Is being vegan the healthiest diet?
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pierino is a trusted source on General Cooking and Tough Love.
I tend to think of the vegans as the hezbollah wing of the vegetarian crowd. I don't think of it as healthy at all. I mean how much quinoa, edamame, nori and tofu can you eat and still remain sane? Personally I like to have my food taste like something. But then vegans seem to have other reasons for being vegan---culinary satisfaction is not one of them.
I know raw food people that are alive and energized and healthy with what they eat and I know vegans that are alive and energized healthy with what they eat and vegetarians and meat people alive and healthy with what they eat. It seems to me what they have in common is they eat whole food, very little processed food, lots of vegetables and fruit. They are aware of what they eat and how it is connected with either contributing to life on the planet or destroying life on the planet. The lesson I have taken away is if you are willing to learn and be responsible for where your food comes from and support farmers and ranchers, small growers, chefs that contribute to the whole you are healthy, urban gardens, hunters - whatever speaks to you - you are healthy. We are a global family after all.
Sam is a trusted home cook.
If you do it wrong...probably not. However, you pay attention to nutrition and do careful research it can be healthy--but not easy. B-12, D, and Calcium is lacking in vegan, so you depend on factory vitamins and supplements, which IMHO is ironic because it's supposed to be 'natural' and not taking pills instead of enjoying and eating food.
The Mediterranean Diet or Japaneese Diet is probably more healthy.
One more thing, if food doesn't taste good you won't eat it. So eating healthy is also about discovering how to cook and flavors to mix and trying new things. What an adventure!
Cynthia is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.
It actually makes me quite sad when people burden food with so many rules, be it veganism, vegetarianism, following to the last letter every possible recipe, etc., that the only pleasure is in how well one follows rules.
Barbara is a trusted source on General Cooking.
There's a movie that just came out called "Forks Over Knives" that documents the work of Caldwell Esselstyn, MD and T. Colin Campbell MD. They have managed people with heart disease by having them restrict their diets to vegan with no added fat, and have been able to reverse heart disease by doing so. This is the diet that President Clinton allegedly follows. It's clear that these people have managed to change their health and improve their lives by changing their diets. What's missing for me in all this is the concept of food as pleasure, and balance and moderation in all things. I guess if you're at the point where you have to consider having heart surgery of severely restrict your activities because of heart disease, you might be willing to consider food as medicine and make a drastic change to your diet. Otherwise, it seems very extreme to me. Mark Bittman's philosophy is "vegan before 6," which is at least somewhat balanced. There are all kinds of diets that people purport as "healthy:" the no-fat vegan diet, a high protein diet, the zone diet...you could probably add thousands more. Obesity is a huge problem in the U.S. right now, and certainly people have to seriously look at what and how they eat, but it's hard to imagine that veganism is the only way to go. (And if you're eating over-processed vegan foods, they can be just as empty as anything else.) If you're interested in learning more about heart disease and the vegan diet, there's a blogger called The Healthy Librarian who blogs about her experience living the no-fat vegan lifestyle at http://www.happyhealthylonglife.com/happy_healthy_long_life/
I also think it's a bit counter productive for a 'healthy planet'. Fiddle heads ferns in Chicago? Wild Mushrooms from the pacific NW in Florida? Seaweeds from Japan?; They have to shipped via air. Summer fruits and veggies in the North East in the dead of winter? Well, those come from the Southern Hemisphere..Florida, or Southern California.
Yeah, Sam1148. Personal health and health of the planet. Carbon footprint and all that. Has anyone taken a look at The Jungle Diet by Daphne Miller, MD. She's a family doc in SF who, after a fortuitous encounter with a patient, set out to discover the planet's "blue zones" where what we consider lifestyle diseases are low to nonexistent. And they're not all in the Mediterranean by any stretch. But they reflect local, good food sources. I feel like I should be on a street corner hawking this book. The first half is the stories of people she encountered, and the second fantastic recipes and how to use them where one lives.
Suzanne is a trusted source on General Cooking.
A vegan diet is very restricted as stated you will find healthy people who are vegan or vegetarian or meat eaters. If you eat a balanced diet and try to incorporate healthy choices in your menu no matter what you eat you should stay healthy. Many vegans make their choice not only for health reasons but as a statement regarding cruelty to animals. I always buy organic, and cage free etc... its a personal choice is it for health reasons or a stand against animal cruelty. I know vegetarians and vegans that eat a very unbalanced diet, loaded with fat and carbs and lacking protein. Everything must be balanced. I guess it depends why you choose to go vegan,
Lifestyle diseases are in those undeveloped area are low primary due to a overlooked factor---Daily exercise, often harvesting and gathering sustenance. Americans think Diet is a 'magic bullet'.
The major common factor for 'world healthiest diet' is the manual labor.
