Plant-based Diets: What About Dairy?

Jean Mellano avatar

by Jean Mellano |

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Plant-based diets might aid in the prevention and reversal of disease. People with Parkinson’s disease can benefit from plant-based diets.

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!

Cheese alternatives

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.

Milk/cream substitutes

Almond milk, coconut milk, and oat milk work well with cereal. For cappuccinos, both Trader Joe’s coconut creamer and So Delicious’ coconut milk creamer foam well and taste great.

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.

I prefer dark chocolate, but I have found a dairy-free milk chocolate bar that I enjoy. If you like a little crunch, the company also makes a delicious quinoa crunch version.

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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Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.

Comments

Lucia Raatma avatar

Lucia Raatma

Hi, Jean--do you find that your plant-based diet is helping with your Parkinson's symptoms? My husband was diagnosed a few years ago, and I've encouraged him to try a plant-based diet, but he really doesn't want to give up ice cream and burgers. Would love to pass along any experiences you have had. Thanks!

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Jean Mellano avatar

Jean Mellano

hi lucia, thanks for reading my article. it is hard for me to tell if it is helping or not. like most things related to pd, one never knows. i figure it cant hurt and plant based options are becoming more available in restaurants and even in fast food chains. I truly believe this type of diet is good for our bodies whether one has cancer, heart,disease, or any other chronic disease. it is also good for animal welfare and the planet. If you havent seen it already, i highly recommend The Game Changers movie, (https://gamechangersmovie.com/) produced by James Cameron, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jackie Chan. it is on netflix and i believe on amazon prime. BTW, if your husband does not want to give up ice cream, the Ben and Jerry's dairy free options are delicious

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Lucia Raatma avatar

Lucia Raatma

Thanks so much, Jean. I really appreciate you getting back to me. I've watched The Game Changers and I plan to rewatch it this weekend and invite my husband to join me. :) Wishing you good health ...

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Jean Mellano avatar

Jean Mellano

And good health to you as well... I hope your husband likes the movie. I like that it is not preachy. Every non vegetarian I recommended it to has enjoyed it .....baby steps.

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Tammy Christine avatar

Tammy Christine

That's what folks say when they didn't spend the extra couple of bucks on a Vitamix. Love that machine. Best piece of kitchen equipment ever.

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Jean Mellano avatar

Jean Mellano

Tammy
I love my vitamin too!

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Michael avatar

Michael

Jean,
So sorry to hear of the loss of your companion so close to your diagnosis of Parkinson's..... :(

Incidentally, my very snart, well educated and very physically fit daughter has begun encouraging me to more a Vegan type diet...

That said, I have a question to you and or the others. Have any of you developed a toe drag in your left foot? This just began to show up about two weeks ago. I've reported it to my NP and she is getting me a referral for PT. Has anyone found that PT helped?

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Jean Mellano avatar

Jean Mellano

Hi Michael. Thank you for your kind words. If you have Netflix I recommend the movie Game Changers, a thought provoking movie about plant based diets,

As for foot drag, I think any type of exercise is good. If u can find a PT that works with a lot of PwP, he/she should be able to give u exercises to combat some of the other symptoms we do or will experience. My left foot drags sometimes and I must really focus on saying ‘heel toe’. https://parkinsonsnewstoday.com/2019/04/16/walking-mindfulness-heel-toe-body-awareness/

Also, you may want to post your question on PT and foot drag in our forum:

https://parkinsonsnewstoday.com/forums/forums/forum/parkinsons-disease-symptoms/

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Shannan avatar

Shannan

The toe drag could be Dystonia in your knee. I developed that recently and my neurologist told me toe drag is not a typical Parkinsonism but is seen in Dystonia. PT helped minimally. I recently had DBS surgery and my dr called me in for another programming check and that resolved it. I still have Dystonia in my foot and ankle that we are working on slowly as I heal from surgery and have more programming check ups.

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Shannan avatar

Shannan

The toe drag could be Dystonia in your knee. I developed that recently and my neurologist told me toe drag is not a typical Parkinsonism but is seen in Dystonia. PT helped minimally. I recently had DBS surgery and my dr called me in for another programming check and that resolved it. I still have Dystonia in my foot and ankle that we are working on slowly as I heal from surgery and have more programming check ups.

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Rae C avatar

Rae C

Hi, this article was very informative. My cardiologist just yesterday recommended to start working towards a plant based diet. Mind you do not have heart disease but it is VERY prominent on my Mother's side. I see one due to having MS. I'm on medication that slows my heart rate down and co distant low BP. I'm hoping that the plant based diet will help with my Parkinsonian type tremors in my hands and my stammering. What are your thoughts on that.
Best Regards,
Rae C.

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Jean Mellano avatar

Jean Mellano

Hi Rae, I do know that PD manifests itself differently in everyone, also, what works in terms of therapy or diet may work for some and not others. I cant say what works for me; is it the meds, the exercise, the diet, having a stress free day... who knows? However, a plant based diet cant hurt and in general, it is good for one's health, the planet and animal welfare.

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Shauna Duke avatar

Shauna Duke

I am suppose to be on a plant based diet and dairy free. I don’t know where to begin...what do you make tacos out of and can you have tortillas and bread? I have CKD...please any advice is helpful! Is there a book you would suggest ?

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Jean Mellano avatar

Jean Mellano

hi shauna
https://plantstrong.com/ is a great resource for plantbased diets. i make tacos with pinto or black beans ans rice, tomatoes, avocado using corn tacos or almond based tortillas. . diets without bread or wheat products such as flour tortillas are typically called gluten-free. please check with a nutritionist or other health professional for what might be good dietary options for you and your condition. Whole Foods, local health food stores are good places to find plant based options

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Ava avatar

Ava

Greetings, Ms. Mellano: People who know about my PD have advised me to eat salmon. Frankly I can’t afford it Neither can I purchase fancy vegan food Substitutes, but I manage with dark greens rice and beans, tomatoes, pasta with olive oil, potatoes, hummus, whole wheat bread, sunflower seeds and spread and d occasional tuna (from a can). How necessary is salmon and r there other foods as nutritious with the same or similar omega fish content. I don’t eat dairy or meat or fowl. Thank u

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Jean Mellano avatar

Jean Mellano

Hi Ava, Thank you for your comment. I am not a nutritionist so I cannot advise you. You may find some useful info in this article: https://parkinsonsnewstoday.com/2018/12/19/dietary-supplements-control-brain-inflammation-metabolism-parkinsons-study/

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