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    Why You Should Think Twice About Vegetarian & Vegan Diets

    Why You Should Think Twice About Vegetarian & Vegan Diets

    There are many reasons why someone may decide to go vegan or vegetarian. Some are compelled by environmental animal feeding operations while others by ethical or religious reasons. I respect these choices, even if my own exploration of these questions has led me to a different answer.

    But many choose vegan or vegetarian diet because they believe it’s a healthier choice from a nutritional perspective. For the last 50 years, we have been told that meat, eggs, and animal fats are bad for us. This is has been so drilled into our brains that very few people ever question it anymore. 

    Plant-based diets emphasize vegetables, which are very nutrient dense, and fruits, which are somewhat nutrient dense. However, these diets often include larger amounts of cereal grains (refined and unrefined) and legumes, both of which are low in bioavailable nutrients and high in anti-nutrients such as phytate. They also avoid organ meats, meats, fish, and shellfish, which are among the most nutrient-dense foods you can eat (1).

    Vegan diets, in particular, are almost completely devoid of certain nutrients that are crucial for physiological function. Several studies have shown that both vegetarians and vegans are prone to deficiencies in B12, calcium, iron, zinc, the long-chain fatty acids EPA and DHA, and fat-soluble vitamins such as A and D. 

    Let’s take a closer look at these nutrients on a vegan or vegetarian diet:

    B12

    This vitamin works together with folate in the synthesis of DNA and red blood cells. It’s also involved in the production of the myelin sheath around the nerves, and the conduction of nerve impulses. Studies have shown that 68% of vegetarians and 83% of vegans are deficient, compared to 5% of omnivores (2). B12 deficiencies can cause symptoms of fatigue, lethargy, weakness, memory loss, neurological and psychiatric problems, anemia, and much more! It’s also a myth that it’s possible to get B12 from plant sources such as seaweed, fermented soy, spirulina, and brewers yeast, but these foods actually contain B12 analogs called cobamides that block the intake of and increase the need for B12. 

    Calcium

    The bioavailability of calcium from plant foods is affected by vegans levels of oxalate and phytate, which are inhibitors of calcium absorption and thus decrease the amount of calcium the body can extract from plant foods (3). So while leafy greens like spinach and kale have a relatively high calcium content, the calcium is not efficiently absorbed during digestion. 

    Iron

    Ferritin, the long-term storage form of iron are notably lower in vegetarian and vegans (4). As with calcium, the bioavailability of the iron in plant foods is much lower than in animal foods. Plant-based forms of iron are also inhibited by other commonly consumed substances, such as coffee, tea, dairy products, supplemental fiber, and supplemental calcium. This explains why vegetarian diets have been shown to reduce non-heme iron absorption by 70% and total iron absorption of 85% (5).

    Zinc

    Although deficiencies not often seen in Western vegetarians, their intake still often falls below recommendations. This is another case where bioavailability is important. Many plant foods containing zinc also contain phytate, which inhibits zinc absorption by about 35% compared to omnivorous diets (8). Therefore, deficiency may still occur. This study suggested that vegetarians may even require 50% more zinc than omnivores (9).

    EPA and DHA

    Plant foods contain both linoleic acid (omega-6) and alpha-linolenic acid (omega-3) which are both considered to be essential fatty acids, meaning that they cannot be synthesized or produced by the body and therefore must be obtained through food. Of the two essential amino acids, EPA and DHA from omega-3 fatty acids play a protective role in the body such as fighting disease, cancer, asthma, depression, cardiovascular disease, ADHD, and autoimmune disease by greatly reducing inflammation in the body. Although it is possible for some omega-3 fatty acids from plant foods to be converted to EPA and DHA, that conversion is poor: between 5-10% for EPA and 2-5% for DHA (10). Vegetarians also have 30% lower EPA and nearly 60% lower DHA (11). 

    Fat-Soluble Vitamins

    Probably one of the biggest problems with vegetarian and vegan diets is their near total lack of the fat-soluble vitamins A and D. Fat-soluble vitamins are critical to human health. Vitamin A promotes healthy immune function, fertility, eyesight, and skin. Vitamin D regulates calcium metabolism, immune function, reduces inflammation and protects against many forms of cancer. These fat-soluble vitamins are concentrated and found almost exclusively in animal foods: seafood, organ meats, eggs and dairy products (12). Also, the idea that plant foods contain vitamin A is a misconception. Plants contain beta-carotene, the precursor to active vitamin A (retinol). While beta-carotene is converted into vitamin A in humans, the conversion is inefficient (13).

    With care and attention, it is possible to meet nutrient needs with a VEGETARIAN diet that includes liberal amounts of pasture-raised, full-fat dairy and eggs, with one exception: EPA and DHA. These long-chain omega fats are found exclusively in marine algae and fish and shellfish, so the only way to get them on a vegetarian diet would be to take a microalgae supplement (which contains DHA) or to take fish-oil or cod-liver oil as a supplement (which isn’t vegetarian). Still, while it may be possible to obtain adequate nutrition on a vegetarian diet, it is not optimal—as the research above indicates.

    I do not, however, think it’s possible to meet nutrient needs on a vegan diet without supplements—and quite a few of them. Vegan diets are low in B12, bioavailable iron and zinc, choline, vitamin A & D, calcium, and EPA and DHA. So if you’re intent on following a vegan diet, make sure you are supplementing with those nutrients

    When working with clients who I believe may suffer from nutrition deficiencies I often run a micronutrients blood test to see exactly where we need to fill in the gaps. Click here more information on testing and nutrition consulting.

