One of the most common knocks on vegan diets, after perhaps “I just can’t do that” (Yes, you can) or “I love cheese” (It’s kind of gross when you think about it), is that it is somehow deficient and unable to maintain a high level of health. Sure, nearly every chronic disease that the greater population seems to be suffering from is battled by cutting back on meat and dairy, but a plant-based diet—well, won’t that just be the death of us all!
People with a passive knowledge of nutrition always seem to doubt. But, where do you get your protein? What about iron? Amino acids? Sometimes, it’s simply, what do you eat? The irony is that a healthy vegan eater who is mindful of a balanced diet will not only get the nutrients he or she needs but will likely also be getting so many more vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other things than someone on a typical meat eater’s diet.
The Top Issues That Concern Many People
Without a doubt, the number one concern people have about eating plant-based is if it can provide enough protein. Frankly, getting adequate protein eating vegan doesn’t even really take much thought. Despite what meat producers would have us all believe, nearly everything we eat has some degree of protein in it. Then, there are staples like brown rice, beans, oats, nuts, seeds and many vegetables that deliver quite a wallop of protein, often as much as a steak or chicken breast. And, don’t worry about amino acids, either.
There are other worries, things that have been marketed as coming only from animal-based sources. One major concern is over calcium, which has basically been attributed to being a dairy exclusive nutrient. Well, that’s rubbish. Lots of other things have an abundance of calcium, such as kale, broccoli, and almonds. People ask about iron, found in profusion in foods like dark leafy greens and legumes. Omega-3 fatty acids come from various sources that aren’t fish, with particular prowess shown in the forms of chia seeds and flax. Vitamin D just skips the plants all together and comes straight from the sun.
The Only Real Concern for
Anyone Eating Vegan
This is not to say that vegan diets are completely carefree and automatically provide everything a person needs without paying attention. Like with any diet, there are certain nutrients plant-based eaters must attend to, just as a heavy meat-eater better find some dietary fiber and antioxidants to stay afloat and healthy. The major concern for most vegans, the thing that we worry about most, is usually vitamin B12.
B12, for everyone, is usually found in fortified products, especially cereals and (plant-based) milks. One of the most popular food-based sources of B12 for vegans is fortified nutritional yeast because it has a peculiarly cheesy taste, though one shouldn’t rely on it alone. Other debatable plant sources of the vitamin are spirulina and mushrooms, but those too shouldn’t be relied on to get enough of this important vitamins. The best option is to simply take a liquid or sublingual vitamin B12 supplement just to insure there are no issues. This is no different than a person might take a supplement for something else they need or a multi-vitamin to stay healthy.
Realistic Concerns That Exist for All Eaters
When it comes to staying healthy on a plant-based diet, the rules are pretty simple: a good balance of cooked and raw foods will help provide vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that are not heat resistant, and eating a rainbow of vegetables—taking note to include as many colors as possible—will mean that most of our needs are covered. Avoiding excess unhealthy fats (and sugars) along with processed foods will equate to a less stressed, cleaner running body.
Whole foods are key.
The reality is that moms and dads were right: We all need to eat our vegetables. Meat and dairy, on the other hand, can be discarded. The proof is in the current state of health in wealthy countries where meat and dairy reign supreme, we find an epidemic of diabetes, obesity, heart problems, and cancer. In fact, look at it this way: How many plant-based eaters do you know of who have died of nutrient deficiencies? How many meat-eaters do you know of who have died due to diet-related issues? Which is the larger concern?
Lead Image Source: Plant-Based Nutrition and the Strength Athlete