It’s been a loooooong time since I’ve posted. And, for the most part, I’m okay with that. I had a flurry of activity in the latter part of last year because I had a lot of things that I needed to get out of my head. Writing forces me to assemble random thoughts into something that at least approaches coherence. Plus, I had/have some views that I wasn’t used to seeing in the vegan blogosphere, so I’m glad that I got them out there for the world to read. The response has been mostly positive, much to my surprise. I’m also glad to see that the blog didn’t completely wither away in my absence of posting. People are still reading, and that’s cool.
So after I got a lot of that stuff out of my system, the desire to blog diminished, and I’m okay with that. I felt like I’d said the majority of the “important” stuff that I had to say. I haven’t had much desire to blog lately simply because I haven’t had anything very unique or insightful to say.
But what I’ve been focusing on a lot lately is nutrition. After being pretty lazy about nutrition for quite a while, I finally got my act together and did some research. I spent some time on nutritiondata.self.com (an awesome resource) looking at the vitamin and mineral (V&M) content of the foods that I typically eat (in the typical amounts that I had been eating them), and I realized that there is NO WAY I was getting enough of a whole range of V&M. And since my diet has been fairly consistent since going vegan over four years ago, this had been going on for a while.
So I’m kind of mad at myself for letting myself get lazy with my diet and for not doing this kind of research like… uhhh… FOUR YEARS AGO! But the thing is, I did do SOME of this kind of research. I had the best of intentions when I went vegan. I just didn’t sit down and do the math. I also probably wasn’t really prepared to eat in such a “weird” way. I was used to filling up on big plates of rice and pasta, and I carried that tendency into veganism. I’ve always loved carbs. I do remember thinking at one point “how the hell am I going to eat all of those beans, nuts, seeds, greens and vegetables every day?!”
I’m also kind of mad at all the “Go Vegan!” people that say that all you have to do to have a healthy vegan diet is “eat a balanced diet.” Well, “balanced” is a pretty vague word in this context. My idea of “balanced” it turns out is pretty unbalanced (too many carbs, not enough protein, fat, vitamins and minerals). So, really, I guess I’m more mad at myself for having trusted the people that say such things. They probably haven’t done the research either. They’re just trusting the people and organizations that told them the same things (“It’s easy!”).
Basically, if a person or organization isn’t willing or able to tell you how to get enough calcium, B6, copper, zinc, niacin etc. etc. etc. on a vegan diet, you probably shouldn’t be getting nutritional advice from them. If they’re not willing to tell you that eating well takes diligence (and go into specifics about it), they’re either not telling you the whole truth, or they don’t really know what they’re doing. I wish I would have thought about it like that before.
To eat a truly healthy vegan diet, it’s not the most difficult thing in the world, but you really do have to prioritize the nutrient-rich foods in your diet. You need to be eating enough of them before you can think that it’s okay to just fill up on carbs and desserts and whatnot. You can’t just cross your fingers, try to “eat a balanced diet” and expect it all to be fine. It won’t be. Yeah, it’ll work for a while, but if you’re lazy about it, or just underinformed (I was equally guilty on both fronts), you’ll eventually run into problems. And for what it’s worth, vegetarians have it only slightly easier. They still need to be more diligent than they’ve probably been led to believe (and I’ll go into specifics about that in coming posts).
Pretty much everyone that pimps a vegan diet will tell you “It’s easy!” but I’m here to tell you that that’s not necessarily true. “Easy” is a subjective word, I guess, but I’ll say this: if your definition of “easy” is something like “doesn’t require a good amount of self-education and daily vigilance,” then no, eating a healthy vegan diet is not easy. You will be missing something, guaranteed, probably a lot of things (like I was).
What I’ve realized is that a healthy vegan diet is (most likely) much lower in carbs (especially “carby” carbs and grains) than I previously assumed. When you prioritize nutrient-rich foods in your diet, you just don’t have room for all those (mostly) nutrient-poor grains (the largest source of carbs for most people). Initially my vegan diet was a little bit lower in carbs, but I’ve always been such a carb junkie that it’s not hard to figure out why I kept getting further and further away from that type of diet.
So… in my coming posts I’ll go more into specifics about what I was lacking and how I have been re-tooling my diet to rectify the situation. I’ll also post specifics about what you need to eat to get enough of certain V&M so you can see for yourself how you stack up. I hope you’re not unpleasantly surprised, but I think a lot of you might be. It’s really not as easy as most vegans like to make it seem. We’re supposed to keep repeating “It’s easy!” to win more converts, and then it’s apparently every man for himself.
I’m not a nutritionist, so please don’t take my word for anything. I’ll tell you what my sources are and you can go look at it for yourself. That’s what I should have done for myself long ago.
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