Plant-based and Hemp Nutrition 101: With Phoebe Liebling

Phoebe Liebling posts about us on Instagram at least once a week without us even asking. She’s what we like to call a natural advocate for Good Hemp – someone who discovered the power of hemp and likes to shout about it. (She even shared her ultimate flu-fighter smoothie recipe with us here). Luckily for us, she’s also got a pretty cool job working as a nutritional therapist so she really knows what she is talking about. Phoebe says “I began Natural Nourishment as a means of sharing my recipes and to give clear, unbiased nutritional guidance, and this has now happily evolved and melded into my clinical practice.” We asked Phoebe why you should try a plant-based diet and the role hemp can play in it. 

As a Nutritional Therapist, what do you think are the health benefits of a plant-based diet?

To clarify before we start there are levels to a plant based diet – someone could follow an entirely vegan way of eating by removing animal products but still consume very little in the way of actual vegetables or natural plant-based protein sources such as beans, lentils, pulses, nuts, seeds etc. Here I will be referring to the benefits of a well balanced plant-based diet, rich in those whole food ingredients as opposed to substitute or replacement products.

So plant-based regimes offer many things. Primarily the inclusion of more plant foods will encourage the consumption of more fibre which in turn supports digestive health, detoxification, more balanced moods and better blood sugar regulation. Hand in hand with that will also come an increased diversity of micronutrients (vitamins and minerals), (but in line with my opening statement this is based on the assumption that they will be eating a rainbow coloured variety of lovely fresh things.)

In terms of how this relates to specific health issues many with skin complaints, digestive dysfunction, inflammatory issues/pain, sleep disturbance and cardiovascular or weight concerns will herald the transition to a plant based way of eating as truly transformative for them.

Why should people try a plant-based diet?

If there are no existing concerns that would prevent them from altering their usual way of eating I think trying something new is always a great idea! It encourages a bit of culinary creativity, a revamp of current eating habits, and, hugely importantly, we know that opting for more plant-based meals with less animal products is more sustainable for the environment.

I wouldn’t say it’s easy if you aren’t a hugely confident cook to go from meat and 2 veg to lentils for lunch everyday but in those cases try swapping out 3 of your regular meals a week – lentil versus beef bolognese, a stir fry made with organic tofu or tempeh instead of chicken, or a beautiful cauliflower and chickpea coconut curry instead of a lamb version, and just see how you get on, you might surprise yourself!

Why is hemp great for vegan, plant-based or any diet?

Hemp is fantastic for 2 main reasons here – its essential fat content and the protein profile it offers.

One of the main things naysayers will harp on about is the fact that someone relying solely on plant foods can’t possibly hope to achieve their protein requirements, and this is not true. Yes there may be instances where someone won’t respond as well to a vegan diet due to a specific inability to harness non-haem (plant based) iron for example, but this is why dietary advice/guidance should always be tailored to the individual, and we should all listen to our bodies – they’ll tell us if something’s not right!

The key with most forms of plant based protein is to realise that we aren’t anatomically similar to plants, so whereas someone who eats meat can just be conscious of having this and their body gaining the appropriate balance of amino acids (the building blocks to make new proteins) someone following a vegan diet will need to combine different sorts of plant based proteins to get all the amino acids they need to make their muscles and bones from those leaves and stems. Hemp however flies on in and negates a lot of what I’ve just explained as it technically contains all the essential amino acids you need to gain from your diet, not in sufficient quantities to rely on solely, but an absolutely integral inclusion for anyone following a plant based regime.

Phoebe’s flu-fighter smoothie bowl with hemp

So what about essential fats?

Plant based diets tend to be naturally lower in fats than omnivorous ones, but specifically here we’re looking at those all important omega 3 fats. The most bioavailable (easiest for your body to harness and use) of these would come from small oily fish but from a plant based view point hemp, chia and flaxseed would be your choices.

Now the thing here is that these need to come in greater quantities as they are a step back in the conversion process to the form your body needs, and similarly to the notes on protein hemp is swinging on through waving its banner and boasting a really good omega 3 fat content, hence my following reaffirmation that it needs to be present (on a daily basis!) for those opting for a plant based way of living.

What are some other vegan brands that you love?

Gosh what a question! Being a rather large foodie a lot of these will be found in my kitchen but then I am a massive proponent of opting for all things natural and sustainable in terms of skincare and lifestyle products too. Some kitchen staples include: RAW Health, Biona Organic, Ape Snacks, Nush, Booja Booja, RAW Halo and Organico. For Skincare and Makeup I love Dr Hauschka, Sukin, Pai, Freshly Cosmetics. And for all things lifestyle: Keep Cup, Chilly’s Bottles, S’Well and Woo Bamboo.

What do you think is the hardest thing about going plant-based?

Finding your feet! As I mentioned previously swapping over from an omnivorous way of eating will be a bit of a change. Plant-based ingredients are hugely varied and to my mind that offers a great opportunity to be creative in the kitchen, but I am an exceptionally confident cook so I entirely understand how that wealth of options can be overwhelming or daunting for someone else.

What are your tips for trying it? 

In that way I suggest picking 1-2 things, giving them a go and then trying something else the next week. Treat yourself to a good recipe book or have a look at things online, plus don’t go out and buy everything in one go as similarly you’ll end up overwhelmed.

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