Well, well, well. I think I’ve been vegan long enough to open up the floor and answer some questions I’ve received over the years. If this goes well and you find value in it, then there could be a second edition to this. For now, check out what questions have come to me and how I responded. Enjoy.
1. What vitamins or supplements do we need to have in our body to replace anything we are missing from dairy or meat products?
I think the first, major one that comes up—both for what is needed and what is most well-known—is vitamin B12. This vitamin is often not found in a vegan diet, occurring naturally, and the misconception is that it’s an animal-source vitamin. This is wrong. Vitamin B12 actually thrives in conditions that support bacterial growth, and as a result, this is where you will find it. Example: Meat supports the growth of bacteria—and thus vitamin B12—because it’s rotting flesh (essentially when you think about it). This is why people who don’t follow a vegan diet don’t need to worry about getting the vitamin into them as much. Vegans were able to get vitamin B12 from the soil once upon a time, but now with the excess scrubbing of fruits and vegetables, this is becoming less likely.
It is suggested that vegans (not vegetarians, especially if they’re eating dairy products, which supports vitamin B12) take a sublingual tablet. Not to worry though if you’re newly vegan. Vitamin B12 can have stores in the body for upwards of seven years, so you don’t need to worry (as much) about a deficiency happening right away. I do suggest that you add it into your vitamin routine as soon as you can remember to.
Other important supplements to consider are (and I will try to not go into too much depth—if a separate blog post is needed on the topic, please leave your comments below to let me know!):
- Omega 3s and 6s: This can be achieved either through oils (flax, sunflower, hemp, etc.) added to smoothies (for example), through eating omega-rich foods (hempseeds, flax, chia, walnuts, cooking oils, etc.), or through the ocean itself and going directly to the source of omegas: algae. I would recommend spirulina (also good in smoothies) or another great option is chlorella that comes in tablets you can keep with you and take throughout the day.
- Iron: I don’t even really like mentioning iron all that much because it’s not just vegans who can suffer from an iron deficiency; meat eaters can, too. The most important thing to realize is that because iron relates to blood, the source of iron you’re getting is different for a plant-based (non-heme) vs. meat eater’s (heme) diet—that’s it. With a vegan diet, you need to make sure you’re eating your iron sources in ideal combinations to maximize the absorbency of it because the process of transforming non-heme iron sources in the body (vs. heme) requires additional steps. To make sure your combining for maximization: try your best to pair iron-rich foods with vitamin C. For example: adding a ton of greens to your tomato pasta sauce.
2. How does being a vegan impact our planet?
In the best way possible. Next question! Ok, so I’m kidding, but it is actually very beneficial to the planet on a global scale and I’ll try to explain why in a compressed manor. It not only reduces waste, CO2 emissions, rainforest clearing, electricity, water, and a long list of health concerns & problems, but it’s better for the animals. There are a million things I could say on this topic, but the shortest and simplest version is this: by reducing our animal consumption, we’re taking out a lot of variables that negatively impact our planet while animals turns into meat. It would be a lot cheaper for our pockets and the planet if we just ate the foods that we’re feeding to the animals and save a heck of a lot of rainforest and water (just two examples of many). Trust me, being vegan is very beneficial for the planet.
3. How does eating clean impact our bodies?
I struggle with this because “eating clean” is very subjective. What’s clean to me might not be clean to you. Putting in through my perspective of “clean" —a plant-based diet that focuses on real, unprocessed foods majority of the time—I would say it greatly impacts our bodies! The more we can focus on nourishing our bodies through wholesome eating, the greater return it will give us. It lessens our chances of acquiring health complications & diseases, and reduces the need to be dependent on the pharmaceutical franchise. We can all experience vibrant health if we’re willing to open up our minds and mouths to flavourful, natural, organic, whole foods.
4. What are some nasty ingredients that we should be aware of that can be found in every day products?
I really like this question! I think the main thing with ingredients is that if we’re looking at foods that do have an ingredient list to begin with, then we want to make sure they’re the following things:
- not in isolation or concentration (example: whey protein isolate, soy protein concentrate)
- non-gmo sources
When we buy packaged items for extremely low prices thinking that it’s the deal of the century, chances are it contains one or all of the items above. Look for natural and organic packaged items as much as possible and ABRL (always be reading labels). ;)
5. Top superfoods that we should include in our diet?
Another good question. I really do enjoy superfoods just because of what they can do for our bodies. They ain’t called superfoods for no reason! I’m trying to not go into too much depth with this post, so I will give you my recommendations for superfoods to add in and why in a few short sentences.
- Spirulina: can contain 55-70% protein which is the highest found concentration, plus it’s a complete protein and rich in many B vitamins and iron (remember question #1?).
