Today I want to conclude the topic of how we can properly and safely transition into a plant-based diet, avoiding major pitfalls and myths, which, if we are not careful, might set us up for a world of disappointment and failures. Make sure to read the first two installments,before embarking on this one, so all things make sense:
- Vegan Done Wrong (Transitioning to Vegan Living While Avoiding Major Pitfalls Part I)
- Vegan Done Wrong (Transitioning to Vegan Living While Avoiding Major Pitfalls Part II)
Do Vegans Need to Supplement?
According to the latest vegan-lifestyle bashing articles, being vegan is hard, because one has to make sure to get certain vitamins not to be deficient, and one has to make sure to mix certain foods to get proteins, etc. But nothing could be farther from the truth.
While mainstream SAD (standard American diet) is void of many minerals and nutrients our bodies need to operate, while it is rich in empty calories, a whole foods, plant-based diet is rich in both, and then some, and low in calories, while also rich in fiber.
In real life, plant foods (fruits, veggies, greens, grains, etc.) are MUCH better and superior to any bottled vitamin you will find on the market, save one, but more about that in a few.
- Vegetables and Fruits are complex with multiple vitamins and nutrients working together, like a symphony, to ensure that you get the best of all you need, while extracted vitamins are often synthetic (made in a lab, not grown), and, in concentrated forms, as they come, might become toxic
- Nutrients are important when consumed as whole foods, not isolated nutrients
Let’s take a look at a partial list of nutrients and vitamins you will find in deceivingly simple food–spinach.
Now, imagine how many bottles of vitamins you would have to buy to get the same nutrient and mineral content, and how much money you would have to spend, if you believed that you needed to supplement your plant-based diet…
Colorful fruits and vegetables contain hundreds of phytochemicals in addition to the essential vitamins and minerals they also provide. When you eat fruits and vegetables, these phytochemicals are also absorbed into the body and work together to maintain and even improve our health by helping to prevent disease.
In contrast, dietary supplements in the form of pills or capsules usually only contain large doses of one or two vitamins, minerals or phytochemicals. These isolated nutrients have not proven to be effective or even safe. Even multivitamins are isolated from all the natural compounds found in raw fruits and vegetables.
You can benefit from all of the phytochemicals and nutrients found in plant foods by eating 5-9 servings of fruits and vegetables a day and including more whole grains and nuts in your diet.
If your doctor tells you that you need B vitamins, instead of going to a health food store and wondering which bottle or brand to buy, load up on greens, fruit, veggies and grains, and you will get all of your Bs and even more than that without burdening your body or your wallet, which, I am sure is already tightly stretched.
Depleted Soil Argument Debunked
Some might argue that we still should supplement since our ground has become so depleted of minerals. My response is always the same–buy organic as much as possible and you will be sure to get more minerals (many more than you can imagine) than you would get from conventionally (i.e. chemically) grown foods, which are normally grown using only a few chemically derived minerals placed in chemical fertilizers, “which contain a few mineral substances, principally nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus. Sometimes trace minerals are also added. As a result, plants fertilized with chemical fertilizers are presen ted with large quantities of nutrients all at once, often in excess of their needs. Soil that has been managed organically has more microorganisms. These microorganisms produce many compounds that help plants, including substances such as citrate and lactate that combine with soil minerals and make them more available to plant roots.” (Source–I would highly encourage you to read the source article for a deeper understanding of organic vs. conventional crop growing.)
And let’s also not forget, that most vitamins, even if non-synthetic, would be derived from the same mineral/vitamin depleted crops… Just think about that.
The One Supplement We All Need
In the last 6 year journey, from research and a tough personal experience, I found that we, vegans and omnivores alike, need only ONE supplement which cannot be readily found in our foods–vitamin B12, although omnivores need so much more than just B12 . For an in-depth research on the topic, make sure to either download the free report from Vegalicious site, or go to B12 category and read through all posts. In short, here is what you need to know.
Vitamin B12 (or B-12), also called cobalamin, is a water soluble vitamin with a key role in the normal functioning of the brain and nervous system, and for the formation of blood. It is normally involved in the metabolism of every cell of the human body, especially affecting DNA synthesis and regulation, but also fatty acid synthesis and energy production.
