Updated: Sep 16, 2020
During April 2020 I ate a strict VEGAN diet. I was surprised by the data, and also found myself very frustrated for what I felt were misguided claims. Going on a VEGAN diet is not a simple commitment.
As a health coach, I saw people express great confusion about diets because of contradictory research reports. To address this situation, I decided to live-out some of the most popular diets. Study them. Confirm or deny their claims. Follow the data. So, I launched ’12 Diets in 12 Months’. Here are my results for
‘5 Things that VEGANs get Wrong’:
1) Moral authority
2) Available land can be used for crops
3) Vegetable and grain production protects the Ozone layer
4) All their nutrition can come from nature
5) Variety = Protein
Is there one ‘right’ diet? Well, VEGANs appear to think so. Typically, they take a moral authority position by touting their earth-friendly animal rights agenda. This acts as a trance for young adults who are short on life experience and research skills.
According to a 2020 Veganbits article (1)
* 80% of all US VEGANS are 34 years of age or younger
* 74% of all VEGANs in the US are female, non-religious, left-leaning politically
* 2-3% of the US population follows a VEGAN diet
Many people like myself base their moral compass on their religious beliefs. I will continue to be prayerfully thankful for what God provides for me, and not pressured into behavior that is misguided. Why is this diet misguided? Read on.
Land Use & the Ozone
I find untenable the claim that we are misusing our land and poisoning our air by raising animals for consumption. Land that is used for cattle is often not even suitable for farming grains. For example, the soil must be fertile, loamy, tillable and the landscape cannot be hilly. Herds also play a key role in recycling plants and fertilizing soil naturally. Eliminating the production of meat and replacing it with vegetable crops would have only a slight reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, rather than a protective effect, according to Robin White, a lead researcher from Virginia Polytechnic Institute (2). While there are concerns in the meat industry regarding pollution by factory farms and excess water use, these can be successfully addressed without obliterating an entire industry.
‘All the nutrition that you need can be found in nature.’ Harvard Health Publishing advocates this idea in a 2018 article(4), encouraging, “plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains.” But other sources indicate 7 likely nutrient deficiencies on a VEGAN diet:
Calcium, B-12, Iron, Zinc, Omega 3s, Iodine, Vitamin D
This is a typical quandary that confuses the public, with research claims on both sides. By devoting an entire month to being a VEGAN, I thought that I would come close to the RDAs for the above 7 at-risk nutrients. In short, I felt that a total commitment to nutrition would support the assumption that all our nutrition can be found in nature. Wrong again.
The only nutrient that wasn’t a concern for me was iron. (Note: I’ve had iron deficiency anemia in the past, so I am well practiced at including iron rich foods in my diet like leafy greens, raisins, lentils, oatmeal, avocados and nuts.) Many of the other 6 nutrients, like calcium, B-12 and Vitamin D, were found in foods like tempeh and breads BECAUSE they were added in!! Not because they are found abundantly occurring in nature! Omega 3s are rare in plant foods, making supplementation for this critical nutrient a must.
Variety DOES NOT EQUAL Adequate Protein
I used to believe the experts on this variety claim. Certainly, if respectable VEGAN organizations like PCRM are quoting doctors, they must be right. However, when I tracked my strict VEGAN diet for 1 month, I was shocked to find my intake for the 9 essential amino acids was significantly short. I followed the data from www.cronometer.com and it showed that I only averaged 61% for any one of them (4). Now, keep in mind, this is during the Covid-19 ‘Stay Home, Stay Safe’ mandate. I had nothing to do but focus on making great VEGAN foods - and I ate plenty of variety.
What angers me most about this variety claim is that over a third of new VEGANs are teens who are at a critical period of growth and need protein.
My question is this: If an adult who is trained as a nutritionist and as a nurse cannot get enough protein while focused on making highly nutritious meals at home – how is a teen going to achieve it? Teens are swamped with pressures from school, sports, and are busy with friends. Will they stop for the 1 ½ hours every day to make sure their beans are soaking and that they get a robust green salad with a side of tempeh?
I just don’t see it.
12 Diets in 12 Months
I will continue to pursue my exploration of popular diets by following the data.
To the best of my ability I will abide by the chosen diet and see where the chips fall. And, I will be very honest with my expectations and how they did or did not meet the results. You can follow my journey on Facebook, as well as in my website blog.
I offer health and nutrition coaching.
I advocate for honesty and transparency.
I will help you follow the data and find the right balance for your life.
Until Next Time
~ Be Kind to Yourself!
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