Many of the sickest people on the planet are vegetarians.
I know that statement might anger a lot of folks out there, but the fact is, just because you don’t eat meat does NOT mean that you are healthy.
Now in all fairness, I eat a primarily plant-based diet, and you could say that I’m about 99% vegan, but I would never characterize myself that way. And my wife Chelsea is a vegetarian – but she is one of the rare healthy ones.
While I have the UTMOST respect for vegetarians and their philosophy towards the respectful treatment of animals, there is still a huge problem.
The problem is that being a vegan or vegetarian usually (but not always) means eating some or all of the following:
- Highly-refined grains and starches
- Processed meat substitutes made from soy, etc.
- A primarily wheat-based diet
- Lots of sugar
- Pro-inflammatory omega-6 fats, which come from processed carbs, corn, and vegetable oils
As if that’s not bad enough, what vegans and vegetarians don’t eat is a problem too. They don’t get a few essential nutrients found in meat, seafood, and dairy products that can’t easily be replaced with vegan-friendly options.
So what we are going to talk about today is how to eat a primarily vegan diet while not missing out on those important nutrients that keep you healthy – instead of the inflammatory fats and starches that prematurely age you and increase your risk for serious diseases.
Before we jump into the nutrients too many vegetarians are deficient in, let’s discuss one nutrient that’s not on this list, and that’s protein. To the surprise of most people, vegetarians for the most part get plenty of protein.
We humans actually need less protein than Americans think, which is one reason why so many people eat TOO MUCH protein. As long as you use a vegan protein powder supplement and/or eat plenty of the plant-based foods high in protein, this is one thing you don’t need to worry about.
Nutrient #1: Bioavailable Collagen
You may have heard skincare experts tout the benefits of collagen, but as a vegetarian, you are right to be wary of the meat-based supplements and powders.
And yet, it’s true that although your body naturally produces collagen, that slows as we age. By 40, we’ve already lost 15% of our production, which shows in the appearance of skin, hair, and nails.
Eating collagen will boost your natural supply, but it’s only found in chicken skin, chicken feet, bone broths, and some cuts of meat. Vegans and vegetarians try to improve their collagen supply using plant-based sources, but it’s not bioavailable, which means it goes unused.
You don’t need much meat to boost your collagen supply, which will also help prevent Leaky Gut Syndrome, so if you are up for eating the occasional ethically-raised meat, that’s an option.
If not, the best thing you can do is boost the precursor to your body’s natural collagen production, and that is silica. A great supplemental silica product is Orgono Living Silica. It’s pure, liquid, and tasteless. While collagen supplements promise a quick fix (with little to back up those claims), silica might take a little longer to produce results, but stick with it because you’re addressing the root of collagen production.
You can also eat ample bioavailable silica in the following foods:
- Alfalfa sprouts
- Bell peppers
- Leafy green vegetables
- Jerusalem artichokes
- Sunflower seeds
Nutrient #2: Vitamin D
Did you know that between 75 and 90% of Americans are vitamin D deficient?
That’s not just a problem. It’s downright scary.
Here’s why. Science has long held that there is a link between vitamin D deficiency and seasonal colds, flus, and upper respiratory infections. In fact, some doctors will tell you that the #1 cause of those infections is actually vitamin D3 deficiency.
Although research is far from conclusive on the topic, there is good reason to believe that vitamin D helps prevent Covid infection, lessens its severity, and leads to better outcomes and survival rates. Vitamin D deficiency is not something to mess around with!
There are 3 ways to boost your vitamin D levels, and I recommend you aim for a combination of all 3 – the sun, diet, and supplements. That said, while some sun exposure is good for you, too much increases your risk of skin cancer. So you have to be extra careful about how you get vitamin D.
Unlike most vitamins, few foods contain vitamin D, which is found in fish, egg yolks, and milks fortified with D3. It would be difficult to get a sufficient amount from food alone, especially if you eat a mostly plant-based diet.
This, like nutrient #3 I’ll discuss in a moment, makes a compelling case for eating fish in moderation, even if you are a vegan or vegetarian. If it’s against your ethics, I completely respect that, and urge you to get plenty of sunlight while staying active and taking a vitamin D supplement.
If you are a vegetarian or vegan, make sure your nut milk is fortified with vitamin D and I recommend you use a supplement in consultation with your health care provider, as always.
D3 supplements are typically sourced from animals. D2 supplements are vegan, but they are less bio-available than D3, so make the best choice for you and your values and health.
Nutrient #3: Omega-3 Fatty Acids
The problem for vegetarians and vegans is that too many of them replace animal protein for carbs, and in doing so, they consume way too much pro-inflammatory omega-6 fats.
And that’s a serious problem, when heart disease, the leading cause of death in America, is a disease caused in part by inflammation. The 5th leading cause of death in the US is Alzheimer’s disease, which is also caused in part by inflammation.
I have tested thousands of patients’ inflammation levels, and I hate to say this, but the vegans and vegetarians ALWAYS have the highest rates of inflammation!
[You can test your own inflammation levels with the same test kits we use in my office. BrainSpan’s At-Home Inflammation Test Kit is at the cutting edge of assessing your cognitive aging and inflammation.]
Why? It’s simple. There are no vegetarian sources of omega-3 EPA!
Not getting EPA will massively skew your omega-6 to omega-3 ratio, and will create a breeding ground of acid and inflammation in your body.
Furthermore, there is only one vegan-friendly source of DHA, and that is purslane, a tasty weed found in salads.
Now you may be saying, “But I eat a lot of flax and chia seeds.”
That is good to eat these foods, but research shows it will not convert well to the usable form of omega-3s your body needs. They are ALA and must be converted by enzymes to DHA and EPA once consumed. The MOST the research shows is a 5% conversion, but the reality, based on the current research, is less than 1%.
There are still many benefits to eating these foods, but purely as an omega-3 substitute, it doesn’t hold water, I am sorry to say.
The foods that do supply EPA and DHA are:
- Wild-caught Alaskan or Pacific salmon
- Wild-caught Atlantic mackerel
- White fish
This is why it’s essential that vegetarians take a good quality omega-3 supplement, and keep the amount of omega-6 foods you eat – like vegetable oils, bread, and processed carbs – in check.
If it’s not against your personal ethics, I also recommend you eat fish in moderation. Myself, I eat salmon a couple times a month, but I take 3 softgels of our Alkamind Daily Omega-3 every day.
My wife Chelsea, although a vegetarian (and an alkaline rock star), consumes 3 softgels of Daily Omega-3 every day. Why does she make this exception? She understands that to be a healthy vegetarian she needs omega-3.
This is why the single most important supplement for a vegan or vegetarian is fish oil. You need omega-3s to reduce brain inflammation. So if you’re NOT taking fish oil, that is your single biggest health mistake.
Our Alkamind Daily Omega-3 is the best quality supplement on the planet. It’s the ONLY one with the ideal 2:1 ratio of EPA to DHA in a highly concentrated form. So you can take less and get more benefit from it. Plus it’s heavy metal free and guaranteed for potency and freshness, so no fishy taste.
It’s also sourced for sustainability and responsibility.
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