My husband went to the doctor to get a physical yesterday and good news, everything is a-okay! There’s a lot of just straight-up lies that come from both sides if we are talking about non-vegans and vegans. On the non-vegan side, there are claims that one can’t absorb plants, can’t get enough protein, soy is nefarious, saturated fat isn’t only benign but actually you should eat almost exclusively animal fats, all vegans are walking around with iron deficiencies only because of their diet (iron deficiency is common among quite a few people, especially those who menstruate), all vegans are infertile, etc. On the vegan side, it’s protein deficiency only exists if you have the extreme kind (kwashiorkor), you will naturally get an optimal amount of protein if you eat enough calories, eating animal products is the cause of all disease, from diabetes to cancer, and you don’t have to supplement or worry at all about micro-nutrients so long as you eat veggies. But I’d like to think we can actually glean something from both extreme sides (and yes, this is the extreme of either side, I am not saying all vegans and all meat-eaters are saying this).
So a few things actually improved from my husband. His fasting glucose used to be 98-99, which is right on the cusp of being worrisome but still normal. This time around it’s down to 91! I think that’s pretty significant. He has always struggled with his HDL being high enough. I think it’s come back in the 20s in years past. Ideally it should be at least 40. It’s still not at 40 but it has improved by a lot as it was 36 this time around. His LDL and triglycerides were in normal range. I think getting a bit more exercise in might help his HDL but I also think that’s just something he naturally struggles with and it seems like having an HDL a little lower than ideal isn’t something to overly fret about so long as your triglycerides and LDL aren’t high. I think his blood sugar is the same way. Even with a good BMI, eating pretty healthfully, and getting exercise, his blood sugar has always been higher than mine. Clearly it has improved though. His blood work all came back in the normal range. His iron/red blood count is good, and his albumin/globulin levels were also normal (I think this can indicate whether or not you are getting/absorbing adequate protein). We don’t actually know what his blood pressure was but the doctor said it was “normal.”
And, no, my husband isn’t 100% plant-based. There are times at work when it’s been much more convenient to eat vegetarian. For example, his boss thinks he is providing good and adequate vegan options for a catered lunch meeting, and either nothing is actually vegan OR the vegan choice is white rice and fajita veggies, with no beans, tofu, mock meats, etc. in sight. Even the dang chips sometimes, like the salt and vinegar flavor, have milk in them. LOL. But I doubt that milk powder has any quantitative effect on the dairy industry. I’d say most of his non-vegan consumption is non-nutritive stuff like butter, a fraction of an egg (like in a cookie) or milk powders. What I’m saying is I doubt those things are providing him iron, the bulk of his protein, B-12 and such.
Probably a lot due to my influence, he does take protein seriously. And no, I’m not talking about getting hundreds of grams in a day. I’m talking about 70 to a 100 on average. So he brings vegan protein bars to work for his breakfast to have with his coffee. He keeps nuts in his desk too. For lunch when he doesn’t have something from home, he usually gets a salad at his workplace’s cafeteria that he puts edamame on. His work also sells vegan Clif protein bars so he grabs one of those for later sometimes. On days he works from home, he has a soymilk fruit smoothie with peanut powder included for breakfast, a lunch that has either a mock meat or tofu, and a protein bar. Dinner always has something like tofu, protein pasta, mock meat, soy curls, etc. in it. We do eat beans some but usually that’s not our sole protein source for the meal. I can’t really make beans work in large amounts and daily due to a few reasons. I’m not saying that one can’t be a whole foods vegan successfully BUT I also don’t think it’s necessary nor even ideal for most. YOU CAN EAT WHOLE FOODS PLENTIFULLY WITHOUT BEING 100% WHOLE FOODS!
Beans, if you have no issues health-wise with them, are very healthy it seems. When my husband saw his doctor a few years ago before we were any kind of non-meat eaters/animal product avoiders, he recommended eating beans. I’m pretty sure his doctor isn’t vegan and wasn’t pushing a vegan diet. However, he did think beans might could help my husband possibly improve his HDL. By going almost vegan, I do think my husband eats a bit more in the way of soy protein, beans, and nuts, and probably even a few more veggies. We also use vegan butter, vegan cheese, vegan sour cream and stuff like that more sparingly than we did their conventional counterpart. So we reduced a lot of our saturated fat consumption just by reducing the amount. I don’t think vegan butter is much healthier than the dairy version (the saturated fat might be a little less in some vegan versions. I know ours has some olive oil in it.). I don’t think it’s because we switched TO vegan versions but rather we reduced the amount. We still enjoy foods higher in saturated fats, like vegan burgers, but more often than not, we are eating tofu, mock meats that aren’t fatty, protein supplemented foods (protein bars, protein powders, higher protein tortillas/pasta), and a bit more beans and whole grains. I think THAT is the reason both of our health has improved with a vegan-ish diet, not because it’s vegan but because of our reduction in saturated fat and including more protein (we didn’t even care about it when we ate animal products regularly and when I was reducing calories on a regular diet, I’d sometimes only get 45-50 grams a day. Meat eaters don’t necessarily get a lot of protein!), beans, nuts and veggies. Hope that makes sense!
And I think another important factor is we don’t actually believe that a vegan diet is inherently better or even natural. I don’t think it’s natural but I don’t think natural always means better. We don’t worry if we are eating a fake meat or cheese. If a fake meat has a good amount of protein and isn’t a calorie-bomb, it gets a thumbs up from me. I can still have a plate full of veggies with my fake meat. There’s somewhere in between a whole-foods plant-based vegan and a junk food vegan. And I really think that in-between is less likely to result in deficiencies, and it will be a lot easier in the long run. And you definitely don’t have to be 100% vegan to benefit from eating more beans, getting more fiber, being sure to get enough protein, and reduce saturated fat.