The mineral iron is vital to the human body for many reasons, but primarily because it makes hemoglobin – a blood protein that transports oxygen to all parts of the body.
If we’re not getting enough iron it results in us not getting enough oxygen in our bodies, and so we become fatigued – that well-known symptom of iron deficiency.
It’s also well known that iron deficiency can lead to anaemia. Symptoms of iron deficiency and anaemia include fatigue, dizziness, weakness and palpitations (though if you suffer from any of these symptoms don’t automatically assume you have an iron deficiency. These symptoms are compatible with lots of conditions so go see your doctor and find out what’s up).
Many people who go back to meat-eating from being vegan say they felt tired and weak and think it’s because they weren’t getting enough iron, believing that ALL the iron is in the red meat.
The sad truth is that many doctors still recommend upping red meat intake to those that are low in iron – I’ve even heard this within the last year.
Unfortunately, most doctors have so little nutritional education, they will advise their patients to eat food that is carcinogenic and full of saturated fat, cholesterol and antibiotics rather than study modern science on how BEST to acquire sufficient iron levels from food safely.
So what IS the truth?
The confusion arises because iron from meat (haem iron) IS more quickly absorbed in the human body than iron from plants (non-haem iron). THIS is why the medical profession will often prescribe red meat or liver to patients low in iron, thinking that this will be a quick cure.
I guess it IS a ‘quick cure,’ but because this haem iron is known to be more quickly absorbed, people think that haem iron is better for us, period.
…This is NOWHERE NEAR the full picture.
That haem iron is more quickly absorbed is not a good thing. It is absorbed by the body quickly WHETHER WE NEED IT OR NOT. It is not a balanced way for the body to receive iron and can result in iron overload. This increases risk of cancer, stroke and heart disease.
Non-haem iron from plant food is slower to be absorbed by the body but is absorbed as our bodies need it (isn’t this clever?)
All the main health advisory bodies – ADA, BMA, WHO, PCRM – concur that iron deficiency anaemia is no more common in vegetarians than it is amongst meat eaters.
And in the UK in 2002; a study of 33,883 meat-eaters, 18,840 vegetarians and 2,956 vegans found that vegans were found to have the highest daily intake of iron.
As we’ve seen, iron overload is just as dangerous as iron deficiency – but we stand far less chance of over-dosing on iron on a plant-based diet.
Great plant-food sources of iron are whole grains, green leafy veg, beans, lentils, nuts and seeds; and vitamin C-rich fruit and veg help us absorb the iron, but really, if you’re eating a varied whole food plant-based diet, you don’t need to stress over it.
It’s actually harder to NOT get enough iron on a whole food, plant-based diet!
As I understand it, the advent of this new fad for eating ALL THE MEATZ, ALL THE TIME started with a surgeon and weight-lifter called Shawn Baker appearing on Joe Rogan’s podcast, announcing that with an all-meat diet he had managed to regain his energy and strength, reduce inflammation in his body, and control his blood pressure and weight among other things.
Since then he wrote a book called The Carnivore Diet, in which he promotes an all-meat diet for the health benefits he has perceived (I should say mostly meat, it seems he will sometimes eat eggs), and other well known figures like Canadian psychologist Jordan Peterson have revealed that they too are on a 90-100% carnivore diet.
It’s not me who will tell Shawn Baker that he’s not feeling better if he says that he is. He’s a grown-ass dude, a surgeon no less, and knows how he feels.
He should also know however, that there could be a multitude of reasons for his health improvement, there is no way of establishing exactly just what the cause is.
It could be as it is with the paleo diet – when people eliminate dairy, refined sugars and processed food from their diets they can experience major health improvements. The science would say that this is more likely to be due to the elimination of these other foods than to the increase in meat.
There are lots of other factors we don’t know. He could’ve had a food intolerance or allergy to anything he was eating previously, perhaps one he didn’t know about, that cleared up on elimination of the food allergen.
There are so many possible other reasons for his health improvements, it’s just not scientific or truthful to categorically state that they were definitively due to an all-meat diet.
And Baker never tried a whole food plant-based, or even junk food vegan diet, so we can’t compare how he felt on either of these to how he feels on an all-meat diet. For all anyone knows, all his health issues could’ve been solved by transitioning to an all-plant diet, he may even feel even BETTER than he does now if he were to try it. We just don’t know. And neither does he… because there’s not any science behind it as far as I can see, his claims all seem to be anecdotal.
On Googling ‘The Carnivore Diet’ I was startled to see many books, not just Shawn’s, with the same or similar titles, all promoting an all or mostly meat diet.
Here are all the reasons why this sh*t is insanity I believe we are not meant to eat this way:
There are so many reasons why eating only meat isn’t the best idea – I’ll stick to 8 so the post doesn’t get too long. I’ll include some obvious arguments and a few less so. I’ve left ethics out of it because it’s blindingly obvious that a Vegan Coach would find a meat-based diet unethical! 🙂
Sustainability. The high quality meat that these human carnivores supposedly eat is not sustainable. It needs much bigger areas of land to be raised and produced. If everyone wanted to eat that kind of meat, we’d need several planets!
We are not carnivores. Lions and tigers are carnivores. Our bodies and digestive systems do NOT resemble theirs. They have:
Long canines(all the better for piercing the jugular veins of their prey), which we do not.
