Fit 63-year-old Says He’s Never Eaten Animal Products. Is Being Vegan the Fountain of Youth?Nutrition
By Joy Stephenson-Laws, JD, Founder
Veganism is a pretty popular topic these days. Whether it’s for health, environmental or moral reasons, many Americans are adopting a vegan lifestyle.
A vegan diet is a plant-based diet, completely void of animal foods like meat, seafood, eggs and dairy. 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. Furthermore, going vegan requires that you avoid foods containing animal-derived ingredients or additives, like gelatin, which is found in many candy products, Jell-O, marshmallows and other ‘not-so-good-for-you’ foods.
My husband and I do not consider ourselves vegan, but we like to eat mainly plant-based fodds. And I’ve noticed that with following a predominantly plant-based diet, we have more energy, sleep better and do not get sick often. So I’m always interested in people who are very dedicated to a vegan lifestyle and how this has impacted their lives.
Recently, I came across an article about a 63-year-old man named John Machin who says that he has NEVER eaten animal products. That’s very rare, especially for someone coming from the boomer generation. Even the most die hard vegans usually at some point in their lives have had animal foods or animal products (for example, when they were children).
But Machin says he never has. In fact, he says that when he was a child, doctors told his parents he wouldn’t make it past the age of 10 if he did not start eating meat and dairy. He still continued his vegan diet.
“If my parents gave me anything from an animal such as meat or dairy, I felt disgusted; I couldn't even consider eating it. I knew I'd be physically sick,” he said.
Obviously, the doctors Machin saw as a child were wrong. And although you can’t judge a book by its cover or necessarily rate a person’s health based on their appearance,if you look at the photo of him in the article, you can see that he looks very healthy and fit. He says that he is a fitness fanatic and that the vegan diet has helped with his workouts.
Now, seeing stories such as these may inspire you to jump on the vegan bandwagon, but it’s important to know that what may work for this man may not work for you. And as healthy as Machin looks, we do not know if he has any nutritional deficiencies or imbalances.
I am all for avoiding processed foods and eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, but if you are going to go vegan you need to do it right by discussing your plan with a competent healthcare professional.
You also need to be proactive by educating yourself about nutrition.
Here are some basics to abide by:
We all need macronutrients and micronutrients.
Macronutrients include protein, carbohydrates, fats and water. Micronutrients include vitamins and minerals. All together, these are the six essential nutrients we need in the right balance to live and be physically and mentally fit.We need macronutrients (necessary in larger quantities) and micronutrients (necessary in smaller quantities). Both are equally important.
With a vegan diet, people tend to get a high amount of micronutrients, because plant foods are very nutrient-dense. This is, in my opinion, one of the biggest benefits of a vegan diet. And don’t let the word “micro” fool you. We all need an adequate intake on a daily basis of vitamins and minerals, such as magnesium, calcium, potassium, vitamin C, vitamin A and many other micronutrients, in order to be physically and mentally healthy.
Another huge benefit of a vegan diet is that it tends to be very low in saturated fat and cholesterol and high in dietary fiber. This is great for helping prevent cancer and metabolic issues such as obesity and hypertension.
On the other hand, some concerns surrounding the vegan diet involve nutritional deficiencies.
So perhaps there is some benefit to eating lean protein and eggs for B12, fatty fish, such as salmon, for those omegas and some dairy for calcium. But also be aware that many plant-based foods, such as broccoli, are rich in calcium.
“Unless vegans regularly consume foods that are fortified with these nutrients, appropriate supplements should be consumed. In some cases, iron and zinc status of vegans may also be of concern because of the limited bioavailability of these minerals.”
Insufficient amounts of these nutrients will lead to various symptoms and chronic issues such as nervous disorders, poor wound healing, poor immunity and unhealthy bones.
Again, this is why it is imperative to discuss your diet with a competent healthcare professional (despite the stories you may see online). I’m not concluding that a vegan diet is not a good diet, but it has to be practiced strategically and appropriately. And since a vegan diet usually requires supplementation, it is especially important to discuss supplement options with a healthcare professional. Not all supplements are created equal, and some may even contain hidden, hazardous ingredients so be proactive about getting safe ones.
There are so many diets to consider: alkaline, volumetrics, Mediterranean and ketogenic (just to name a few). It can be overwhelming to figure out which one may be right for you, but what you can pull from looking at many of these diets is that most of them avoid processed foods and encourage consumption of a lot of fruits and vegetables.
And if being a full-time vegan is too much for you, consider being a part-time vegan.
Finally, be sure to take routine comprehensive nutrient tests. If you want to live our healthiest and happiest life, we must absolutely maintain nutritional balance. Taking a nutrient test will identify any nutrient balances or deficiencies. If the test reveals you are not balanced, a competent healthcare professional can work with you on making the necessary dietary changes and help you supplement where appropriate.
Enjoy your healthy life!
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