- Chocolate (raw, cacao): there’s a misconception that chocolate isn’t good for you and I disagree as long as it’s the good stuff (i.e.: raw and cacao<—before it turns into cocoa). Chocolate is full of powerful antioxidants and can actually help suppress the appetite. I recommend nothing but Giddy Yoyo. It’s truly a superfood.
- Chaga: is a slow maturing mushroom that gathers nutrients from its host (the birch tree) and delivers them to us; may contain: anti-tumor compounds, and properties to boost the immune system, fight inflammation, detoxify the liver, and fight common colds and viruses. We actually drink it as a tea at night-time, but don’t worry, you would never know it is a mushroom. It has a slight vanilla taste to it.
These are three I include in my diet on a regular basis, and although very different from each other, are essential.
6. I've heard some negative things about consuming soy, how do we consume this in a healthy manner?
I know soy is given such a hard time, but can we let soy be? Soy, itself, is not bad when consumed organically. GMO-soy that contains a bunch of pesticides is. In terms of the negativity surrounding soy, I assume the question is directed at the link between soy and estrogen (and what might be assumed as soy being unhealthy), but the reality is, we would need to eat A LOT of soy in order for the mimic of estrogen associated with soy consumption to happen. What we can do to eat soy in a healthy matter actually links back to question #4: make sure you’re eating organic sources of soy (and be weary because there are various forms of soy found in a lot of cheap/quick/junk food products that are non-organic), and make sure it’s as natural as possible (examples: tempeh, tofu, tamari, edamame).
7. What are some of the reasons why being vegan is life changing?
I think the more you learn about the lifestyle, the more it changes you — and hopefully for the better! I think the main difference between following a vegan diet and not is that you have a greater awareness. And I don’t mean this in a negative way to non-vegans, but coming from someone who ate meat and then stopped, I have really changed how I view the whole eating process. It really opens your eyes and makes you think about your choices because that’s really what life is about: living from one choice to the next.
8. How do vegans get their protein?
Ah, of course this one crept in! I think the simplest way to answer this question is: as long as you’re eating enough calories on a vegan diet, then you’re getting enough protein in. Usually what happens when people switch to a vegan diet is they don’t eat as many calorie-dense foods as they previously did, and thus, need to eat more food to meet the caloric demands. Naturally, this includes protein. So if you’re increasing your calories (because let’s be honest, there is just not the same amount of calories in one pound of spinach as there is in a one pound chicken breast), then the protein will come. But to answer in a “food way”: nuts & seeds, nut & seed butters, legumes, lentils, beans, vegetables, tempeh, tofu, and finally, refer back to question #5, spirulina.
9. What are some important food pairing techniques that help increase the nutrition we receive from our foods? (Example: dark leafy greens + vitamin C)
I threw in the example from question #1 since I mentioned it there when it comes to food pairing. I’m going to leave the vitamin-side for now and focus on the whole food, itself. Spoiler alert: the body is a fantastic entity. So much that for things, such as, incomplete proteins, it can actually combine newer ingested meals with older ones to make complete proteins that the body needs to use. I think as long as you’re eating a well-balanced, whole foods diet then you’re doing ok. I don’t think much about food pairing, but only because I feel secure knowing I’m getting the best nutrition from most of my meals (but on the not-so-amazing food days, this is where taking a vitamin for insurance might be wise). I’m sorry I couldn’t add more to this question right now.
10. Are there any ingredients we should be aware of that some 'not so good' vegan products may use?
The most current one that stands out to me is palm oil, but only from a rainforest perspective. Make sure it’s coming from sustainable sources and not of those that are taking away from the wildlife in the Amazon. As for “not so good” products, again, it comes back to question #4. If you can’t pronounce it—vegan ingredient or not—I would try to avoid it. Of course there are “bad” vegan items that are ok once in a while, but if it’s artificial and man-made time and time again, say goodbye.
11. Organic products: most of us have heard of the dirty dozen list for fruits and veggies. In order to maintain a ‘clean eating' diet are there other products that we should be buying organic?
I’m actually going to flip this question and go the other way: the non-organics (because it’s a bit easier). Keep in mind that my house contains 95% or higher organic produce at all times just because it’s the way we want to live, but my suggestion to you would be that it’s ok to buy non-organic if it has a thick skin (think: pineapple, avocados, mango, etc.). And like the question is referring to: always buy organic for anything on the dirty dozen list. Other things to consider buying organic, apart from the dirty dozen are: soy and corn (highly sprayed with pesticides and very likely to be gmo!!).
This concludes my very first vegan Q&A. I really encourage you to leave questions, comments, concerns, improvements for me in the comments section below. I really enjoyed answering these questions so in order for me to do this again, I need your help! Let me know what you thought!
Also, to my American friends, I hope you have a wonderful Fourth of July weekend!