Health Facts · vegan

Is Vegan Healthy?

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To Meat or Not to Meat?

That is the major question in health and nutrition circles.  This is a common topic that arises whenever I speak, and I would love to address it from scientific, environmental, spiritual and intuitive perspectives.

Science is a tool best utilized to reflect the awesomeness of nature’s divine complexity.  However, when discussing debates such as this; the fight to be right and the attempt to use so-called evidence-based rationale only drives us further apart and creates more fear and confusion.  This is especially true when it comes to the fight to be right about what diet is the healthiest.  Many of us are on extreme ends of the spectrum. There’s no winning or convincing.  To meat or not to meat – that is the burning question.  My main focus the past 4 years has been to create balance in all areas of my life.  Therefore; I ask the question – why does it have to be black and white? Yes or no? Bad or good? All or nothing? In my opinion and experience; there is often room for gray area, flexibility, grace, embracing changes in your bodies’ needs just like the change in seasons. Let’s dive in!

It is crucial that we recognize that your way is RIGHT FOR YOU…but is not right for anyone other than you alone.  We are biochemically unique with different genetics, metabolisms, beliefs, cultures, geographic locations, shape, size, blood type, family history, lifestyle, stress loads, activity level, relationships, mindset and the list goes on. 

Only YOU can define what is right for you.

My only recommendation is that you listen to what your body is asking for and allow yourself to adapt and embrace what your body needs.  This creates choice and deep alignment with our human existence.

Often times we are caught up in the hype of what we think is best, what we read somewhere, what we watched on a documentary, what our friends are doing and even what our doctor or nutritionist recommended.  While it is valuable to gather information from countless reliable resources; it can also be overwhelming and can cloud our own internal compass that is meant to guide us…and us alone.  We are often empowered to make the change (whatever that may be – vegan, vegetarian, keto, Paleo, Mediterranean, etc..), but if that specific diet is not right for you biochemically; then you may be left feeling powerless, tired and defeated. You may continue to eat a certain diet because you THINK it is best while ignoring what your body is craving.

No Bueno!

We want to feel empowered, strong and motivated to live a vital life, and you can only do that by listening to YOU and your body.

In line with true self-initiation, I believe deeply that every person can be their own guru and their own doctor. They will know what it is that they need to eat when they are given “permission” to heal themselves with a full range of foods. This is what we see when we let weaning infants be guided by their native preferences. This can be done with a consciousness that promotes a more full union with nutrition – beyond just following rules.” – Dr. Kelly Brogan

SURRENDER.  Allow. LISTEN. Heal.

My Personal Experience:

I went vegetarian about 8 years ago while trying to get healthier (and after watching a documentary called Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead on Netflix!).  First, I eliminated all meat and was eating a ton of wheat bread, starches, fruits, veggies, and I felt horrendous. I figured I wasn’t do it well enough, so I went vegan. Cold turkey. While my husband was deployed. I lost a ton of weight! I was happy about the weight loss, but I looked emaciated and felt absolutely terrible. My hair was falling out, my hormones were out of whack, my emotional roller coaster was at an all-time high and my digestive disorders exacerbated. I mean BAD. Like, bad bad.  I was hungry all the time.  I felt like I was never completely satiated, so I tended to overeat and binge on carbs.  After about 6 months, I decided the diet was not for me and went back to being a meat eater.  Truth be told; I had NO idea what I was doing as a vegan. I just did what I thought was best at the time.  Had I been more educated and healed my gut prior to becoming a vegan; I think I could have done much better.

Long story short; a lot has changed since then. I have since gone to college for holistic nutrition, worked with countless clients and healed myself completely.  While I personally do not thrive being vegan; I do believe you can be a healthy vegan if it is right for you, you don’t have any major health concerns and you are diligent about your daily nutrient intake while taking professional-grade supplements.  If you are not thriving, however, you should consider your diet as potential culprit and look at areas you can improve your diet and supplement protocol.

My Recommendation:

As stated above; I honor everyone’s uniqueness, preferences, beliefs and choices.  With that being said; here are my recommendations based on my studies and experience:

While most people can benefit from adding MORE PLANTS to their diets; I do recommend including some animal protein in your diet.  Quality and quantity is KEY here.  I recommend LOCAL animal protein.  It is so important to support local farms.  Get to know your farmer and their humane processes.  Be curious.  Ask questions.  Not only is grass-fed and organic local meat best for the environemnt and community; but it is also incredibly nutrient-dense — containing zinc, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins A & D, iron and of course, complete protein.  Grass-fed beef can actually be a powerful health food for many people!

I recommend including in your diet (of course each person is unique so if I work with you indivually; then my recommendations will vary):

  • grass-fed beef
  • organic free-range chicken and eggs
  • wild-caught fish
  • organic, raw dairy (if tolerated. Many people are lactose intolerant or sensitive to dairy).
  • quality animal protein at least 3 times per week and loading up on abundant veggies (the color of the rainbow!) and healthy fats (avocado, coconut, olive).

