Adapted from Healthy, Sexy, Happy: A Thrilling Journey to the Ultimate You
The vegan diet is taking off, and more people are swearing off animal foods: meat, dairy, and eggs. It’s not my goal to pick a fight with vegans. I’m on your side, really. I respect and honor any vegan’s decision not to consume animal foods. That said, a decision made from the heart doesn’t change human physiology.
The human body needs operating materials: macro nutrients (carbs, proteins, and fats) and micro nutrients (vitamins, minerals, trace minerals, and enzymes). Because our cells are breaking down and building back up again all the time, we need to eat these macro and micro nutrients in the same biochemicals we’re made out of: plant and animal foods.
Herbivores produce an enzyme that can turn plants into essential amino acids, but humans don’t have this enzyme, and so we must eat foods containing complete proteins to obtain all the essential amino acids. Without complete proteins, metabolic processes break down. Without adequate building supplies to rebuild, the body ceases to regenerate. Hormone production declines and/or becomes imbalanced, forcing the body to break down lean body mass (muscle and bone). As a result, those who do not eat essential amino acids suffer from low immunity (allergies, colds, flu), low sex drive, and extreme thinness. Thin seems chic when you’re young, but it does not bode well for your future. Maintaining healthy, lean body mass is imperative to avoiding accelerated aging.
There are twenty amino acids that are important for human metabolism. Ten of these, which can be produced within the body, are called nonessential. Two are conditionally essential, which basically means that age, stress, geography, and any number of factors can determine whether or not your body can make these at all or in proper proportions. Eight essential amino acids are required for life, but the body doesn’t make them. Failing to obtain enough of even one of these eight essential amino acids results in the aforementioned cannibalization of lean body mass. The body doesn’t store excess amino acids for later use, so amino acids must be included in your diet every day.
Soy is not an option to obtain essential amino acids, because soy has been linked to decreased thyroid function, which can cause problems like weight gain, depression, thinning hair and more. Soy phytoestrogen is also an endocrine disruptor, which can lead to reproductive problems and cancer. In later stages of life, soy poses a higher risk for cognitive decline, senile dementia, and brain atrophy.
Although I encourage the consumption of historically eaten animal foods, I discourage eating factory produced animal products. Factory animals are tortured in concentration camps called concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) from birth until gruesome slaughter. Whether you eat a fast-food burger or a steak from a five-star restaurant, you are likely eating a tortured animal. Nature is exacting its revenge on us now with the hibernation of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), the bovine brain-wasting disease more commonly known as “mad cow disease.” Even more urgent is the epidemic of obesity and disease from eating animal products that are contaminated with estrogen, rBHG (growth hormone), pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, chemical fertilizers, antibiotics, and literally thousands of dangerous chemicals and drugs that are administered or fed to CAFO animals.
Eating factory animals is inhumane, and we’re better than that. As Ghandi said, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” I advocate consuming animal foods that were raised in clean, natural, humane environments.
Besides essential amino acids, we need essential fatty acids to survive and thrive. The two polyunsaturated fatty acids that are the most important to understand are linolenic acid (omega 3) and linoleic acid (omega 6). Omega 3 and 6 are referred to as “essentially fatty acids,” or “EFAs,” because they are required by the body but only can be obtained through eating the right foods.
Omega 3 promotes lean body mass (i.e., it will help you burn fat and build muscle) and is essential to cellular health and reduce inflammation. A diet low in omega 3 results in dry skin, premature wrinkles, thin, brittle hair and nails, depression and other neurotransmitter imbalances, chronic constipation, and a malfunctioning immune system. Lack of omega 3 can lead to muscle and joint pain, as well as arthritis.
EFAs can metabolize into docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), but it’s best to get them readymade by eating food rich in omega 3s. DHA is essential for the proper functioning of our brains as adults, the development of the nervous system, and visual abilities during the first six months of life. EPA reduces inflammation and the risk for heart disease by keeping your arteries supple. Our bodies naturally produce small amounts of DHA, which we must supplement through our diet.
Flaxseed oil has become extremely popular, and people are swigging it like crazy, thinking they are doing the right thing. Flaxseed is high in lignans, which are phytoestrogens. As with soy, too much phytoestrogen can pose a problem for people with thyroids on the cusp of crashing (an unfortunately huge segment of our population these days, given the thrashing our thyroids endure from factors like immune dysfunction, fluoride, chlorine, xenoestrogens, phytoestrogens, radiation, radical stress, and stimulant addiction, to name a few). A small amount of flaxseed from time to time would be healthy. However, flaxseed oil goes rancid/oxidizes very quickly, so you only have a couple of weeks from the date of purchase to consume it.
While there are a number of sources of essential fatty acids, for vegans I recommend eating sardines, which provide both essential fatty acids and a complete protein. You can still be mostly vegan and respect animal life, but eating a tin of sardines (including the oil) every day will protect you from an imploding immune system and metabolic breakdown. Sardines are very small fish, with teenie tiny brains. They are low on the food chain, and so they absorb very little, if any, mercury. You can chelate any mercury out of your system by drinking parsley and cilantro juice. My hope is that I can convince at least some vegans to become “sardine vegans.”
Health experts aren’t coming out against the vegan diet, because it’s a very divisive subject. No one wants to be unpopular at a time when the vegan diet is gaining momentum, least of all me. I love being popular. Who doesn’t? But since my mission is to help people be healthier, sexier, and happier, I would be a hypocrite if I didn’t say something.