them for an hour. It's also possible to buy soybeans that no longer need soaking and that you can add directly to a pan of simmering vegetables, to lasagna or spaghetti sauce.

The term 'edamame' refers to a preparation of immature soybeans that are still in the pod. The pods are harvested before the beans have the chance to fully ripen and become hard.

The green pod itself is rather stringy and shouldn't be eaten. Inside the pod, there will be about three or four small green beans for you to taste.

Edamame beans have a high nutritional value. Not only are they rich in protein, iron, omega-3 fatty acids and calcium, but they also contain lots of fibre, vitamin A and vitamin C. 

Supermarkets will normally sell edamame in the frozen section, where you will find it either with or without the pod.

You can eat it as a healthy snack or as a side dish. When preparing frozen edamame, leave the beans in the pod and do not defrost them. Either leave the beans to cook for a few minutes in salted water or steam them until soft. When done, rinse with cold water, drain excess water and dry the beans with some kitchen roll. Besides eating them on their own as a snack or side dish, you can also incorporate them in your meal preparations.

Tofu is made by coagulating soy milk with natural mineral-rich coagulants based on calcium and magnesium (e.g. nigari). Tofu is white in colour and has a fairly neutral taste. This makes it perfect for absorbing the flavours of other ingredients. That's why tofu is often marinated (in, for example, soy sauce) and then cooked.

Miso is a traditional Japanese brown (stock) paste. To make miso, a long fermentation process is needed that can take anywhere between 12 to 18 months. This involves fermenting yellow soybeans in cedar barrels with salt and sometimes grains (rice or barley), under the influence of the fungus Aspergillus oryzae. You can use the paste to flavour soups and sauces, or you can add it to your meal preparations. In Japan, it wouldn't be unusual to start your day with a bowl of miso soup.

Tempeh is a soy product that originates from Indonesia. To make tempeh, soybeans are left to soak and are then cooked. After being cooked, the soybeans are inoculated (mixed) with the fungus Rhizopus oligosporus and are then incubated for about 24 hours.

Tempeh has a neutral flavour but takes on the flavours of other ingredients well. This makes it perfect to add to a number of dishes. Tempeh is rich in B vitamins, vitamin A, folate, fibre and minerals such as calcium, iron, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, zinc and manganese. Thanks to the enzymatic action during the fermentation process, nutrients become easier to digest and components such as oligosaccharides and phytates are broken down. This results in a product with a digestibility coefficient of 86% with a high level of protein containing all the essential amino acids.

Nattō has been a traditional dish in Japan for over a thousand years. The meal consists of soybeans that have been fermented with Bacillus subtilis var. natto. Nattō has a very distinctive smell of ammonia, caused by the Bacillus subtilis var. natto breaking down the amino acids. Polymers (polyglutamine tract) are formed during the fermentation process that give nattō its typical sticky texture. The dish's powerful smell and slimy appearance do not appeal to everyone, especially here in Europe. However, in Japan, it's a national favourite. It's not unusual to start your day there with a bowl rice and nattō. Nattō is rich in calcium, vitamin E, potassium, vitamin B and vitamin K2, which is quite rare to find in food. Small traces of K2 can be found in liver, cheese and egg yolk. Vitamin K2 plays an important role in helping blood clot and is mainly produced by gut bacteria. Vitamin K1 can be found in leafy greens, especially in spinach. Vitamin K2 is absorbed by the body far easier than vitamin K1.

Soy drinks are a substitute for cow's milk made from soya beans. To produce soy drinks, peeled soybeans are ground together in water. Afterwards, the remaining liquid is separated from the pulp. By adding water during the process, soy drink only consists of soybeans by about 5.9%. More or less 92 grams of unpeeled soybeans are needed to produce 1 litre of soy drink. Plant-based drink is a natural by-product of the manufacture of tofu. Soy drink does not have a sweet taste and is therefore often sweetened. I personally recommend unsweetened over sweetened.

The CO2 emission of regular cow's milk is 2.5 times more than that of soy drink. Not only this, but cow's milk requires twice the amount of agricultural land and 4 times more water.

There's approximately 120 mg of calcium in 100 ml of semi-skimmed cow's milk. Most fortified plant-based drinks (soy, almond, rice and nut) contain just as much calcium. In enriched soy drink, different supplements are added which can in fact make it even healthier than regular cow's milk. Despite containing a bit more salt, soy drink contains vitamin D, just as much easily absorbable vitamin B12 as cow's milk, vitamin B2 and healthy unsaturated fats as opposed to saturated fats found in dairy products.

