One of the weird things that happens when you go vegan is that you often find yourself having conversations about bodily functions. So, it wasn’t too strange that my vegan friend and I started talking about how our B12 supplements make us have to pee constantly. My friend was also having a crazy appetite from her new pills. This is also a pretty normal side effect, but it usually normalizes after a few weeks. Her appetite was still going strong, so I asked her what B12 dosage she was taking. She didn’t know. I asked her what type of B12 she was taking. Again, she didn’t know.
The question that vegetarians and vegans are constantly being asked is “How do you get protein?” As annoying as this question is (no one cared about how you got protein before you went veg!), you can’t blame the general public for mistakenly thinking that the vegan diet is lacking in protein. The meat industry has been very influential in getting people to think that meat = protein. For a long time, the government even promoted meat as one of the food groups to eat every day.
For nearly two decades, the “food pyramid” represented the official guidelines for nutrition. Then, in 2011, the notorious image was replaced by the “MyPlate” icon. The new icon can now be seen on food packaging and is even taught to children in school. This isn’t the first time the government has changed its approach to marketing nutrition. Starting nearly 100 years ago, government-sponsored nutrition advice has been propagated to the masses. Here are some of the nutrition campaigns from history. Looking at them should serve as a good reminder as to why we should take all nutrition guidelines with a grain of (mineral) salt!
After iron, zinc is the most abundant mineral in our bodies. It is found in literally ever part of the body but has the biggest concentrations in the eyes and prostate. Which is why zinc deficiency can cause vision problems and (in men) fertility problems. Symptoms of zinc deficiency include fatigue, mental lethargy, diarrhea, skin lesions, white spots on nails, and slow wound healing. There are many vegan sources of zinc. However, these vegan zinc sources also contain high levels of antinutrients which block zinc absorption. So, some of those zinc foods might not be such good sources of zinc after all.
A lot of vegans will tout nutritional yeast as a good natural source of vitamin B12. What they dont realize is that the B12 found in nutritional yeast is actually a supplement and NOT natural.
There is no arguing that milk is a good source of certain nutrients. The main nutrient milk contains is fat, since it is meant to provide lots of energy for a growing mammal. But what about calcium? On the one hand, we’ve been bombarded with government health messages telling us to drink milk because it is a good source of calcium for growing bones. On the other hand, it is weird that humans are the only animals who drink mmilk after infancy, and also that milk-loving Western countries have so much osteoporosis. Vegan advocates will quickly tell you that milk depletes calcium from the bones.
There are a lot of plant-based foods which are chock full of iron. But, unfortunately for vegetarians and vegans, the iron in these foods isn’t always very absorbable by the body. Natural chemicals which are frequently found in plant foods decrease our bodies’ ability to absorb iron (bioavailability). These main iron blockers are:
When it comes to vitamins, we hear a lot about C, our Bs, and D. But rarely do we ever hear anyone hype up the merits of vitamin K along the lines of, Eat your greens Jimmy. They have lots of vitamin K!
The reason that vitamin K hasnt made it onto the health radar is because we assumed we were getting enough of it. However, recent studies show that it may be time to start giving vitamin K some attention.
Unlike most other vitamins, vitamin B12 is not made by plants or animals. Rather, it is made from bacteria. Thus, the argument that vegans can make their own B12 from intestinal bacteria seemingly makes sense. Some nutritionists like Dr. Charles Partito make compelling arguments about the existence of B12 in plants. Of course, the guy is trying to sell you his cleansing products though. The same goes for Dr. Vivian Vetrano who says that B12 coenzymes are readily found in raw plants. She’d like you to join her retreat.
There is no denying that algae is one of the true vegetarian super foods. Depending on the type of algae, it can be loaded with iron, calcium, iodine, and many other important nutrients for. But there is still a lot of controversy around whether algae is a good source of vitamin B12 for vegetarians and vegans. Here is what the experts have to say on the issue.