V is for…

V is for vegetarian and vegan diets.First of all, no, this is not a plant-based diet bashing post.I have friends who have religious preferences towards not consuming animal products and those who have moral convictions against eating anything ‘that has eyes’.This is more of a …

Welcome to the world of vegetarian and vegan diets! In this article, I’ll provide you with a glimpse of the history of plant-based diets, as well as some warnings and advice for those who abstain from eating meat.

Pythagoras, from the 6th century, is credited with initiating a movement towards eating a strictly plant-based diet. This was followed up by Siddartha Gautama (Buddha), Jainism, and eventually spread to the UK and US. The vegetarian movement gained traction in the mid-1800s, mostly in Christian churches. Ironically, the word “vegetarian” had nothing to do with eating plants or vegetables. It’s a word translated from the Latin ‘Vegetus’, which means “lively, fresh, and vigorous”.

There are many denominations of vegetarian and vegan lifestyles, and attention to detail is what will make the difference. Humans are omnivores, not herbivores, and our GI tract is not the same as a gorilla, oxen, or rabbit. Our microbiome and skill set for digesting a wider variety of foods, including plants and animals, is different from other animals.

The biggest concern with someone who eliminates all meat from their diet is B12 deficiency, as well as iron and calcium deficiencies. B12 is NOT available or accessible in any plants in the necessary quantities. The iron that is most often needed to remedy anemia is heme iron, which is not found in plants either. Animal sources of many of the nutrients we need to live a healthy life are more bioavailable than plants.

For those who have a religious conviction or moral dilemma with consuming meat, it’s important to be supervised closely by a knowledgeable healthcare provider. Unfortunately, those are far and few between in standard care. However, there are specific ways to supplement the animal-free diet that help your body function properly. Please don’t be fooled that you can get everything you need from plants.

A strictly plant-derived diet comes with significantly higher risks of poor blood cell formation, decreased neurological function, poor DNA synthesis, osteoporotic fractures, and iron deficiency anemia. Choosing an animal-free diet doesn’t need to have as many negative repercussions when potential issues are addressed early and consistently. Unfortunately, many people experience a “vegan honeymoon” for 9 months – 2 years and think the physical and mental problems they were trying to improve are not getting better because they are not being strict enough. When in actuality, it’s their body crying for help because of nutrient deficiencies.

It’s important to know the facts and apply the knowledge to be healthy. So whether you’ve lost your taste for meat or are considering reintroducing animal products into your diet, it’s essential to be mindful of your nutrient intake.

What you need to know:

  • Plant-based diets inherently come with high caloric and high carbohydrate load – especially if protein goals are met.

  • Plants have chemical defenses that animal products do not.

  • Plants aren’t inherently bad – and there are some great qualities to some – but they should only be a side dish. NOT the main course.