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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:


    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. 


    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. 


    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).


    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)

    3 Principles to Transform Your Health by Rachel Scheer

    3 Principles to Transform Your Health by Rachel Scheer

    These principles are applicable to any area of your life that you want to improve, not just fitness.

    It's not supposed to be easy. ⁣

    But, it's made easier when you focus on what you can control right now.⁣ You can't fully control how quickly you lose weight or how quickly you develop healthier habits.⁣ Or... how quickly you improve your relationship with food.⁣

    But you CAN control what you do today.⁣

    When you're feeling overwhelmed or discouraged, take a step back and remind yourself that you are only responsible for the actions you take today.⁣

    Imperfect action beats inaction. ⁣

    Something beats nothing⁣, every time. 

    A 15-min walk beats skipping your your workout.⁣

    ⁣One healthy meal beats eating crap all day.⁣

    ⁣One hour of study beats winging it on test day.⁣

    Doing something will always move you forward, doing nothing keeps you stuck in the same place. ⁣

    Don't underestimate this principle. ⁣

    Motivation starts with action.⁣

    You'll have days when the last thing you wanna do is plan your meals and work out.⁣

    I have those days too... all the time. 😅⁣

    But, I'll force myself to make something happen no matter what.⁣ I know that motivation comes from taking action, and the more action I take, the more motivated I'll feel.⁣

    Motivation is fickle, but it's also tameable.⁣

    So take action — even if it's small — and watch how your motivation changes for the better!

    Stay connected with James on

    The 4 Supplements Everyone Should Take by Rachel Scheer

    The 4 Supplements Everyone Should Take by Rachel Scheer

    Our western diet is filled with nutrient-poor, processed foods. We are constantly exposed to toxins on a daily basis, our stress levels have skyrocketed and many people are dealing with gut issues, chronic inflammation, and fatigue.

    Because we are all unique, the answer to which supplements we should take is not so black and white, with that being said there are some ESSENTIAL supplements that I recommend everyone take:

    1. Multivitamin: I do micronutrient testing day in and day out at my clinic and I have yet to EVER have someone come back without a nutritional deficiency. Even if you have a perfect diet, your genetics, gut, and lifestyle all affect the ability in which your body breaks down and absorbs food.

    Over 40% of adults have inadequate intake of magnesium and vitamins A, D, E, and C. A traditional multivitamin/mineral supplement may not provide preferred daily support that complements smart eating habits and promotes wellness and healthy aging.

    Now there’s a growing recognition of the value of dietary phytonutrients—which help support antioxidant protection, DNA stability, and cellular communication that in turn influence metabolic pathways and body systems. And consuming an array of phytonutrients from a variety of fruits and vegetables may increase dietary value due to collective influences on health.

    With my practice I use Metagenic’s Phytomulti, which offers full spectrum phytonutrients for antioxidant protection to defend cellular health and DNA stability and is optimized with 20+ essential vitamins & minerals for multidimensional health support.

    Scientific Rationale of PhytoMulti 

    • In a 4-week open-label study conducted at the FMRC, the effects of 2 daily PhytoMulti tablets on multiple biomarkers were evaluated in 15 healthy adults.
    • PhytoMulti was well absorbed, as indicated by the significant increase in plasma levels of carotenoids, folate, and vitamin B12* (Figure 2)
    • Serum levels of oxidized LDL (oxLDL), plasminogen activator inhibitor-1 (PAI-1), and myeloperoxidase (MPO)—markers of oxidative stress, cardiovascular health, and overall health—were significantly reduced* (Figure 3)
    1. Omega-3 EPA-DHA: With today’s western diet, we tend to get a lot more Omega-6s (pro-inflammatory) than Omega-3s (anti-inflammatory). Omega-3s, which come from fatty cuts of fish can help lower the risk of chronic disease and are very important for cognitive function, memory, and behavior.

    Fish oil supplements provide omega-3s like EPA and DHA. Quality and purity should come first when selecting a fish oil supplement to ensure they are feree of impurities and contaminants.

