Non-vegans come up with numerous excuses to not become vegan (none of which have anything to do with the philosophy itself), and their most famous pretexts are: “Where will I get my protein?”, “But vitamin B-12 is vital to your health…”, “What about calcium?”, and the 360 ft. long list of questions and assertions continues, but ain’t nobody got time to refute every single justification right now, so please allow me to counter Kris Gunnars’s reasoning for not going vegan! In his article, “5 Reasons Why Vegan Diets May be a Bad Idea,” Gunnars suggests that vegans are deficient in a number of important nutrients because they’re all found in animal products; therefore, it is not the healthiest diet. Gunnars is absolutely right that vegans have to be wary of not receiving an adequate amount of these essential nutrients; however, most of us are big boys and girls, and we know how to google other sources of these vital nutrients.
Vegans understand that vitamin B-12 has many functions: it plays a key role in how our body creates energy, protects the heart, prevents nerve damage, maintains strong bones, and protects brain health. There’s a myth going around that B-12 is not “found in any amount in plants (except some types of algae)” and that meat is the only source of it, but that actually isn’t the case! Vegan sources of B-12 include plant milks, non-dairy yogurts, breakfast cereals, fortified nutritional yeast products, pickled vegetables, kombucha tea, miso, and tempeh.
Protein is important for muscle mass, bone health, and cells’ functioning. Again, it is a common misconception that meat is the only source of it. Allow me to shed some light on the subject: meat is the only source of complete proteins (meaning it contains every essential amino acid); however, by consuming a combination of proteins, you can attain every necessary amino acid. Vegan sources of complete proteins include quinoa, buckwheat, hemp seed, chia, soy, whole wheat pita with hummus, spirulina eaten with nuts and/or grains, and legumes (beans, lentils, and nuts) paired with grains (wheat, rice, and corn).
Although creatine is not an essential nutrient for the body, athletes and bodybuilders are obsessed with it because it expands your veins and increases blood flow to your muscles, which allows you to workout longer. Consequently, it results in increased strength and lean muscle mass. Sources of creatine can be found in meat and fish; however, cooking food destroys most of the creatine in it; therefore, a supplement is needed. So there you go, Gunnars, even non-vegans don’t get enough creatine!
Carnosine has antioxidant effects on cellular, protein, lipid, and DNA structures. Sources of carnosine come from meat; therefore, vegans are low in carnosine; however, non-vegans don’t get enough carnosine either! A study named “Intestinal absorption of the intact peptide carnosine in man” was performed by doctors Gardner M.L., Illingworth K.M., Kelleher J., and Wood D., in which they concluded that five hours after consuming carnosine, most of it was found in the subjects’ urine. They discovered that this rapid post-absorptive hydrolysis was caused by an enzyme called carnosinase. As a result, research suggests that a supplementation of at least 1000 mg of carnosine daily will maintain it in their system.
Omega-3 fatty acids make up cell membranes, keep the nervous system functioning, keep cholesterol levels in check, and maintain optimal brain health and neurological function. Once in the body, Omega-3 converts into docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). Omega-6, another type of essential fatty acid, inhibits the conversion of Omega-3 into DHA and EPA; therefore, to meet the required amount of these fatty acids, vegans must exceed the recommended dietary allowance for Omega-3 while simultaneously keeping their Omega-6 intake low. Vegan sources of Omega-3s include flax seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, seaweed, beans, winter squash, collards, kale, brussels, cauliflower, cabbage, [woo… there’s so many it hurts!], berries, mangos, honeydew melons, and much more.
The 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee concluded that a diet higher in vegetables, fruits, and whole grains and lower in animal-based foods is a healthier regimen. The diet of non-vegans is high in sodium, calories, trans fat, saturated fat, refined grains, and added sugars. Vegans understand that their diet is not completely abstinent from some of these unhealthy elements, but they consume a much lower percentage of it. Vegans are also more health-conscious: less likely to do drugs, exercise more often, etc. Consequently, vegans are healthier, but it is important to note that most vegans are doing it for ethical purposes, not because they feel it is a superior diet.
I agree that there are not many studies proving that meat and dairy are detrimental to our health; however, as stated earlier: vegans do have a healthier lifestyle as they do consume less of the aforementioned unhealthy elements, which have been proven to be harmful to our health if we consume high intakes of it. Our supposed use of “fear mongering” is caused by presence of studies currently taking place to prove or disprove that animal products are unhealthy. At this stage, they are all simply hypotheses, and vegans are aware of that, but the simple thought that perhaps meat and dairy could cause a variety of diseases is absolutely frightening for everyone (as most vegans consumed animal products for most of their lives). However, it is vital for non-vegans to understand that ethical vegans care mainly about animal welfare and did not convert because of the “scare tactics” all over the media.
My “take home message” is that if done right, the vegan diet can minimize the propensity of developing chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. It also gives you a confidence boost once you start seeing your skin clear out, your hair is softer and stronger, your nails are healthy, and you lose excess fat. Overall, you attain a more active, healthy lifestyle. The only reason that vegans could not have excellent health in the long run is based on the assumption that they are lacking essential vitamins, but – as stated many times before – there are plenty of other sources and supplementation is an option, so there is no reason for any vegan to be unhealthy.
Gunnars, I appreciate that you understand that the vegan diet has its benefits, but I hope you understand that there are people who’ve tried to be vegan, experienced negative effects due to their body’s natural adjustment to the new diet, didn’t persevere long enough to see the actual results, and go around giving it a bad name – that ain’t cool. I also understand non-vegans view us to be self-righteous because some vegans go around condemning “meat-eaters” for being heartless cannibals, but I hope you see the passion behind their words – it is mainly out of rage mixed with pain. Please understand that ethical vegans get frustrated when non-vegans don’t realize the damage they’re inflicting (even when shown evidence). Most vegans do it for the animals, and it is irritating when people come up with justifications to continue killing innocent living beings. I sincerely hope you understand where vegans are coming from, and if some are condescending, then I understand your judgment, but in the end, do not toss all vegans in the same pot.
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