Anna Mules Answers Questions on Plant-Based Diets.
Anna has enjoyed a plant-based diet for thirty years and counting!
To read Anna’s answer, click on the question.
How do I get vitamin B12 as a vegan and how do I know if I am getting enough?
The adage used to be that it was best if vegans took one B12 pill of 1000 micrograms a week. Now, the instructions are a bit more specific, and ensuring adequate amounts of Vitamin B12 for everyone – not just vegans – is recommended by the experts.
We turned to Vegan for Life (Jack Morris and Virginia Messina, both Registered Dieticians) for updated instructions on this topic. In their book, they tell two important things to remember. The first item to know is that it is best to take a Vitamin B12 that is either chewable or sublingual (dissolves under the tongue) as it may not be well absorbed if simply swallowed. The second item to know is that the body can only absorb small amounts of Vitamin B12 at a time. So, they suggest that we do one of the following:
-Eat 2 servings daily of B12 fortified foods providing 1.5 to 2.5 micrograms of B12 each.
-Take a B12 supplement of at least 25 micrograms daily (25 to 100 micrograms)
-Take a B12 supplement of 1000 micrograms twice a week.
If you choose to go the first route, foods that are likely to be fortified with Vitamin B12 include some brands of nutritional yeast, many brands of soy milk, meat analogues, cereals and protein bars, and Marmite yeast extract. Check brands and serving sizes for B12 content.
If you’d like to learn more via video, we really like the videos and blogs found at Dr. Michael Greger’s site, www.nutritionfacts.org Specifically, see http://nutritionfacts.org/?s=b12 for a choice of videos on many aspects of Vitamin B12, and for a short blog on this topic see: http://nutritionfacts.org/questions/what-is-the-best-way-to-get-b12/ Dr. Greger discusses various types of B12, where to get it, where it’s cheapest, and much more.
Note that you can sign up for Dr. Greger’s daily or weekly emails for free, and you will get informative short videos and blogs on various nutrition related topics as well as being able to research his website for nutrition information, as we did here. We highly recommend it!
For additional information, please see http://nutritionstudies.org/12-questions-answered-regarding-vitamin-b12/
Is soy safe?
Thank you for the excellent question. It is not surprising that people are confused about soy because there are many conflicting reports. The short answer is that according to credible research, soy is not only safe, but good for you! I am of course referring to Non-GMO soy. So why all the confusion, misinformation and fear? As Dr. Michael Greger likes to say, follow the money!
A great article on the topic is “Finally, the Truth about Soy” by Leo Babauta – http://zenhabits.net/soy/. This excellent article contains links to other articles by reputable doctors and researchers. I encourage you to read all of the articles and decide for yourself. If you do, I think you will likely conclude that soy is beneficial and that reports claiming otherwise are simply scare tactics. So, why would anyone want to scare us about soy safety? Another great question!
As pointed out in Leo Babauta’s article, virtually all sources that state soy is unhealthy trace back to the Weston A Price Foundation (WAPF). The WAPF promotes a diet high in animal meat, raw milk and saturated fat. We’ve known for years that such diets are dangerous.
The WAPF arrived on the scene around the same time that soy was being recognized as a health food and as a healthier alternative to cholesterol increasing meat and dairy. A large percentage of WAPF members (who provide funding for the studies that state soy is unhealthy) are DAIRY & MEAT farmers. Interesting! Could there (possibly) be a connection?
Even beyond the funding question is the question of WAPF’s tactics when it comes to quoting science. WAPF has conducted no peer reviewed studies to back up their “science sounding” statements – or if they have, they are making the studies very difficult to find.
So, why would a person want to eat soy? According to doctors and researchers in the field there are excellent health reasons for consuming soy. (http://nutritionfacts.org/). In addition to soy being heart healthy, it is low in fat, cost efficient, great for cooking, replaces dairy and eggs in recipes, and can mimic the taste of almost any food.
Dr. Neal Barnard, head of Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (http://PCRM.org/), states that “women who include soy products in their routines are less likely to develop breast cancer, compared with other women.” As to women who have already had breast cancer, soy products may reduce the risk of recurrence, per a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) in 2009. A study of Japanese women found that the more soy eaten by women, the less women had fibroids.
As to men, an analysis of 14 studies showed that increased soy intake achieved a 26 percent reduction in prostate cancer risk (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition). The figure was 30 percent reduction when nonfermented soy products were consumed. Soy consumption does not appear to have adverse effects on male hormone function.
Soy also appears to reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol and may reduce the risk of osteoporosis-related hip fractures. Soy is also high in protein, although in my opinion too many people have gone overboard thinking that they need extremely high amounts of protein, which we know is not true.
