There is no doubt that a Vegan diet is appropriate for all stages of life. This is the position statement from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, “It is the position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics that appropriately planned vegetarian, including vegan, diets are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits for the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. These diets are appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, adolescence, older adulthood, and for athletes.”
If something is in excess that doesn’t mean it is good for us! Lets talk about iron absorption with red meat compared to plant foods. Funny how people think just because something is more absorbable it should therefore be better for us. Heme iron and non-heme iron. There is a big difference. Heme iron is obviously from dead flesh (blood) and non heme from plant foods!
Because the human body has no mechanism to rid itself of excess iron we have evolved to regulate this. Iron is absorbed through our intestines and if iron stores get too low the intestines know when to boost the absorption, if iron stores are too high then the intestines block the absorption to maintain us in the sweet spot! This also only works with the primary source of iron in the human diet from plant foods (non-heme).
Heme iron from dead flesh however cannot be regulated by the body and therefore absorbs straight through the intestinal wall even if there is excess iron in the body. This is when the body gets into an iron overload and creates all sorts of problems and sets the body up with a higher risk of dis-ease.
So the body has no control over iron absorption when eating animal flesh. This is why Vegetarians and Vegans tend to be lower in iron when it comes to blood tests because the 'normal' range is elevated due to all those people eating flesh which in turn boosts there level of iron in the body without knowing it is much more harmful for them.
In terms of how much the body can absorb we believe that it is very hard to get an exact number from the foods we eat because you can't really say that this plant food has this much iron in it so my body will absorb all of it. Iron absorption also depends on how many other nutrients that plant food has because all of the nutrients from that plant food work together to get absorbed. If you eat a variety of WHOLE foods (Fruits, Vegetables, Whole Grains and Legumes) you will get the exact amount of iron the body needs so that you can be in that sweet spot :)
Every single food you eat has protein in it so in terms of getting enough on a vegan diet you will get plenty. (Have you ever heard of anyone with protein deficiency?) If you are eating a wide variety of fruits and veggies you are getting all eight essential amino acids required by the body for all its protein needs (even for exercise or sport). Fruits & Veggies are premium, sufficient sources of amino acids, the building blocks of protein which our cells (primarily those of the liver) use to synthesize ALL of its protein. The body in fact recycles 80% of the protein it makes! If you are looking for higher protein foods, beans, legumes, lentils all have a great amount of protein.
Here is an excerpt from the book 80/10/10 by Dr Douglas Graham:
Whole Food Nutrition or Fragmented Nutrition?
Empty calorie foods, or “junk foods,” are defined as calorie sources sans full nutrient content. Refined calorie sources, whether they are protein, fat, or carbo- hydrates, supply empty calories. We generally think of sugar and empty calories as being synonymous. Refined starches (e.g., flour products) also qualify as empty calories, even though the general public may think of them as “healthy carbs.” Refined oils, too, must be recognised as empty calorie foods, since they are neither whole foods nor do they provide the full complement of nutrients found in the original source. Of course, protein powders of all types also qualify as empty calories as they fit the definition perfectly. It is sometimes difficult to accept that our beloved supplements are no more than junk foods. Nevertheless, flax or any other oil, hemp or any other protein powder, white flour and refined sugar all fall into the same category: empty calories. When you add any of them to your fruits and vegetables, you turn health food into junk food.
Rather than ask, “Where do you get your protein?”, consumers of such refined, isolated empty calories should be asking, “Where do you get your nutrients?” Protein from a can is no more nutritious than sugar from a bag or oil from a bottle; all of these items qualify as junk when compared to whole foods.
Protein Does Not Build Muscle!
Some may argue that we need to eat great volumes of protein in order to build muscle mass. In fact, if we wish to be able to exercise with sufficient intensity to spur growth in our muscles and related structures, we need to consume sufficient carbo- hydrates to meet our fuel needs—preferably from fruit.
Since protein is one of the three caloronutrients (along with carbohydrates and fats), protein fuel demands rise only when one’s diet is deficient in carbohydrates (as the body is forced to convert the protein into carbohydrates—a very inefficient, energy-draining process).