Very short intestines, so they can digest meat in an effective way and in the correct amount of time. We have very long, narrow intestines, designed to digest fibrous plant food in an effective way, while meat can get stuck in them and can fester and putrefy there for years.
Acid in their stomachsthat can kill any pathogens, to stop them getting sick when they eat raw meat. We have to cook meat to kill the bacteria; otherwise we can get very sick.
Speed. They can run extremely fast to catch their prey. If we were to try and catch any animal other than those that are advertised to us because of their docility and cheapness to feed and shelter – if we were to try and catch a gazelle or an impala for instance, just as other carnivore mammals do, we’d fail miserably. We’d need tools like guns to shoot them. Real carnivores don’t need guns.
Long claws – so they can better kill and then rip their dead prey apart. We have rather pathetic nails in comparison. Again, we’d need tools like knives to achieve what carnivores do with their claws.
Fibre is one of the most important nutrients for our bodies. There is no fibre in an all-meat, or all animal product diet. Fibre is only found in plant foods. We need fibre for healthy digestion, healthy weight loss, heart health, and cancer prevention among other things.
Hormones. Even if you are eating the best quality meat in existence, you are STILL consuming extra mammal hormones. Doesn’t matter if this meat is labelled as ‘hormone free’ – this just means there are no added hormones. But animals, just like us, produce naturally-occcurring hormones. These are over and above what your body needs, and may mess with your own hormone levels.
Blue Zones and Inuits. There is a book by Dan Buettner called The Blue Zones. The Blue Zones refer to all the areas of the world that have clusters of centenarians. Buettner investigates what the determining dietary, social, economical, spiritual and community factors are behind so many living to 100+ in these regions. In terms of the dietary factors, all ate either a 100% plant-based diet or very, very close to that.
Isn’t it about time there was a free App that was super easy to use that you could consult whenever you wanted to eat out that told you where the vegan dishes were?
I thought so too.
Well now we have one.
Yes we have Happy Cow and that is always brilliant, I use it often, but the new Allergi App is unique in that A) It ALSO tells you the dishes that are free of any allergens you wish to avoid (nuts, gluten etc) and B) It tells you all the restaurants and cafes nearest your location that have dishes that match your vegan and other allergen requirements.
We don’t always have access to a bangin’ vegan restaurant in our locale, and I’ve found there are some excellent vegan-by-default meals at various restaurants – especially at Middle Eastern, Indian and other Asian restaurants, and we deserve to get our hands (and taste buds) on them!
The Allergi app will completely take the pain out of asking the server which meals are vegan, and having to check and double check if you are still unsure, or if the server doesn’t really understand what you’re talking about. Trust me, this is invaluable. I can’t tell you how many confusing, cross-purposes, awkward exchanges I’ve had in restaurants with waiters over the years. To be fair, I’ve had some great convo’s with waitstaff too, but you don’t want to take that chance, especially if you’re going out for a special meal, or first date meal, lol!
The app was founded by Charles Burns, who some of you may remember as a candidate on The Apprentice a few years back. We had a chat, and he is incredibly excited to debut this app. He was motivated to create it as he suffers from food intolerances, and knew he could develop it so it would be useful to vegans too. He is interested in veganism, has watched all the vegan docs, and of course I couldn’t let him escape without encouraging him to take the plunge 🙂
Some of you know I mainly coach a health-oriented whole food, plant-based diet, and at some point I hope there will be the facility with this app to find out the places where whole foods (like whole grains – brown rice, wholewheat products) are served instead of refined starches. In US restaurants you often get a choice between white and brown rice, wholewheat and white burger buns etc, and it would be great to know who offers this choice.
While the app isn’t a strictly vegan resource, it’s one that has been created taking vegans into consideration, and I believe it will be invaluable to vegans. For this reason I have no hesitation recommending it to you all.
Let me know how the App works for you, and OF COURSE let me know of any surprise yummy vegan dishes you come across!
(Give yourself the best chance of avoiding – or recovering quickly from – Covid-19 with these plant-based, antiviral immune system protectors and boosters!)
I’m not going to add to the fear porn about the virus here. Nor will I go on about the facts and figures for this illness that most of us are in lockdown for – you’ve already read/heard lots of information on TV and the internet, and there is lots of conflicting, confusing information around. We are not being given full context around figures of deaths from flu this year compared to deaths of flu from previous years; who died OF CV compared to who died WITH it etc, and I’m not going to add to this holy clusterf**k.
However however however….
….all that aside, one thing we can ALL agree on is that we don’t want to contract COVID19 (or any other flu) and if we DO contract it, we want it gone ASAP.
Right. So you should be all aware of your government guidelines on what we can do physically in terms of distancing, hand-washing etc, but here are my expert nutritional tips for giving yourself the best chance possible of avoiding the damn thing, or if you have it already, getting shot of it pronto.
This is a no-brainer, but I’m still gonna say it dammit. Include (more than ever) lots of green leafy veg and plenty of citrus fruit in your diet. Clementines, oranges and grapefruit are all vitamin C bombs, but also powerful is lemon juice. Now you’re obviously not gonna peel a lemon and eat it! Eeeww – I’m making the sour lemon face as I type 🙂 So a great way to ingest some lemon juice is to squeeze half a lemon into a tall glass of warm water. It is thought that the warm temperature is better for extracting the vitamin C than if it were cold. Don’t forget to either drink it with a straw, or rinse your teeth once afterwards, as you don’t want the citric acid sticking around on your tooth enamel.
