Saturday, November 24, 2007

The fears of a suspecting vegan. Answered.

Maybe you're a touch freaked out about becoming vegan...about abandoning the dietary staples that billions of dollars in marketing have told you are essential to a happy successful productive and fertile life?

You're asking yourself: "But, where will I get my protein?!!!"

Now, I do believe that you're genuinely concerned about your amino acid pool, though I think what you're really asking is: how easy is it for me to screw this vegan business up and end up a crippled wreck? What do I really need to worry about? And what can I chill out about?

Important questions. Here is my answer:

If you're vegan, there are 5 major concerns you should address:

Pssst. don't tell anyone, but you should concern yourself with these things even if you're not vegan. Oh, and I have a much longer list for non-vegans, but I'll spare you that for now.

From easiest to tackle to hardest:
1. Vitamin B12
2. Vitamin D
3. Omega 3 Fatty Acids
4. Befriending refined Carbs
5. Getting cozy with isolation


Notice that protein isn't on this list. But it does get an honorable mention in my rant on read on! If I had to list a number 6, it would probably be Iron (mostly for women) and 7 might be getting enough calories (though this would only apply to maybe 10-20% of us at most)...

Update: This blog will provide a BRIEF overview of the above worry list and I will wax philo-medical on each topic in more detail in separate blogs. If you're interested in topics 6 or 7 let me know and I'll happily offer a spiel!

1. Vitamin B12 - the vitamin that makes doctors and scientists alike wave their big wobbly index finger at us crazy vegans. And they are right (but they conveniently forgot to wave it at themselves as well) - you need to hunt out little bits of this vital substance and get your B12 level checked periodically. Read why and how by clicking here.

2. Vitamin D - the sunshine vitamin. Understanding this master vitamin will give you a new found respect for that golden globe that warms our spirits. Vitamin D deficiency runs surprisingly rampant in us northerners and it's so easy to prevent. In the least, take a supplement in the fall and winter. Read why and how by clicking here.

3. Omega-3 - the rarest of the "essential fatty acids". It's the fat you need in your diet for your heart, brain and maybe more. But omega-3s are a little tricky to find in good quantities unless you're a regular fish eater (which I'm guessing you're not). Read why and how to get vegan sources by clicking here.

4. Refined carbs - unlike D, B12, and omega-3s the problem here is that these little devils are just too easy to find and they are awfully tasty. We all (vegan or not) need to crack the whip and get these foods off the everyday menu. But they are everywhere. Like mosquitoes ruining a good sunset picnic. Take a hard look at what you eat and you'll be surprised. Read about your options for switching to whole grains, and why that's important, here.

5. Avoiding isolation - say what?! I don't eat isolation. Thank goodness you don't, because being vegan can be a good recipe for adding isolation into your life.

Let me rewind for a second. I've often asked myself: if eating animal foods is so damn harmful and eating plant foods so protective, why doesn't the medical literature abound with data that blows the efforts of our friendly meat and dairy lobby groups to smithereens? (Don't get me wrong - it does support the benefits of a whole food vegan diet).

Well, one answer (of many) may be that people who choose to buck society and become vegan are different. Maybe (and for good reason) they are more often depressed about the world they see around them. Maybe (and for good reason) they feel different and more isolated from the average Joe or Jane. Maybe there is an unspoken psychological toll that befalls those of use who care deeply about what we eat and what we don't. No, I'm not advocating ignorance - just that as a community we need to start thinking and talking about this. I'll muse on this more, tell you why I think it deserves a place on the top 5 list and offer a few suggestions on the topic if you click here 

The unofficial 6th worry: keeping it in context.

I want to be clear - eating a whole-foods vegan diet is a great way to help maximize your health and make the earth a better place. It's a great way to bring purpose and meaning into your life, to minimize cruelty to animals, to lessen your environmental foot-print and hey, it may even help you stay lean in America.

But let's face it, eating vegan doesn't cure malaria or prevent SUVs from running you over. Being Vegan = one important piece of the puzzle, but it rarely stands alone. There are many other important determinants of health and well-being. But we can muse more on that later.

Oh, and worrying IS bad for you. So take action on these concerns, but don't let them cause undue stress!
Note: take everything you read on The Internet with a grain of salt. My writings do not constitute individual medical advice - for there is no advice that applies to everyone. These are just my informed opinions and I hope they can provide some guidance in your quest for wellness. In short: Please don't sue me. I'm Canadian.

One final disclaimer: my views do not represent the views of my employers or the academic centers I have been fortunate to attend.

Thanks for reading this. Feel free to comment, or offer suggestions on further blogs...

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Elaine Vigneault said...

That was a very thoughtful post and I appreciate it. Thank you.

I may quote you soon :)

Joselle said...

I just found this blog thanks to Elaine (hi!) and I am already loving it. This list alone is very helpful. Can't wait to read more about the isolation aspect, which is something I am definitely thinking and learning about now as a new vegan.

warwak said...

B-12 worries are just more meat-eater hype - B-12 is a bacteria that is everywhere. Our bodies can store B-12 for 5 years. One baked potato with skin and a little dirt will hold you over without having to get blood tests and subjecting yourself to western medicine's bandaid solutions. They still have doctors administering B-12 shots at diet clinics across America - Vegans need to stop buying the meat-eaters legacy of lies

Vegan`MD said...

Warwak - did you actually read the blog on B12? It saddens me that you are broadcasting your poorly informed conspiracy notions about this topic. You clearly have never seen a patient with subacute combined degeneration of the spinal cord.

B12 is not a bacteria. It is a molecule made by bacteria. The bacteria in our gut that make B12 live below the terminal ileum, which is where B12 is absorbed.

Furthermore, even if what you said was true, some of us prefer not to eat dirt.

Nonetheless, I thank you for your post. It helps me understand why some of my colleagues think vegans have gone off the deep end. Sadly, some of us have.

As for weight loss clinics using B12 to "help people lose weight"- this is a good point and a shameful practice that is not supported by science.

Christina said...

Hi Mark,

I can't tell you how excited I am to find your blog, and I love the Generation V movement!!

Looking forward to following your posts!

Natural Foods Yogi said...

Great Post!!!!

Natural Foods Yogi said...

Great post!!!