It’s no secret that we love meat. At Good Whole Food we believe there are many important nutrients, and health benefits you receive from eating good quality meat. However, we realize that for one reason or another there are people who choose not to consume meat and some who go a step further and avoid all animal products.
There are many reasons for this. It could be religious beliefs, ecological reasons, or personal beliefs about fair treatment of animals and preserve life. Whatever someone’s reason for abstaining from animal products, we should respect their decision.
If you’re on a vegan diet, or if you’re looking to become vegan, you may be asking yourself if a vegan diet is completely healthy. Here’s a look at some of the health benefits and concerns of the vegan diet.
Is Vegan Dieting Healthy?
There are some very healthy practices that go along with vegan dieting. Eating a diverse selection of vegetables is amazing for your health. Some of the most important vitamins and antioxidants come from vegetables.
Fruits in moderation can have many health benefits. The nutrients and antioxidants in fruit can improve your immune system, and some can even help regulate blood sugars. However, most fruit is high in sugar. While a vegan needs these carbohydrates for energy, it also produces a spike in insulin.
Not eating highly processed food is one of the best things you can do for your body. Many vegans choose to eat clean, pure food. Eating good whole food is awesome. If you’re eating additives and preservatives you’re being cheated. You’re filling your body with food that has no nutritional benefits. When vegans choose good whole food, they’re choosing nutrient rich food. They typically eat less empty calories than the average American diet. The calories they eat come with the nutrients the body needs.
Vegan dieting doesn’t always mean you’re eating healthy. You can avoid animal products and still eat highly processed, chemically rich foods. Companies have developed fake animal products like vegan-cheese and vegan-bacon. The fact that someone had to synthetically make these foods says a lot about their nutritional value. They were made to mimic real food, not for their health benefits. These foods, in general, should be avoided.
Wheat, corn, soy, preservatives, and food additives frequently cause health issues. Many of these can make up a large chunk of the vegan diet, just to add bulk to the diet. When you cut all animal products out of your diet you need to get calories somewhere so you don’t starve to death.
Do We Need To Consume Animal Products
100 years ago you could easily argue that you need to consume animal products to survive and thrive. However, with today’s synthetic supplements, it is less clear how dire the consumption of animals is. I’d say that we are meant to eat animal products. Not everyone would agree, but animals provide us with many important nutrients we can’t get solely from vegetation.
There are ways to survive, and live a long healthy life without any animal products, but there are risks involved. Someone on a vegan diet most likely needs to take some, or several, synthetic supplements to get adequate levels of micronutrients from non-animal sources. Again, these supplements are synthetic. Natural sources of these micronutrients are always best.
Check out this excerpt from The Ultimate Alpha Project on the important nutrients missing from a vegan diet.
On top of the usual lack of proper fats themselves, the problem with vegan diets is exacerbated by malabsorption of fat-soluble vitamins and minerals.
Fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K1, K2), as their name implies, require the presence of fat to be absorbed. Naturally, if there is no fat – you don’t absorb them. If there is little fat – you may not absorb enough. So with all these wonderful vitamins and minerals that allegedly make raw vegan diets so great for you – if you don’t consume fat, half of them never reach your tissues.
We discussed the important of vitamin D in the article about sun exposure. The richest natural sources of vitamin D are animal-based: fish oils, fatty fish, egg yolks, cheeses, beef liver, etc.
Vitamin E is an antioxidant, plays a role in the formation of red blood cells and helps the body use vitamin K (see below).
If you recall a discussion around vitamin A, you would also remember that animal sources, such as beef liver, are the richest in its most bio-available form (retinol).
The only group we haven’t covered much is Vitamins K1 and K2 – both are important for blood coagulation, but K2 is especially important in regulating calcium absorption and preventing calcification in the arteries (one of the causes of cardiovascular disease). Vitamin K2 prevents bone loss and increases bone strength – and it is notoriously hard to get in sufficient amounts unless you eat a lot of animal products. Hypothetically, humans can convert K1 into K2 in their livers, but given that some benefits of consuming pre-formed vitamin K2 are not available from K1 intake (K2 specifically, and not K1, is inversely associated with heart disease and prostate cancer, among other things) suggests that it is the pre-formed vitamin K2 that is required to fully realize these benefits.
Ruminant animals convert vitamin K1 they get from plants into K2 in their stomachs – that’s why fat from grass fed animals is so precious. And although fermented non-animal foods, such as Natto or sauerkraut, also contain K2 produced by fermenting bacteria, the sheer number of animal sources of vitamin K2 (cheese, egg yolk, grass-fed butter, organ meats, etc.) is much more significant.
So with raw vegan diets, you are really subjecting yourself to a double whammy – not only you are not getting sufficient amount of these extremely important vitamins from their richest sources, but you also limit the absorption of whatever it is you are getting from plant-based diets if you limit the consumption of fats.
Check out the rest of The Ultimate Alpha Project’s article for an in-depth look at the possible dangers of a vegan diet.
Many plants have incredible health benefits, and important vitamins and minerals. Removing processed foods is another amazing benefit that can go hand in hand with a vegan diet, however removing all animal products from your diet limits your intake of many critical nutrients. This can be dangerous, and prevent you from thriving. It is important to consult with a physician or nutritionist to find a healthy diet that works for you.