Selfmade Experts: Tonya Papanikolov On The Advantages Of A Plant Based Diet

©Portrait: Mackenzie Duncan

Tonya Papanikolov is the woman behind The Well Woman – A platform who talks about the advantages of a plant based diet

I discovered “The Well Woman” a while ago. I was drawn to her impressive visual language and informative takes on a plant-based diet. So, I contacted Tonya and she replied after having taken a look at our website for “a proper 30 minutes.” I love her slowed-down, in-depth approach so much and am excited that she’s agreed to share some of her knowledge on the benefits on a vegetable-heavy diet with us today. You might consider a switch with her six easy tricks, as well!

When it comes to eating, I’ve always been pro-vegetable. There have been periods in my life when I’ve called myself a “vegetarian” or “vegan,” but nowadays I really steer clear of those labels. Everyone is constantly finding boxes to put themselves in: I don’t do well in boxes. Who does? They’re always too small. Instead, I advocate for a type of eating where we can simply be in touch with the needs of our bodies. If we develop the capacity to both listen and understand, then we can truly use food to thrive.

Plants provide me with clarity of mind and nourish my sensitive body – I’ve always had a lot of allergies, intolerances, and sensitivities. I think if we all ate this way most of the time, the world would be a better place. Not only would our health improve, but so would our environment. I think that no matter what diet you follow, plants should be the focal point. Personally, I choose not to eat meat or dairy for reasons that stem from health and environmental issues. However, I was eating bone broth on a regular basis while I was healing my gut. I believe that different periods of our life require our flexibility. It is not right to be so rigid.

Below are some reasons why I chose to go plant-based – and some tips for getting started.

The most outstanding advantages of a plant based diet:

– From a health and nutrition standpoint, plants provide an array of vitamins, minerals, and both the major and minor building blocks of life. This way of eating also protects against cancer and reduces the risk of many major diseases.

– This way of eating is free from the major allergens that disrupt our bodies: dairy, meat and GMO foods.

– It is sustainable for the environment as fewer resources are used in food production.

– It provides a connection to nature.

– It provides clean and pure energy, especially in warmer temperatures when you can consume more raw foods. (Warning: you will experience a high from consuming a raw-food diet, and it’s really fun.)

From a medical point of view:

– Studies have indicated that eating nuts and whole grains while eliminating dairy and meat improves cardiovascular health and reduces the risk of Type-2 diabetes.

– It can lower blood pressure due to the intake of potassium-rich foods.

– It promotes healthy and stable blood sugar levels through the consumption of fiber-rich foods. (Fiber slows down the absorption of sugar in the blood stream.)

– Animal-based foods have been linked to cancer. A whole food, plant-based diet is one of the major ways to reduce your risk of developing cancer.

If you want to start transitioning to a plant-based diet, here are some tricks that may make it easier:

– If it’s possible, shop at farmer’s markets or local co-ops. This is where you’ll find high quality vegetables, fruits, and other foods that are in season – and many will be grown organically (just ask). Speak to the farmers growing your food, get inspired by the vegetables available to you, and ask them about different ways to cook with them.

– Choose whole foods. Steer clear of packaged and processed foods. There is a lot of vegan and gluten-free junk food on the market.

– Keep a well-stocked, plant-based pantry with lots of nuts, seeds, legumes, grains, sea vegetables, etc. This will make cooking easier and more convenient. I do workshops on this.

– Get outside and into nature. This always connects me to plants, their incredible versatility, and the fact that we’ve survived off them for as long as we’ve existed.

– Read books. Educate yourself. Find your own personal reasons for why plant-based will work for you.

– Batch cooking and planning meals in advance is very helpful – especially for families.

I started my website “The Well Woman” while I was still in school. I was studying holistic nutrition in Toronto and was beginning to think about ways to translate the information I was learning – my knowledge and my vision – to others. That was December 2015. I remember being at my part-time job and I wasn’t sure what to call the website, but it was still all I could talk about. Well, the idea of it anyway. At the time, I had a daily meditation practice going and the name just kind of landed during a meditation. That made the decision very clear. It’s not often that happens, so I unequivocally trust it when it does.

“The Well Woman” highlights topics deeply ingrained within my being: plant-based food, holistic healing, and women’s health. By now, offering my consultancy services and hosting dinners are an essential part of my professional life. I love meeting new people and connecting with like-minded humans, so I’ve never shied away from reaching out to strangers. For me, this work is an act of love. I think that if you come at it from that place then, no matter what you’re doing, you are filled with a sense of meaning.

Last but not least, my three favorite recipes:

Smoothies in the morning with homemade nut milk, plant protein powder, ashwagandha, maca, kale, bananas or berries, almond butter, sea salt, bee pollen, coconut oil. I switch it up often. Butternut squash pancakes and a good galette will do, too. Once in awhile.

Follow Tonya on her Instagram account @thewellwoman_  for more inspirational content or visit her website here.

Julia co-founded one of the first fashion blogs in Germany in 2007 and became a freelance consultant for digital strategies after publishing her first book in 2010. After an eventful four years with Condé Nast working mainly in the digital department of Vogue Germany, she decided to launch her own online magazine with her dream partner, Veronika Heilbrunner. She is based in Berlin and loves to read books.