I have just finished my final exam from my nutrition class, and I thought I’d share a couple of thoughts on how veganism is portrayed in such a class. You might be surprised to hear that not a bad word is said about it. My teacher, a well-known nutrition expert who has been featured on Good Morning America and Oprah, never said one negative word about veganism. I have learned a little bit about how nutrition experts in the media work at this point. Veganism isn’t his thing- promoting the intake of fish for Omega-3 fatty acids is, so he doesn’t advocate a vegan diet. I’ve learned that when it come to media appearances, they’re given very little time, don’t have total control over what they get to say, and more or less have to stick to one viewpoint. I think that’s an important lesson.
I must admit that my attendance in classes has been sparse in this leg of the semester, but I did happen to attend the class on macronutrients (proteins, fats, carbs- the basic building blocks), and I asked him about the fats issue. He did point out that contrary to what many of us think, we’re not very good at converting other fatty acids to Omega-3s, so supplementation is necessary (i.e., you’re not getting all that you need by sprinkling some flax on your cereal in the morning. Which, by the way is not specifically a vegan/vegetarian issue- there are plenty of omnivores who don’t eat fish. I used to be one of them. I’ve always thought fish is absolutely vile- and I grew up on Cape Cod, where I had plenty of access to the fresh caught stuff). He suggested supplementation with an algae-based product called neuromins. Like many supplements, it comes in a gelatin capsule. There are liquid alternatives available that makes it totally vegan- here’s a google search to get you started.
So that’s it. Supplement your diet with omega-3s and B12 (which I’m sure you already knew), since they’re not abundant in plant sources, and make sure you’re getting enough (but not too many) calories, eat lots of plants and make sure you’re getting your calcium in some form (again, not just a vegan issue), and you’re good. Not only are you good, but with those caveats, you’re awesome, nutritionally speaking. And if you go to a health professional who says otherwise- you might want to explain exactly what it is that you DO eat. If they’re not receptive to listening to that, then you might want to look elsewhere for care. No one should be giving you a hard time if your diet is meeting all the nutritional requirements you need, regardless of where you get them from.
That said, not all vegans meet their nutritional requirements. Neither do all omnivores. Most Americans get far more calories in their diets than they expend (myself included). There are definite diet issues that we all need to look at, but it can absolutely be done in the context of a vegan diet for most people.
And now on to studying for the Pediatrics mid-term… yes, that’s right, I said mid-term. In June. Bah.