Hi all! It has been a lonnnnnngggggggg time since my last post! Sorry about that; it’s been a BUSY couple of months. Let’s just say dealing with the Warrenton Zoning Department isn’t a whole lot of fun.
So, I’ve been wanting to write another post about nutrition, but I’ve struggled with ideas. It’s hard for me to give nutrition advice to the general public. If you know me, you may know why. I am vegan. I say that proudly, however I know that certain people may already be rolling their eyes and ready to stop reading. This, of course, being the reason it’s hard for me to give sound nutritional advice people will listen to. So, I thought I would take the time to tell you WHY I’m vegan. I will focus mostly on the nutritional reasons, although if I am going to be completely honest there is A LOT more to it than that. I’m starting this post as the first of a series about nutrition, veganism, and a whole lot more. Follow along if you are interested.
Why vegan? It all started for me back in 2014, when I watched a documentary called Forks Over Knives. This documentary claimed that most, if not all, of the degenerative diseases that plague us humans can be controlled, and even reversed, by following a plant-based diet and cutting out all animal products. As a skeptic of pretty much everything, and someone who didn’t believe in “diets,” or cutting out a whole food group, I wasn’t sure what to think. And then Dr. Caldwell B. Essylstein said something that stuck with me: “Some people think the ‘plant-based, whole-foods diet’ is extreme. Half a million a year will have their chest opened up and a vein taken from their leg and sewn onto their coronary artery. Some people would call that extreme.” That really stuck with me. And as someone in the health and fitness field, I want to remain healthy for as long as possible. I figured I had nothing to lose and I’d give it a try. I went head first into a vegan diet with no idea what I was doing and certainly no inkling of the path it would take me down. My first vegan meal was black beans and white rice. No spices or anything to jazz it up because, what did I know???
Along came Pinterest. Glorious and oh-so-useful Pinterest (I’ve attached the link to my Vegan board below-peep for recipes!) has given me more recipes and meal ideas than I could ever name. It was a slow and rocky path, one that I feel like I have finally mastered. I experimented with new foods I never thought I’d try. I realized that food can be SO flavorful and delicious and aromatic. I found that I could eat MORE and not gain weight. I lost body fat without even trying. I had more energy and felt less weighed down after each meal. I recovered faster from my workouts and gained muscle FASTER. It was a whole new world. One of bright colors and new experiences. It still is! Let me tell you that once you find your stride in this lifestyle, you don’t feel like you are missing out on anything. I’ll admit I was never a HUGE meat person, but I certainly enjoyed cheese and butter and dairy products as much as anyone. Giving it up really isn’t that big of a deal. Your body may crave it for a week or so, but that will pass and then those same foods will make you wrinkle your nose in disgust.
Okay, okay, no more shouting from the rooftops about the benefits of a plant-based diet (for now). Let’s get into the nutrition stuff. That’s why you’re here, right? I think I’ll start with the obvious and infamous “where do you get your protein?”. I’m going to put this in all caps, so you can see it clearly: PROTEIN DEFICIENCY IS NOT A THING. Not a vegan thing, anyway. Not a first-world country thing, either. If you are eating enough calories, odds are you are getting enough protein. Ask a doctor how many cases of protein deficiency they’ve seen throughout their entire career, and see what they say. The government-RDA for protein is .8 grams per pound of body weight. Now, this is probably too much as it is, and Americans get MUCH more than this on a daily basis. We (Americans) generally eat animal protein at EVERY meal. Eggs or sausage or chicken or yogurt for breakfast, some sort of meat sandwich for lunch, and, obviously, a big hunk of meat on our dinner plates. Plus, snacks in between. And guess what? Americans are obese, Type 2 Diabetes is rampant, along with heart disease and numerous other ailments, mostly (if not completely) caused by lifestyle and dietary choices. Everyone is so concerned that a vegan diet is not healthy when 99.5% (that’s not an arbitrary number; 0.5% of Americans follow a vegan diet) are eating loads of animal protein and coming up SICK. The proof is in the pudding. Vegan pudding, of course. Not to mention, ALL whole foods have protein in them. Even that banana that’s turning brown on your kitchen counter. As for the major sources of protein on a plant-based diet, there’s tofu, tempeh, seitan, lentils, beans, chickpeas, nuts, grains, seeds, spinach…. the list goes on and on.
