I get asked this question a lot, and I can understand why – I, and my family, eat a mostly plant-based diet and we avoid dairy.
Am I a vegan? No.
It took me a good while to work out my family’s optimal “diet”. I was troubled by the fact that many lifestyle factors, including diet, can significantly affect our chances of developing disease. So, I wanted to put some thought into how to keep my family healthy, through food. I had a Cancer patient, my thyroid and adrenal issues, two kids under 3 and several intolerances to consider, so it was not an easy task!
A quick scan of the light “science” available online told me in no uncertain terms that becoming vegan was the way forward. After all, vegans are reported to live longer and healthier, with lower risk of nasty things like cancer and heart disease.
I toyed with this idea for a while, and it was tempting. But, a few things didn’t sit right. First and foremost, getting your recommended daily allowance of nutrients from a vegan diet requires a lot of vegetables (clearly!), and a fair bit of digestive effort. I had the whims of a toddler and the tastes of a baby to think about, as well as some questionable digestion my part thanks to my thyroid. Secondly, I couldn’t, and still can’t, get past the fact that being a vegan deprives you of Vitamin B12.
B Group Vitamins are water-soluble (you need a regular intake) and enable the release of energy from your food. Energy is not something I take for granted – as a sufferer of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and hypothyroidism I need all the energy release I can get!
Vitamin B12 has a role in the formation of red blood cells, nervous system and the metabolism of fats and proteins, and not enough of it can cause fatigue, shortness of breath and numbness.
Of course, these days, as a vegan you can overcome these risks by taking a daily vitamin B12 supplement.
Brain Food: We have evolved to eat meat
A recent article in the journal Nature discusses the need for quality meat in our diet, in a world that is rich in nutrient-poor food. Read the article HERE.
Gupta highlights that the consumption of meat by our primate ancestors enabled them to evolve bigger brains. Meat provides readily available iron, zinc, vitamin B12 and fatty acids – all of which are required for brain development and optimal function (so not something I’m willing to deprive my kids of).
The article does note, however, that nutrient-poor, factory-farmed meats are nowhere near as beneficial for us as free range meat.
So where does this leave us on the “healthiest diet” dilemma?
My view is that your diet needs to suit your needs. For me, and my family, getting our daily requirements for optimal health purely from plants would be challenging. I alone have a thyroid condition which predisposes me to have an array of nutrient deficiencies – including B12!
This doesn’t mean we eat loads of meat everyday – far from it. We eat a diverse mix of gluten-free, plant-based foods including vegetables, nuts, pulses and the odd bit of seaweed! We eat free-range chicken and well-sourced oily fish, like mackerel and salmon. We rarely eat red meat or processed meat because of the links to increased risk of cancer (Cancer Research UK).
We also don’t eat dairy, primarily because of intolerances (did you know that Thyroxine can make you lactose intolerant?), but also because of the potential links to some Cancers and the fact that our ability to drink milk into adulthood is due only to a chance mutation – only 30% of people can digest the milk sugar lactose (mostly Europeans).
Most importantly, I am open to changes in our eating regime – the aim is to get the most from our food and to feel our best!
This is what works for us. What works of you?
Are you vegan?
I make homemade gluten, dairy, egg and soy-free food, many of which are suitable, or can be made suitable, for vegans (or all of which if you are a vegan who eats honey!). Have a look at what you can order HERE.
Is it time you took a look at your diet, but aren’t quite sure where to start? Get in touch HERE and we can have a chat about how I may be able to help.
For more information on my Coaching sessions and Packages click HERE
Looking forward to hearing from you,