Question: Eric, I asked a question last week about the female friend switching to a vegan diet. Her reason for switching to a vegan diet is basically philosophical. Animal rights, etc. Her goals are non-performance based: weight loss, improved body comp, general health and fitness, etc. She took an online version of the questionnaire which calculated that her diet should be 21% from protein, fat, nuts/seeds, 38% from Type 1 veggies (the green leafy kind), and 41% from Type 2 veggies, fruit and grains. It was a free questionnaire, so it didn't get into any more detail than this.
Answer: First of all, let's define what a vegan is. It is a specific subset of vegetarians who, for whatever reason, have chosen to exclude ALL animal products. In your friend's case, it is philosophical with animal rights, etc.
Once we remove emotion and look at the facts, to me this is not a very good idea. There is absolutely no basis in science to support this radical position. If a person chooses to be a vegan for philosophical reasons, then that is their choice. However, even though this may be noble it still will not prevent them for suffering the consequences of choosing to avoid all animal protein.
One of the most common problems is permanent neurological complications, like blindness, from a vitamin B12 deficiency. One could take supplements for this but this is not as good as acquiring it from meat. Staying away from meat is not a good idea for about two-thirds of you reading this, again governed by your Metabolic Type®. Also, vitamin B12 isn't absorbed very well from plant sources which are why many vegans develop deficiencies. If one is a vegan, I would say that B12 supplementation is certainly something to look into.
Most vegans I have seen are, in my opinion, unhealthy. There are some people who are designed to be vegetarians, but even carb types require animal protein. This could be something as simple as fish, eggs or dairy.
With additional reading and research, I now believe that Vitamin D, zinc, iron, and calcium deficiencies -- and probably others that haven't yet been identified -- can and do occur in strict vegans. I would of course want to see the results of a hair/tissue/mineral analysis first, but this seems to be somewhat of a common trend.
I also believe vegan diets to be potentially deficient for teenagers who burn a lot of calories each day (or at least they used to) and whose growing bones and bodies still require a full spectrum of nutrients. This may be true for adults, as well, if they follow a vegan diet strictly for a year or two or more.
The ovo-lacto vegetarian diet (plants and eggs and dairy) is an excellent choice for those who wish to avoid eating animal flesh.
If they aren't comfort-food related and generated for psychological or stress-based reasons, food cravings often suggest your diet isn't working for you. Listen to your unique body. How many times have I now said this? It knows what it is talking about. Cravings for junk food are an absolute sure sign that you are not getting the right fuel to feed your body.
Now, I am not suggesting that you go and rob the nearest Ben & Jerry's vendor when you suddenly crave ice cream. Instead, entertain the possibility that your body needs some animal fat to help utilize fat-soluble vitamins and other factors not present in strict vegan diets.
The search for health comes from balance and being open to all kinds of information that will help you learn to pay attention and read the signs coming from your body. In using Metabolic Typing® as well as the Signet MRT ® test, I can say that I never really experience food cravings any more.
About Eric Talmant
Eric Talmant is a top lightweight powerlifter and has a "passion for all things nutrition." A 1996 graduate of the University of Evansville, Eric is a certified Metabolic Typing® advisor and Functional Diagnostic nutritionist.
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