    Something’s Fishy: Don’t settle for a lesser fish oil. Seek out a reputable supplement company that conducts potency testing in addition to testing for the following contaminants and toxins:

    • Potency: Testing to verify fatty acid content matches what is listed on the label—EPA, DHA, and other omega fatty acids such as omega-6s.
    • Rancidity potential (oxidative measures):Testing to ensure freshness has not been compromised by exposure to air, heat, light, and metals during manufacture, which can affect taste and smell.
      • Peroxides
      • Anisidine
      • TOTOX
    • Environmental contaminants & heavy metals: Purity testing for the presence of environmental toxins and industrial chemicals.
      • Dioxins & furans
      • Polychlorinated biphenols (PCBs)
      • Dioxin-like PCBs
      • Heavy metals (lead, tin, cadmium, mercury, arsenic)
      • Other industrial metals (iron, copper)
      • Iodine 131

    Reputable third-party laboratories offer reliable, analytical methods for characterizing the identity, purity, composition, and authenticity of fish oil formulas. Be sure to look for a quality guarantee with verified testing information that ensures the highest level of purity possible. At My practice I use and recommend Metagenic’s EPA-DHA 1000

    1. Probiotic: Our gut microbiome plays a HUGE role in overall health. If you were to ask me what optimal health means, I would first look at the gut. Nearly 80% of our immune system is in the gut and 95% of serotonin (a neurotransmitter that regulated mood) is produced in the gut. If the balance of gut bacteria is thrown off, it can lead to problems such as autoimmunity, depression/anxiety, leaky gut and food sensitives, and chronic fatigue to name a few.

    Probiotics can vary significantly in potency, efficacy, and safety, which can result in inconsistent health benefits. Many products fall short due to various reasons, including not identifying the probiotic strain that is linked to specific health benefits. Additionally, some products have also been found to contain specific contaminants (gluten, mold, yeast, and potentially harmful bacteria), which can cause negative reactions and deleterious health effects in susceptible individuals. Through extensive and rigorous quality control testing, UltraFlora guarantees the highest quality of purity (free of contaminants), potency, and scientifically formulated probiotic formulas that contain genetically identified strains with established health benefits for clinically reliable outcomes.


    1. Vitamin D: Studies estimate that one billion people worldwide have insufficient vitamin D levels and at least 3 million American adults are deficient. However, the rate of true vitamin D deficiency is likely even higher, because research has found that the previous recommended levels of vitamin D were actually too low. I’ve checked the vitamin D levels of thousands of patients in my clinic and virtually all of them had below optimal levels, even those who were taking a vitamin D supplement.

    Vitamin D works like a hormone in the body and regulates everything from metabolism and energy, mood, and immunity. Most the time when people get sick in the winter, they also experience a drop in vitamin D. Metagenic’ss D3 + K provides 5,000 IU per softgel of vitamin D (as D3), designed for greater absorption. This high potency formula also includes bioavailable forms of vitamin K2(menaquinone-7) to complement vitamin D.

    Where Should I Purchase Supplements?

    With my practice I recommend and use only pharmaceutical grade supplements. Meaning higher quality and often higher dosages than over the counter. They also have been tested by third-party companies to ensure that the ingredients are what they say.

    How to Identify Nutrition Misinformation | Rachel Scheer

    With the growing awareness supporting the connection between diet and overall health, many people are taking their personal health and nutrition decisions into their own hands. From various websites, television, radio, newspapers, advisements, or friends and family, finding reputable nutrition information has become a task in its own.

    Accurate nutrition information is supported by science and offered by experts in the field of nutrition and dietetics. A qualified nutrition expert has a specialized degree is dietetics, nutrition, or related sciences, while on the other hand, terms like “nutrition coach” should be looked at with caution and are often self-proclaimed experts without proper education nor qualifications

    It’s easy to expect that anything that is printed or sold must be truthful but misleading claims about food and nutrition are difficult to control as well as limits on what government agencies can do to curb fraudulent nutrition misinformation. But by educating yourself, you can become more aware of the multitude of false claims and advertisements and how to spot these false and misleading claims.

    Learn the Top 8 Red Flags for Misleading Nutrition Claims:

    1. Promise a quick fix—“lose up to 10 lbs in 1 week!”
    2. Dire warnings of danger from a single product or regimen.
    3. Recommendations based on a single study
    4. “Spinning” information from another product to math the product’s claims.
    5. Dramatic statements that are disproven by reputable organizations.
    6. Starting that research is “currently underway.” Meaning that there really is no current research.
    7. Non-science-based testimonials, often from celebrities.
    8. Claims that sound too good to be true

    Types of Nutrition misinformation:

    Fad Diets are defined as unusual diet and eating patterns that promote short-term weight loss, with no concern for long-term weight maintenance or overall health. These diets are often trendy and may be popular for a short period of time.