As a lifelong vegetarian, I don't think I would say so... Its really interesting reading all the replies. 10 of the 20 amino acids required by the body (that are not synthesized by it) need to be obtained by external sources (meat) & dairy. It is not that these amino acids (lysine as an example) cannot be obtained from cereals & legumes, but you'd have to eat a lot more to get the daily requirements. At some point there occurs a trade-off between taste & nutrition, and a vegan diet dies require a lot more adjustment in terms of taste & textures. It essentially boils down to a personal choice at the end. If you can collect a varied range of vegan foods (fulfilling the body's nutritional requirements) to suit your taste & culinary preferences, wonderful, else, if animal cruelty or a similar issue is a factor, then do consider including dairy ( which essentially is 'harvesting' resources from animal sources)
Yes, Sam1148, you're perfectly correct. To live a sedentary life and hope to correct its faults with diet is sort of hopeless.
It is much more than simply how we eat, but rather how we live.
"The healthiest diet?" Fresh air, sunshine, moderate exercise... those are all key ingredients. Food: fresh, un- or lightly processed, moderate in quantity, wide-ranging variety, seasonal, sourcing quality... Animal or not is a personal choice, not a nutritional necessity. Learn what is best for your body, functionally and for sheer sensual pleasure. Experiment with the range of colors, tastes, textures. Rigidity leads to breakage.
I was a longtime vegetarian until I got pregnant. I had a sudden craving for chicken - something I hadn't eaten for years. I stopped at a restaurant, ordered grilled chicken and devoured it, much to the shock of my husband and myself. Clearly, I was starving for protein.
June is a trusted source on General Cooking.
I would say no. A vegan diet CAN be a healthy diet, but it takes a lot of work (and supplements) to ensure one is always getting the nutrients one needs.
I also was vegetarian for many years, until my craving for hamburger finally overtook me and I began to understand Julia Child's motto, "All things in moderation."
Being and eating healthy requires a certain amount of education as you can see by many of the answers here. I just wish that the people calling themselves vegans and vegetarians would educate themselves before adopted the lifestyle. My biggest complaint about all of this is the pre-teen and teens that decide for whatever reason to become vegetarian but don't know the first thing about nutrition and burden thier parents with doing so. If your a parent of a child or teen that makes this decision then please place the burdon on your child to feed themselves and educate themselves rather than doing it for them. Doesn't this make sense?
I have a deep fear that my daughter's teenage rebellion will involve forsaking meat...
"Vegan" and "culinary" in the same kitchen? It can be done. Go here: http://www.veganculinaryexperience.com/
Even though I love red meat as much as a cave man, I've gotten some nice recipes from Chef Jason.
Emily is a trusted source on Scandinavian Cuisine.
The idea that eating a no-fat diet or simply eliminating animal products will make you healthy has really no good scientific basis in spite of what some researchers and nutrition evangelists will say. There is very, very scant evidence that fat is actually what causes obesity or heart disease, including saturated fats. There is, in fact, growing evidence (that many people discount out of hand because they are too attached to the nutrition orthodoxy that has existed since Ancel Keys' 7 countries study - which was seriously flawed) that omega-6 fats - the kind you get from vegetable oil like corn or soy oil (not canola) is more detrimental to health. And, that in fact, an overconsumption of sugar is THE major problem leading to most of the so-called Western diseases. What people like the researchers in Fork Over Spoon fail to take into account when they look at how healthy people with low-animal product diets are is that these same people also have a very, very low sugar consumption. Introduce a lot of sugar into their diets (like, the amount an average American eats/drinks) and they'll start to get fat and sick. There are no societies with high sugar consumption that have been documented to have low rates of chronic disease, whereas there are several examples of societies where people have subsisted on almost solely animal products (these animals were generally pasture raised or fed on plankton, though, which I believe is really important) that were almost completely free of chronic disease.
A personal experience with a very low fat vegan diet. I did a 3 week immersion stay where we ate an entirely vegan, low fat diet. Food quantities were not limited. Exercise and lectures were required. It had some startling effects. Digestive system produced lots of waste. Quantity and frequency of waste production was impressive. Total cholesterol was significantly reduced. I gained about 6 pounds. I was overweiggt to start with and became more so. Why?
I am a food lover. The picture, flavors, textures, temperature all affect my enjoyment. I was simply never satisfied by the fare. It was well prepared, but not satiating - witness the 32 pancakes (dollar sized) for breakfast one morning.
For me veganism didn't work at all. It means that I don't invite vegans to formal dinners at our use. However, when going to a potluck event, I always take vegetarian dishes - usually vegan because at most events the vegetable content is otherwise lacking.
Anita is a vegan pastry chef & founder of Electric Blue Baking Co. in Brooklyn.
First, I have to lovingly call out pierino for paraphrasing one of my favorite Anthony Bourdain quotes: http://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/1124.Anthony_Bourdain. Still, funny! I am always a fan of your comments.
I have been vegan for 2 years. I have been a chef for almost 4. So for me, first and foremost, the most important thing about food is flavor. I think the healthiest diet is one where you enjoy your food, and your life. For everyone, that means something different.
I have been to a vegan junk-food joint where the employees are so unhealthy-looking its as if they've just emerged from years of living underground in a cave. I have seen the same, and worse, from people coming out of the McDonald's down the block.
