It's Time To set the Record Straight - Veganism Revisited
Dec, 2013 - By Fred Lucas
Recently, the health movement has shifted back to an animal-based diet, moving away from a plant-based diet. A lot of this has to do with people seeking something new in the realm of health, longevity, and vitality. As an intelligent, well-informed human, I’m sure you’ve heard of the new diet craze: Paleo. There are a few different versions, and the advocates have been very convincing that it is the optimal diet for humans to be eating.
Before I get into it, I want to be clear that this article is not intended to persuade anyone to become vegan or vegetarian. It is only meant for those of you who want to remain vegan or vegetarian for your reasons: environmental, ethical, spiritual, etc.
In my opinion, there is nothing wrong with someone choosing to eat whatever they want. I find that the freedom of choice in diet is a beautiful part of the human experience. If you want to be an omnivore, cool. If you want to be a vegan, cool. If you want to eat processed food, that’s fine. If you want to drink tap water, your choice.
I have developed an aversion to people giving unsolicited, fear-based advise. For me, it is difficult to hear that someone has been told they have to eat meat as the only option for being healthy. This is simply not true and is a gross simplification of what a person most likely needs (which in a lot of cases is an element or two found in animal flesh, but not exclusive to it).
So to get to the “meat” of this article (pun intended), I’ll start with a bold yet simple statement:
YOU DO NOT NEED TO EAT ANIMAL PRODUCTS TO BE HEALTHY, TO THRIVE, OR TO ATTAIN ANY PHYSIOLOGICAL GOAL YOU HAVE.
No matter what anyone has told you, no matter how much of an authority they are in your life for whatever reason, no matter what your life situation, you can thrive as a vegetarian and most likely as a vegan as well.
And I’m going to tell you how.
The first thing you should understand is that the “protein fear” is a story fabricated to get people to consume more animal products. Yes, everyone needs a certain amount of protein in their daily diet. Amino acids have many functions in the human body including tissue repair, neuron firing in the brain and nervous system, and as enzymes to perform the seemingly infinite bodily functions going on every second of every day. But do we need so much that we need to be eating animals to get it?
In a lot of diet books, the word or category “protein” refers to animal products, but nothing could be farther from the truth. Just about every food on the planet contains amino acids. And on top of that, the body will store amino acids until you consume the right complimentary amino acids to create the necessary polypeptide chains (proteins). An extremely easy way to get all the protein you need is by incorporating a known high protein source in every meal you eat and creating variety in your sources.
Some examples of vegan foods that contain higher levels of protein (and are realistically able to be incorporated in the necessary quantities) would be:
Chlorella and Spirulina: algae are legitimately the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet and contain a whopping 50-60% protein as a whole food. The highest protein source food on the planet.
Hemp seeds: A known complete protein that contains healthy fats as well
Chia seeds: More healthy fats than protein, but a great source none-the-less
Quinoa: Also a complete protein, but lower in a few amino acids
Legumes: Makes up for the amino acids you may be missing if only eating grains or quinoa
Moringa: a superfood with a complete amino acid profile. Also extremely nutrient-dense with tons of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients
And besides these complete/whole foods, there are many different vegan protein supplements for those of you that need more protein based on your metabolic dieting type (more on that in an upcoming article)
A few that I have used and like are Synchrogenesis, Healthforce Warriorfood, Sunwarrior Protein, and Garden of Life.
Protein aside, as it is probably the least of your problems but the biggest of your concerns with being vegan or vegetarian, there are smaller elements that may be preventing you from being in optimal health on a vegan/vegetarian diet.
The number one reason you may be experiencing feelings of depletion or low energy and the number one reason why people who were vegetarians or vegans went back to eating animal flesh (because they “felt so good and had so much more energy”) after eating meat again is not the protein; it’s B-12.
As an advocate and supporter of the vegan/vegetarian lifestyle for those who choose it, I feel obligated to tell you that there is no known vegan source of vitamin B-12, period. This may be contrary to what you have learned, but it is the truth.
Luckily there are ways to remedy this massive missing piece in a vegan diet. The easiest of which is to supplement with B-12 or a comprehensive B vitamin that contains B-12.
If you do not believe in supplementation… that’s a whole other topic. Which I will cover at some point in the future, I promise.
Another important element to consider in the vegan/vegetarian diet is DHA Docosahexaenoic acid). DHA is probably the single most important fatty acid in brain function. It is found to affect the fetus and new-born brain development, on eyesight, on mood and depression, and on nerve synapses. Most people are depleted of this vital nutrient. To make matters worse, eating rancid, over-processed fat can block the uptake of DHA. This means that even if you are eating a diet that has adequate amounts of DHA, you may still be deficient if you are consuming fried foods, cooked animal fat, or anything that contains trans fatty acids (almost all processed foods).
An easy way to make sure you are not depleted of this vital nutrient, again, is to supplement it. There are a few vegan DHA supplements derived from algae. Premier Research Labs makes a great one.
The intention of this article was not to prove that we should all be eating vegetarian. Nor was it to inspire people to become vegetarians. The intention of this article was simply to support and give confidence to the people that are choosing to be vegetarians or vegans. No matter what your motivation, whether it be ethical, environmental, spiritual, or physiological, I want you to know that you can do it and thrive in this life.
In summary, three things you can do to thrive as a vegetarian/vegan:
1.) incorporate high-quality protein sources into every meal
2.) supplement with B-12
3.) supplement with DHA
Keep in mind this is an extremely simplistic approach to maximizing your success on a vegan or vegetarian diet. You can go down the rabbit hole as far as you like.
I’m a firm believer in empowering people to choose whatever experience they want in this life. It’s what makes the human experience so exciting. I also believe that there is no right or wrong in life. There are function and dysfunction, and the discernment to know which is which is completely circumstantial and therefore can never be judged as good or bad.
So keep in mind that even if someone does eat animal flesh or any animal products, it’s their choice. And they are making that choice based on their own experiences. Also know that when you talk to people about diet and nutrition, they are coming from a place that is very different than your own. What works for one person, does not work for EVERY person.
We are unique, both in our physiological makeup and in our ethical/spiritual beliefs. It would be wise to treat each person accordingly.
In optimal health,
Contributing Writer, Simply Raw
Fred Lucas is a nutritionist, a chef, a restauranteur, and a chocolatier/chocolate maker. His nutritional focus for the past four years has been helping people remain in optimal health on a vegetarian or vegan diet. The restaurant and elixir bar he is soon opening in Santa Fe, NM reflects his extensive knowledge base for optimizing health and wellness.
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