    Health Fraud is similar to fad diets, except that it is intentionally misleading, with the expectation that a profit will be gained. Health fraud includes products or diets that have no scientific basis, yet are still promoted for good health and well-being. Common examples include promises of “fast, quick, and easy weight loss,” or a “miracle, cure-all product.”

    Misdirected Health Claims are statements made by producers that lead people to believe a food a healthier than actually the case. Examples include foods that are “low-fat” or “low-carb,” yet still very high in calories.

    Weight-loss schemes and devices are the most popular form of fraud. Weight-loss is a multibillion-dollar industry that includes books, fad diets, drugs, special foods, and weight-loss clinics. Some products or treatments may lead to weight-loss, but the effect is usually temporary. In addition, fad diets may not provide adequate calories or nutrients and can be harmful. Most dietary supplements are not reviewed and tested by the government before they are placed on the market.

    Athletes are often more susceptible to these claims of weight-loss or performance enhancing supplements, as an attempt to gain a competitive edge. Athletes that already adhere to proper training, coaching, and diet, may look for an advantage by resorting to nutritional supplements.

    The only way to lose weight effectively and safely is to increase activity while decreasing food intake. Weight-loss should be gradual, 1 to 2 pounds per week, to allow for the development and maintenance of new dietary habits. Consult a professional in nutrition to determine a safe and effective weight loss program.

    How to Recognize a Professional

    Examine the authors qualifications. Anyone can claim themselves as a “health” or “nutrition coach” without any formal education or training. When looking for a professional, he or she should be educated in the field of nutrition/dietetics, preferably hold a degree from an accredited university, or hold a recognized certification in the field, such as offered by the Certification Board for Nutrition Specialists.

    Summary: How Can You Protect Yourself?

    The best way to protect against questionable health products and services is to be as informed as possible. Know who the professionals are and be aware of these common themes with nutrition misinformation when evaluating questionable advertising and sales techniques:

    • Does the seller promise immediate, effortless or guaranteed results?
    • Does the advertisement contain words like “break-through,” “miracle,” “special” or “secret”? There are terms that are not factual and used to appeal to your emotions.
    • Does the company offer testimonials from people who claim to be “cured”?
    • Does the seller use guilt or fear in order to sell a product?
    • Does the seller claim the product is only available in limited quantities?
    • Is there a “money-back guarantee”?
    • Are the claims backed by reputable sources

    Board for Certification of Nutrition Specialists https://nutritionspecialists.org
    U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) https://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ProtectYourself/HealthFraud/default.htm
    Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Consumer Information: Health & Fitness. Available at http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/topics/health-fitness
    National Institute on Aging (NIG) https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/online-health-information-it-reliable
    Position of the American Dietetic Association: Food and nutrition misinformation. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 06(4), 601st ser. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16639825.

    Written by Rachel Scheer (Rachel Scheer is a Certified Nutritionist who received her degree from Baylor University in Nutrition Science and Dietetics. Rachel has her own private nutrition and counseling practice located in McKinney, Texas. Rachel has helped clients with a wide range of nutritional needs enhance their athletic performance, improve their physical and mental health, and make positive lifelong eating and exercise behavior changes) - www.rachelscheer.com / IG @rachelscheer

    The Science Behind the Ketogenic Diet

    The Science Behind the Ketogenic Diet

    The ketogenic diet is a very low-carb, moderate-protein, and high-fat diet which puts the body into a state known as ketosis: a metabolic shift in which the body is burning fats rather than carbohydrates as its primary source of fuel. This is a pretty simple definition, but in order to fully understand how the ketogenic diet works and its benefits, it is important to have a grasp on exactly how the body uses energy in the first place:


    Normally, when carbohydrates are consumed in the diet, they are converted to glucose and insulin.

    • Glucose is the simplest form of sugar, meaning that it is easy for your body to convert and use as energy. This is why glucose is the body’s preferred source of energy.
    • Insulin is a hormone that is produced by the pancreas to process the glucose in your blood steam by transporting it around the body to where it is needed. When energy levels are sufficient, insulin will convert glucose to adipose tissue (fat) for later use.


    With the average high-carbohydrate diet, glucose is the main energy source because there is an abundance of it. However, the body can only store a limited amount of glucose—only enough to last for a couple of days. Therefore, if we forgo eating carbohydrates for a few days, our body relies on other means for energy through a biochemical process known as ketogenesis.