Soy drink is preferable to other plant-based drinks, because it also offers high levels of protein.

Seitan is a plant-based product rich in protein, with a texture similar to that of meat. The name 'Seitan' originates in Japan, where the product has been traditionally prepared for hundreds of years. To make seitan, wheat gluten is cooked in a broth consisting of tamari soy sauce, kombu (seaweed) and ginger. Sometimes bay leaves, curry and paprika are also added, depending on the brand of the seitan. This not only gives the seitan a more savoury flavour, but it also makes it easier to digest. Adding kombu (seaweed) to the broth increases the levels of organic compounds and trace elements. By combining seitan with tamari (soy sauce), the absorption of plant-based proteins in the body is significantly increased. The percentage of usable protein is 67%. Seitan is very easy to digest and consists of 22% plant-based protein. You can crumble small pieces of seitan into your soup, or add it to rice, macaroni or spaghetti to finish off your dish. Seitan can even be roasted and served as meat would be.

Since seitan is made from gluten, people who are intolerant to gluten (coeliac disease) or who have gluten allergies cannot eat seitan. People who are allergic to soy are also best to stay clear of seitan, since soy sauce (tamari) is often used when making the product.

Besides being a great source of carbs and protein, legumes are also packed with fibre and minerals such as iron, magnesium, calcium, etc. Plants absorb minerals from the soil in which they grow. However, the quality of the soil is not the same everywhere. This means that if the soil is polluted, the plants also absorb those pollutants. In certain areas of Asia for example, the soil is contaminated with arsenic. If you choose to buy rice from Asia, it's best to go with basmati or jasmine rice. Whole-grain products typically contain more pollutants. You can also find whole-grain rice that has been grown in Europe in most health food shops.                                     

SEAWEED, SO DELICIOUS, SO NUTRITIOUS

   Algae is a collective term for a large, varied and heterogenous group of relatively simple organisms. Currently, about 35,000 different types of algae are known of. Half of these grow in water, whereas the other half live on land.

Algae vary immensely in size. The smallest algae are called microalgae and consist of only one cell. They're more commonly known as (phyto)plankton. Larger algae that grow in water are called marine algae, macroalgae or seaweed. Most algae have a root-like attachment organ. They use this to secure themselves to hard surfaces such as rocks or coral reefs. Some seaweeds fail to attach themselves to anything, and float freely in the sea. Algae do not have a solid form, but because of the upward pressure of the water, they always stand upright in water. Except for a little sunlight, seaweeds are able to get all they need from the water they're surrounded by.

Seaweed can be found in various depths of the ocean. Green algae are located closest to the surface of the water (e.g. sea lettuce and green seaweed). Brown algae are slightly deeper (e.g., arame, bladderweed, hijiki, kelp, kombu, wakame and sea spaghetti), with red algae closer to the bottom of the ocean (e.g. dulse). The term blue-green algae can be very deceiving. These 'algae' are actually bacteria and do not, as the name suggests, belong to the classification of algae. Seaweeds all conduct photosynthesis to produce energy and carbohydrates. The subclassification of algae by colour is simply based on the most prominent colour of the substance needed for photosynthesis. 

39 different nutrients have been discovered in seaweed that amass to 36% of its total weight. Calcium, magnesium, sodium, phosphorus, potassium, iron and iodine are the main mineral concentrations that were found. Depending on which kind it is, seaweed can also act as a great source of vitamin A, B1, C (present in red and green algae) and vitamin E. Algae spirulina and chlorella also contain vitamin B1.

Of all plants, seaweed (especially kelp) contains the most minerals. In the ocean, they are able to directly absorb minerals from the water and concentrate them in their cell structure. This means that you can benefit from all these healthy minerals in seaweed! All you need to do is let the seaweed soak in water and then chew it well. You can also use it when cooking or even brew a cup of seaweed tea. When seaweed and water are combined, a naturally balanced combination is created where minerals, vitamins and essential trace elements are easily retained.

Arame, hijiki and wakame contain at least ten times as much calcium as milk. Sea lettuce even contains twenty-five times as much iron as meat. The biological availability of protein (PDCAAS) in seaweed is extremely high. In nori, for example, this comes to 70%. Green and red algae, such as nori and dulse, contain more protein than brown algae (with the exception of wakame). 