I’ve been doing this every day for over 2 years now, and I’ve definitely noticed the difference in terms of the reduced number of bugs I’ve picked up. If you need an extra incentive – it’s great for the skin too!
As we learned in this post, keep up the health of your gut, as this is the majority of your immune system. Make sure to eat some fermented foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, miso or plain plant-based yoghurts several times a week; or at the very least, take a non-dairy probiotic every day throughout flu season.
Garlic is your best winter friend. It is good for your immune system by helping keep your gut in order, and on top of that it has anti-viral properties. You can crush it and put it in dishes at the end of cooking, and it will do it’s darndest to prevent you getting sick.
If you’re a garlic hater, first of all – BOO; but don’t worry, you can take garlic capsules.
Another no-brainer, but I know how easy it is to get absorbed in your work and forget to drink adequate water. As well as keeping you hydrated, water is going to keep flushing your system, helping you to all the quicker rid your body of anything undesirable.
If you don’t have a routine for drinking water, now is the time to get into one. Drink several glasses at convenient times throughout your day. Drink more if you’re exercising, less if you’re not. There are conflicting opinions on how much water to drink exactly per day; and it depends on your body size, whether you’ve perspired that day or not, whether you are eating especially dehydrating foods that day or not – but a common suggestion is 2 litres, so aim for that.
We actually know that dietary fibre protects against flu viruses. Like water, eating plenty of fibre is gonna keep your system ticking over nicely and will help you to expediently eliminate that which your body doesn’t need! It goes without saying that a vegan/plant-based diet is gonna give you the most fibre, what with there being ZERO fibre in animal products. Obviously look more to whole foods (whole grains and cereals; lentils; all beans; all fruit and veg) as opposed to refined and processed products, and you’ll be a fibre champ!
This one connects into gut-health too because a high-fibre diet will ensure you have a healthy balance of gut microbiota. So like garlic it’s a 2 for 1 🙂
So it’s great for me, but what if you’re a coffee or a Yorkshire Tea fanatic? Look, no-one is asking you to give up caffeine, least of all me – I love it. But there is plenty of the stuff in green tea honest! All I can say is try it. Try it a couple of times a day, then try and make it your go-to hot (or iced!) beverage of choice. Have it with a slice of lemon, a few mint leaves, some cardamom and agave nectar, whatever you fancy. I quite like Clipper White Tea (same as green – just younger leaves) because it’s quite strong with a nice caffeine hit 🙂
These next two are based on empirical evidence solely. I know they work for me, and that they will not harm you should you decide to try them (as indicated) too.
There is a product (available online or at health food stores) called Citricidal (GSE in the US). It is grapefruit seed extract and is a very powerful anti-viral, anti-biotic, and anti-fungal.
I’m currently taking 5 drops in a double whisky shot size of water 3 times a day as I’ve just recently been on a plane. After 2 weeks I’ll do this twice a day throughout this period. It’s a good idea to dip a cotton bud in the water before you drink it and then wipe it around one nostril while inhaling with your mouth closed, then doing the same with the other end of the cotton bud for the other nostril.
If you want to read up on this product, you can read the US and UK Amazon reviews of it. It’s probably one of the only places you’ll get some truth. There was a campaign to try to discredit GSE a while back, but as you can see in the science I linked to above, the claims were bull. As it’s a natural product, big pharma can’t make money from it, so it’s very possible that might be the reason for the bogus claims.
If I feel like I have the first signs of a cold – the bone-ache, the slightly swollen feeling in the back of the throat etc, then I take half an umeboshi plum. If you don’t know these already, they are salted Japanese plums (available in health stores) and are the sourest little mofo’s you ever did taste – and that’s the point. They are extremely acidic, but they have an alkalising effect once in the body and as you may be aware, the more alkaline your body is, the less disease it can harbour. If I remember to take half a plum in time, the cold-feelings are gone by the next day. Just remember to take a couple of mouthfuls of water afterwards, to rinse excess acid from your teeth.
If they are too sour for you to eat as they are, then you can mash half a plum and stir it into some cooked brown rice. This actually flavours the rice nicely, and kids like it too. They are around ten pounds for a jar (around fifteen bucks in the US?), but if you only take them when you need them, they last an absolute age.
Bonus (non-nutrition) tip:
Avoid rolling news and fear porn
This isn’t technically my remit but just to remind you that fear will reduce your body’s capacity to prevent or fight illness. Fear causes the body to transfer its energy away from the immune system into ‘fight or flight.’ Therefore a great thing you can do for your immune system right now is to throw your TV out of the window (or I guess you could just turn it off, that would probs be more responsible :)). The mainstream news seems intent on giving us bad news and numbers without full context, which only serves to create fear and panic. Bad news is good news for ratings but not for your sanity.
You’re on lockdown. You don’t need the news on. I haven’t had a TV for years and I always end up knowing exactly what I need to know, and not what I don’t. If you get your news from social media as I do, just check the few accounts you trust then leave it alone.
