5+ Reasons Why The Term Vegan Doesn’t Necessarily Mean Healthy

vegan diet

Let me start off by saying that I am completely respectful of people’s dietary choices unless (as I always mention) they are abusing their bodies with unhealthy foods.

I have clients come to me who are vegetarian or vegan and need nutrition advice and I honour their choices. This article is not about who’s right or who’s wrong, it’s about educating you on how to make a particular lifestyle healthier. I want everyone to be healthy – that’s my mission.

I was a vegetarian for many years and resisted the idea of ever eating meat again. I thought meat was disgusting.

I suffered from debilitating anxiety. Sometimes I would have 2 or 3 anxiety attacks in a day that I couldn’t explain. The anxiety was general and almost never related to something, but mostly I felt like I was dying.

I saw a holistic nutritionist when I was 20 years old. For the entire length of my vegetarianism I never felt satisfied after meals. I was hungry almost 100% of the time, and my sugar cravings were out of control…for years. Immediately she suggested that I eat meat. I wanted to feel better once and for all and so I ate meat the next day.

My anxiety, sugar cravings and hunger disappeared overnight. And that was the end of my vegetarian days.

I was a vegetarian because I thought it was the healthiest route to take dietarily. My belief system was blown out and my paradigm shifted. I realized that this wasn’t true.

I advocate for biochemical individuality. Some people thrive off of the vegetarian diet and begin to suffer once meat is added, others, like myself, are the opposite.

If you are a vegan for ethical reasons, I get it, and I respect that and I want you to be aware of some areas that you need to watch to be very healthy.

I’m going to point out 5+ things that make the vegan diet unhealthy and solutions so that you can remain healthy on this diet if you so choose to. I’m also going to point out when it may be time to throw in the towel and eat meat again, just so you don’t mistakenly destroy your health. Some people never have to give up the veganism and that’s cool too, if you do it right then there should be no problem.

1) Fake dairy food is terribly unhealthy

Fake butter, fake cheese, fake sour cream, and fake cream are not healthy foods. Any food that tried to imitate the real thing is not a healthier version of the real thing. Butter has one ingredient in it: Butter. Cheese has one ingredient in it: Cheese.

Daiya is a brand in Canada that sells these fake dairy products. One of the ingredients in their fake cheddar is titanium dioxide. Titanium dioxide is a chemical ingredient in make-up and sunscreens. It also contains other disgusting ingredients like canola oil and carrageenan. And what are “natural vegan flavours”? These can be and are usually petroleum based flavours disguised on the label for marketing reasons.

I’ll have my real butter and cheese over these products any day. If you like cheese so much that you can’t stay away from it as a vegan, then maybe it’s time to rethink being vegan because products like these are not healthy whatsoever.

Solution

Combine cashews, turmeric, mustard, sea salt, water and nutritional yeast in a blender for a “cheesy” flavour to pour over pastas or pizzas. This is a healthy alternative. Avoid these fake dairy products like the plague. Bake with coconut oil instead of butter but avoid vegan margarines.

2) Fake meat products are also terribly unhealthy

These meats are now being called “Frankenfoods” by health advocates like Meghan Telpner.

Yves, the fake meat company, sells a vegan ground round that has caramel colour (known carcinogen), sugar, and synthetic vitamins and minerals added to it. It’s main body is made up of wheat and soy proteins, two known allergens and no where does it say that these are non-gmo which means that they are gmo.

There is an ethical problem here. Genetically modified foods are an ethical problem. They will destroy the earth and destroy our food system. They are linked to the destruction of the bees. So when you eat these products you are contributing to an ethical problem in the world. More harmful than buying ground beef from a local organic farmer, who loves raising his animals, and who uses the money that he makes towards his family and supporting his local community.

Solution

Avoid these fake meat products like the plague. Understand that it is also our ethical responsibility to eat non-GMO foods. Honour your body by not feeding it chemicals that are linked to disease. Find healthier sources of vegan protein and eat those instead.

3) Overload of nutrient poor carbohydrate foods can lead to problems

Vegetarians and vegans easily consume too many nutrient poor carbohydrate rich foods. Beans and legumes are a great source of protein but also linked to major intestinal problems, like leaky gut syndrome (which then leads to autoimmune conditions including eczema, thyroid disease, arthritis, etc.), when consumed in large amount.