On average, seaweed consists of 10-25% carbohydrates, 10-27% protein, 1-5% fat (which means few pollutants!) and 34-38% fibre. It is a great source of energy with hardly any calories.

Seaweed is rich in iodine. As long as (dried) seaweed is kept in an airtight seal, there is hardly any loss of iodine. However, if the seaweed is exposed to air or humidity, or if the seaweed is cooked, the level of iodine will rapidly decrease. In some cases, 99% of the iodine can already be absorbed in boiling water after just 10-15 minutes. If the water is poured away, then the iodine is also lost. You can, however, choose to use and consume the remaining water. Instead of boiling, if you steam the seaweed the iodine level will lower by 20%. Roasting the seaweed will only lower the iodine content by 6%. The brown seaweed kombu contains the highest levels of iodine. It is often cooked and then dried in order to lower the iodine content. ¼ gram of kombu will provide you with your recommended daily intake of iodine.

Seaweed contains colloidal minerals (in liquid form) that facilitate the removal of toxic substances and help to transport other nutrients, such as vitamins.

Only sea lettuce and nori contain vitamin B12. Research has shown that a large amount of this is actually the so-called pseudovitamin B12, a variant of the regular vitamin B12 that is not active and that is difficult for the body to absorb.

Consuming seaweed has many health benefits, such as optimising thyroid gland functioning (because of the levels of iodine). Other health benefits include regulating blood sugar and cholesterol levels, breaking down cholesterol (therefore reducing the absorption of cholesterol in the body), detoxifying radioactive elements, heavy metals and free radicals, etc.

Seaweed is sold both fresh and dried. Common edible seaweeds are sea lettuce, nori, kelp/kombu, wakame, arame, sea spaghetti and dulse. The natural salt content of seaweed can vary greatly between different kinds of seaweed or even within one specific kind. Sea lettuce hardly contains any sodium, but wakame can be quite salty. Often, freshly sold seaweeds are salted. You can remove the salt by leaving it to soak in water of even rinsing the seaweed and dabbing it dry. Only small amounts of seaweed are usually used in dishes, because of its salty flavour and its typical colour and structure.

You can add some seaweed to the pot when preparing soup (for 20-30 minutes), roast it in the oven until crisp (15 minutes), use it fresh in a salad or stir-fry it in some pasta sauce (5 minutes). You can make tea from kombu and use nori sheets to roll sushi.

30 grams of dried seaweed, after being soaked, corresponds to about 300 grams of fresh seaweed (with an average ratio of 10:1). One teaspoon comes to about 4 grams of seaweed. The recommended daily amount is 70 grams of fresh or soaked seaweed, 7 grams of dried seaweed (in small pieces or flakes) or 1.5 teaspoon of powder or granules. In Japan, people eat up to 10 grams of dried seaweed a day.

Fresh seaweed can go off pretty quickly and has a limited shelf life. Make sure to check the expiry date on packs that have yet to be opened. If you have already opened the packaging, you'll be able to keep the seaweed for another 1-2 days in the fridge (at 4°C). Dried seaweeds are normally packed airtight. These can be kept a lot longer than fresh seaweed but be sure to always keep the expiry date in mind. When you leave dried seaweed to soak in water, it can become 9 times larger than its original size. This can take up to an hour. Soaked seaweed will only keep for one day when stored in the fridge. 

Seaweed is the vegetable of the future. In the Netherlands, the cultivation of seaweed started a few years ago. There are already several seaweed farms dotted along the Dutch coast. Seaweed is a versatile and nutritious crop that can be grown without any land, fresh water or fertiliser. It also grows at a fast rate. Seaweed is perfectly suitable for both humans and animals. Furthermore, it is able to convert the greenhouse gas CO2 into biomass and oxygen. This process also helps to counteract the acidification of the oceans. Seaweed fields also act as the perfect habitat for young fish and shellfish.

In addition, seaweed is often processed into thickening agents, such as agar-agar, alginate and carrageenan. Seaweed can even be made into packaging                        

WHAT ACTUALLY BELONGS ON THE MENU?

