Taking Responsibility for the Health of Vegan Children

Taking Responsibility for the Health of Vegan Children

peanut butter on toast for kidsNo doubt you’ve heard about the legislator in Italy who is proposing to make it illegal to raise kids as vegans. Italian lawmaker Elvira Savino wants to see jail sentences of up to seven years for parents who feed their children only plant foods.

The proposed bill describes veganism as “a diet devoid of elements essential for healthy and balanced growth,” It’s ludicrous. Given what we know about nutrient needs, there is no reason to think that children of well-informed vegan parents are at risk for poor health. It is not especially difficult to create a diet that will ensure adequate nutrition for vegan children.

But, as I’ve said on this website many times, you do need to know a little something about meeting nutrient ... Read More >

Vegan Diets are Dangerous? Here is What the Research Really Says

Vegan Diets are Dangerous? Here is What the Research Really Says

Messina Plant PlateDoctors at the Cleveland Clinic suggest that vegans should know something about diet planning in order to make sure they are meeting nutrient needs.

Their conclusions were published in the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association. The paper doesn’t say anything that is particularly alarming, and, with a few exceptions, there isn’t much in it that I would take issue with.

But the Cleveland Clinic press-released the findings, giving the media a chance to scaremonger about vegan diets—and you know how much they like to do that.

As is often the case, headlines didn’t exactly reflect what is in the paper. For one thing, it wasn’t a “study.” It’s a very short review, which means that it is a discussion of already-published research and doesn’t ... Read More >

Soyfoods, Olive Oil, Beans, and Omega-3s: A Vegan Plan for Reducing Depression

Soyfoods, Olive Oil, Beans, and Omega-3s: A Vegan Plan for Reducing Depression

tofu veggiesSome ex-vegans say that they became depressed on a plant-based diet. If they did, it was probably due to poor food choices and maybe a lack of recommended supplements. It’s doubtful that a healthy vegan diet promotes depression. In fact, eating more plant foods may have a few advantages for people who suffer from this chronic illness.

Is it possible, though, that vegans are more likely to suffer from depression for a completely different reason?

One small study suggests that vegans and vegetarians respond with more empathy (as measured by brain scans) when they view either animal or human suffering (1). And, not surprisingly, it’s possible that heightened empathy raises risk for depression (2).

Whether or not these findings are true, if you happen to ... Read More >

Pinto Beans or Tofurky? How Food Choices and Motivations Affect Vegan Health

Pinto Beans or Tofurky? How Food Choices and Motivations Affect Vegan Health

Vegan BurgerWhen it comes to vegan diets and health, a couple of misconceptions often pop up on blogs and in social media. One is that whole-food plant-based people are healthier than plain old vegans. Related to that is the belief that vegans motivated by ethics choose less healthy diets than those motivated by health.

Is it true? Do ethical vegans care more about animals than their own health? Research—or in some cases, the lack of research—casts some doubt on this.

Obviously, you can be vegan and still eat a pretty junky diet. There is the accidently vegan food as well as junk food developed just for vegans who like a treat. It’s not all that hard to eat a compassionate diet that is hyper-palatable, fun, and ... Read More >

Finding the Best Vegan Vitamin B12 Supplement

Finding the Best Vegan Vitamin B12 Supplement

vitamin B12As you might imagine, I get into a lot of discussions about vitamin B12 on facebook and twitter, and also via email. Vegans have many good questions about this nutrient. And sometimes some not-so-good opinions about it.

This past year I found myself chatting with the editor of a vegan publication who insisted that my perspective on B12 supplements was outdated. She was convinced that supplements were unnecessary and knew this because of what she had learned on a holistic health cruise.

Okay, well I’ve never been on a holistic health cruise. And I have no doubt that some are better than others. It’s just that, when it comes to vacations, I lean more toward Yellowstone National Park or maybe poking around antique stores along ... Read More >

Paleo Advocates Get Vegan Diets (and Saturated Fat) Wrong

Paleo Advocates Get Vegan Diets (and Saturated Fat) Wrong

Replacing saturated fat with healthy plant fats is still best advice.

Quite a few people have asked me to comment on the blog Authority Nutrition. It’s written by Kris Gunnars, a medical student at the University of Iceland.

First, despite the bold title of his blog, Gunnars is no authority on nutrition. His background is the usual one of the self-proclaimed expert: “I got interested in my own health and started reading books and studies on nutrition.”

The result is that his blog is an interesting mix. There is some good advice and thoughtful observation, but also many overstatements of the evidence as well as some overt misinformation.

But he is certainly popular and it’s not hard to see why. He writes ... Read More >

Staying Strong on a Vegan Diet: Protein and Muscles

We all know that it’s easy to meet the protein RDA on a vegan diet. But what constitutes “enough protein” remains a topic of some debate among experts.

Among its other functions, protein protects bone health which may in part be due to its effects on muscle mass. Unfortunately, a decline in muscle mass over the years is more common than not. It’s driven to some extent by hormones, but diet and lifestyle clearly have an impact on this, too.

Although weight-training is the most important way to build and preserve muscle, it gets a little bit harder to bulk up as the years pass–probably because protein is used less efficiently to rebuild muscle after exercise when you’re older. A new report from the International ... Read More >

Ten Tips for Staying Happy and Healthy on a Vegan Diet

Ten Tips for Staying Happy and Healthy on a Vegan Diet

There is a long list of reasons why people fail on a vegan diet and return to the world of cheese sandwiches and fish fillets. They might have developed overt deficiencies or vague symptoms of poor health. Some ex-vegans say that they experienced depression or foggy thinking or fatigue without animal foods. Others struggled with challenging social situations or with cravings for animal foods.

The following ideas for staying happy and healthy on a vegan diet are all things I’ve written about before, but I wanted to condense them into a sort of checklist for those who are struggling to stay vegan. It may not cover everything (let me know if there are things you think I should add) but I think it addresses the ... Read More >

The New York Times, Nina Planck, and Safety of Vegan Diets

Last week brought more shoddy coverage of vegan diets from The New York Times. This time, it was a debate about the safety of veganism. And it didn’t occur to the Times to solicit opinions from anyone with actual expertise in vegan nutrition.

At the center of the discussion was food writer and farmer’s market expert Nina Planck, who excels at making sweeping, unsupported observations about nutrition. She is woefully uninformed and spectacularly unconcerned about her lack of knowledge and credentials.

Planck believes that we have “extraordinary needs for nutrients not found in plants,” –including vitamins A and D, omega-3 fats, and carnitine–which translates to a need for what she refers to as “synthetic supplements.” I imagine that in referring to these supplements as “synthetic,” ... Read More >