No, I’m not going to be advocating cannabalism – I can’t advise you on whether eating a vegan is a good idea or not. How to eat vegetarian is about knowing the pitfalls and how to navigate them.
But a lot of people go into eating vegetarian without too much idea of what the pitfalls are of trying to derive all the vitamins and minerals you need from foods that are healthy, yes, but lack some of the most fundamental and important nutrients your body needs.
If you’re a vegan, you’re less likely to have high blood pressure, cholesterol, heart disease, or type 2 diabetes. That’s the good news. But being a vegan also has its risks…
You could end up vitamin deficient most notably for Calcium, B12, Protein, Iron, Vitamin D, Omega-3, and Vitamin A. These are the nutrients that exist in nature but not as often or in the quantities you may need.
For Calcium, unless you can eat cheese, your best vegetable source may be almonds or almond butter. Supplements are then of course more attractive on a daily basis.
For B12 your best source is nutritional yeast but supplements are often easier and more attractive.
For protein, raw seeds and nuts are your best source. If you can eat cheese then that has a higher protein density than most nuts.
For Vitamin D, UV-exposed Portobello mushrooms have 10X the density of whole milk fortified with vitamin D.
For Omega-3, plant sources aren’t very dense – like flaxseed oil and flaxseeds, walnuts, and chia seeds are less than a quarter of the density of Omega 3 eggs, yogurt, cheese, milk, etc. You’re really looking for alpha-linolenic acid short chain Omega-3 fatty acid. But you also need long chain fatty acids like DHA and EPA and those are even more rare in nature with the exception of algae.
For Vitamin A, this is where the greens and colored vegetables really help you out. The more raw the better because cooking reduces the effectiveness of the vitamin. Everything form Kale, Spinach, Collard Greens, Carrots are good sources.
Being a vegetarian is not as easy as it sounds. The media is full of stories about people who eventually developed health problems and returned to meat. Managing a vegan diet is even trickier. Unless you can read and study and take course on preparing food to manage the nutrients deficiencies in these diets, you’ll find your health declining over time for lack of the above micro-nutrients.
Motivations often determine what’s possible for each person. For instance, if the motivation is to show compassion for animals then nutritional deficiencies are place up against a moral dilemma. If recovering from health problems is the motivation, then finding a diet that actually does improve health over time was the imperative to start with.
Many people are suffering from diets that primarily source carbohydrates for energy. Carbs turn to sugar and glucose is converted to energy. But that’s not how the human body was designed. Cows don’t eat corn, and humans were never built to eat carbohydrates. The environment that God placed us into didn’t have carbohydrates in abundance – except for maybe an apple.
We were placed on the plains by design with lots of game and no farming – no grains, no fruit except very seasonal, and surrounded by greens. The human body was designed to use fat for nutrition and energy. Our body converts good fats (if you think, that’s all there was back when we roamed the plains) to energy and that energy works find for our brain and our organs while sugar/glucose does not.
So at the very least a vegetarian should be making plenty of room for oils such as olive oil, flaxseed oil, and coconut oil.