Keto, Paleo and Vegan…these are the diet trends on the radar for 2018. However, Veganism seems to be the definite front runner. Veganism, is the dietary practice of not consuming animals or using animals products…this includes honey and eggs. You may have also heard the term raw vegan, which equates to only eating raw, uncooked fruits and vegetables. However, the context of this post will focus on the nutritional perspective of veganism, as well as the mainstream and mostly generalized concept of veganism that the U.S. food industry marginalizes on and uses ever so loosely. Moreover, I will point out some of the pros and cons of eating vegan, as well as the misconceptions. Finally, I will summarize why it is important to stick to the basics of eating and to avoid getting lost in the names and fads of dieting.
The primary dietary concern is the elimination of foods most likely to be contaminated with synthetic chemicals: industrial meat and dairy products. – Sue Clarry, N.C.
Xeno-estrogens (fake hormones) tend to accumulate in fatty tissue. Foods from animals at the top of the food chain are likely to deliver larger doses than are foods from organisms at lower levels [like plant foods]. – Dr. Devra Lee Davis, Epidemiologist
There is no question that the modern meat and dairy industry in the U.S. remains and continues to be the driving force for which many people have run to fad diets like veganism. Yes, I called it a fad diet. Don’t throw tofu at me yet;) Not only are conventional meat and dairy animals treated unethically and given toxic substances that humans end up indirectly consuming (steroids, antibiotics and hormones), but the entire industry is built for profit and yield, not health. Not to mention the contamination of groundwater, deforestation, loss of biodiversity and the exorbitant use of land and agriculture to keep, feed and maintain livestock–1/3 of the world’s landscape to be exact. Of course this has led the way to a growing demand for non-dairy products and healthier alternatives to milk, cheese and yogurt. Even though this new movement of foods is exciting and definitely needed, one must examine the manipulation of and spin on healthy eating in the U.S., which is occurring through large food industry marketing, labeling and the play on fad diets.
The Big Misconception
Does labeling a product Certified Vegan, Paleo, Keto or even Organic mean the food and/or product is healthy? Does it even make the product actual food? Absolutely NOT is the answer to both of those questions. The term “Vegan-Safe” or “Vegan-Friendly” has turned into yet another marketing tool for massive corporations and companies to dominate the food industry and profit billions–unbeknownst to their unsuspecting, yet eager to be healthy consumer.
The typical vegan-friendly (or any fad diet) meal like frozen “burgers,” tofurky, soy ice-cream sandwiches, and even soy-yogurt and milk may actually contain unhealthy additives, GMOS, preservatives, artificial coloring, GMO or refined sugars, high-fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated oils. I will not name brands, but if you are not reading your vegan product labels (or even gluten-free, organic, keto or paleo for that matter), you are not totally in control of your diet or health.
Can Veganism Work?
Many individuals thrive and kick disease in the royal ass after going “vegan” the right way. Others quickly and dramatically decline in health because they simply eat all of the mainstream vegan-labeled, man-made, factory created, GMO containing, processed, “food-like” Franken products. And indeed some individuals thrive and/or epically fail on other fashionable diets, including Paleo, Gaps, and Keto due to bio-individuality (I’ll save this topic for another post). Yes, veganism can work, but just like any other fad diet, you have to know what you are doing! You must know the susceptibilities of the diet–more specifically–the pros and the cons. Most importantly, you must know what works for our own body.
Looking at the big picture of current fad diets, including veganism, there is one underlying thread to success that any good nutritionist or doctor will tell you: Eat Real Food! [Non-chemically treated fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, unrefined sugars, legumes, mineral broths and proper supplementation if necessary]. Bottom line: consuming real food–will garner you real health.
To reiterate, it is 100% possible for an individual to thrive and even heal on a vegan or raw vegan diet, especially if monitoring ones nutrient intake (i.e. levels of vitamins and minerals). However, it is important for vegans to ensure proper levels of B12, Zinc and Iron (usually derived from meat, poultry and dairy) by consuming the right quantities of fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables do contain protein, but you must eat larger amounts of organic produce derived from nutrient-rich, mineral-rich, nitrogen-rich soil to ensure the daily requirements of vitamins and minerals, as well as a properly functioning immune system.