Vitamin B-12 helps maintain healthy nerve cells and red blood cells and is also needed to make DNA, the genetic material in all cells. Vitamin B12 is bound to the protein in food. Hydrochloric acid in the stomach, if your body functions properly, releases B-12 from protein during digestion. Once released, B-12 combines with a substance called intrinsic factor (IF) before it is absorbed into the bloodstream.
“B-12 is the only vitamin that contains a trace of element–cobalt [thus B-12 is called cobalamin].” (Source: Could it Be B-12?)
It is thought to believe that B-12 is produced in the gut of animals, making it the only vitamin you cannot get from plants of sunlight. In reality no plant or animal, including human beings, has been proven to be capable of producing good, usable B-12–after all even animals must get it from some source. The exclusive source of this B-12 vitamin appears to be tiny microorganisms like bacteria, yeasts, molds, and algae, and even some of these sources are not usable by humans–they are known as analogs.
”There are bacteria in the colon which are capable of producing B12, but their location makes it difficult for absorption (hence why many vegetarian animals eat their own feces such as rabbits etc).”
Populations Prone to B12 Deficiency
At this point, really everyone! The studies have shown that omnivores and vegans alike can become B12 deficient. Omnivores, who depend on the animal sources to get their B12 supply, can no longer be certain that they will, since most animals consumed never see the light of day or even good source of plant foods to get and collect B12 in their gut. The animals are deficient in this vitamins themselves, which leaves those who consume animal flesh deficient as well. So, everyone should supplement! But let’s get through certain populations who are especially prone to B-12 deficiencies more than others, and certain health conditions and situations that make us more susceptible to the deficiency (information largely drawn from Could it Be B-12? book):
- those with inflammation/deterioration of the stomach lining, known as atrophic gastritis, common [but not restricted to] in the population over 50
- those who had undergone gastric surgery [gastric bypass]
- those who had partial or complete stomach resections
- those with Crohn’s disease
- with enteritis
- those with Celiac disease
- certain medications and drugs [birth control, antiacids, antibiotics, certain vaccines, gastrointestinal drugs, ulcer drugs, diabetes medication, H2-blockers: Zantac, Tagament, Pepsid, potassium chloride, etc] make users susceptible to B-12 deficiency
- those with hyperthyroidism
- extreme stress
- alcohol and recreational drugs cause B-12 malabsorption and, thus, deficiency
- those who have been exposed to nitrious oxide [drug used in surgeries as anesthetic, even in dental surgeries]
- toxins such as mercury, found in some vaccination shots
- inborn errors of B-12 metabolism [sometimes hereditary]
- women who had to have C-section
- breastfeeding mothers
- eating disorders
- malabsorption syndrome
- inflammatory bowel disease
- advanced liver disease
- genetic mutations, etc.
Had I learned this truth earlier in my life, even before my vegan days, I would have saved myself years of heartache and money wasted on seeing doctors and specialists who were of no help. Although supplementing with lower dosages of B12, as suggested by many vegan authors, I found that I did not successfully replenish what I lost during my pre-vegan days due to stress and medication (birth control) use. It took an injection treatment and then daily high dosage sublingual B12 supplementation, which I faithfully continue, for me to get back on track, get my body healed and restored, which also allowed me to finally conceive after years of painfully infertile expectations.
Vitamin B-12 deficiency, if not caught in time, can potentially cause severe and irreversible damage, especially to the brain and nervous system.