I hope these tips are helpful. Eat plants; stay well; breathe deeply; question EVERYTHING.
There are many tantalising, colourful new vegan products out there now, and ‘dirty’ vegan hipster joints are popping up in East London (what seems like) daily. And this is all good, and harmless to indulge in once in a while. But a new vegan could be forgiven for thinking that this is the stuff vegans eat ALL the time. And the worst thing in the world would be for a new vegan to partake of this kind of food only, and end up feeling so bad that they mistake the fact they are feeling gross to be due to a lack of meat. Or eggs. Or salmon.
Another reason some vegans turn back to meat is because they’ve been influenced by Youtube videos where (slightly crazy imo) people eat 50 mangoes for breakfast, 20 bananas for lunch etc and end up believing that buckets of fruit are the answer to all their health and wellness problems. When they don’t get the desired health outcome they expected from eating all the fruit all the time, they blame it on not eating animal products.
Firstly, none of the problems I’ve ever heard these ex-vegans complain of are because of a lack of animal products.
The one and only time you may NEED to eat meat is if there is no plant-food around anywhere; no chance of you coming across any in the next few days; you are already malnourished and semi-dead of starvation; and an unsuspecting animal walks by. In this scenario, go for it. Otherwise, there is no medical need to eat animal products.
Being a healthy vegan isn’t a mystery, but it’s not about guzzling a fuck-ton of fruit, or buying all the pretty new vegan products. And it’s a good idea to get a blood test done with your GP after a couple of months to check your levels of vitamins and minerals to see how you are going. Then, should you be deficient in any, you may well be able to make up the shortfall through diet.
But for right now – here are 11 helpful tips that should keep you on the straight and narrow health-wise:
1. Whole Foods. I was going to say ‘if its brown, gobble it down’ but that sounded a little…weird 🙂 What I mean is, always choose the whole versions of grains. So – brown or black rice; wholewheat products over white wheat products (whole wheat pasta, whole wheat bread, whole wheat couscous etc); and try using more natural sugars over white sugar – agave and maple syrup are a better choice than white sugar and they don’t spike your blood at the same rate.
When you DO buy pre-made products, try and ensure they have minimal ingedients, and that you know what all the ingredients are – no unpronouncable chemical rubbish needed!
2. Watch your oil consumption. It’s very easy to overdo the oil, especially with all the tempting new junk food vegan places around. Even the better plant oils (olive, coconut etc) count as processed foods. Unless you have chronic disease it’s fine to include a little, but restaurant food very often contains a LOT.
Eat at home as much as possible and take your own lunch into work. Eating out occasionally is fine, it’s when you do it constantly that the excess oil can be harmful to digestion, weight maintenance and health in general. If you have to eat out a lot for whatever reason, try and space it out so you’re not doing it on consecutive nights, and eat oil-free meals the days in between.
3. Beans, grains, greens baby! It’s always gonna be your beans and whole grains that will give you the energy and fibre you need to maintain good basic health, with root veg like sweet and white potatoes making a regular appearance too for the same benefits. The greens are a great source of calcium. When you make a meal, try and incude ‘a bean, a green and a grain’ – or a root veg in place of the grain. So that can incude fabulous chilis, curries, pasta dishes, couscous, hearty salads – pretty much most dishes can contain these elements. I know it doesn’t sound as sexy as ‘Sloppy Joes’ or ‘Dirty mac n’ cheeze,’ but it’s not sexy having digestive issues from too much oil either, so… 🙂
4. Eat the rainbow. The colour of each fruit and vegetable represent different nutrients, so try and eat a variety of coloured fruit and veg throughout your week. For example; red – tomatoes, red peppers, red apples; orange -carrots, sweet potatoes, canteloupe; green – um..greens :), kiwi, okra; purple – beetroot; yellow – bananas, yellow peppers.
5. Love your kitchen. Dudes, there’s no easy way to say this and not sound like an authoritarian school head teacher. But you HAVE TO PRIORITISE SPENDING TIME IN THE KITCHEN. You want the health? Good. I want that for you too. Now GET YOUR ASS IN THE KITCH.
If there was a professional goal you desperately wanted, I don’t doubt you would do whatever it took to achieve that. I never understand why people don’t prioritise their health in the same way when health is so basic to happiness and wellbeing. Health, imo, should be a starting point, and everything else comes out of that. If you feel good, you’re gonna be so much more productive – and fun! 🙂
If you make as many of your own meals as possible, YOU can control the oil that goes into your food, and make sure there is no pesky sugar or white flour added. God knows there are plenty of vegan cookbooks and recipe websites out there. Pick one, get a podcast up on the laptop to help you enjoy your kitchen time, and get cooking.
6. Pamper your guts. We now know that gut-health is key to overall health. Your guts contain 70-80 % of your immune system, and bad gut-health can be responsible for all sorts of issues such as leaky gut, IBS, and fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, multiple sclerosis, and mental illnesses such as depression, bi-polar and even schizophrenia. Sugars and white, refined starches feed bad gut bacteria, so yet another reason to avoid or at least minimise consumption of them.
