Thursday, September 11, 2008

Thinking 100% Vegan? Think Again...


Strict vegan and raw-food-only diets have gained popularity in recent years for both health-based and ethical reasons. While there are many health benefits that can be achieved from switching to a vegan or raw food diet for a period of time, there is a strong likelihood that people who remain on a strictly vegan or raw food diet for more than a period of two years can potentially suffer some serious health consequences.

There are a number of nutrients that people on a 100% vegan diet can become deficient in over the long term including vitamin B12, omega-3 fatty acids (DHA and EPA), vitamin A, cholesterol and saturated fats, zinc, iron, and calcium.

Animal foods contain the most reliable dietary sources of vitamin B12. While similar compounds, known as vitamin B12 analogues are found in algae, including small amounts of animal foods rich in vitamin B12 in your diet will help ensure optimal levels are delivered to your body.
While your body can convert an omega-3 fatty acid called ALA, which is found in many plant foods to DHA and EPA, the conversion is not efficient in some people. The only plant food containing actual DHA and EPA is seaweed.

A variety of plant foods contain carotenoids, an antioxidant which can convert to vitamin A in the blood. Evidence suggests that carotenoids are not always absorbed or converted efficiently, which can lead to a vitamin A deficiency if no foods containing actual vitamin A are ever consumed.

Your body needs undamaged cholesterol and saturated fats for a number of important functions. A strict vegan diet is typically low in both of these; though there are trace amounts of both in plant foods. If your intake of saturated fat is TOO low, there is a good risk of developing endocrine dysfunction from low blood cholesterol as well as an underproduction of reproductive and stress-related hormones.

Many strict vegans regularly eat whole grains that haven’t been soaked, sprouted, or fermented. These processes release phytic acid, but whole grains that haven’t been soaked, sprouted, or fermented retain high levels of it, which binds to minerals like zinc, iron, and calcium in the intestine and prevents their absorption.

If you have chosen a strict vegan diet for a number of years and have developed chronic health problems like low energy, joint pain, low body temperature, skin breakouts, weak teeth, gums, and nails, brittle hair, low libido, and/or emotional instability, consider adding small amounts of clean and minimally processed animal foods like free-range eggs, deep sea salmon, organic, raw milk cheese or yogurt from antibiotic and hormone free, pasture fed cows. If you are experiencing strong cravings for animal foods, eating small amounts of any of these products, until that feeling goes away, will help ensure your body is getting the nutrients it needs to remain optimally healthy.

4 comments:

Piper said...

I've always said that if one is truly commited to following a strict vegetarian, vegan/ raw food diet, they must meet with a specialist first to talk about what the body needs and how it can get it without animal sources and so on. I honestly believe it is possible but it must always be remembered that substitutions are never as good as the real thing. And, one has to really be honest as to whether or not they have the time and energy to take all the supliments the body needs.

Lizzie M. said...

Interesting.....

Luke said...

I've been vegan for over 5 years (veg for 12) and will never look back. My partner is a raw foodist and has been inspired by Doug Graham's approach - which is primarily a fruit diet. http://www.foodnsport.com/

Perhaps a better example is to look at Ruth Heidrich - who is a triathlete in her 60s, living on a raw food diet. http://www.vegsource.com/heidrich/

Indeed, we should all look carefully at what we eat and read widely.

Nicole said...

Thanks Luke for the info and links:)

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