Our Genetics May Determine Whether We Should Be Vegan or Not
By Joy Stephenson-Laws, JD, Founder
There is so much confusion about what exactly is considered healthy eating. For example, one of the biggest diet debates right now is whether animal foods (meat, dairy and eggs) are good for us and necessary in order for us to be nutritionally balanced or whether we should completely eliminate these foods and be vegan.
Vegan eating has become pretty popular recently, with many celebrities such as Joaquin Phoenix, who claims he has been vegan since the age of 3, advocating for veganism. There are many reasons why some people may go vegan. Some of these reasons may include a concern for the environment, passion for animal rights or even spiritual. But perhaps the biggest reason of all is for better health.
Vegans eat a lot of fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains. Eating vegan eliminates many processed foods in the American diet, like donuts and baked goods, which may contain butter, milk and eggs. And, of course, a vegan diet eliminates high cholesterol foods such as red meat.
If you go on Instagram and search under the tag #vegan, you will see that there are more than 87 million posts regarding this topic. And there is no shortage of vegan influencers out there who share plant-based recipes and are completely transparent when it comes to sharing their vegan lifestyle with the world.
But recently, one vegan influencer named Alyse Parker, who had been vegan for about four and a half years, shocked her followers and fans when she revealed that she had spent 30 days eating nothing but meat and animal products, according to one news report.
She followed what is called the “Carnivore Diet.” I had actually never heard of this diet before, but, as you probably already guessed, the Carnivore Diet includes only meat and animal products.
“No plant foods, including non-starchy vegetables, nuts and seeds, are allowed. One theory is that since ancient humans presumably lived entirely off the buffalo and woolly mammoths they killed, humans are designed to be nourished by animals only. Many followers also believe that plants are toxic to human health, in part because they contain mechanisms to fend off bugs and other animals,” according to one report.
Parker shared, “I had my own fair share of health struggles and eventually reached a breaking point where I was willing to try anything to function properly again.”
After adopting the Carnivore Diet she said, “I woke up the next morning feeling more mentally clear, focused, wholesome, and healthy than I had felt in years.”
There is lots to discuss here. First, I want to be clear in saying that many popular vegan and health and wellness influencers do not necessarily have medical backgrounds or proper training about nutrition. So you really have to be cautious of what they say and acknowledge that they are really just sharing their own personal experiences.
I would not recommend the Carnivore Diet. In my opinion, any diet that eliminates whole, nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables is unhealthy. This is because fruits and vegetables contain important nutrients not present in a carnivore diet. Meat and animal foods should be consumed in moderation in order to avoid high cholesterol and weight gain. In fact, most Americans eat way more meat and animal foods than they need. If you do eat meat, dairy and eggs, do so in moderation while also incorporating fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes in your diet.
My educated guess is that the influencer discussed here was suffering from some nutritional deficiencies as a vegan, and that is why she did not feel well.
This is why seeking the advice of a competent healthcare professional regarding your diet is key. Diet is very individualistic, and what may work for one person may not work for another.
Genetics may also play a role.
Researchers from Cornell University “...found a fascinating genetic variation that they said appears to have evolved in populations that favored vegetarian diets over hundreds of generations. The geography of the vegetarian allele is vast and includes people from India, Africa and parts of East Asia who are known to have green diets even today,” according to one report.
So what this means is that your genes may determine what type of diet is best for you. You may be more genetically predisposed to be vegan, vegetarian or follow the Mediterranean Diet. It is possible that the vegan influencer has a genetic makeup in which she ideally eats animal foods. But this certainly does not mean that eliminating fruits, vegetables and other healthy foods is necessary.
You can undergo genetic testing in order to possibly get a clearer picture of what your diet should be. It may also be helpful to take a food allergy and sensitivity test.
Nutritional testing is also very important, especially if you follow a diet that eliminates whole food groups such as a vegan diet. You want to avoid nutritional deficiencies and imbalances, and one way to do this is to determine if you have them first. If the test reveals that you do, a competent healthcare professional can work with you on making the necessary dietary changes and recommend quality supplements if necessary.
(If you follow a vegan diet, you should consider taking a vitamin B12 supplement).
Enjoy your healthy life!
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