Eat a portion of fermented foods every day. Pick from sauerkraut, kimchi, soy/coconut yoghurt, miso, tempeh, or a drink like kombucha, vegan kefir, water with apple cider vinegar. This will help re-establish the good bacteria your gut needs to thrive. Me? I make my own kimchi, because I’m a hippie that knits her own sandals 😀 But seriously, it’s yummy. My recipe here.
If you have any of the health issues mentioned at the top of this paragraph, think about taking non-dairy probiotics.
7. Face the flax. Try and include 2 x tbspns ground flax seeds in your diet 6 days a week. There are SO many reasons why this is a good idea for overall health. Firstly; they provide masses of fibre. Secondly; they promote great gut health. Thirdly; they are thought to be cancer-protective. Fourthly; they are thought to soak up any heavy metals lingering in our bodies and help them to..er…exit the body 🙂 Fifthly; they will help keep estrogen levels stable, again, by helping your body to excrete any excess. Sixthly; they are a great source of omega 3.
Sprinkle it on oatmeal, soups, stews, salads.
8. Vitamin B12. Supplement with this. No backtalk. Do it.
9. Hydrate! Well yeah, it’s obvious I know, but you’d be surprised how many people still don’t. Hydrate even more if you consume alcohol and/or coffee. Water and single herb teas are the ONLY liquids that count as water.
10. Sleep well. Another obvious one, and not really my remit, but I DO know it’s best to leave 3 hours between your last meal and going to bed. You wanna be resting in bed, not digesting.
11. Move it! Move it! Move it! Exercise is key. Pick whatever works for you and be CONSISTENT. If nothing more, then get out and walk briskly for half an hour every day – you get even more points if some of the walk has an upwards gradient.
I need to preface this post by saying that if you have any health concerns at all, go to your GP. I present you my experiences in case they can be of help, but I am a nutritionist, not a doctor.
Recently, I had an iodine issue, and once I’d resolved it, I thought ‘I really should update and repost my article on iodine, so that anyone who needs to can benefit from what I just learned.’
So I searched my website and everything I’ve ever written EVER. Turns out I’ve never written a dedicated post about iodine! I couldn’t believe it. I thought I’d written about every nutrient and health issue pertaining to veganism that existed.
But now I know more than I previously did about iodine, it’s probably just as well.
So I’d previously thought iodine was mainly for thyroid health, and that we should try and eat sea vegetables whenever we got the opportunity, monitor our levels, and if we needed to, take a kelp supplement occasionally (as kelp is a great source of iodine), but that it was important not to overdo the kelp, as it could pack too much of a punch.
is in other plant food too, but the levels aren’t reliable because it
depends how much iodine was in the soil the plants were grown in – and
we know our soil is pretty depleted of nutrients these days.
Thus, vegans are definitely at risk for iodine deficiency, in fact this study shows that they can be quite worryingly so. Do not mistake this to mean it’s better to eat animal products, because it’s not, for a multitude of reasons.
Anyway, I followed my own advice faithfully, and took kelp supplements occasionally, or whenever I became aware that I wasn’t really eating much seaweed.
Until I didn’t. Until I ran out of kelp supplements and firstly forgot to buy more, then kept putting it off for no reason other than I thought it wasn’t a priority. I probably went for a good three months without taking any – and to be honest, I hadn’t been that great at taking them on a regular basis even when I had some. I felt fine and didn’t think it was a priority.
Then I started getting the following symptoms (to any men reading this – don’t stop, this post will apply to you too very shortly!); breast tenderness throughout the whole cycle as opposed to just before a period, and a dry skin rash near my temple which was…well…weird.
Now it’s true that you can have weird cycle things happen as you get older, but I felt like these symptoms were specific, and could not be explained away that glibly. So I did my research like a good little health freak, and eventually I had the thought ‘ah, iodine, I wonder if that could have had an impact?’
It turns out it had more of an impact than I could have known with my previous knowledge.
Obviously there’s a whole juicy scientific explanation but in a nutshell, iodine has a really huge influence on our estrogen levels. If you are prone to estrogen dominance as many people are (I am, it’s in the genes), then an iodine deficiency will mean estrogen can get out of control. So despite the fact that I was doing everything to keep my levels balanced (including flax in my daily diet, exercising, eating whole, plant foods etc), I was still getting those symptoms of estrogen dominance.
I quickly bought some kelp supplements and started taking them. Within a few weeks, everything was back to normal, and the dry skin weirdness vanished almost immediately. I wish I’d discovered this earlier, but it took the breast and skin thing to make me take notice.
Further reading revealed that iodine is super important for fertility in both women AND men. I’m definitely not trying to get pregnant but you might be. Men – you need adequate iodine levels for optimal semen quality.
An iodine deficiency can also be responsible for irregular or anovulatory periods, fibroids and fibrocystic breasts.
other thing is that conventional doctors, and even the plant-based
doctors, will tell you you need a very small amount of iodine daily –
130-150mcg, and that to take any more is excessive.
However, people that specialise in reproductive health say that larger amounts can be needed. It is believed that people can take up to 1100 mcg daily safely.
There is also so much that even doctors don’t yet understand about the way iodine works in our body, and even prestigious vegan websites aren’t giving clear information. For example, The Vegan Society website gives some facts on iodine, and their advice is ‘every vegan needs a reliable source of iodine in their diet’ and ‘in the UK, the recommended daily iodine intake is 140mcg.’ What is that saying? Take a supplement? Don’t take one?
