I know many vegetarians and even vegans and after going through the program at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition I came to realise that just being vegetarian or vegan doesn’t mean that you are healthy. Actually, it takes a lot more effort, time and mindfulness to be healthy especially if you are completely vegan.
I call them pizza pasta vegetarians or potato chip vegans…and to me they are the furthest thing from healthy but that is one extreme.
Let’s talk about vegans and why they are not always healthy…
Some people might think that if you are vegan and you go to the health food store and you buy vegan snacks it is a guilt free way to snacking healthfully. Let’s face it, anything that is packaged even if they claim it to be healthy is most often not an very unhealthy choice.
If you take the time to read the label on the box, you will find there is added sodium to give it more flavor and often times there will even be sugar and then of course the preservatives to keep it fresh.
In my opinion being vegan (and vegetarian) is about eating a plant based diet. Not going to the health food store and buying packaged foods that are marked healthy on the box.
Is Tofu healthy?
In my hormone health course with IIN I also learned that soy mimics estrogen through the compounds called isoflavones. So your body thinks that you have enough estrogen and stops producing. And some findings suggested that these compounds could promote the growth of some cancer cells, impair female fertility, and mess with thyroid function.
I have a vegan friend who eats tofu every day and had to have her thyroid removed. She is still eating tofu without even considering that it could have been the cause of her thyroid issues and I am not saying that it is, but there is a big coincident there.
Aborbing omega 3s is more difficult from plant based foods
There are those who even argue that Tofu is not healthy and these vegans (and vegetarians) eat Tofu by the truck loads. Tofu is also a processed food that our bodies are not able to assimilate. Tofu contains an omega 3 called Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) but for our bodies to assimilate this ALA we need to convert it to eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) or docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) but our bodies don’t do this very well and most of the omega 3 in tofu ends up being eliminated.
DHA is responsible for the brain boosting properties of omega 3 and EPA has been linked to reducing depression. Both are found in high quantities of fatty fish oils. It has been shown that it is much harder to absorb the omega 3 in non-animal foods.
Practice food combining
Another important consideration for vegans is food combining. Meat, eggs and dairy are complete proteins because they contain the 9 essential amino acids that the human body needs.
For example, lentils and beans are not a complete source, even though they are considered protein. This means that it is important to eat a variety of plant based food at each meal to make sure to cover all the 9 essential amino acids. I am not going to list here the different food combining options but it your responsibility to do the research and make sure you are eating the complete 9 amino acids at each meal to build your body.
Combining foods to absorb iron
Iron is another thing to look at. We as humans can absorb the iron from animals better than from plant based foods. There is a high count of iron in legumes and spinach for example but once again your body doesn’t always absorb it. A vegan especially should get an iron test to make sure it is the right level.
It is known that adding Vitamin C to a meal with legumes will help absorb the iron so be aware of the importance of food combining.
Vitamin B12 is also not abundant is plant based foods. Some people are already genetically predisposed to Vitamin B12 malabsorption. This is another thing to consider and eating some low-fat cheese or other dairy products might help boost your levels. Getting your B12 tested is also another good recommendation.
Veganism to protect the planet
Often vegans are driven by sustainability for the planet. This is understandable but you must also investigate how to eat to sustain your own health and wellness and being vegan requires more research and knowledge to do that.
And please don’t be fooled by the packaging in the health food store that says ‘healthy’ or ‘vegan’ and do your own research on healthy food combining for vegans (and vegetarians)