  • First and foremost, you should concentrate on integrating "G-BOMBS" (as the American doctor Joel Fuhrman calls them) into your daily meals. I would highly recommend watching his lecture "The End of Diabetes and Super Immunity by Joe Fuhrman MD".
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vhr-7VLkBy8

G = Greens: Leafy greens are packed with nutrients. They are important sources of calcium (for strong bones), folic acid, protein and nitrates. Nitrates are converted into nitrite by bacteria in the mouth while chewing. Nitrite is then converted into NO (nitric oxide) in the stomach where it is absorbed into the bloodstream, opening the blood vessels. This improves blood circulation and reduces blood pressure. Leafy greens contain the antioxidants lutein and astaxanthin, which both support healthy eye function. By cutting up or chewing vegetables, the glucosinolates in those vegetables are converted into isothiocyanates. Isothiocyanates are known to reduce the chances of tumour formation. Leafy greens also contain small amounts of omega-3.

B = Beans: Beans (legumes) are the most nutrient-dense vegetables. They are rich in easily absorbable plant-based protein, carbohydrates (slow or complex sugars), fibre, resistant starch and minerals.

The less branched chains occur in starch, the slower and more difficult the starch is to digest in the intestines. Some starches are constructed in such a way that the digestive enzymes are unable to break them down. Starch that cannot be fully broken down or absorbed is also known as resistant starch. Fibre and resistant starch lower the uptake of calories and cholesterol in the intestine. This means that the chance of diabetes is lowered and that you can have more control over your weight. Furthermore, they are prebiotics (food for healthy intestinal bacteria).

It has been scientifically proven that eating legumes twice a week could lower your risk of colon cancer by 50%. 

O = Onions: Onions, garlic and shallots belong to the Allium genus. They contain organosulfur compounds and flavonoids (anthocyanins and quercetin), which are all powerful antioxidants. These substances reduce the risk of cancer by preventing the formation of new blood vessels and cell division in tumours.

Eating onions will protect you against diabetes and cardiovascular diseases, and it will also boost your immune system. It's best to eat onions raw to take full advantage of these health benefits.

M = Mushrooms: Mushrooms are known to contain substances that fight cancer, that act as anti-inflammatory agents and that inhibit aromatase. The latter ensures that mushrooms have an anti-estrogenic (anti-hormonal) effect. It has been proven that mushrooms reduce the risk of breast, stomach and colon cancer.

They are at their best when cooked. Raw mushrooms naturally contain the toxin agaritine, which can be poisonous for humans when consumed in large quantities and is possibly even carcinogenic. A few slices of mushroom in a salad, for example, won't do any harm. Cooking can remove a great deal of agaritine.

B = Berries: Of all food, berries contain the most antioxidants. They help prevent cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes and high blood pressure, and they can help to boost your memory.

S = Seeds: Seeds are rich in unsaturated fats, protein and minerals. They help prevent cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and obesity.

Flaxseed, chia seeds and hemp seeds are all rich in omega-3 fatty acids (Alpha-linolenic acid).

Flaxseed and sesame seeds are rich in anticancerous lignans.

Sesame seeds are high in calcium and vitamin E.

Sunflower seeds contain a lot of protein and minerals. Especially pumpkin seeds are packed with iron, calcium and zinc.

Eat 1 to 2 tablespoons of grounded flaxseed a day. Combine this with sunflower seeds, hemp seeds, sesame seeds... You can even add seeds to plant-based yoghurts, smoothies, cereals, soup or homemade bread.

Eat a handful of nuts a day. They're rich in protein, minerals, vitamins, antioxidants, dietary fibre and healthy unsaturated fats. They're quite high in calories because of the amount of fat they contain, so try to limit yourself to 30 grams a day.

2 brazil nuts a day can provide you with your daily recommended intake of selenium (antioxidant). Cashews are rich in high-quality protein and walnuts are packed with alpha linolenic acid (omega-3).

Eat 2 to 3 pieces of fruit a day

Try to eat at least 3 portions of different vegetables a day, paying special attention to leafy greens.


Choose plant-based sandwich spreads such as hummus, guacamole, veggie martino, nut cheese, vegetable pâté, nut butter (see section 'Recipes' for further info).

You can also make smoothies with salad, raw spinach, avocado, pre-cooked beetroot, cucumber, etc. combined with banana, berries, mango or any other fruit and mint, fresh herbs and unsweetened soy drinks.