What am I saying?
I’m not saying everybody should rush out and buy a shit-ton of kelp.
I’m saying that I’ve discovered that iodine is more key to basic health, especially reproductive health in both men and women than I’d previously been taught.
I’m saying know your body. If you get any symptoms like the ones I was experiencing, go to the doctors and get a blood test to check your iodine levels. Those symptoms could have other causes, but then you’d want to go to the doctors in any case, and it does no harm to get a blood test while you’re there. If your iodine levels are low, supplement. Start by taking the recommended daily amount, and have another test after a few weeks to see if your levels have improved.
If you have a thyroid issue, you WILL need to take extra care supplementing with iodine so definitely inform your doctor and get their opinion first.
I’ve learned that sometimes the available information about some nutrients just isn’t set in stone, even amongst medical people. Even amongst eminent plant-based medical people. Sometimes we have to be the CEO of our own health, know our bodies, and research all we can. Iodine is one of those nutrients where it’s worth doing this.
In recent months there have been several high profile vegan Youtubers that have gone back to eating animal products; and Twitter, FB et all has had much to say about it.
The one I knew the best is Tim Sheiff, who I followed pretty consistently at the beginning of his transition to veganism. I followed him less over the years because, I don’t know, I just became less attracted to his persona.
I have to admit, I was pretty shocked when I heard he was no longer vegan, because for all of my going off his vibe, I still really thought he fully comprehended all the reasons to be vegan, and thought he understood about health – which was the main reason for him stopping his vegan lifestyle.
I understand that he felt like crap, and that it’s crap to feel like crap. And that his excessive fasts and other slightly outlandish-seeming dietary experiments were in his pursuit of health. I get that. When you feel like shit and you read something that gives you hope, you’ll try it, even if it seems a bit crazy. I’ve been there and empathise with this. A few years back, I discovered I had chronic candidiasis, manifesting in horrible skin….stuff…on my body. I won’t even tell you the most horrendous symptoms because I don’t want to put you off your cocoa 🙂 That’s one of the things I DID like about Tim, he wasn’t afraid to go there with the gross body stuff 😀 Anyway, at this time I would have tried pretty much anything just to feel better.
Thankfully, I eventually found a way to overcome my issues. I went on an anti-candida diet, took grapefruit seed extract, and used apple cider vinegar and manuka honey (yes I know honey isn’t vegan, but it was medicinal. Lots of medications aren’t vegan, so shut up). It was a long, slow process, but I got there.
From the symptoms he described, I believe Tim’s issues were also candida and digestion-linked. He seemed to end up associating these issues with his vegan diet.
I’m not trying to blow my own horn here. Ok, maybe I am just a little, but at no time during my couple of years of candida hell on earth did I think my suffering was because of my vegan diet.
It didn’t make sense that that could have been the cause. And now there is enough research to show that a varied whole food, plant-based diet is the best diet to keep candida at bay (listen to this doctor who is an expert in the field). You may, like I did, need to try a more restricted anti-candida diet at first if you currently HAVE candida, but once you are free of it, it’s a whole food vegan diet that is best.
I remember every time I saw videos of Tim, he was guzzling ridicuous amounts of fruit. I mean, fruit is a snack or a dessert. We are not meant to eat 50 frickin’ mangoes for breakfast FFS. Of course eating fruit in those quantites can contribute to candida overgrowth. That’s wayyyy too much fruit sugar fermenting in your gut! Admittedly sometimes I did see him eating a nutritionally balanced meal, but this didn’t seem to be a consistent thing. It often seemed to be one new food philosophy or another.
The YouTuber Rawvana – the vegan who got caught eating fish – I knew less about. From what I did see, she seemed, like Tim, to constantly be trying new things, whether all raw food, or water fasts, or whatever it may be. Her health issues seemed similar too – yeast and digestive issues. She thought that eating fish and eggs would be the answer to her health problems.
Although it’s disappointing that these people amassed huge profiles and thousands of followers by proclaiming how vegan they were, and personally profited from this – then stopped – thereby probably causing a significant amount of their followers to stop too, my reason for writing this is not to judge Tim or the others (even though if I’m honest they do piss me off a little. Hey, I’m human). I’m not interested in anyone’s path except my own (she says trying to sound grown up and shit :D).
But seriously, my point in writing this piece is as follows:
1. To reassure you that a whole food vegan diet is suitable, health-wise, for everybody at any stage of life. No ifs, no buts. To also assure you that animal products in the diet are not a cure for anything. Unless you are dying of hunger on a desert island and there is no vegetation anywhere, just the proverbial cow… That’s it. Some people may need to avoid certain plant foods in the case of intolerances or allergies – but this is the same with a non-vegan diet. For example, I am highly allergic to eggs. So, um..it’s a good job I’m vegan.
2. To encourage you to watch whoever appeals to you on social media. We all follow people for a wide range of reasons. Sometimes I’ll follow an absolute moron just because they make me laugh. BUT, if you are following a vegan on a particular platform for the sole purpose of learning how to be a healthy, happy vegan, PLEASE make sure they refer to science (peer-reviewed if possible). If you’re not sure how to do this, you can just cross-reference what your new vegan hero is saying with the works of the eminent plant-based doctors – Dr’s T. Colin Campbell, Michael Greger, John McDougall, Caldwell Essylstyn, Michael Klaper, Neal Barnard – they all have plenty of resources online.
