There are plenty of websites claiming that vegans are healthier than non-vegans. But simply eschewing animal products doesn’t guarantee optimal health. I heard someone comment today that it is almost impossible to find a fat vegan. But I think that might be changing. In the past, being vegan meant you needed to have a serious commitment to feeding yourself. Convenience foods were scarce, and often the only option in a restaurant would be a salad with oil and vinegar dressing.
Today, it is very easy to be vegan and eat nothing but junk food. They’re making some truly wonderful vegan snacks out there. Vegan restaurants are springing up everywhere (ok, that’s an exaggeration), and look at all those sinful vegan cookbooks out there. I’m not talking about Veganomicon or Quick-Fix Vegetarian… But just look Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, Vice Cream and The Joy of Vegan Baking! The recipes in these cookbooks are fabulous, I know, Jane’s made a few of them already. But if you eat enough of these things, you could be a fat vegan too!
It seems that until now, most of the studies which claim that a vegan diet is healthier than a vegetarian diet have relied on extrapolation (based on differences in the vegetarian and vegan diets) to come to these conclusions. Vegan Health.org is advocating long-term studies on vegan health and for the vegan community to focus on nutritional concerns, something Jane and I have not been doing as much of as we know we should. According to Vegan Health.org:
Nutritional myths have a way of going from one extreme to the other – either something is such an issue that people should not be vegan, or it is not important at all. The truth is often in the middle. Protein, calcium, and vitamin D are examples.
People once believed that in order to rely on plant proteins, you had to combine particular foods at every meal. We now know this is not true, but in countering the myth, claims have gone from “You don’t need to combine proteins,” to “It’s easy to get enough protein on a vegan diet,” to the harmful “It’s impossible not to get enough protein!” On average, vegans get enough protein, but vegans who avoid legumes and soyfoods might not be getting enough and could feel unhealthy…
We’ve certainly been guilty of espousing the “it’s easy to get enough protein on a vegan diet” philosophy. Jane has definitely noticed a difference in her energy level on days when she focuses on protein and days when she probably doesn’t get enough. (I start out my mornings with a protein shake every day, so it’s much less of an issue for me. I’m getting 20+ grams for breakfast.)
I guess this means we’ll be looking a little more carefully at what we’re eating.