Rice, quinoa and grains are known to contain very high levels of phytic acid which blocks the absorption of minerals in our body. These foods are also quite low in minerals and vitamins.

The excess sugars (which carbohydrate foods are) can contribute to unhealthy intestinal flora and candida overgrowths which can leave us feeling hungry, constipated, foggy, and 100’s of other vague symptoms.

The excess carbohydrate foods can also throw our blood sugar levels off, which eventually throw our hormone levels off. We may begin feeling stressed out more often than not, and have energy problems throughout the day, in addition to PMS and other problems linked to the improper balance of blood sugar.

Solution

In order to get enough protein in your diet, consider buying a high quality vegan protein powder so you don’t have to consume so many carbohydrates throughout the day. Sunwarrior protein makes a good one and I also like the Progressive or Genuine Health brands of protein. Hemp protein is also a source (less absorbed but okay) that also contains healthy omega-3 oils in it.

Another option is to up your intake of nuts and seeds which also contain some protein.

 (I have a list of all the vegan/vegetarian sources of protein and the amount of protein grams per serving so if interested, email me.)

4) Tooth health may suffer

There are two reasons why tooth health can be effected from this diet. The effects show up years upon years later so be very careful now before it’s too late.

First, animal foods contain significantly higher amounts of easily absorbed minerals into the body. Over years without animal foods, the lack of minerals can add up and teeth/bone health require sufficient mineral intake.

Second, as mentioned briefly above, phytic acid in nuts, seeds, grains and legumes binds to minerals and pulls them out of the body.

Solution

Always soak your nuts, seeds, grains and legumes (and even ferment them if possible) to deactivate the phytic acid to prevent the mineral problem.

Take a trace mineral supplement daily for optimal health. I love Sunwarrior’s Fulvic Acid supplement.

5) Not enough Omega-3 fats

The best source of the omega-3 fats, and more specifically EPA and DHA (which are essential to almost every body function, hormone health and especially brain health) is seafood. Salmon, anchovy, and mackerel are great sources and fish oil supplements are even better sources.

If you think that flax seed oil can provide you with these same essential nutrients, then think again. Yes, flax seed oil contains Omega-3 oils but less absorbed by the human body than fish oils and with far, far less EPA and DHA content then fish oils.

These oils are ESSENTIAL to health.

Solution

If you are a vegan or vegetarian you must get on an algae based omega 3 supplement yesterday (that means now). This is a really great source of vegan Omega 3’s.

Other reasons why a vegan diet is not necessarily a healthy choice include:

  • Inability to obtain enough nutrients from food. B12 is one of those nutrients. Minerals like calcium and iron are two more nutrients that can be lacking and fat-soluble vitamins (A and D) which are found in animal foods can be lacking as well. Solution: Supplement.
  • Soy products are not right for everyone. Some people are allergic, some people are sensitive, and some people just cannot handle the estrogenic properties of these food. If your hormones are feeling wonky and you are consuming this food, eliminate it and see what happens. It’s also a healthier genetically modified food which in my books is an ethical issue.

Signs that it might be time to transition back into an animal based diet:

  • You’re sex drive is affected. Sex hormones are created, in part, by cholesterol and also with the healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Cholesterol is mainly found in animal foods.
  • You are gaining weight and cannot shed it. This is a big sign that it’s time to transition backwards back into meat again. The excess carbohydrates aren’t working with your own unique biochemistry and your hormones are suffering.
  • Your moods are suffering.
  • Your teeth aren’t as strong as they once were.

Before I wrap up this article, let’s talk about labels

Why label yourself? Why are you either vegan or a meat eater?

The only label I want you to have is healthy.

Then be yourself.

Once you put a label on something your ego gets involved and it becomes very challenging to sway away from that label without judgment and guilt. So if you label yourself as vegan but discover that you must start eating meat or you are going to have to be put on antidepressants, then it will be much harder to eat meat again because you labelled yourself. You are defined by that label so what are you without that definition?

Instead, why not just tell people that you are healthy and make healthy choices. If you decide to stop eating animal products that just do that without labelling it so just in case you want to cook with real butter one day, you don’t have to worry about the guilt or judgement.