Make sure your new vegan gal/guy is consistently eating/cooking (and advising you to eat) a diet rich in whole grains, beans, lentils, root veg, leafy greens and other veg, fruit, nuts seeds, herbs and spices. If they start talking about fasting or being 100% raw, or eating 50 mangoes for breakfast – throw your phone or laptop in the garbage instantly and run as far away from it as you can 😀
When discussing veganism with non-vegans; hot on the tail of ‘…but palm oil‘ will often follow: ‘why do vegans eat fake meat if they don’t like meat?’
a misconception that people go vegan because they don’t like the taste
of meat. Some may quit meat for that reason – wasn’t a huge fan myself –
but the main reason people go vegan is because they’ve stopped
believing that animals are a commodity put here for our use, and the
main way that manifests is in them stopping participating in the cruelty
and barbarism that is animal agriculture.
Bearing this in mind – why shouldn’t some vegans want to recreate the taste and texture of meat with an animal free product? I mean, why not? In terms of the ethical reasons, a meat alternative serves the purpose of avoiding the cruelty but still having the taste, so win-win no?
People often find that even if they start off eating alternative meat and cheese products as a vegan, they’ll gradually learn how to make amazing dishes themselves consisting of veg, beans, lentils, grains, herbs and spices etc – think chili’s, soups, curries, pad thais, tagines, porotos granados and all manner of dishes that just don’t need a meat substitute.
Alternative meats can be a great help to people who want to move towards veganism but are a little fearful their new food will be too ‘different.’ It can be helpful, then, for them to have their ‘new’ plate resemble the old one. For this reason I am thrilled about all the alternative meat products we now have available to us – vive la Gregg’s sausage roll!
People also go vegan for health and environmental reasons as well as the ethics (for me all three are interconnected).
So how does ‘fake meat’ fare compared to meat in terms of health and the environment?
meat will never contain cholesterol, anti-biotics or hormones, so
already it has that over meat. The chances are very high it will also
contain less fat. Another score. So while it may not be a super healthy
product, a meat alternative will pretty much always be healthier than a
As for the environment, even if non-vegans are quick to point out the meat alternative contains palm oil (and I kill that line of argument dead here), it will still be much better for the environment than meat. Animal agriculture is the prime driver behind ALL FORMS of environmental destruction.
So your argument for not going vegan is that it’s totally proven now, don’t you know, that plants have feelings too and you wouldn’t want to be a hypocrite and eat plants while not eating animals, so…there’s really no point is there? For added weight you also make the point that harvesting plants kills lots of tiny animals, so… again – what’s the point in going vegan, you’re always going to be killing something, right?
If these are included in your reasons for not going vegan, you’re not alone.
Typically (because I’ve had this conversation fifty-hundred times), this argument will be the last one someone pulls out of their excuse arsenal, after ‘but vegan isn’t good for your health’, and ‘but grass-fed cows are ok’ and ‘it’s too difficult, it’s not realistic’
I saw this very argument unfold the other day in an online publication by an esteemed author in the comment section of a piece she wrote, part of which attempted to discredit and dismiss veganism. This publication is very progressive and forward-thinking, and all its contributors are continually thinking outside, like, every box ever. On practically every other point I agree with all their writers, and can only dream of having the knowledge and insight that they possess.
So it was kind of shocking to see someone of this intelligence/enlightenment level resorting to the ‘plants have feelings too’ argument after her previous arguments were rebutted. I think it’s testament to the universality of the fear people have of having to change their life if there should emerge a logical reason to. They think veganism is too different and alien, they are not aware how kinda pretty normal it is, and that we still eat just as much amazing food as non-vegans. Actually I eat more. So this quasi-scientific-sounding, ethical-sounding argument about the feeliness of plants is used as that final barrier between them and veganism, it’s the argument that is supposed to have the effect of shutting the hell up that annoying vegan they are having the debate with.
So, lemme take that final barrier down for ya!
Using the ‘but plants have feelings too’ argument with vegans is set on the premise that vegans are trying to be perfect beings who never contribute to any animal cruelty whatsoever. Because they are just so holy and righteous.
Hahaaaa, I’m so holy and righteous!!! If only you knew.
As vegans we accept that no human being can live without harming animals. It’s not possible. If you’re looking for humans that do the least harm to other living beings then I believe that would be the Jains, a religious group in India, who not only are vegan, but also won’t eat root veg because they believe more insects are harmed in the harvesting of them; and they often wear face masks so they don’t breathe in tiny flies and other insects, thereby killing them.
Vegans are not even close to Jains. I love my root veg. And they love me. And God knows how many flies I sucked up in all the years I cycled around London.
We all inadvertently kill tiny insects every day underfoot. And animal products are in SO.MANY.THINGS. Aviation fuel, car and bike tyres and musical instruments to name but three. So unless you want an incredibly hermetic life, it’s impossible to live harming no beings at all.