I still recommend a plant-based diet for most people while also including some nutrient-dense quality animal protein and abundant healthy fats. As you can see below; 3 ounces of organic chicken has more than 3 times the amount of plant protein foods, which means that you do not have to eat it daily to get the benefits (although I do recommend daily animal product intake for certain individuals depending on their health concerns and goals).

Eating a well-balanced diet provides abundant nutrients, antioxidants, fiber and health-supportive properties.  However, if you decide to be a strict vegan or vegetarian; I recommend being diligent about daily intake of protein variety (listed below), healthy fats, mindfulness, and taking the appropriate supplements. Whole foods are always best when it comes to balanced and optimal nutrition.  However, professional supplements are very therapeutic and necesary in many cases.  I am happy to counsel you on professional-grade supplements. Contact me here.

What is a Vegan?

Vegans choose to avoid eating all animal products for a combination of reasons, which typically include better health, protection against chronic diseases, deep connection and love for animals, spirituality and a positive effect on the environment.  Many vegans are very  health-conscious and make a commitment to eating more plant foods while limiting sugary-processed foods (but not always. Of course there are junk food vegans – just like there are meat-eating junk food eaters!).

  • Healthy vegans eat plant foods: vegetables, fruits, legumes, grains, nuts, seeds, herbs, nut butter, coconut (avoiding MEAT, EGGS, FISH & DAIRY).
  • A raw food vegan eats all raw plant foods (foods that have not been heated over 115 degrees F).
  • A vegetarian eats all plants foods but typically allow for eggs and dairy.
  • A pescatarian eat all plant foods but includes fish, eggs and dairy (but no meat).
  • A flexitarian limit meat intake but do not eliminate completely. Primarily plant-based and do not eat animal products on a daily basis but in moderation: about 3 times per week. This is my personal recommendation for many individuals.

What are the benefits of being vegan?

The mass production of factory-farmed animal products typically doesn’t take into account the welfare of the animals or human health.  Not only that, but the industrialized livestock and dairy production take a major toll on our ecosystem.  These industries are said to be responsible for a quarter of the total greenhouse gas emissions linked to climate changes.  The standard American eats way too much processed and packaged foods, commercial animal products with far too little plant foods.  Following a vegan diet is one way to avoid these dangers.

Vegan diets, when carefully planned and executed offer benefits for:

  • hypertension
  • cholesterol
  • certain cancers
  • cardiovascular disease
  • high in fiber, minerals, vitamin K, antioxidants like vitamins C & E, and folate
  • improved kidney function
  • may be beneficial for some post-menopausal women. On a personal note; I notice that I feel better during my menstraul cycle (less cramps) when I eat just plants during the first 2 days.

Risks of being a vegan include:

  • Nutrient deficiencies: vitamins A and D, omega-3 fatty acids, iron, zinc, B12.
  • Protein deficiencies: lack of amino acids – muscle wasting, cognitive changes, mood swings, weakness, fatigue.
  • High intake of phytic acid (this is also true for meat-eaters): phytic acid is an anti-nutrient in grains, beans, nuts and seeds – inhibits absorption of key minerals, such as magnesium, calcium, iron and zinc. However, soaking and sprouting your grains, nuts and seeds can greatly reduce phytic acid.
  • Overconsumption of carbohydrates: causes blood sugar imbalances (if you’re hungry or hangry often, then you are eating too many carbs!), fatigue, mood imbalances, candida overgrowth and weight gain.
  • Fatigue
  • Mood imabalances: anxiety, depression, mood swings
  • Hormone imabalances
  • Muscle wasting
  • Hair loss
  • Digestive issues: bloating, constipation, gas, heartburn
  • High in soy:
    • blocks digestive enzymes and can be hard on the digestive system
    • inhibits iodine uptake in the thyroid (disrupts thyroid health)
    • GMO unless USDA organic certified
    • However, fermented soy, such as miso is a health food.

How to be a Thriving Vegan:

Let’s talk protein. The daily recommendation is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight.  Example: a woman who weights 130 pounds should get around 48 grams of protein per day.  However, it really depends on the individuals goals and health.  For some clients; I recommend half their body weight in grams of protein per day, which would be 65 grams of protein for a 130 pound woman.  Protein not only helps us build muscle but also burns fat, boosts energy, regulates appetite, weight loss, cognitive benefits for memory and learning, regulates blood sugar, is critical for organ function, thyroid and adrenal health.  A protein deficiency can wreak havoc on your health.

Studies show that you can get all of your amino acids from plant foods as long as you are eating diversity on a daily basis. Be extra diligent about including a healthy protein powder, legumes, quinoa, nuts or seeds at each meal.  While it is true that you can get all of the protein you need from plant sources; most plants are low in one or more essential amino acids. For example, grains are low in lysine yet legumes are high in lysine.  This just means you need to be extra diligent about including a variety of plant proteins on a daily basis.  No need to stress about exact food combinations! Balance is key here (as always!). However, if you are interested in combinations; here is a list. Remember to always choose organic when possible!