Below I have outlined the Pros and Cons of a vegan lifestyle that may help you understand the reasons why individuals choose to adopt this way of eating or not:
- Foundation of diet (if done properly) is usually plant-based: fruits, veg, nuts & seeds
- Increased fiber intake due to consumption of more fruits, veg, nuts & seeds
- Disease Prevention: decreased risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, type II diabetes, osteoporosis
- Larger global impact due to majority of agriculture & water being fed to livestock
- Reduced cholesterol from lack of meat & dairy
- Risk of E.coli & Salmonella is greatly reduced due to non-consumption of meat/dairy
- Less antibiotic resistance due to non-consumption meat/dairy
- Higher intake of antioxidants if primarily eating fruits & vegetables
- Less exposure to toxic mercury from fish & shellfish
- Encourages ethical treatment of animals & planet
- Sustainable by eliminating need of water for meat/dairy industry
- Typically more environmentally conscious & space saving due to the fact that 1/3 of the worlds land & pasture is used for livestock
- Helpful to the bee population (the bee population is currently threatened due to pesticides, parasites, GMOs, etc. all of which have contributed to colony collapse)
- Steers clear of toxins found in conventional meat & dairy (antibiotics, steroids and hormones)
- Reduced saturated fats in diet due to no meat & dairy
- Emphasis on cleaner diet and well-being
- Can lead to nutrient deficiencies (Zinc, B12, Iron) due to the lack of meat, poultry and fish in the diet and/or not consuming enough fruits, vegetables, nuts & seeds
- Soil depletion and the emphasis on crop yield in the U.S. makes it more challenging to find nutrient-rich plant foods in mainstream supermarkets and grocery stores
- Vegan food labels can lead the consumer to the belief that a food product labeled vegan is healthier, when in fact it is not
- Some vegan labeled products contain GMO-corn, GMO-sugar, GMO-soy and GMO-wheat, along with other additives and preservatives
- Many vegan products contain unhealthy oils like hydrogenated vegetables oil (i.e. rancid oil) and/or GMO-canola oil
- Many vegan labeled products (especially butters) contain natural or artificial flavoring/coloring
- Vegans refrain from consuming raw honey, propolis and bees pollen, all of which have been found to be immune boosting foods and have been consumed since ancient times for health & wellness
- Possibility of weakened immune system due to the lack of Zinc, B12 and Iron (if not eating enough plant foods or properly monitoring)
- Very challenging when eating out or away from home
- Lack of knowledge about the movement and what it means in terms of treating animals humanely and ethically
The Take Away
In no way is this post meant to steer you away from veganism or promote the diet. It is however meant to show you that food labels, fad diets and “health fashion” may not always be for everyone. When we get back to the basics of eating and steer clear of the trendy diets, we come back to the true source of health and well-being….REAL FOOD! Lots of fruits and vegetables (and if you choose) responsibly raised and ethically treated sources of proteins—not industry driven, conventional meat and dairy. Even more, this post is meant to empower you to make smarter food choices, read labels, understand food industry marketing, control and manipulation and ultimately, to encourage more caution with diet trends. I do not advocate for any specific diet, but rather bio-individuality, nor am I putting down anyone who chooses to adopt a vegan lifestyle. I choose to highlight the importance of a plant-based lifestyle (eating lots of clean, plant-based foods) along with proper hydration and if necessary supplementation. The wellness topic has never been so complicated and I’m happy to say it doesn’t have to be if you keep it simple and keep it real.
There is no question the standards of food industry practice in the United States and other major countries must change in how food is manufactured, marketed and distributed. From an ecological, ethical, animal rights and sustainability point of view, the vegan movement has shed light on the negative global impact the conventional meat and dairy industry has created. Even more, movements like this have led the way to the dissemination of knowledge and lasting change. Without food movements urging individuals to examine their food choices, question food origin, who their dollar profits and the greater global impact, change would not be on the horizon. Even if you do not personally agree with a vegan lifestyle, it is important to know the ideology because you may find out the core principles are really not that radical after all.
Wishing you divine health and discernment!
<3 Eat Your Greens Out