Is a Vegan Lifestyle Really Healthy? Part 1 (Nutrition) August 14, 2015 13:06

Vegan food, Vegan Clothing, the Vegan Lifestyle. It's pretty much everywhere these days. But why choose a vegan plant-based meal over a balanced meat-based plate you ask? It's a great question. Often Vegans (as well as Vegetarians) are met with the disbelief that one can obtain all the daily requirements in a purely vegan diet. 

So how is a Vegan to make sure to get the daily requirements of Calcium, Vitamin D, Protein, B12, and Zinc? These are important questions and should be addressed. Vegans, as well as non-Vegans, should have the opportunity to see the science behind the health benefits of the Vegan lifestyle.

Maybe you're a Vegan or have flirted with the idea of becoming Vegan. Perhaps you've been leery of the idea that a plant-based diet could indeed supply all of your nutritional needs. Whatever side of the debate you're on you'll find this article helpful. Also, notice I used the main stream medical studies and not biased research models for the sake of this article in case some are suspect. 

Let's start with Calcium. Do you think Calcium is solely obtained by drinking milk from cows? Just one cup of fresh squeezed orange juice supplies your body with about 300 mg of calcium. You only need 1000-2000 mg per day. According to Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, broccoli, collard greens, sweet potatoes, buttermilk squash, kale and more (including fruits, grains, and legumes) also supply your calcium needs.  Food List http://www.pcrm.org/health/diets/vsk/vegetarian-starter-kit-calcium 

The old idea that Vitamin D only comes from fortified cow's milk is a myth. According to Researchers from Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM), eating mushrooms containing Vitamin D2 (sometimes called Vitamin D Mushrooms or Shitake Mushrooms), can be as effective at increasing and maintaining Vitamin D levels (25-hydroxyvitamin D) as taking supplemental vitamin D2 or vitamin D3. (http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2013-04/bumc-rdm042213.php).  Fortified soymilk contains Vitamin D also, and the sun is a natural source of Vitamin D. Vitamin D is created in your body after being in the sun for about 30 minutes. Supplements are also an option and I take supplements, but I like getting my daily needs from whole food sources too. 

What about Protein. Wondering about the debate that Vegans and Vegetarians don't get enough protein? Well, that's been disproven even in "mainstream" medical communities. According to the Institute of Medicine, adults should get a minimum of 0.08 grams of protein for every kilogram of body weight per day or 8 grams of protein for every 20 pounds of body weight. I weigh 110 lbs. So I would need 44g of protein per day for my body weight, according to their study. Here's a quick short list of vegan food items with well over 44 grams of protein. 


Breakfast Oatmeal & Smoothie
1 cup of oatmeal (6g of protein) 
2 bananas with 20 almonds (5-6 grams of protein) with 1 cup almond milk (1 gram protein)  1 tablespoon hemp seeds (about 3.5g protein) 1 cup raspberries (1.5g protein) blended into a smoothie

Snack
2 slices Ezekiel Bread with nut butter of choice 6g protein
1 cup soy milk 7g protein
1 cup raspberries 1.5g protein

Lunch Salad and Vegetables
1 cup Quinoa 10g protein
1Tbl hemp seeds 3.35g protein
1 cup broccoli 8.1g protein
Leafy green salad 1.9g protein

This is well over the 44 grams of protein I would need, and I haven't even had dinner yet! I eat a bit differently, and I add a lot of other things to my vegan diet however, this simple plan should give you at least a basic idea of how easy it is to obtain the daily protein needed to be a healthy Vegan. For more vegan sources of protein go here (http://www.onegreenplanet.org/natural-health/vegan-sources-of-protein/)

Now onto B12. Nutritional Yeast is one of the Vegan's sources for B12 along with B12 supplements. However, you will hear a bit of varying debate on the subject. Some people and many doctors tell their patients that the only source of B12 is from animal products. The only problem with that explanation is that B12 is not naturally occurring in animals or plants. Animals like plants, get their B12 from dirt and bacteria in the soil, and it is stored in the animal's intestines. However, once the meat is cooked and irradiated, there's very little if any B12 left for the person eating it. The fact that farmers have to inject their livestock with B12 tells us the real story. It is more frequent to see B12 deficiencies in meat eaters than it is to see deficiencies in Vegans for this reason.

Think back to biology class and recall that B12 is stored in our liver, kidneys, and muscle tissue. Only about 2-3 micrograms (not milligrams) per day are required. That is a very small amount. The way humans get B12 is through reabsorption uptake within our body. When we come across dirt from plants or animals, the microbes get into our system and the bacteria go to work inside our intestines and store it and then it's reabsorbed through our intestines.

In order to be deficient, you'd need to starve yourself of B12 for many, many years. It's rare to be deficient in B12, although it is possible and can happen when people have specific immune issues and problems inside their intestines and are unable to absorb nutrients. Interestingly meat eaters and people who intake a lot of gluten or have Crohns disease, take certain medications etc, have these absorption issues and not Vegans. 

Lastly, let's look at Zinc since it also comes up in conversations from time to time. If you quickly scout the internet for Zinc containing foods, meat, eggs, and poultry to name a few, come up first. They do have higher amounts of Zinc than vegetables however, you do not need loads of Zinc to be healthy. According to the Office of Dietary Supplements, humans need between 2-13 grams per day. Women need about 8 grams a day while men need about 11 grams per day with children needing the most. So what vegan foods have Zinc? Beans, Nuts, Chickpeas, Cashews, Almonds, Quinoa, Spinach and many more. 

So the idea that one can't get their daily requirements from a vegan diet is simply untrue. However when planning to go vegan it's best to understand your everyday needs so you can monitor your food choices. Once you understand where your minerals and nutrients are coming from, it will be much easier to plan well-balanced meals.  

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