Our goal is to do the least harm possible, as far as is practical and practicable. We don’t need to eat animal products, in fact we thrive without them, so it’s not only practical but actually sensible NOT to eat them. Plant food is available everywhere, so living vegan is easily practicable too. It’s very easy to find vegan clothing and footwear. It’s NOT easy to avoid using cars, bikes, buses, airplanes etc. You can’t check every step before you take it to ensure you don’t crush bugs. Not practicable. Geddit?
Thus, we accept that bugs and small critters do die when our plants are harvested. But being vegan we’re actually responsible for fewer of these deaths because we only eat plants. Non-vegans eat plants AND animals that eat plants.
Similarly, if you are genuinely worried about plants having feelings, the best thing you can do is go vegan. Why? Vegans just eat plants. Non-vegans eat plants AND animals that eat plants.
Another fave anti-vegan argument is ‘but lions tho’ – meaning; lions have to eat meat to live, therefore so do we. I like to borrow from this and in so doing have found a great two-for-one rebuttal to both the ‘feely plants’ and ‘but lions’ narratives.
We actually ARE like lions, but not in the way you think.
Lions are obligate carnivores. They HAVE to eat meat to survive. They are not hard-wired to care about their prey – otherwise they couldn’t survive.
Humans HAVE to eat plants to live and thrive. Even if plants possess ALL the feels, which I doubt, but even if they DO I cannot care about this, because to survive I need to eat them. So I’ll eat them without regard for their sentience.
However I don’t need meat to live, in fact it makes us sick – so why would I? A lion instinctively wouldn’t eat something that would make it sick. I will eat what I know optimises my survival, just like the ol’ lion. This is practical and practicable. And I am still doing the least harm possible.
Only humans can be self aggrandising and deluded enough that they purchase carved-up dead animals, but because it has a label slapped on it saying ‘pasture-raised’ or ‘grass-fed’ – it makes them feel all fuzzy and like they are doing something good for themselves the planet and the animal.
In terms of health, of course pasture-raised cows, pigs and sheep are better than intensively-raised animals whose bodies are probably full of pesticides and antibiotics. But all animal flesh contains cholesterol, saturated fat, and hormones (think hormone-free meat is safe? This only means no added hormones; you cannot get away from the fact that you will always being ingesting the hormones of any being you consume).
Pasture-raised and grass-fed animals are just as bad (if not worse) for the planet as intensively-farmed, and if everyone in the world decided they wanted to eat this way there wouldn’t be anywhere near enough land to accommodate this. So it’s very much an entitled, elitist way to eat. Not to mention that if it gets more popular, how many forests will be razed to the ground to make way for pasture? God knows the world has lost enough forest already.
As mentioned – you aren’t really doing a whole lot for the animal either. Pasture-raised and grass-fed animals still want to live out their lives, just as (I assume) you do. Pasture-raised and grass-fed animals still go to abattoirs. No-one sprinkles sleepy dust on them so they just drift off to sleep and die for you.
It’s funny that ‘pasture-raised’ and grass-fed’ are such hipster (that have spilled over into middle-class) trends. People seem to be convincing themselves that they are eating in a more ‘natural’ ‘real’ or ‘spiritual’ way when their food sports these labels.
There is nothing natural or spiritual about unnecessary slaughter. Your body not only doesn’t need meat, it thrives without it. You can bleat about being ‘high-vibe’ and natural and primal all you want, but there is nothing high-vibe about unnecessarily brutalising an innocent being who is as sentient as you.
You think these animals are humanely killed?
The phrase ‘humane slaughter’ always makes me laugh. Is there such a thing as humane rape? I mean, there MUST be if there is such a thing as humane slaughter. We only use this term when we are talking about animals. We’d never use it about people. ‘You murdered that woman?’ ‘Yes, but I did it humanely.’ ‘Oh, ok then…er…cool.’
To see if something is truly humane, ask yourself if you’d like it to happen to you. If we assume that you’ll live until 90, then unless at the age of 9 you’d appreciate a bolt to your head to stun you (which is likely not to work) then have your throat slit and be hung upside down by your leg to be drained of blood, then it ain’t really humane to treat animals this way.
I just went on to a UK website for a pasture-raised cow company. I clicked on the section about animal welfare, and there was lots of talk about how the animal is raised, but I was specifically looking for how the animal was killed. You’d think they’d want to make the abattoir sound as fluffy as possible. But you know what? There was zero information on this. Turns out you can’t make an abbatoir sound fluffy.
It talked about how the animals are ‘free to express their normal behaviours’ – but how are they free to do this? If they naturally and instinctively want to live, they are not being allowed to fulfil this desire. It should maybe end the sentence with ‘…free to express their normal behaviours -up to the point where we kill them at a tenth of their normal lifespan.’
Look, I’m not here to force anyone to be vegan. I just don’t want anyone to be deluded by marketing bullshit. If you eat this stuff – please know what it is. It is not better ethically, environmentally, and health-wise only marginally (but if you are genuinely interested in health – go plant-based!).
The people selling ‘pasture-raised’ this and ‘grass-fed’ that will OF COURSE try and make you feel good about buying it – they want your dough! And people that fell for this already will tell you it’s a great thing to do because they want to justify their own habits and feel good about their choices.
But you are more than capable of thinking for yourself.
A tenth. Of a fully-sentient beings natural lifespan. Start by thinking about that.