Have a bowl of homemade soup daily. The different vegetable combinations you can try out are endless. Cabbage, fennel, chicory, sprouts, lettuce, sweet potatoes, beans, lentils and chickpeas are all really tasty in soup. If you wish to use lentils, just rinse them before adding them to your soup mixture to cook. Every once in a while, try adding a handful of kombu. It's a great source of iodine and gives your soup an aroma that immediately reminds you of the sea. A tablespoon of miso paste can also help to flavour your soup instead of vegetable stock. If you make one large pot of soup, you can divide it into smaller portions to freeze for later.

If you have decided to have chickpeas or beans for your evening meal, leave them in the fridge to soak before you leave for work in the morning. When you come home that evening, drain the excess water away and cook them for about an hour in some fresh water. While they're cooking, you can already start preparing the rest of your meal. Try to use as many fresh vegetables as you can. If you don't have much time, frozen vegetables can be a great alternative. Canned and jarred vegetables often contain added salt. Avoid these. Not only are they more expensive, but they also generate more waste.

I usually prepare vegetable dishes in a wok and experiment with different vegetables. I normally use some olive oil or rapeseed oil (that is allowed to be heated) to grease the pan. When that has warmed up, I add some finely chopped onion and when that has become translucent, I throw in 2 or 3 cloves of garlic. When that is done, I start adding in 3 to 4 kinds of sliced vegetables: zucchini, broccoli (raw), savoy cabbage, pointed cabbage, Chinese cabbage, fennel, chicory, spinach, bell peppers, oyster mushrooms, chestnut mushrooms, Paris mushrooms, leeks, carrot, eggplants, sprouts...

Diced sweet potatoes cook just as quickly as vegetables. If you choose to add them to your vegetable dish, then you don't need to add any other carbohydrates to go with it. You have the perfect one-pan meal!

To bring your dish to flavour, use some fresh herbs or spices. Instead of salt, try fresh or dried herbs and spices. Eating too much salt is not healthy. It can cause high blood pressure and also puts you at higher risk of cardiovascular diseases.

My personal favourites are parsley, basil, coriander, thyme, herbes de Provence, cumin, ginger, curry, paprika, garam masala, cinnamon, Salade du pêcheur (mix of 4 different seaweeds), black pepper and turmeric.

I add turmeric to just about everything: to my smoothies in the morning, to soup, to vegetable stews... It's turmeric that gives curry its colour. Although it has little taste, it's a powerful antioxidant. You can either use turmeric fresh or in powder form. Always combine turmeric with some black pepper and fat. This will enhance the absorption of the turmeric by a factor of 20.

If you would like more sauce to go with your vegetables, you can add some soy sauce. I prefer Tamari or Shoyu from the brand Lima (available in health food stores), which contain less sugar than the soy sauces sold in regular supermarkets. You can also add some soy cream, coconut milk or coconut cream. Add extra curry to make some curry cream sauce.

Use whole grains:

A grain kernel consists of three parts: the endosperm in the inside of the kernel, the germ at the bottom and the bran as the outer layer that covers the entire kernel. The germ and the bran contain the most nutrients.

The bran mainly contains dietary fibres, vitamins, minerals, phytic acid and phytochemicals. The germ (the embryo) mostly contains good fats, vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals. The endosperm contains carbohydrates and protein.

Wholemeal products are made by using the entire (ground up) grain kernel. Examples are wholemeal bread, whole-wheat pasta and unpolished rice.

Whole-wheat pasta is made up of at least 50% wholemeal flour. White bread and regular, 'white' coloured pasta however, are made from wheat flour. Only the inner endosperm is used to make wheat flour.

Choosing brown or wholemeal bread over your regular white bread can be greatly beneficial for your health. For example, eating wholemeal products (including wholemeal bread) can lower your risk of heart disease, diabetes type 2 and colon cancer. Bread can provide you with many important nutrients while only having few calories. It contains carbohydrates, protein, B vitamins, iodine (iodised salt) and minerals such as iron.

Wholemeal bread always contains enough fibre. Brown bread is a mixture of wholemeal flour and white flour. Usually, brown bread also contains sufficient fibre. Multigrain bread is made of several different grains. It's not necessarily made with wholemeal flour, although it is possible. This will be indicated on the label. White bread contains fewer nutrients and has hardly any health benefits.

In health food shops you can also find pasta made of different legumes (lentils, chickpeas...) that is rich in protein, fibre and minerals. Not only is it a source of carbohydrates, but it's also the perfect source of protein to add to your meal.

