First let me say, there is no one right way to eat for everyone. We are all different and we have to select an eating regimen that is right for you.
Because, we are all different and what works for one person may not work for the next. For example, my husband Dr. Timothy Ellington decided a few months ago that he was going Vegan. I encouraged him to do so, but told him, I could not follow that path.
As a Nutrition Coach I’ve been there and done that, as a part of my studies of over one hundred different dietary theories. Veganism in the strictest sense does not work for my body type. But I know many people who thrive. My eating regimen consist of eating humanely raised meat, wild caught fish, and eggs [not really a diary person] three times a week and the remaining four, stick to low glycemic fruits and vegetables, high quality nutritional shakes and sometimes even fasting a day or two. Overall, I just listen to my body.
Recently, vegetarian/vegan diets have experienced an increase in popularity. This popularity can be due to people who have trouble digesting meat and dairy products and have other issues like fatigue, inflammation, acne, bloating and weight gain. Intolerance to certain foods does not mean there is a problem with that particular food group per se, but it does indicate imbalances within the body, which can cause weaker digestive function (such as slowed metabolism and sluggish thyroid function). Some people tend to gravitate toward a vegan diet because the included foods are “easier” to digest due to poor digestive juices.
There is no denying a vegetarian diet is associated with many health benefits because of its higher content of fiber, folic acid, vitamins C and E, potassium, magnesium, and many phytochemicals and a fat content that is more unsaturated. Compared with other vegetarian diets, vegan diets tend to contain less saturated fat and cholesterol and more dietary fiber. Vegans tend to be thinner, have lower serum cholesterol, and lower blood pressure, reducing their risk of heart disease.
However, eliminating all animal products from the diet increases the risk of certain nutritional deficiencies, for example, essential amino acids. Vegans are susceptible to low levels of the following amino acids: lysine, threonine, tryptophan, and methionine.
Vitamin B12 is another nutrient that is common among vegans. B12 is a water soluble vitamin that is involved in the function of every cell in the body.
It is particularly important in the formation of blood and the function of the brain.
Because B12 is critical for life and isn’t found in any amount in plants (except some types of algae), it is by far the most important nutrient that vegans must be concerned with.
In fact, B12 deficiency is very common in vegans, one study showing that 92% of vegans are deficient in this critical nutrient.
When fish and eggs are eliminated from the diet, few direct sources of highly unsaturated omega-3 fatty acids remain. Therefore, vegetarians predominately rely on the conversion of the essential fatty acid (EFA) alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) from plants to supply EPA and DHA.
Unfortunately, this process is commonly inefficient, as enzymes necessary for this conversion are easily disrupted. Conversion can be slowed by genetics, age, and health status. In addition, poorly designed diets can impair the conversion process.
Since protein is scarce when you avoid animal products, soy products like edamame, tofu, soy protein powder, and tempeh are often dietary staples. The reality is that soy protein is very difficult to digest, thyroid suppressive and estrogenic due to phytoestrogens. It also contains high levels of phytic acid that cause less assimilation of nutrients, as well as contain trypsin inhibitors that can interfere with digestion.
If you desire to become a vegetarian or vegan, make sure you
Take Digestive Enzymes
Avoid Soy and work with a Nutrition Specialist.
Rodriguez NR, DiMarco NM, Langley S. Position of the American Dietetic Association, Dietitians of Canada, and the American College of Sports Medicine: Nutrition and athletic performance. J Am Diet Assoc 2009;109:509-27.