I grew up on animal products. Milk, eggs and meats were the staples of our diets. In late 2017 I was inspired by some vegan athletes and decided to take on a vegan diet.
I’m the type of person who just goes for it, so I took a cold-turkey approach. Being in the health and wellness field, I was pretty well educated on how to do the vegan diet the right way. However, I wasn’t educated on how my body reacted to high-carbohydrate intake. First couple of months I felt FANTASTIC.
I was eating smoothie bowls for breakfast, snacking on nuts and seeds and eating copious amounts of veggies. I was supplementing with B12 and getting enough protein from tempeh (fermented soy beans) and other vegan sources.
I see too many vegans who are “junk food vegans” (no matter the ingredients, they’re going to eat it as long as it passes as vegan). I was not consuming any processed foods and stuck to whole food plant based sources.
As time passed, I felt less well. My energy levels were down and I genuinely felt like I had to eat every couple of hours, I’d get ravenously hungry and be desperate for food…
I got my blood tested and my hba1c levels were through the roof, my fasting blood glucose was high, my inflammation was significantly elevated and other blood markers were average or poor, for a seemingly healthy individual who is eating a “healthy” diet.
That’s when I realized – “healthy” is an incredibly loose term that is thrown around quite a lot and our biochemical individuality often seems to be ignored. If only I had tested my blood markers earlier, looked at my genetic predisposition and bacteria in my gut, I would have known that a vegan diet is far from optimal for me…
My ideal diet, based on personal experimentation and laboratory testing turned out to be a low-carbohydrate diet based on whole food sources. I have a high genetic predisposition to diabetes, the bacteria in my gut reacts poorly to carbohydrates and my blood sugar fluctuations are almost unbearable.
So if you want to embark on a new diet, whether it’s vegan or anything else, reading up on the internet might not be enough.
You have to dig deeper to discover what your body needs. There is a reason why it’s recommended “to see your doctor” before drastically making any dietary choices.
Here’s what to do when starting a new diet:
-Run basic blood tests (advanced panel is nice to have) every 3 months
-Address common nutrient deficiencies (b12 and omega-3 deficiencies might lead to irreversible damage)
-Eat a high variety of foods -Load up on healthy fats
-Steer clear of heavily processed and unstable oils (canola oil, margarine, safflower oil…)
So when is it a good idea? – who could benefit from a vegan diet? The people who are currently eating a Standard American Diet. There is no doubt that a whole food plant based approach would be beneficial for them.
Additionally, folks who can tolerate blood sugar fluctuations and aren’t as sensitive to carbohydrates could also benefit from it. To find out if you’re one of them, you can simply monitor your energy levels and see if you experience any significant dips after a high carbohydrate meal or, if you’d like to dive deeper, you may take a genetic test.
I myself often opt for vegan dishes when traveling, because vegan restaurants are usually more health conscious and offer a wider choice of plant based meals.
And why you shouldn’t embark on it? I believe that a vegan diet is FAR from optimal. Not just for me. For the general population, too. I am not denying that one can definitely survive on it and it’s by all means a better option than what most of the population eats on a daily basis.
However, are we only trying to survive? Or is it our aim to thrive? Adding ethically raised animal products on top of whole food plant based products can help one do just that.
I have a strong stance against factory farmed animals and the way they’re being treated – that kind of meat should not exist since it’s neither good for them nor our bodies.
However, nose-to-tail wild animal products or more domesticated species of pasture raised animals can be a great addition to one’s diet and nutrient status.
Regardless what diet you’re following, there’s no need to put yourself into a box and label your diet. Listen to your body. Run some lab tests and eat in a way that works for you.
Nobody cares if you’re paleo, vegan or a flesh eating carnivore if you’re feeling great and paying forward by helping others…