Rice is a cereal grain. Unpolished rice contains fibre and is also a source of carbohydrates and other healthy nutrients. Unpolished rice is a wholemeal product.

Half of all the rice on earth is grown in China and India. The majority of it is used and consumed in the countries themselves. The main countries that rice is exported to are Thailand, Vietnam, the United States and India. For a large part of the world population, rice is the most important food product, especially in warmer regions.

Once harvested, the grain kernels are removed from the rice plants. This is called threshing. The rice still has an inedible coating called a hull. The rice hull is removed from the grain in a special rice mill. After that is done, the rice goes through a sieve to remove remaining dirt and stones. It is at this point that rice is at its purest and most nutritious as unpolished rice.

White rice is stripped of its fibre-rich membrane that unpolished rice still has. White rice can be processed even further to influence its cooking properties and its flavour. For example, it is possible to shorten the cooking time of rice by breaking it into smaller pieces.

You'll need about 100 grams of uncooked unpolished rice per person. One full coffee cup for each person is about a good size. When unpolished rice is cooked in water, it can increase to 2.5 times its original weight. This means that 100 grams becomes 250 grams when it is cooked.

Rice mainly contains carbohydrates. It also contains protein, B vitamins and minerals such as phosphorus and potassium. Since unpolished rice is a wholemeal product, it is a great source of fibre. White rice hardly contains any fibre.

All the health benefits of unpolished rice do not apply to regular white rice.

Research done on the Asian population found that eating high quantities of white rice (160 grams a day) is connected to a higher risk of type 2 diabetes.

Arsenic is a heavy metal. Traces can be found in our food, mainly because of pollution. Plants and crops such as rice easily absorb arsenic from soil and water. This cannot be prevented. The amount of arsenic in food products should be kept as low as possible. If large amounts are consumed over extended periods of time, this can be damaging to your health. This means that rice and rice-based products can possibly contain arsenic. Strict quality standards have been set to guarantee that the amount of harmful substances is limited to a minimum. As a precaution, always follow a varied diet to limit your intake of harmful substances (such as arsenic) even further. Definitely avoid giving children rice or rice-based products (such as puffed rice cakes) every day. To be extra safe, you can also wash rice before consumption and then boil it in plenty of water. The water will absorb some of the arsenic that you can then pour down the drain.

The soil in certain parts of Asia is said to be especially rich in arsenic. I, personally, give preference to whole-grain rice grown in Europe.

It's not a problem to occasionally eat a veggie burger or another type of ready-made meat substitute. However, be careful to choose the products with less than 10% fat (< 10g fat/100g product) and at least 10% protein. Read the labels. That's the message. This also allows you to be more aware of what you are eating.

Labels inform the consumer about the nutritional facts of a food product. This means that the consumer has more knowledge about what they are buying and also has the opportunity to compare different products.

The label indicates the nutritional values per 100g: the number of calories, fat, carbohydrate, fibre, protein and salt. A distinction is made between the total amount of fat and the portion that is saturated. You are best to choose products which contain the least saturated fat and of which the total amount of fat is less than 10g per 100g.

The total amount of carbohydrates can be found on the label of the product alongside an indication of the portion of sugar. This refers to the fast sugars: the sugars we are best to avoid.

Choose products that have little salt added.

Use olive oil, rapeseed oil or flaxseed oil. Flaxseed oil is not allowed to be heated. However, certain types of rapeseed oil are sold that can be heated.

It is also extremely important to make sure the daily intake of fluid is met. This means that you need to consume 1.5 l of fluids daily; either water, green tea, plant-based drink or soup. A cup of coffee is also good for the gut flora, but don't drink it too excessively.

A healthy lifestyle also involves a sufficient amount of exercise. Try to walk for at least 30 minutes a day. Take the stairs instead of the lift when you have the option, park your car slightly further from your destination and walk the rest of the way. Also try to incorporate two one-hour sessions of high intensity exercise a week.

Feel free to leave your cooking pans in the cupboard and go out for a nice meal!

Many restaurants now offer vegan menus. The website www.happycow.net gives a good overview of all the restaurants worldwide that welcome vegans.

Sources: www.gezondheidsnet.nl, ww.noordzeeboerderij.nl, www.zeewierwijzer.nl, www.voedingscentrum.nl