I would like to think of myself at the other end of the spectrum. And honestly, I have never felt better, physically and mentally, as I do now. For me, being vegan is not about restriction. I have never had MORE variety and flavor in my diet as I do now. I don't eat animal products, fried food or processed food, but I do eat fruits, veggies, legumes, seeds, nuts, grains and roots in an endless variety of combinations.
For me it is the healthiest choice. I love to cook, and I love to eat. That is a big part of it. My advice would be to try going vegan for two weeks and see how you feel. If, by the end of it, you decide even to just eat vegan once a week, you'll be making a difference.
I live in an area where Vegan's and Vegetarians are in high numbers. But, the ones I know still come running for the bacon when they smell it cooking and as they steel a piece they always say shhh...Don't tell anyone....and I don't.
As a chef, for the past 23 yrs I have always tried to maintain my "girlish figure". Just recently after doing some traveling and testing a whole new menu I found myself having some bad numbers after a blood test that indicated the my liver wasn't happy. My Doctor suggested that I remove the high amount of protien from my diet. A friend of mine convinced me to go vegan for a couple of weeks to help my liver. So I did. At 6 feet tall my wieght was 216. After a couple of weeks of going vegan I had dropped 10lbs. after 2 months I'm down to 185lbs. My liver is now happy my cholesterol is way down and I feel good. I now only eat meat one meal a day and have reduced my meat intake to no more than 6 ounces. I reserve this for dinner since my other two meals are usualy on the go and eaten standing up. If anything, it is a good way to restore your health. Not to mention the fact that I have cut my portions down considerably. I still eat for pleasure, just only a few times a month. But, it is always total food porn. And yet, this does not effect my wieght or blood test numbers.
To a vegan the taste of meat, eggs and dairy are delicious! There's no doubt on that but the thing that makes a vegan special, is that they are not selfish, and they aren't making crappy excuses like the rest of the people. They are vegan because they care about "EQUAL RIGHTS" one of the fundemental ideas of america, except they aren't creating boundaries like other people, they want to create equal right within all living animals instead of just humans. They can't stand there and watch animals suffer everyday, they can't stand there and watch as our world dies because of us, if others did their research they would realise that 1/3 of CO2 emissions is from the production of meat and dairy, thats more than cars, planes, trains etc. Being vegan just happens to be one of the most healthiest diets if done correctly, i myself am vegan and have never taken a vitamin since the day i started. I have been more energenic and i can run and work-out much longer than i ever have been able to. And whats this about vegan food not being good? my variety in food is spectacular and it tastes 10X better at that, i realise now what i missed out on all those years when i chose to go to mcdonalds where you can choose between burgers, chicken nuggets and more different kinds of burgers, instead of going to a nice local vegetarian restaurant where i was actually able to choose from 50 different vegetarian dishes, which are not only a lot healthier for your heart and the rest of you body, but also for the environment and for suffering animals all around this beautiful earth.
You know, samh, I haven't been participating here at Food52 much of late, but I have a hard time standing by when you come into this community and start your time here with sanctimonious rubbish and insults. This isn't yahoo. Troll somewhere else.
A diet is & should be as personal a preference as it gets.and everyone should be respected for the choice they make. Yes by all means, processed fast food C^%p will kill ya not to mention the burden the medical consequences place on the average taxpayer, but I'll stop there. Being part of this community has actually taught me to respect meat & fish recipes since there are so many techniques involved that a vegetarian would normally not use. I no longer put books back on the shelf at Barnes & noble because they have a majority of meat & fish recipes.
What makes a diet healthy is eating large quantities of fresh vegetables and a smaller amount of fruit. Beyond that, it is all about how your body processes carbs. I would happily give up meat and subsist on rice, pasta, and bread, but then I would be really overweight. I seem to do best of lots of veggies, protein from eggs, fish, and moderate meat, and limited whole grains.
You can pry the gruyere out of my cold, dead fingers.
I think all diets can be healthy so long as you cut the processed foods, eat mostly veggies, and make sure to get adequate protein and fat. beyond that, it is really up to individual needs and taste.
"You can pry the gruyere out of my cold, dead fingers." Love that.
I agree with lloreen, I would love to eat more bread and pasta, but my body doesn't process it like it used to. Meat maybe 4-5 times a week, fish, and of course gruyere! And I also like tofu but that doesn't make me a vegetarian or vegan. Shouldn't be one or the other, just an active choice.
Vegan diet done correctly has more nutrition in, than any other diet on the planet for humans. People who tell you otherwise don't know what they're talking about. And should stop telling lies. And giving out disinformation. And instead of panicing they should start growing more fruit and veg! Check out nutritionfacts . org - they explain about what is healthy!
Meat causes heart problems and cancer and is the most toxic food on the planet for human beings after dairy which is the most toxic substance to humans. Please stop eating dangerous food!
Many great answers above. I think being healthy is sort of obvious--eat a balanced diet, being sure to get enough protein, fiber, etc. Indulge occasionally and enjoy it when you do. Make sure everything you eat tastes good to you, otherwise good luck staying on any particular diet. Get enough exercise. Nutrition science seems to change like the wind. I think common sense should be your guide.
Oh, and as others have mentioned, if your body doesn't process certain foods well--be it wheat or gluten or dairy--don't eat them.