Thursday, April 14, 2011
I ran across a vegan who recently went off the wagon and had some meat and dairy in her diet. She felt like crap. Her husband, who's omnivorous, was understanding and told her that she needed to look out for her health. She blogged about it and people in the comments were saying things like, "This is proof there really is no perfect diet for everybody and some people really need to be vegan."
Beg to differ.
I do agree there is no perfect diet for everybody, mostly because the word "perfect" doesn't really mean anything. But there are basic nutritional needs that everyone must meet with their food. Because you can't just depend on popping pills to make up the difference. Supplements are expensive and what if the supply chain breaks down tomorrow and you can't get the pills anymore? You'd be screwed. I often say that veganism is only possible in an industrial food culture, for that reason.
Nutrients you need that a vegan diet will not provide:
Preformed vitamin A
Vitamin D3, or cholecalciferol (you can make it under sun exposure but that's iffy)
Vitamin K2, analog mk-4 (not the mk-7 present in natto)
Vitamin B12 (and you need methylcobalamin, not cyanocobalamin)
Choline (the choline in animal foods is safer than from supplements)
Long-chain saturated fatty acids, at least not in large amounts (if you don't eat them, your body will make them from the sugar you do eat, while you eat your way to diabetes)
There is nothing in ethnic background, body chemistry, personal opinion, emotions, or political ideology that will prevent you needing these nutrients. The insidious part is that you can store all of them, so you can go for a while not needing them because your body just takes them from its personal stores. But the body's storage depots of these nutrients will not last forever.
This is why you can feel good at first going vegan--you've cut the Standard American Diet crap out of your meals.
The other reason, of course, being that a vegan diet is naturally higher in carbohydrate, and you're likely walking around with a sugar high for half your day.
Now mind you, I don't believe that everybody needs the exact same foods in the exact same ratios. We're omnivores, possibly even non-obligate ("facultative") carnivores, and this gives us the ability to exploit edibles wherever we live. So we have a tolerance for a wide range of edible stuff, assuming no allergies. And different people have different health statuses, ages, and developmental needs, not to mention the gender thing. I get it. Really, I do.
But again, that does not negate the fact that we all have roughly the same nutrient needs, assuming the same health status and age range and developmental needs. And if your diet is not meeting those needs, then it is not a correct diet for you to be eating.
And if a diet does not provide a certain nutrient AT ALL without supplementation--NOT just because you ate a certain food in too low a quantity--perhaps you should reconsider how "well" you are actually doing at it. Especially if I can look at your food record and find grain, starch, sugar, fruit, sugar, grain, starch, and starch. No, Virginia, that is not a balanced diet, no matter who you are. Sorry.