A good rule of thumb to remember about wellness and nutrition is that it is not a “one fits all” science. We all have different nutritional needs that dictate we need certain nutrients unique to our individual metabolisms and genetic markups. When it comes to vegan diets, many claim it works for them and makes them feel better and if it does, I say more power to them. However, with the help of that bastion of information trustworthiness – the media, many vegan groups have used fear monging and lies to spew their benefits of the vegan diet by demonizing the consumption of animal foods and this where I disagree with the vegan community. Many of these claims that the vegan diet is healthier than a diet that contains animal foods have no scientific studies (un-biased) to back up these claims.
The truth is, as humans we are neither carnivores nor herbivores; we are omnivores- we need nutrients from both animal and plant foods if we are to maintain optimum health and longevity. Despite what the vegan community and the media have led many to believe, the following are 5 reasons why vegan diets are not as healthy as you think:
1. Vegan diets lack the essential vitamin B12. B12 is critical for life and is not found in any type of plant food. If you are currently on a vegan diet, the chances are very good that you are almost certainly deficient in this vitamin. One study showed that 92% of vegans are deficient in this critical nutrient. B12 is found in animal foods such as eggs and red meat. Eating clean red meat without antibiotics and hormones will supply this much-needed critical nutrient. Animal proteins also supply the essential amino acids and in the right ratios for optimum health.
2. Vegan diets do not supply Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA). DHA is the most abundant form of the essential Omega 3- fatty acids and is found primarily in animal foods. The plant form of Omega 3s which is ALA, is not efficiently converted into DHA in the body. If you are on a vegan diet, there is a good chance you could be low in this essential fatty acid.
3. Vegan diets do not supply saturated fats. This is another one that has been demonized by vegans with the help of the media. The truth is we need a certain amount of saturated fats found in butter and red meat for testosterone production, creatine and muscle building. Creatine is essential for muscle and brain function. Vegans often attribute the dangers of eating animal foods to saturated fat but this is false. It is not the saturated fat in animal foods that causes harm to our health but rather the processing that is done to meats and other animal products. Meat that is conventionally processed is dangerous and should be avoided but clean red meat from grass fed cattle provides numerous health benefits and needed saturated fats without any harmful effects.
4. Vegan diets replace milk with soy, rice, and almond milk. These alternatives to cow milk have become very popular among those who have decided to adopt a vegan diet. However, the reason for this popularity is not based on factual scientific evidence that these alternatives are any healthier then cow milk but are once again deception on the part of the media and food industries. And to further promote these alternatives, the food companies prepare most of these beverages, especially the flavored varieties such as chocolate soy milk by loading them with sugar. In addition, most soy milk products contain unfermented soy which is difficult for the body to digest. Rice and almond milk are what many vegans say is a healthy alternative but most brands are also loaded with sugar as well- hardly a healthy alternative to clean organic cow milk from cattle raised without pesticides and GMO feed that supply all the essential amino acids the body needs.
5. Vegan diets have fallen prey to the deceptive marketing of the food industries. This one can be proven by just walking down the aisle of the frozen food entrée section of any supermarket. The food industry has produced many frozen “meatless” entrees that vegans consume. But take a close look at the labels. A good example is meatless frozen burgers. Many contain unhealthy oils such as safflower, and canola oils. Many brands also contain soy protein concentrate and textured vegetable protein which is extracted from soy and made into a powder. These are not healthy ingredients to put into your body. And despite the labeling by the food companies on many of these products as a “good source of protein” meatless burgers are often a poor source of protein because they are made of soy which does not have the right ratios of the essential amino acids the body needs. Lentil burgers made fresh in the deli at a local health food store can be an excellent and nutritious alternative for those who wish to opt for a healthy substitute for hamburgers. If you do buy meatless patties frozen, look for burgers that are made with natural ingredients such as millet, flax, beans, and healthy oils such as olive oil.
If you choose to adopt the vegan lifestyle and it makes you feel better physically, then go for it. Just be careful when you plan your vegan diet. You should always plan your meals with pin point precision to make sure your body is getting all the amino acids and nutrients it needs. And don’t let the media and food industry deceive you. Read the labels and choose carefully to make sure you are getting the most out of your vegan diet.
Lynch, Mary. “Is a Vegan Diet Healthy?” 14 December 2014. Jaime Oliver.com. http://www.jamieoliver.com/news-and-features/features/vegan-diet-healthy/#Fb4RHq5JI2OwsS4q.97. 5 March 2015.
Mama, Katie-Wellness. “Guide to Healthy Sources of Protein.” n.d. n.d. n.d. Wellness Mama. http://wellnessmama.com/1015/healthy-protein-sources/. 5 March 2015.
Robson-Garth, Michele. “Animal Based Nutrition: How Animal Products are Beneficial and Crucial to Health.” 12 January 2012. Health Food Lover. http://healthfoodlover.com/hfl/2012/01/animalbased-nutrition-animal-products-beneficial-crucial-health/. 5 March 2015.