Isn't That an Oxymoron?
Apart from some very high Breatharians, people need several nutritious elements to stay active and healthy. But can a person thrive without animal products? And will this poor soul still enjoy food, without the sensual experiences of meat, milk, cheese, and eggs? Millions of vegans worldwide are using their collective culinary skills to create amazing, nutritious, and energizing foods that leave this question in the dust.
Where do Elephants Get Their Protein?
One serious query vegans get, maybe more often than any other, is "where do you get your protein?" We understand where you're coming from. In the US particularly we've been sold the idea that people need to eat at least a little meat or dairy every day to fulfill their nutritional requirements. Actually, we humans require only a small amount of protein to fulfill our adult metabolic needs, especially if we're not very active. And actually all foods contain enzymes and other proteins - unless they get processed out. They're the building-blocks of life! When you hear about a food or recipe that provides a "complete protein" it means that all the essential amino acids are provided. And it's the amino acids in protein, for the most part, that the body needs to do its metabolic magic.
The myth about vegans and vegetarians is that we're skinny and pale with spaghetti arms and sallow eyes, lacking in robustness, hanging on by a thread. Meat eaters might perhaps imagine - as prehistoric people once did - that eating the heart of the bull gives them the strength of the bull. It makes sense on TV. But the energy we need, the carbs that provide our main fuel, are abundant everywhere. And in fact, even meat-eaters get most of their carbs from plant sources like bread, pasta, potatoes, etc. What vegans don't get is the saturated fat and cholesterol, which accumulate and create huge problems - and costs in energy - both in the short and the long term.
Yes, Vegans Must Supplement
Vitamin B-12 is produced by a bacterium that lives in healthy soil and in the guts of some animals. It's essential for the brain and nervous system, the formation of blood, and other things you don't want to fail. Vitamin B-12 is found in highest concentrations in meat, fish, and dairy products, but is not found in significant concentrations in vegetables (because it lives in the soil and washing removes it).
Fortunately many foods and beverages are fortified with B-12, so unless a person has factors inhibiting absorption they shouldn't have any deficiency. Supplementing B-12 is easy, and not a bad idea whether you're vegan or not. For most people, the B-12 form known as cyanocobalamin will be fine. For people who have digestive issues a sublingual form called methylcobalamin is better. (The first form is converted into the second, anyway.) Don't go crazy with B-12, as it contains a teensy bit of cyanide.
Iron deficiency is relatively rare in the US because it is added to a lot of breads, pasta, and other common foods. There's even a little in brown rice (and some protein too!). To keep enough good iron in your system you should just eat a good variety of foods, including nuts, dried fruit, beans, and especially leafy greens and vegetables with a lot of calcium like broccoli. Leafy greens and broccoli provide quite a lot of nutrients actually, including Vitamin K and Vitamin C which improve iron absorption.
Plants are a marvelous source, not only of the nutrients we find in our multi-vitamins, but of the enzymes, oils, acids, and water that specifically improve their overall digestibility. And they include a good amount of fiber, which is essential for the health of the colon. Whatever your food lifestyle, you can't go wrong by putting a greater emphasis on vegetables in the diet. Studies consistently show that health, healing, and resistance to cancer are boosted by plants, and who doesn't want more of that?
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