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Go Vegan? Or Not?

There is a lot of positive press right now promoting veganism. The Netflix production Game Changers is one of several recent programs singing the praises of vegan dieting. After viewing and reading many of these programs, articles, and podcasts both pro and con, there are several points that I think are important to note:

-Humans can survive, and even thrive on a wide variety of food, ranging from a mostly plant based diet all the way to a mostly animal based diet.

-Many benefits of any "healthy" diet come from proscription, rather and prescription. In other words, it is the sugar, trans-fats, excessive calories, excessive omega-6s that you remove from your diet that improves your health as much as anything you are actually eating.

-Game Changers and others like it are not documentaries, as it's category within Netflix suggests; rather, they are agenda driven promotional videos that are funded by people who stand to gain from the promotion of that particular stance on eating. James Cameron, the famous Hollywood producer who produced Game Changers, is heavily invested (over $100million) in one of the largest pea protein companies in the world. Likewise, many of the studies promoting the health of animal products are industry funded. So, we need to consider the source for any of these videos, articles, blogs, etc. for any side of the debate.

-Even the most ardent Vegans admit you need to supplement your diet with Vitamin B-12 because it is very hard to find in plant products (Vitamin B12 is required for proper red blood cell formation, neurological function, and DNA synthesis). If you need supplements, then you should question the completeness of your diet.

-Yes, you can get adequate protein in a vegan diet, although it is not quite as easy as eating animal products. However, there are benefits to both animal and plants proteins. For example, lentils, one of the best known plant protein sources (which I love, and make soup with regularly) has about 16.5 grams of protein per cooked cup. A 1/4 pound 15% fat ground beef patty (which I also consume regularly) has 18.8 grams of protein. So the two foods are close in protein. However, to get that 16.5g of protein, the cup of lentils of is 322 calories, whereas the 1/4 beef patty is only 177 calories. Also, the lentils have zero Vitamin B-12, whereas the beef has 36% of the RDA of B-12. The beef also has significantly more of every single essential amino acid than the lentils. Conversely, the lentils contain 58% of RDA of fiber and 45% of manganese, an essential mineral, whereas the beef has none of either. This would suggest a combination of protein sources may be optimal for our health.

-There is no significant evidence that animal products in a healthy diet cause cancer, heart disease, or any other malady. Animal products have been a healthy part of the human diet for hundreds of thousands of years. Humans have in fact evolved by eating animal products.

-Much of industrial/global food production today, both animal and plant based, is bad for the soil, bad for the air, bad for the plant and animal life, and bad for our health. It is absolutely necessary that we increase regenerative farming techniques where the plant and animal life work in harmony to provide food, build the soil and even sequester carbon. Each of us can promote this by shopping at local farms or farmers markets, eating food in-season, and pushing our grocers to provide more traditionally and humanely raised animals and plants.

-We are each our own N=1 experiment in living. I would encourage each of you to research these subjects for yourself and find what works for you. Wherever possible seek out the least biased sources. Different approaches and ranges of food types work differently for each of us. A whole food, less junk, low sugar, no trans-fat approach will help us all be healthier and allows for a great deal of variability as to what we can eat.

Bon Apetit!

Posted December 20, 2019 by Tim Rankin