Eating protein does not build muscle. Muscular growth results from placing a strength overload upon the muscles and then supplying adequate conditions for recovery. Repeatedly using this overload and recovery strategy results in steady and reliable muscular growth and development. The quality of tissue developed will be determined by the foods eaten, and the highest quality tissues will develop as a result of eating fruits and vegetables.
Protein, per se, is not actually used by the body to build new tissue. When foods are eaten, their constituent proteins are broken down during the digestive processes into ever smaller particles: proteoles, polypeptides, dipeptides, and, eventually, amino acids. The amino acids travel to the liver where they are recombined and constructed into the specific proteins needed at any given time. Not only is it a fallacy that protein will result in muscle growth, but the concept that the body needs specific proteins, from fish, meat, eggs, etc. is also fallacious. The body breaks down all proteins to their component amino acids before recombining them. Eating the muscles from animals will not result in our developing bigger muscles. As an analogy, eating animals’ eyes will not improve our vision, nor will eating their brains increase our intellect.
For the month of February I had been invited to India by Dr Nandita Shah, founder of SHARAN (Sanctuary for Health and Reconnection to Animals and Nature) India to give some talks and workshops on why Plant Based Nutrition is the best solution for peoples health. SHARAN is a wonderful Not for Profit Organisation in India whose vision is a diabetes free India.
My program consisted of giving talks in Mumbai and Pune, talking about disease prevention and reversal via a whole foods plant based lifestyle rather than relying on medications, and my area of expertise, digestive health. I also conducted a cooking class with the help of one of the SHARAN associates, Reyna Rupani and showed people how to make healthy and delicious food without the use of oil, sugar or any refined products.
I was able to explain to people how to prevent and even reverse our most common chronic diseases such as Heart Disease, Diabetes and even common cancers such as of the breast, prostate and colon. In my digestive health workshop we discussed how to reverse chronic digestive disorders such as Crohns, Ulcerative Colitis, IBS and IBD. The audience was always amazed at the power of correct nutrition and that they now had the ability to prevent and reverse these common conditions! Health is really in your hands.
India has an extremely large vegetarian community. So the majority of people I spoke with did not eat meat! Therefore the main focus was on the harmful effects that cow’s milk has on the human body. We also showed the audience a video on how cows are treated in India. It is truly horrible what goes on in the industry over here. One of the many actions that shocked me was that they put chilli powder in the cow’s eyes, if the cow will not follow directions. Quite a number of people were crying as they realised the harm that occurs to these beautiful creatures. In India, the cow is considered sacred, yet India is the largest exporter of beef in the world!
The programs were a hit! I was able to speak to over 300 people during the 7 events that I ran over 2 weeks. A lot of the people were amazed that the truth about the harm caused by animal products to their health was not commonly known, and many people told me that they felt they had been lied to their whole life. During the cooking class, we made eight dishes including Thai Massuman Curry, Raw Cookies, Mexican Bean Salad and a Raw Cheesecake without any oil and completely from whole plant foods. Everyone was so pleased when they found out that healthy food is also delicious!
What I have seen is that awareness of Plant Based Nutrition is truly on the rise everywhere. The truth cannot be hidden forever! There are exceptional people everywhere spreading the message of love and compassion is so many ways, whether it be from the angle of animal rights, health or the environment and in many cases all 3 at once! When people hear a message presented in a logical and informative way, their perception changes and we get a shift in consciousness.
So many people told me after the events that they were going to make changes to their lifestyle and this gives me hope for the future. The animals need us, the planet needs us and we need to look after our health. Plant Based Nutrition offers us a viable solution to all 3 of these issues. We just need to reach more people in a manner that connects with them so that we can impact more positive change.
I feel more inspired than ever after my trip to India. I would like to thank Dr Nandita Shah and the whole team at SHARAN India for giving me the opportunity to share this information with so many people. I definitely recommend you have a look at their website www.sharan-india.org for lots of great information on Veganism and health, as well as some incredible Indian recipes!
I am very much looking forward to using the information I learned from SHARAN to deliver some similar programs here in New Zealand. Keep an eye out for them on our Facebook page High Carb Health and see you next time for the next edition of High Carb Health Talk.
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