Should You Eat a Vegan or Vegetarian Diet?

Many people do feel better when they make a drastic dietary change. And this is especially true if they have been eating too much junk food. By making a substantial switch in foods, they may lose weight, feel less bloated, and generally feel healthier.

There is one Golden Rule of Nutritional Health. That is-Eat Whole Foods. A whole food is a food that is minimally processed and was recently growing in a field or running around a barnyard or swimming in an ocean or brook.

Once you start processing foods health becomes a slippery slope. Processed foods will not support the various functions of the body. Death begins a slow starvation at a cellular level. The symptoms of wasting may be confusing because they are so common that is easy to think they are genetic, or bad luck. As a doctor-friend of mine Bruce Bond says, “There are no bad genes are bad luck in health- only bad habits. We have Frankenstein foods that are not even really food anymore. They please the taste-buds, but kill the host slowly. So, no matter what type of dietary regimen you choose, sticking to whole foods is the most important category.

The food that vegans and Paleo/primal eaters have in common is vegetables. Lots of vegetables are healthy for everyone and provide the necessary minerals and vitamins and fiber and chewiness (yes, chewing is very healthy for the teeth and gums and stimulates all kinds of positive bio-chemical processes.)

One place where vegans/vegetarians and Paleo-eaters part ways is bread and grains. Too many vegans/vegetarians are really bread-eterians. They drop out animal protein but have weight issues and inflammation because they are eating too many grains and not enough healthy fats, which are anti-inflammatory. Even the best grains may be too many carbs for today’s sedentary life-style. When you see a vegetarian or vegan with a weight problem, grains and sugar are usually at the bottom of it. When you see an omnivore (someone who eats animal protein) with a weight problem, usually grains and sugar are at the bottom of it. Add in chemicals and Frankenstein foods that disrupt hormones and cannot be easily broken down and metabolized, and ill-health will follow.

Soy based foods suppress thyroid function, because the high level of plant estrogen can bind with the cell receptors that need thyroid hormones. Soy is also highly processed and many people are allergic to it. Think about this. Monsanto is the company that has pushed soy in the American market. Do you think they have your good health on their agenda? Unless fermented, soy products will interfere with the absorption of other vital minerals. Many vegan and vegetarian foods are soy-based substitutes, and they can create long-term health problems.[i]

The big lie that vegans swallow is that all plants contain protein, so humans can get plenty of protein by eating vegetables alone. It is true that plants contain amino acids. Few plants contain all the amino acids that are vital for human protein formation. Humans need nine essential amino acids.[ii] Every type of animal protein, including dairy, contains all the essential amino acids.

The reason this is so important is because every process in the body utilizes amino acids that are broken down into peptides and made into enzymes. Enzymes are the “keys” that unlock all the cellular functions, so they are vital. That is why certain amino acids are labeled “essential”. They must be present or the enzymes are not present in sufficient quantity and human life cannot be sustained.

Generally, plants do not contain all the essential amino acids for humans. But careful combining of different plant types can allow the necessary combinations.[iii] Note that many of the choices may include a lot of starch, such as beans and rice or nut butters and wheat. Unless you limit quantity or get a lot of exercise, this may lead to weight gain.

Vegetarians who can eat eggs and some dairy, such as cultured products like kefir and yogurt will have an easier time. Vegan/vegetarian women are often anemic, so iron supplements should be taken until menopause. B12 is a vital nutrient that is very hard to find in the plant world. B12 deficiency includes mental health issues, and I have seen a lot of depression in vegans/vegetarians. So, do use B12 supplements.

My preference for sufficient Vitamin D is to take good quality fish oil, especially because of the Vitamin A that Nature provides with the D. Recently it has been found that Lichen (a fuzzy moss) also contains Vitamin D and supplements are now available.

Regardless of your religious or philosophical considerations, please consider the science in your food choices. The internet is full of half-truths about vegan- and vegetarianism, and there are people who are very sick because they do not understand that these dietary changes should not be taken lightly. The anthropological evidence indicates that there were no vegan or strict vegetarian cultures in human history. People, having access only to local food, could not afford to be choosey. Women who do not get enough protein during pregnancy did not survive well. Please do not be mistaken about the vital need for adequate protein, and take all necessary measures to ensure that you and your family get enough, regardless of the source.

If you are wondering how vegetarian animals like elephants, horses and cows can eat vegetation and sustain their large bodies, consider two points. First, cows’ stomachs contain bacteria that convert vegetation to protein and humans do not have this type of bacteria. Wild horses and elephants eat grasses that contain protein and their need for the right essential amino acids are met by those grasses (or hay.) And all of these animals must graze constantly to eat enough to maintain their body sizes. Humans do not need to eat continuously, and the human system is quickly overwhelmed by too much food. If we were meant to “graze” our metabolism would speed up to accommodate our food intake. Instead, our too-too efficient systems just store the excess food as fat cells.

Right now I like the science behind the high fat/low carb approach, with moderate protein.[iv] Eat your carbs green, in the form of vegetables and some fruit. I will explain more about why I think this approach is the anti-cancer/diabetes/heart disease diet.

Let me know if you have any questions, concerns or stories about your own quest to find the right eating plan for yourself.