    In ketogenesis, the liver begins to break down fat as a usable energy source instead of carbohydrates. Ketones or ketone bodies are produced as an alternative energy source to glucose. Once ketogenesis kicks in and ketone levels are elevated, the body is in ketosis.


    How to Enter Ketosis


    There are a few ways to body can enter ketosis. One is by fasting: when you stop eating altogether for an extended period of time, the body will ramp up fat burning for fuel and decrease its use of glucose. Another way to get into ketosis is by eating less than 20-50 grams of carbohydrates per day (it will vary per individual). Therefore, people on a ketogenic diet get only about 5% of their calories from carbohydrates.


    Steps to enter ketosis:

    1. Cut down on carbs (less than 5% of calorie intake).
    2. Increase your consumption of (up to 80% of calorie intake).
    3. Without glucose being used for energy, your body is now forces to burn fat and produce ketones instead.
    4. Once the blood levels of Ketones rise to a certain point, you officially enter into ketosis.
    5. This state results in consistent, fairly quick weight loss until your body reaches a health and stable weight.


    Benefits of a Ketogenic Diet


    Unlike many fad-diets that come and go, the ketogenic diet has been practiced for more than nine decades (since the 1920s) and is based upon a solid understanding of physiology and nutrition science. This diet works well for so many people because it targets several key, underlying causes of weight gain—including hormonal imbalances, elevated insulin and high blood sugar levels. A ketogenic diet has even shown to offer therapeutic benefits for several brain disorders.


    1. Weight loss


    A diet high in fat and low in carbohydrates, such as the ketogenic diet, helps to diminish hunger and boost weight loss through hormonal effects. When we eat foods that supply us with carbohydrates, we release insulin. But with lower levels of insulin, the body is less likely to store extra energy in the form of fat and instead able to use existing fat stores for energy. A diet high in healthy fats and protein is also much more filling, which can help curb appetite and reduce the overconsumption of empty calories, such as sweets and junk food.


    1. Cholesterol and Blood Pressure


    A ketogenic diet has shown to improve triglyceride and cholesterol levels most associated with arterial buildup. More specifically low-carb, high-fat diets show a dramatic increase in high density lipoprotein (HDL) and decrease low density lipoprotein (LDL) particle counts as compared to traditional low-fat diets. Many studies also show better improvement in blood pressure. High blood pressure issues are often associated with excess weight, which is a bonus because the ketogenic diet tends to lead to weight loss as well.


    1. Controls Blood Sugar


    A ketogenic diet also helps with lowering blood sugar levels by controlling the release of insulin. This can help reverse problems such as insulin resistance or pre-diabetes. Studies have shown ketogenic diet to reduce HbA1c levels—a long term measure of blood glucose control (1). Therefore, because this diet works so well at reducing blood sugar levels, it also has the additional benefit of helping people with type 2 diabetes to reduce their dependence on diabetes medication, however, it is important to speak with your doctor prior to starting a ketogenic diet or adjusting any medications.


    1. Fights Neurological Disorders


    Over the past century, ketogenic diets have been used to treat and even help reverse neurological disorders and cognitive impairments, including epilepsy. Research shows that cutting off glucose levels with a very low-carb diet makes your body produce ketones for fuel. This change can help to reverse neurological disorders and cognitive impairment. The brain is able to use this alternative source of energy instead of the cellular energy pathways that aren’t functioning normally in patients with brain disorders. In a study of children who suffer from epilepsy, over half had a greater than 50% reduction in seizures when eating a ketogenic diet, while 16% even became seizure free (2). The benefits of a ketogenic diet are now even being studied for other brain disorders, including Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease (3). 


    So, what can I eat on a ketogenic diet?

    A keto meal should contain high amounts of healthy fats, such as olive oil, coconut oil, grass-fed butter or ghee, palm oil, avocado, tree nuts, seeds, and fatty cuts of wild-caught fish, grass-fed beef or bison, and free range poultry. Fats are a critical part of every ketogenic diet because fat is what is providing energy for your body and preventing hunger, weakness, and fatigue. Keto meals also need a good amount of non-starchy vegetables, such as broccoli, leafy greens, asparagus, cucumber, zucchini, and other cruciferous vegetables.


    The types of food you will want to avoid when eating a ketogenic diet include items like fruit, processed foods or drinks high in sugar, those made with any grains of white/wheat flour, conventional dairy products.


    For a more detailed list of foods: Click here to download my KETO FOOD LIST.