Is soy essential? No, it is not. However, if a person chooses to include soy in their diet, science shows that it is beneficial to most people who consume it. Are there conditions when people should be more careful of consuming soy? Of course – each individual is different. For example, a person might be allergic to soy.
Soy has been eaten in many countries for centuries and those countries don’t seem to have the wide range of “western diseases” – until they change to a western diet!
I hope to have eliminated some of the confusion surrounding soy.
Happy reading and remember. . . AFM (Always Follow the Money)!
Where do you get your protein?
This is a common question and one that stems from a great deal of misunderstanding about nutrition in general. The short answer is that this is generally not a concern unless you simply don’t eat enough food, or don’t eat a varied diet. You could be vegan and eat nothing but candy (depending on the type), and then you would be deficient in many areas.
However, if you eat a varied diet (think “lots of color”) protein should not be an issue for you. This is well substantiated by numerous studies, doctors, researchers and dietitians such as:
Michael Greger, M.D., John McDougall, M.D., Joel Fuhrman, M.D., Caldwell Esselstyn, M.D., researcher T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D., Virginia Messina, MPH, RD, and Jack Norris, RD.
There is protein in every plant-based food. Most people know that legumes (beans, lentils, peas), nuts, and seeds contain high amounts of protein, but did you know that vegetables and fruit contain protein as well? In The Starch Solution, Dr. McDougall discusses two different studies involving potatoes. In both studies the researchers concluded that the potatoes provided all the protein required to maintain the health of very active adults and young children.
I am not recommending a diet of only potatoes as it is preferable to eat a diet of plant foods with many different colors, both for taste as well as nutrition. But these studies show how easy it is to get the required protein from a plant-based diet.
What’s wrong with dairy and eggs? Isn’t it enough to not eat meat?
Whether you eat a plant-based diet for reasons of nutrition or compassion, there are compelling reasons to also avoid dairy and eggs. First, let’s talk about factory farming. Most people do not realize that meat, dairy and eggs are produced through factory farming methods. That means that animals are raised in very small spaces and often are not allowed to move during their lifetimes (as with chickens in battery cages and baby calves in veal crates).
The factory farm animals are given antibiotics regularly to keep diseases under control because of the conditions. The animals are also given hormones in their food so that they grow more quickly, thereby producing higher profits.
All of them are killed, often in very cruel ways. When you eat these animals and their milk and eggs, you are eating not only the fear and pain that they have experienced, you are eating antibiotics and hormones on a regular basis. If asked whether a person should be eating antibiotics and hormones at every meal, most people would reply with a resounding “no!”
Let’s also talk about the purpose of these “foods.” Did you know that humans are the only species who actively drink the mammary secretions of other species? And humans are the only species who actively drink mammary secretions after weaning age! You’ve heard the phrase “milk is the perfect food” – and that is absolutely true if you are a baby calf! However, the nutritional needs of baby (or adult) humans and baby calves are quite different. Human milk is the perfect food for human babies, just as cow’s milk is the perfect food for baby calves. This is also true for sheep, goats, etc. Many doctors and others in the medical field (see question #1 above) outline the various health concerns with consuming dairy. For more information on specific concerns, see http://notmilk.com and http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-10998/the-sour-facts-about-milk-what-every-parent-needs-to-know.html
Eggs have had years of their dangers (think cholesterol) being widely advertised. More recently, people are receiving conflicting information about eggs because of excellent advertising. However, many studies state that consuming eggs is dangerous for a human’s health. Again, you can read the books of people already mentioned, or do a quick search on Dr. Michael Greger’s website at http://nutritionfacts.org for the details and dangers.
Bottom line on all studies – always trace it back to the money. Who funded the study? If the study was not funded by an impartial group, look again. Beware that some impartial sounding groups are ultimately funded by those with a specific required result. When the results are favorable toward the funding group, look for more studies.
For more information on Standard Egg Industry Practices see for example http://freefromharm.org/animal-cruelty-investigation/debeaking-video-shows-standard-practice-on-free-range-egg-farms/
I don’t have extra money to buy fancy, expensive foods!
How do I plan a meal using plant-based foods?
Eating plant-based is really easy! Start with thinking “what starch shall I eat?” For example, perhaps brown Basmati rice, or quinoa sounds good. Next, think “what shall I have to go with that?” It might be a stir fry, a stew, or curry. Or, you might have leftover rice, and you throw it into a soup or stew. Or, take that same leftover rice or beans and toss them into a green salad with veggies, and perhaps a handful of nuts, seeds, berries – the combinations are endless.