SHOULD I BE A VEGETARIAN?
Maybe. Maybe not. I eat animal protein regularly, but I have been a vegetarian at various points in my life. I have also worked with numerous people who are vegetarians. In my own life, it served its purpose and I decided to eat meat again. Will I become a vegetarian again, who knows. Do I go days without eating meat. Yep. My clients who were vegetarians - I didn’t try to persuade them not to be, I just try to be real with them and teach them how to determine what foods they need to function at an optimal level. So here are a few points below which you may find helpful.
Why do people become vegetarians?
1) Ethical Reasons - They love animals, don’t want to eat them, etc. So plants are NOT living? It is okay to eat plants since they don’t have a nervous system. As a child this is why I became a vegetarian, my love of animals. As a human adult I have come to see that everything is living and I know longer create beliefs about what defines something as living. I am grateful for everything I eat. Coupled with this is often the thought that it is better for the environment. If you learn about farming and crop rotation you would see that mass production of kale and other popular health foods is probably a great way to destroy soil quality. Is that good for the environment?
2) Health Reasons - They think it is better for their health. Often people jump to a vegetarian diet after a health crisis and/or after eating poorly for a long period of time. Naturally they feel better (and lighter) when they start eating real food. But over the long term, is it right for them? Maybe, maybe not. Read on.
Tips for people following a vegetarian diet?
1. Vitamin Deficiency - Ensure you are getting enough of the following nutrients (Vitamin A, D, E, K2, B12). These are the nutrients most vegetarians find themselves deficient in. These are present largely in animal sources, but if you are okay with eggs and dairy you can meet your requirements. Eggs, high quality cheese (especially gouda and brie) and grass-fed butter and ghee will cover your bases here. Oh, and adequate sunlight for the vitamin D.
2. Protein Deficiency - Per above, if you are open to eggs, cheese (especially higher protein cheeses) and strained yogurts, you can probably support your protein needs. If you tolerate milk that can be especially helpful, but not essential. One other source of protein which most are not familiar with is from a white potato. You can juice a white potato and scramble it like an egg. Additionally if you are open to a flex diet, incorporating bone broth, collagen powder and occasional oysters would be a bonus.
3. Overeating Nuts, Seeds and Beans - Many vegetarians fall into the trap of over-eating nuts, seeds and beans. These are problematic from a digestion standpoint and some vegetarians know this and so they decided to eat sprouted products. This may or may not be better, but it doesnt negate the second issue with nuts and seeds and that is that they are a high source of PUFAs (polyunsaturated fats). These fats are a great way to slow your metabolism and cause a wide variety of hormonal imbalances. Stick with saturated fats like coconut oil/butter, grass-fed butter, ghee, heavy cream.
4. Overeating Leafy Greens - Leafy greens are super hard on digestion. The human gut was not designed to digest them. Overeating kale, chard, salads of any kind can cause all sorts of gut issues and even hormonal issues. Some greens are so problematic that they can directly inhibit thyroid function. How do you feel after that large salad loaded with broccoli, beans, etc. Do you feel bloated? Emphasize root vegetables, well-cooked broccoli, mushrooms, fruit like vegetables such as peppers, cucumber, etc.
5. Listen to Body - This is my number one piece of nutrition advice to everyone. Your body gives you all sorts of information. Hair falling out, excessively dry skin, skin issues of any sort, digestion issues, joint pain, sleep irregularities, low sex drive, extended sinus congestion, low energy, regular headaches, menstrual irregularities, anxiety, brain fog, over weight, under weight etc. These are not normal conditions and are probably a sign that you may want to change your food strategy.
6. Monitor via Blood Work - Regular blood work is beneficial to everyone, but especially those following vegetarian programs. Certain tests that you may want to ask your doctor to run which aren’t often included - Comprehensive B vitamin Panel (B12, folate, MMA) along with a comprehensive thyroid panel (tsh, total t3, free t3, thyroid antibodies) and a full iron panel (serum iron, ferritin, etc.). You may also want to test hormones such as (various estrogens, progesterone, prolactin).
7. Supplements - Some supplements which may be useful. A spore based probiotic such as Megaspore, Digestive Enzymes (especially if you can’t stop eating nuts, seeds and beans), Zinc, Magnesium, Vitamin K2 (if you aren’t down with cheese), Eggshell calcium (if you aren’t open to dairy), Transdermal Vitamin D (especially in cold grey regions), Occasional B12 shots (especially if you score low on a blood test).
8. Genetic Testing - Genetic tests can show some very useful information about your possible success on a vegetarian program. For instance, you can get vitamin A from carrots and from animal fats like butter. The form of vitamin A in carrots needs to be converted to a different form to be usable by the human body. There is a genetic mutation which can occur where some people do not do this process as efficiently as others. These people can run into issues if there only source of vitamin A is from carrots (and other orange foods). Hint: if the inside of your hands and/or the bottoms of your feet are turning orange, this means you may have an issue here.