    Guest post by Rachel Scheer, BS Nutrition & Dietetics from Baylor University. DFW Clinical Nutritionist (www.rachelscheer.com - @rachelscheer)

    It’s All About Priorities by Diva Richards

    It’s All About Priorities by Diva Richards

    Everything seems like it’s getting in the way—life; family; business meetings; oh, and the now infamous Zoom calls. We know a strong mind equals a strong body, and how we fuel our bodies affects our performance in every aspect of our lives. Sound nutrition and a consistent lifestyle are the keys.

    We are all here because we want to change. We either wake up to win or to learn. The process of becoming better starts with you and only you.

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    How to Create Your Dream Body in 4 Simple Steps by Chris Thompson

    How to Create Your Dream Body in 4 Simple Steps by Chris Thompson

    Are you ready to create the body of your dreams?  If you answered yes, barring any serious medical conditions, consider the following quote from Jim Rohn:  “If you want to do something, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.”  

    While many people are willing to go to the gym and work hard when it comes to achieving their fitness, health & wellness goals sadly many do not know how to work smart.  I have spent 30 years in the nutraceutical and fitness industry and I am passionate about helping others optimize their fitness, health & wellness. It is my experience that to achieve your dream body at any age it is a result of consistently focusing on and practicing 4 simple steps:

    1)  Ideal Food Sources, 2)  Ideal Food Amounts, 3) Ideal Food Timing, 4)  Resistance Training.  That is the “secret” equation that produces sustainable transformative results.

    For most people when it comes to getting in better shape their first thought and emphasis goes straight to step 4) exercise. Exercise is indeed critical to creating your ideal body and maintaining health, but in this article, we are only going to focus on the first 3 steps, nutrition.  You are about to learn why the food sources, amounts and timing will make or break the results you see and the fitness, health and wellness you experience. 

    80/20 Rule to Success 

    Have you heard any of the following sayings?

    • You can’t out-exercise a poor diet
    • Abs are made in the kitchen
    • You are what you eat

    Approximately 80% of your overall fitness, health, and wellness success will be determined by nutritional choices and therefore, why we are focusing today solely on nutrition.

    This tends to be the hardest part of the process for many, due to the poor nutritional habits they have developed and in some cases had their entire lifetime. Difficulty consistently maintaining proper nutritional habits is the leading cause of failure and throwing in the towel before achieving desired results.    

    Count Macros & Make Them Count

    If you are unfamiliar with the term macronutrients it is simply a term to describe protein, carbohydrate, and fat. Each macronutrient serves its own purpose in our nutrition and has specific benefits when it comes to metabolic function and its corresponding role in our fitness, health & wellness. The key is to choose macronutrients that will help you achieve your goals, rather than causing you to take steps backward. 

    There are 4 sources that provide energy to the human body:

    Protein- this macronutrient provides 4 calories per gram and is responsible for helping to build and preserve lean muscle tissue. 

    Carbohydrate- this macronutrient provides 4 calories per gram and is responsible for helping energize the body. 

    Fat- this macronutrient provides 9 calories per gram and is responsible for not only energizing the body but also helping to regulate hormone levels.

    Alcohol- this is not considered a macronutrient, but it is the fourth caloric category providing 7 calories per gram, however, it has zero nutritional value. 

    SOURCE MATTERS

    All food is broken down into macronutrients, but not all macronutrients are the same.  In simple terms, Source Matters! It is important to choose quality food sources providing protein, carbohydrate, and fat.

    AMOUNT MATTERS

    Tracking your macros or eating specific nutrient amounts either by meal or by day is one of the most successful methods to ensure your body receives exactly what is required (not less and not more) to achieve your optimal body.   Knowing the specific amounts can be determined through a series of calculations specific to each individual.

    TIMING MATTERS -The Magic of Time Restricted Eating! 

    A critical success factor and cornerstone of the magic of optimal eating is not only the sources or “what” you eat, but potentially even more important is “when” you eat. We have all heard the phrase, timing is the key to life. I am here to tell you that timing is everything when it comes to nutrition, as well. The timing of the foods combined with the sources are the foundation to many of your hormonal reactions. Success of your fitness, health & wellness can be directly related to what you eat and when, in order to optimize your hormones and your results.

    Conclusion

    While it is not easy to achieve your dream body it is relatively simple.  Focus on consuming quality sources of protein, carbohydrates & fats. Count macros to help achieve the right amounts to reach your specific goals and consider trying Intermittent Fasting or Time Restricted Eating to best manage your nutrient timing.  

    https://www.instagram.com/christhompsonfitness/

    https://www.crush1coaching.com

    Chris Thompson is a 30 year veteran in the nutrition & fitness industry, an entrepreneur and former c-suite executive for a publicly traded nutraceutical company and founder & CEO of CRUSH1 NUTRITION & CRUSH1 COACHING.  He is passionate about optimizing human performance and body composition through nutrition and resistance training with a unique focus on health, wellness, and anti-aging. His long list of success stories includes Rockstars, Fashion Models, Executives, Busy Moms and just about every walk of life. Chris is an author and thought leader and his expertise and programs have been seen by global audiences and featured at bodybuilding.com.

    Is Gluten-Free For Me?

    Is Gluten-Free For Me?
    Gluten is a general name for the proteins found in wheat (wheatberries, durum, emmer, semolina, spelt, farina, farro, graham, KAMUT® khorasan wheat and einkorn), rye, barley and triticale – a cross between wheat and rye. Gluten helps foods maintain their shape, acting as a glue that holds food together. Gluten can be found in many types of foods, even ones that would not be expected.

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