Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Is Being Vegan Natural?

Over the Memorial day weekend, my boyfriend and I went to Great Sage in Clarksville, MD. The question that popped up in my head was "We have to eat a ton of different food to get all the vitamins and minerals and nutrients we need to be healthy so is being vegan natural?"

Since I've become more of a skpetic over the past few months, I believe it was a good question to ponder. It allowed myself to think on the other side and really look at the lifestyle decision I've been so proud I've made.

Justin gave me a great insight. He brought up the fact that being optimally healthy is not natural, only surviving. Then we proceeded to list everything that we humans engage in as not being natural such as eating food not even on this continent, wearing clothes, driving a car, flying in airplanes, working in an office, taking pills when we are sick, etc. Hearing this viewpoint about all of our behaviors, our food, our mode of transportation allowed me to switch gears and come to the conclusion, yes it is unnatural, however, that doesn't make it negative.

Speaking of the eating habits of vegans and "where we get certain things from (the b vitamins and the infamous protein), here is a list of a few vitamins and minerals and all the possible food one can consume and be unnaturally optimally healthy.

*B Vitamins: These are micro-organisms (bacteria). The most common source known to obtain this is through animal products or fortified foods and supplements. Other vegan sources not widely known as brewer's yeast, dulse, kelp, and nori (sea vegetables).

Daily intake: 2 to 3 µg per day

 *Calcium: The chemical element known for strong bones. Contrary to the dairy industry propaganda, milk leaches calcium from bones which can cause osteoporosis.  A nifty source Vegan sources include the following: almonds, asparagus, blackstrap molasses, brewer's yeast, broccoli, cabbage, carob, collards, dandelion greens, dulse, figs, kale, kelp, mustard greens, and watercress. Calcium-rich herbs include alfalfa, burdock root, cayenne, chamomile, chickweed, chicory, dandelion, fennel seed, flaxseed, kelp, nettle, paprika, parsley, peppermint, plantain.

Daily intake for ages 19-50: 1000 mg per day

*Essential Fatty Acids: Essential fatty acids" are polyunsaturated fats that the body cannot make. Vegan sources include: flaxseeds, hemp seeds, walnuts, soybeans.

Daily intake:no congruent amount. 250 mg- 500 mg for adults.

*Iodine: Used by the thyroid to maintain a healthy metabolism. Vegan sources include: soy, flax seeds, and raw vegetables (broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and cabbage). Be careful not to get too much.

Daily intake: 150 mcg

*Iron: A part of all cells and does many things in our bodies. For example, iron (as part of the protein hemoglobin) carries oxygen from our lungs throughout our bodies. Having too little hemoglobin is called anemia. Iron also helps our muscles store and use oxygen. Iron deficiency can cause fatigue that impairs the ability to do physical work as well as other issues. This might make you wonder whether the rumors of vegans suffering from anemia have truth to them; however, research shows that iron deficiency in vegans is no more common than it is in the rest of the population. Iron should be taken with vitamin C to aid in more absorption by the body. Vegan sources include: green leafy vegetables, whole grains, almonds, avocados, beets, blackstrap molasses, brewer's yeast, dates, dulse, kelp, kidney and lima beans, millet, peaches, pears, dried fruits, pumpkins, raisins, rice and wheat bran, sesame seeds, soybeans, and watercress. Iron-rich herbs include alfalfa, catnip, cayenne, chamomile, chickweed, dandelion, fennel seed, kelp, lemongrass, paprika, parsley, peppermint, plantain.

Daily intake for ages 19-30: 18 mg per day.
Daily intake for men 19->70: 8 mg per day.

*Protein: Studies show that most vegan diets provide the ideal amounts of protein recommended by the World Health Organization. On the other hand, many omnivores eat more protein than guidelines recommend, and this may have disadvantages for their health. Excessive protein consumption may be associated with health risks. Kidney function can be compromised by too much protein in older people and in patients with kidney disease; also, a high protein intake may adversely affect calcium balance and contribute to osteoporosis.Vegan sources include: legumes/pulses (peas, beans, lentils, soy), nuts (brazils, hazels, almonds, cashews), and seeds (sunflower, pumpkin, sesame). Many vegetables and grains also contribute significant amounts.

Daily intake: suggested around 50 mg per day.
For athletes:  1.2 and 1.7 g/kg (0.5 - 0.8 grams per pound)

To calculate your own daily intake:

1. Weight in pounds divided by 2.2 = weight in kg
2. Weight in kg x 0.8-1.8 gm/kg = protein gm.

There are a great number of nutrition websites out there solely on vegan/vegetarian health. One that I used to gather most of this information can be located here:Veg Health Guide

With all of these delicious and available foods out there, there really is no excuse not to be optimally healthy. Most of these foods can be found in your regular grocery store with nearly all of them available at specialty grocery stores such as Roots, MOM's & Trader Joe's.

 Happy eating!


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