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Have you been planning to live off plants?

While having a diet rich with vegetables and fruits is ideal, leaning to a fully plant-based lifestyle poses potential health risks. First things first, everyone is different and this means we have a different set of needs- there is no right way to eat for everyone! I've talked with several friends and read articles online and here's what I've found:

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We need nutrients from animal products.

Vegan diets do not provide fat-soluble vitamins A and D, and while there are some nutrients that can only be consumed from plants, many others are derived from animals alone. Vitamin B12 is a critical nutrient that everyone should be concerned with as this is vital for blood formation and brain function. And yes, vegan diets tend to be low in high quality protein which is greatly needed to avoid toxicity in our liver!

Not all vegetarian or vegan food are healthy or created equal.

While a vegan lifestyle propagates whole, raw and unprocessed food, vegan alternatives to everyday condiments such as butter, dips and milk are heavily processed. For example, butter is made from fresh milk or cream. One vegan butter I've found is made from palm fruit oil, canola oil, safflower oil, flax oil, olive oil, salt, natural flavor, pea protein, sunflower lecithin, lactic acid, and annatto color. Surprise- vegan butter, cream cheese, milk (although often sold for those who are lactose intolerant) and creamy pasta sauces are another source for highly processed ingredients!

Eating vegan is not the problem- eating processed vegan or vegetarian is!

That tofu burger may not have meat in it but manufacturers have added tons of additives to make it taste like so! When shopping, put these to mind:

Try skipping packaged food altogether and enjoy fresh foods (enjoy them raw or cooked).

If you do find yourself picking up packaged vegan food, read the ingredients first.

If you can’t pronounce the ingredients, don’t bother looking at anything else (calories, carbs, etc). Put it back on the shelf.

This is in no way trying to convince those who have fully adapted to a plant-based lifestyle to stop as an optimal diet for each person depends on several factors. This includes age, gender, activity levels, current metabolic health, food culture and personal preference. You can still consume vegan products but make sure to check the label if the product is too processed- after all the ideal vegan way is to steer clear from processed food! As a general rule of thumb, consume what's enough to keep you satisfied. If you're planning to go on a new diet, do your research and consult a health nutritionist first.

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