Symptoms (this it does not mean that if you have one of these symptoms that you are necessarily B12 deficient, however, it is worth checking into, especially if you have more than one of the symptoms you are experiencing which fall into this list. I personally had several that checked off against it):
- Abnormal reflexes
- Ataxia [in children]
- Bleeding gums
- Bright red, smooth tongue
- Brittle nails
- Burning feeling in the feet
- Chest pain
- Chronic fatique
- Confusion [mental]
- Coronary artery disease
- Damage to optic nerve
- Damaged nerves
- Dandruff, as well as scalp scaliness
- Dark under eye circles [possibility, especially combine with vitamin K and other vitamin B deficiencies]
- Developmental delays
- Developmental regression
- Easy bruising
- Enlargement of the mucous membranes of the mouth, vagina, and stomach
- Excessive/abnormal sweating
- Exertional Dyspneal
- Failure to thrive [in children]
- Feeling tired, weak [chronically]
- Frequent upper respiratory infections
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Geographic/sore tongue
- Hair loss
- Poor head growth [in children]
- Poor socialization [in children]
- Poor motor skills [in children]
- Poor weight gain [in children]
- Poor wound healing
- Post-partum depression
- Premature graying of hair
- Psychological conditions
- Sever muscular cramps
- Shortness of breath
- Sleep disorders
- Sore tongue/Glossitis
- Soreness of the mouth
- Speech problems [in children]
- Tingling, numbness in hands and feet
- Tinnitus [ringing or roaring in the ears]
- Violent behavior
- Vision changes
- Weight loss
For more information on B12 deficiency and how to properly address it, make sure to get my complete research of buy a copy of Could it Be B-12? I would highly suggest doing so, because you will learn:
- How to properly get tested for B12 deficiency and how to get treated;
- What kind of supplementation to take to ensure a successful healing (there are several different forms of B12, and you want to make sure not to get the wrong, less effective, cyanocobalamin, which is commonly sold and is even added to certain foods and prenatal vitamins).
So, for your sake, please make sure to read through offered resources.
Vegan Done Right!
Now that we have covered all of the WRONG ways to do vegan, let’s talk about how you can do it right.
First, whether you are new to the plant based lifestyle, just considering it, or have done it wrong for a while, make sure to:
- Do your homework–read wonderful books such as The China Study, Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, Could it Be B12?, Green for Life, and of, course, my blog ;
- Watch a very motivating documentary Forks over Knives;
- Find a mentor, or a program that will fall in line with what we discussed in the last three posts–common sense, no formulas, no frills or tricks. You can pick me to be your mentor, or someone else–the goal is that you do it and you do it right.
- I offer a couple of options: One-On-One Coaching, 30-Day Transition Boot Camp, and a Do-It-Yourself Option of the same Boot Camp;
- Do not follow fads or try to figure out formulas–eating a whole foods, well rounded, plant based, unprocessed diet, which excluded oils and sugars, is the key to optimal health;
- Don’t go crazy over supplementation–remember, all you need from outside of food sources is B12! Instead of wasting your money on powders, shakes and bottled vitamins, save it, and buy organic! (or get enrolled in my boot camp )
- As long as you eat a well rounded diet you do NOT need to worry about your protein sources. I am a fitness instructors and train over 9 hours a week and NEVER had a problem getting my protein.
- Don’t worry about carbs–eat them! Just make sure they are complex carbs.
- Drink your greens!
To help you a little further and show how you can do things right, since this way of living worked for Hubby and I for several years with great outcomes, here is my sample daily food intake:
Here is sample of my daily food intake (note that I rotate my foods daily and weekly, so no two days are really alike, but the format is similar):
- Breakfast: green smoothie with maca and dulse; if I am still hungry I might have a boat of freshly made oatmeal 15-30 minutes after
- Snacks: fruit, veggies, veggies with hummus, green smoothies, or homemade energy bars
- Lunch: salad (veggies or greens, but normally veggie salads) with whole grains (whole wheat past, rice pasta, buckwheat, brown rice, quinoa, etc.); or soup with salad and homemade wholewheat bread (or no bread); or veggie wraps (green leaves can be used to make wraps or whole wheat/gluten free non-fat tortillas)
- Dinner: pre-dinner snack is a green smoothie; dinner itself similar to lunch, but always more raw foods than cooked
- Water: as needed throughout the day
- B12 sublingual once a day, unless injected that week, then it is every other day or so
- Sun exposure as much as possible
- Exercise: even preggo, I spend 5+ hrs a week on personal exercise
That’s pretty much it, loves! I hope this I have drawn a road-map clear enough for you to follow and succeed, without being afraid of What’s and How’ss of the plant-based lifestyle. If you have questions, type away, right under this post.