What about calcium? Let me give you a lesson about cow’s milk. Animal protein acidifies the body’s pH, which the body will in turn try to correct. Guess how the body will attempt to neutralize that acidity? That’s right, calcium! Calcium is a great acid neutralizer and guess where most of it is stored? The bones! They very calcium our bodies need from the milk is being used to neutralize the acid from the animal protein in said milk. Once it is pulled out of the bones, all that calcium is passed out of the body in urine. Also, cow’s milk is biologically designed for a BABY COW. It turns a teeny little baby into a 2,000-lb. adult cow. You are not a baby cow. You do not need a mama cow’s breast milk. You don’t even drink your own mother’s breast milk anymore. So, your best bet for calcium intake is to eat your greens and beans, folks. Good sources of plant-based calcium are similar to the protein sources: beans, chickpeas, kale and other dark, leafy greens, broccoli, brussels sprouts, fortified drinks such as orange juice and plant milks, tofu, almonds, etc.
Next on the list is Vitamin D. The first thing I will say is G-O O-U-T-S-I-D-E people. The sun is an EXCELLENT source of the Vitamin D your body needs. However, it is also good to get Vitamin D from food sources. While vegan sources are limited, you can get Vitamin D from fortified cereals, plant milks, and orange juice. You can also get it from supplements which I will address later.
Iron is another “concern” of meat eaters when switching to a vegan diet. The list of vegan food sources of iron is a long one, so I’ll just list a few. You can get iron from dried apricots (my favorite), peas, swiss chard, spinach, avocado nuts and seeds, tofu, lentils, chickpeas, white rice, oat bran, wheat pasta, brown rice…and many more.
I want to address supplements. Now, the fact that you should take vitamins or supplements on a vegan diet is NOT a reason to label the diet incomplete or unhealthy. The fact is, EVERYONE should be taking vitamins to fill in those little nutritional holes left by even the healthiest diet. B12 does not naturally occur in plants, and is something that needs to be supplemented. There are B12-fortified foods, such as soy products, and nutritional yeast (has a cheesy flavor-I sprinkle it on my no-cheese pizzas ordered from Domino’s!), and there are also many vegan B12 supplements and multivitamins that are inexpensive and can be ordered on Amazon. Deva is my favorite brand for all supplements. Another reason to supplement is Omegas! We all need Omega 3 for body and brain health, and we can get those from vegan sources such as flax and chia seeds, right? Yes and no. There are 3 types of Omega 3 fatty acids: DHA, EPA, and ALA. ALA is the only one that can be found in nuts and seeds. DPA and EHA are found pretty much only in fatty fish, which, obviously, isn’t vegan. So, it’s important to find a good, vegan DHA and EPA supplement. I will put a couple links at the bottom for my favorites.
I think everyone should also take in some form of probiotics. I take a plant-based capsule I found at Walmart, but vegans can also get this from sauerkraut, kimchi, plant milks, kombucha, tempeh, miso, and sourdough bread (yep).
I think that covers all the popular concerns for nutritional deficiency in a plant-based diet. It sounds a little overwhelming but really, all the main staples of veganism contain just about everything you need nutritionally and if they don’t, it’s super easy to supplement. I am the healthiest I’ve ever been, and I feel fantastic. That’s proof enough for me. If you have any questions, I’d be happy to answer them! You can use the Contact Us space at the bottom of the main page of our website or hit us up on social media. I’m not actively pushing you to become a convert, I just thought I would put all this out there as it definitely falls under the health and nutrition category (and I certainly think most people and our planet would benefit from veganism).
Now, this is just the tip of the iceberg. I’ve touched on a few of the nutritional issues today, and next I think I’ll talk more about the benefits of a plant-based diet. These will probably not be successive as I want to talk a little about common injuries in my next post, but stay tuned for the next post about veganism if you’re interested!