Cover your eyes vegans…because you’re probably not going to like this. It looks like actress Anne Hathaway and former President Bill Clinton are making headlines yet again for their dietary choices, but this time they’re chewing the fat…and I mean that literally. In a report published by the Inquisitr, both celebrities were interviewed for their recent shifts away from a vegan diet and towards low-carb Paleo diets. Anne Hathaway states that her vegan diet was sapping her energy and that she “just didn’t feel good or healthy.” In an apology to PETA, she explained that she has shut the door on veganism, forever. Likewise, former President Bill Clinton along with his wife Hillary have adopted Paleo-style low-carb diets per the advice of Dr. Mark Hyman, who explained that the former President’s vegan diet was too starchy…something that he’s seen make a lot of vegans fat. More and more celebrities are taking the Paleo plunge by the day, but it’s not because Paleo is a ‘fad diet.’
My Veggie Diet Nearly Killed Me
So what’s the deal? Isn’t veganism supposed to be healthy? Well vegans, if you haven’t covered your eyes yet, you might want to do so now. I have a big ol’ Paleo bone to pick with whoever started the rumor that vegan or even vegetarian diets are “healthy.” I was a vegetarian/vegan for almost 25 years and up until the end, I was under the impression that my diet was “healthy”. That was until I developed multiple autoimmune diseases by the age of 30, and found myself extremely depressed, covered in painful rashes, bald, and crippled with rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. My doctors told me that my genetics were to blame, but a deeper intuition told me that my diet was somehow related to my illnesses. After using my background in biochemistry to educate myself about the science behind the Paleo diet, I knew that I had no choice but to abandon my long-term veggie-based diet and ‘go Paleo.’
After only one day of eating Paleo, I felt surprisingly better, much like Anne Hathaway who claims she felt a notable difference overnight after renouncing veganism and starting to consume animal protein again. Within a couple months of eating Paleo, my symptoms were mostly gone, and my bloodwork showed major improvements in my health. Despite all this, I could still barely believe that by eating meat instead of grains and legumes, I was able to overcome my illnesses without drugs and by diet alone! This powerful experience led me to obtain my Master of Science in Human Nutrition and to study the science behind why and how my veggie-based diet had made me sick. Here are 7 compelling reasons why you may want to follow the lead of several celebrities and scientists, and think twice about your vegan or vegetarian diet.
7 Reasons Why a Vegan Diet is NOT Healthy
1. Grains and Legumes – Grains and legumes contain chemicals called anti-nutrients
which are well-known to contribute to a leaky gut and other health problems. Leaky gut syndrome underlies many ‘diseases of modern civilization’ including autoimmune diseases, many types of cancer, depression and other mental illnesses, to name a few. Grains and legumes are also high in omega-6 fatty acids, which contribute to inflammation in the body.
2. High in carbohydrates – Vegan diets are high-carb due to the majority of foods that are consumed: grains, legumes, fruits, seeds, starches, and other vegetables. High carbohydrate diets are largely responsible for the obesity epidemic, and indeed many vegans experience difficulties trying to lose weight. Carbohydrates in excess can create inflammation in the body, which can further trigger a host of different diseases. It is important to understand that when carbohydrates are digested, they turn into sugar. High-carb diets lead to blood sugar disorders (i.e. diabetes) and can readily contribute to microbial overgrowth in the gut (dysbiosis).
3. Low in quality protein – While vegans and meat-eaters may eat a comparable amount of protein, the bioavailability of vegan protein sources is low. Less bioavailability means that the body is unable to use vegetable-derived proteins as efficiently as proteins that are derived from meat. Laboratory evaluations indicate that vegan diets are commonly deficient in the essential amino acids lysine, methionine, tryptophan, and threonine, which are required for life to be sustained. If intake of any one of these amino acids is low, then the body is unable to make other proteins as well. The most important antioxidant in the human body, glutathione, is also commonly deficient in vegans as is another important antioxidant amino acid known as Taurine. Many vegans consume soy as a protein source, which is well known to disrupt hormone function, and lead to a host of health problems.
4. Low in Bioavailable Nutrients – Vegans are at increased risk for deficiencies of vitamin B6, vitamin B12, vitamin D, vitamin A, calcium, zinc, and iron, as plant-based foods contain less of these nutrients which are also less bioavailable compared to animal-based foods. Evidence also suggests that vegans store lower levels of creatine, carnitine, and carnosine, which play important roles in energy production and endurance. These nutrients are abundant in meat sources, but not plant sources. The anti-nutrients contained in grains, legumes, seeds, and raw nuts also bind to nutrients, making it difficult for the body to absorb vitamins and minerals from food.
5. Low in Essential Fats – Vegan diets tend to be low-fat diets, which contrary to seriously misguided popular belief, are NOT healthy. If anything, low fat diets may actually be hazardous to your health. Fat (especially saturated fat, which comes mainly from animals) and cholesterol play extremely important roles in the body to build our cell membranes, neurotransmitters, hormones, the brain and nerves, and other important stuff. Unless a vegan is consuming the right type of algae, their diet is likely deficient in omega-3 fatty acids like EPA and DHA, which are also essential to sustain life.
6. Increased CVD Risk – Studies have shown that vegan and vegetarian diets produce hyperhomocysteinemia, atherogenesis, and increase the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases (CVDs).
7. Destruction of Topsoil – Many vegans are trying to save the planet by eating only plants, yet fail to realize that the monocrop agriculture of grains and legumes has destroyed 98% of the American prairie land and 99% of Canada’s topsoil. Experts claim that the disappearance of topsoil “rivals global warming as an environmental threat.”
Celebrities and Scientists Can’t Both Be Wrong
Now I’m not trying to offend anyone here, and I know for a fact that many vegans have the best of intentions behind their dietary decisions. However the typical vegan diet is simply not sustainable for the vast majority of people, and I had to learn this the hard way. Vegan diets, comprised only of plant matter, do not provide sufficient nutrition for the long-term maintenance and repair that the human body requires. My belief that veganism was “healthy” was rooted in some seriously flawed logic, which I only discovered after becoming extremely ill. It was one of the most painful and challenging times of my life learning to eat meat again after nearly 25 years of brainwashing myself into thinking that meat was “gross” and “wrong.” But when I finally got over my fears and ate some meat, like Anne Hathaway, Bill Clinton and many others, I simply felt a heck of a lot better. By following a Paleo diet, I remain in remission of my diseases, and have witnessed many others also do the same. In my work as a Nutritionist, I receive almost daily messages from sick vegans and vegetarians who are often shocked and resistant to hear that their diet may be responsible for their poor health. Undoubtedly, the vegan vs. Paleo debate will continue to be polarized, but in the end, the proof is in the (Paleo) pudding.
In good health,
Kinsey Jackson, MS, CN