Nutrition

Do Vegans Need Supplements of Omega-3 Fats?

New data from the EPIC-Norfolk Study in the U.K. revealed some surprises about blood levels of DHA in vegans. DHA is one of the long-chain fatty acids found primarily in fish oils. Vegans don’t consume any, but in this study, vegan women (although not men) had the highest levels of plasma DHA of all the groups.

Since DHA can be synthesized from another omega-3 fat, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), one theory is that vegans are more efficient at converting ALA to DHA. And in fact, this study did find that those who don’t eat fish are better converters than those who do, […]

By |2017-11-22T10:36:07-05:00November 17th, 2010|Tags: , |24 Comments

Olive Oil, Health and Advocacy

Ten billion (land) animals live and die under the most horrible conditions imaginable in the United States every year. So obviously, our efforts should focus on getting people to consume less…olive oil?
It seems like I run across an inordinate number of anti-olive oil comments these days from vegans on the internet.  People don’t pick on safflower or corn oil, probably because no one is out there touting their consumption. But because some health experts have the audacity to suggest that olive oil (a refined food! a fat!) can have a place in […]
By |2010-10-12T11:01:24-04:00October 12th, 2010|Tags: , , |61 Comments

Tryptophan, Milk and Depression

People who abandon plant-based diets often say that they suffered from depression as vegans. One common belief is that vegans can’t get adequate tryptophan, an essential amino acid. Tryptophan is needed to make the neurotransmitter serotonin and low levels of serotonin are linked to depression. In the book The Vegetarian Myth (which I plan to review here in the next few weeks), author Lierre Keith notes that she suffered from severe depression as a vegan partly because “there are no good plant sources of tryptophan.”

While it’s true that meat is higher in tryptophan than plants, a well-balanced vegan diet is […]

By |2010-09-02T10:13:22-04:00September 2nd, 2010|Tags: , , , |33 Comments

Ex-Vegans, Happiness and Vitamin B12

People abandon plant-based eating for any number of reasons, but it’s often because they didn’t feel well as vegans. Some are so convinced that their former diet was damaging to their health that they even become activists against veganism.

If you poke around the internet and read stories of ex-vegans, it becomes pretty clear that at least some of them never wholeheartedly embraced the principles of vegan lifestyle to begin with. In one interview, Rhys Southan, an ex-vegan who blogs about veganism, said, “I’ve come to appreciate ethics as one possible ingredient in a meal, but […]

By |2010-06-03T12:40:00-04:00June 3rd, 2010|Tags: , , , |30 Comments

Vegan Calcium Needs: Working Through the Myths

Quite a few popular vegan websites and books make the claim that vegans don’t need as much calcium as omnivores. The theory dates to some interesting research from the early 1990s which found that hip fracture rates among different countries increased as per capita protein intake went up.

The observations were backed by decades of clinical studies, too. As far back as the 1920s, nutritionists were showing that feeding meat to subjects caused them to excrete more calcium in their urine. Theoretically, this is because protein has an acidifying effect on the blood. Calcium is leached from […]

By |2010-05-21T10:53:00-04:00May 21st, 2010|Tags: , , |24 Comments

Reliable Nutrition Information for Vegans

There is tons of vegan nutrition information on the internet and a whole lot of it stands on pretty shaky ground. Last month I read an article—written for vegans—about tree nuts and their effects on health. The writer built what seemed like a rock solid case against consuming nuts by:

  • referencing some outdated science
  • misrepresenting the findings from one recent study, and
  • blatantly ignoring the rather impressive number of studies that have linked nuts to protection against chronic disease.

The article had references and sounded authoritative and […]

By |2010-05-06T09:15:00-04:00May 6th, 2010|Tags: , |7 Comments

More on Low-Fat Diets and an Update on Heart-Healthy Fats

My recent post on low-fat vegan diets inspired some good and thoughtful comments, which I really appreciate. Coincidently, just a few days after I posted, an important study was published that supported some of what I was saying. There are lots of studies to support the content of that post (I don’t make this stuff up; I swear) and the idea that eating some fat is good for you is hardly a new idea. But this was a particularly interesting bit of research coming just on the heels of the discussion here.

And so I wanted to talk about that […]

By |2010-03-30T13:13:00-04:00March 30th, 2010|Tags: , , |25 Comments

Fat in Vegan Diets: How Low Should You Go?

I’ve been living among stacks of nutrition research papers over the past six months while working on an update to The Dietitian’s Guide to Vegetarian Diets, a textbook for health professionals and dietetics students. The last edition was published in 2004 so my co-authors and I have looked at all of the studies on vegetarian and vegan diets that have been published since then, along with hundreds of other nutrition papers that are pertinent to vegetarianism.

I’ve learned a lot in the process. It’s reinforced my opinions about some aspects of nutrition and forced me to change my mind […]

By |2010-03-18T14:22:00-04:00March 18th, 2010|Tags: , , |111 Comments

A Vegan Diet is Not a “Detox” Plan

My husband—the lucky guy—has a colonoscopy scheduled for this week. In case you’ve never had the pleasure, prepping for a colonoscopy involves several days of a very low fiber diet (delightful vegan meals like white rice with tofu, canned carrots and white bread) followed by industrial strength laxatives. The idea is to empty the colon and get it squeaky clean so that the little camera can see everything.

It’s the ultimate cleansing regimen and no one in their right mind would want to do it. But it’s the only way to thoroughly clean out your intestines. As far as cleansing or “detoxifying” the […]

By |2010-01-10T11:09:00-05:00January 10th, 2010|Tags: , |19 Comments

No Need for Vegans to Give Up Fat, Gluten, Soy or Cooked Foods

When I order a vegan meal on a plane, it invariably comes with fat-free salad dressing. This annoys me more than I can say. It’s not just because I think fat-free salad dressing is basically inedible (which it is IMHO), but because somehow, vegan diets have become synonymous with low-fat eating. That’s not good for vegans or for the animals we want to help.

Given the fact that vegan eating is well outside the mainstream and very different from the way most Americans eat, it’s not surprising that many people view it as difficult and restrictive. (Most people view any dietary […]

By |2009-11-05T10:25:00-05:00November 5th, 2009|Tags: , , |24 Comments