Grains and legumes:

  • Black beans and wild rice
  • Quinoa and peas
  • Ezekiel bread and almond butter
Nuts and seeds plus legumes:
  • Roasted nuts, seeds, and black eyed peas
  • Hummus (chickpeas and tahini)
  • Lentils and almonds

**Please note: Soaking and sprouting your grains, legumes, nuts and seeds is optimal to reduce phytic acid and allow for better digestion & nutrient absorption.

While it is challenging to restrict even more food choices when being a vegan; I still recommend going gluten-free and watching your refined carb intake. Gluten is inflammatory, irritating to the digestive tract and allergenic. Even if you do not have an obvious reaction to gluten; it is often wreaking havoc on your health and creating low-grade inflammation.  If you are going to eat gluten/wheat; I recommend eating in moderation (Ezekiel sprouted bread is favored here) and not on a daily basis.

Some of my favorite plant-based protein sources include:

  • Almonds (one ounce) — 6 grams protein
  • Pumpkin seeds (1/4 cup) — 8 grams protein
  • Chia (one ounce) — 5 grams protein
  • Quinoa (one cup) — 8 grams protein
  • Amaranth (one cup) — 7 grams protein
  • Black beans (one cup) — 16 grams protein
  • Chickpeas (1 cup) — 12 grams protein
  • Lentils (one cup) — 18 grams protein
  • Green peas (one cup) — 8 grams protein
  • Artichokes (one cup) — 8 grams protein
  • Hemp seeds (3 TBS!) — 18 grams protein!!!
  • Tempeh (1 cup) — 12 grams protein
  • Spinach (1 cup) — 5 grams protein
  • Black eyed peas (1 cup) — 16 grams protein
  • Broccoli (1 cup) — 4 grams protein
  • Spirulina (1 TBS) — 4 grams protein
  • Tahini (1 ounce) — 8 grams protein
  • Natto (1 cup) — 15 grams of protein

Comparable animal protein sources:

  • Grass-fed beef (3 ounces) — 22 grams of protein
  • Organic free-range chicken (3 ounces) — 21 grams of protein
  • Organic bone broth (1 cup) — 40 grams of protein
  • Wild-caught salmon (3 ounces) — 17 grams of protein
  • Organic free-range egg (1 egg) — 7 grams protein
  • Organic kefir (1 cup) — 10 grams protein
  • Organic goat cheese (1 ounce) — 8 grams protein

I recommend your plate include:

  • 1/4 protein
  • 1/4 healthy fats
  • 1/2 non-starchy veggies
  • Starchy veggies, such as sweet potatoes have their place but opt for non-starchy veggies more regularly to reduce carb/glucose overload.

Digestive Capability:

The majority of people have some level of leaky gut (intestinal permeability) from stress, medications, GMOs, pesticides, processed food, sugar, alcohol, etc.  Therefore, when becoming a vegan and eating all plant foods (high in fermentable fiber); many people can exprience digestive discomfort, such as bloating, gas, contipation or diarhea.  This is especially true for raw food vegans.  Our digestive systems simply cannot break those fibers down adequately, the fibers ferment in the small intestine and can be very uncomfortable.  In this case; I would recommend doing a gut-healing protocol. If you would like to work with a certified nutrition cosultant, contact me here.

Mindful Eating:

Eating mindfully means not overeating, listenting to your body’s needs, putting your fork down in between bites, honoring your meal times and doing what is best for YOU! Food is nourishment.

Supplement Recommendations for Vegans:

Always consult your healthcare provider and/or nutritionist for personalized recommendations. I do not diagnouse or cure. Contact me for a supplement consult.

  • B12 Lozenges: click here.
  • Organic Pure Pea Protein Powder: click here.
  • Multi-vitamin: click here.
  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids (fish oil): click here.
  • Vitamin D: click here.
  • Amino acid complex (if needed): click here.

Recommended blood tests:

  • B12
  • Homocysteine
  • Vitamin D
  • Measure the full range of thyroid hormones in the blood, including thyroid antibodies. Test for TSH, T4, free T3 (FT3), reverse T3 (RT3).
  • Screen for the autoimmune disease, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, by ordering thyroid peroxidase antibodies (TPOAb) and thyroglobulin antibodies (TgAb).
  • Iron
  • Zinc

Recipe Ideas for Healthy Vegans:

References:

https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/global-greenhouse-gas-emissions-data

https://kellybroganmd.com/is-your-normal-thyroid-test-hiding-the-source-of-your-depression/

https://jjvirgin.com/can-vegan-vegetarian-plans/

https://kellybroganmd.com/vegetarianism-in-pregnancy-risks-nutrient-deficiency/?utm_campaign=coschedule&utm_source=facebook_page&utm_medium=Kelly%20Brogan%20MD%20-%20Holistic%20Psychiatrist

https://kellybroganmd.com/on-being-right-and-eating-animals/

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/vegan-diet-benefits#section2

https://www.verywellfit.com/vegan-protein-combinations-2506396

https://sciencebasedmedicine.org/sbm-weston-prices-appalling-legacy/

 

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