I have often been asked if I follow a vegan diet, I am also asked by friends and family if being vegan is healthy, and often people come to me and share that they are going to change their lifestyle and completely give up eating all animal products and become vegan. My response is always to ask why? I am so curious as to why so many people are keen to adapt their lifestyle to such an extreme. Often when we discuss it we discover that the media has a huge amount to answer for, as does the desire to be super slim. Another huge drawing factor is the health claims associated with veganism; please note that these are simply claims there has been no proof as yet. I try to eat a varied diet and lots of it is vegetarian and vegan but I do still incorporate animal products into my diet because for me I fully believe it helps provide me (personally) with a better feeling of wellness. I have made comment on vegan diet before looking and pros and cons, please take a read if you are interested.
Firstly let me clarify that there is no one size fits all diet that suits everybody and we need to be in-tune I personally choose to follow a healthy balanced diet that is free from any form of elimination. I like to keep my food types varied and rotated to avoid saturating my body with anyone thing. I eat anything within reason and use common sense to tell me whether or not I should be having a treat. I never go without and contrary to media influence I don’t find the odd bit of sugar hurts too much either!
I am in no way questioning peoples beliefs and values with this blog entry, I feel it is important to point that out I am simply responding to a huge amount of questions around being and becoming vegan and hopefully providing some information for those of whom might be on the fence.
Before making this lifestyle change it is important to realise the full impact it will have on your life, from how you will feel physically and emotionally, social changes and how it will impact on your day to day life, you may already be more than half way there and it might not be such a big deal.
Below are a number of reason why I don’t personally follow a vegan diet, I hope you find them interesting and useful whether your pescatarian, paleo, vegetarian. Vegan or like me 100% flexitarian.
Vegan diets are deficient in some nutrients:
Whilst there is an abundance of nutrients presented in non-animal sourced foods there are a number of essential nutrients that are only provided from animal products. Vitamin B12 is involved in the function of every cell within the body so it’s fairly important. It is essential for the formation of blood and brain function.
Vitamin B12 deficiency has many side effects:
- Memory loss
- Neurological and psychiatric problems
Vitamin B12 is only available from animal produce. 83% of Vegans and 82% vegetarians are deficient in vitamin B12 compared to 5% of omnivores!
Hang on what about Superfoods – seaweed, spirulina and fermented soy? –
‘Plant foods said to contain B12 actually contain B12 analogs called cobamides that block the intake of, and increase the need for real B12’, Chris Kresser has written an interesting article on vegan diets and vitamin deficiencies. Chris also discussed iron within his article, whilst iron is available in plants such as lentils and dark leafy greens the absorption of it is not so efficient. Plant based forms of iron are often inhibited by other commonly consumed products like tea and coffee so we would have to eat them by the bucket load in order to absorb enough.
Fat soluble vitamins A and D:
Animal products in short provide us with the real deal – a usable source of both Vitamin A and D. Plants such as carrots and butternut squash do contain carotene a building block of vitamin A however the process needs a huge amount of carotene to produce only a small amount of vitamin A. This process needs to be supported by good thyroid function, proper digestion and a plentiful supply of healthy fats. If due to a restricted diet deficiencies are likely it may inhibit the proper function of the thyroid and digestion, our whole body needs to be supported in order to function optimally. That being said all diets regardless of category can be poorly considered and thus deficient in some nutrients.
Natural vitamin D3 (the type we can absorb) is only found in animal products, egg yolks, cod liver oil and dairy products from grass-grazing animals. It is essential for immune system health, digestion and hormone balance. We need it to function optimally. I have actually taken a trip to my favourite health foods and supplement store to ask about the ingredients in the vitamin D supplements and in most cases they are sourced back to an animal product. Although vegan versions are available they were not recommended.
Dr. Weston Price wrote the book Nutrition and Physical Degeneration. Dr.Price revealed that traditional diets to each culture followed a strict set of dietary laws. He was most interested in the fact that no traditional culture subsisted of a vegan diet. I can’t wait to read this book fully I’ve recently ordered it so watch out for a little review coming soon.
Your very own culture and customs are equally important to consider along side that of evolution.
Quality, Sustainability and Quantity
My take on eating animal produce is to source good quality, organic and grass fed. Go for small quantities of high quality produce. Veganism is often considered to be more sustainable however it is a consideration that to farm so many more grains how many habitats have been destroyed and which chemicals have been put into the environment in order to mass produce the quantities needed?
Something I advocate with my nutritional work is using whole foods, so full fat products and foods that haven’t been stripped of anything or genetically modified in any way. You can apply this to a vegan diet but one massive thing to consider is how do you create cheese, butter and milk without cheese butter or milk? Of course there are whole food answers mashed avocado not butter for example but is this really common practice?
Please beware that vegan highly processed products are just that, highly processed!
My beliefs are firmly set in finding a healthy balanced diet that suits personally, given your physical health, mental wellbeing, emotional and spiritual self and ethical beliefs. There is huge worth in finding out what truly works or you and the implications of a diet that doesn’t provide all you need whatever that diet is called. Herbivores (vegan and vegetarian) are reported to live longer but an important consideration is healthy user bias, often these reports are non-conclusive because the evidence is based on people following a healthy balanced diet not just the general population. Vegan diet books often provide healthy advice applicable to everyone like cutting back on refined sugar and processed foods and often the health benefits could be attributed to one or more of these factors. The important thing to remember if you are considering a change in lifestyle is that balance is key, where one thing is cut it must be replaced in another form. I strongly recommend rotating foods in order to keep things varied and our systems free from saturation of any one thing that we may find we are intolerant to.
Any ‘diet’ can be healthy and well balanced when considered and planned properly. If something is eliminated there is potential for a deficiency to develop careful planning can help prevent this becoming a problem.
What do you think? Leave a comment below or get in touch via email