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Helen Bennett Harvey promises that no animals were harmed in the making of this blog. Vegging Out is a recipe for a new way of life. Or at least a new way of eating. Pull up a chair. Contact me at: hbennettharvey@nhregister.com

Monday, December 3, 2007

Vegan nutrition

Since I had absolutely no evidence to back up my earlier statement that vegans are nutritionally challenged, I asked my friend Matt, who is in his first year of medical school at Yale and, therefore, an expert on everything. Here were his musings on the matter:

Good health is certainly achievable on a vegetarian and is just a bit more difficult on a vegan diet. The only thing that gives me reservations about the vegan diet, is the number of foods you're limiting yourself to.

As a staunch meat advocate (sustainability and ecological difficulties acknowledged!), I will be the first to say that a healthy diet should contain mostly plant-derived food. On the other hand, the best diet in the world is the most varied. Just as you should try to eat a rainbow of colored plant foods (orange, red, green, blue, etc.) to get the necessary array of nutrients and vitamins, there are several vitamins, such as B12, which are difficult to find outside of meat or animal-derived sources.

Luckily, today we have vitamin-fortified cereals and supplements - but still, the medium in which a vitamin occurs will alter how readily it is absorbed by the body, which has led many experts to question the nutritional benefits of a tablet multivitamin. As for complete protein (which you probably know, means it includes all essential amino acids which our bodies can't produce themselves), there are plenty of combinations of plant foods which will give sources of complete protein if eaten together (beans and rice, etc.).

(This email has already broken my favorite guideline of writing - never use 8 words to say something you can say with 4...so I'll briefly sum up my somewhat obscured point now...)

A vegan diet, when properly planned out, can be healthy for an adult (and only an adult). The problem is, this requires time and money that most people don't have when it comes to meal planning. As a result, many vegans end up eating a very limited set of foods, which is unhealthy.

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4 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The key to being a happy healthy vegan is to eat a wide variety of plant foods. As long as you keep mixing it up in the kitchen (don't get into the "same five meals a week" rut!), you'll do fine. The only one concern is B12, which can be supplemented through fortified
soy milks and such. Omega 3's (all over the news these days) can be found in flax seeds and walnuts.

Furthermore, a vegan diet is suitable for all stages of life. I've been a vegan for seven years and have friends with healthy vegan children. It is possible, folks!

(For further info, I recommend the following books: Becoming Vegan, by Brenda Davis and Vesanto Melina and The China Study, by T. Colin Campbell)

January 04, 2008 1:50 PM 
Blogger Casey of Lost Lake New York said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

May 12, 2008 12:08 PM 
Blogger Casey of Lost Lake New York said...

1) With all due respect to the medical profession and students thereof, most doctors know squat about nutrition; their training in that field is limited at best.

2) Planning a healthy vegan diet is not that difficult. I've been vegan for 7 years and I hardly give any thought to "planning" how I'm going to avoid deficiency. I just eat good food.

3) When it comes to eating the same limited set of foods day in and day out, I suspect omnivores fall into that trap more often than vegans. After all, they don't live in a culture that challenges them to think outside the box when it comes to eating.

May 12, 2008 12:12 PM 
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December 23, 2008 5:33 AM 

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