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A few problems with What the Health

Have you seen the documentary, 'What the Health'?

My husband and I watched it together, and it has led to some interesting questions and conversations with clients and friends.

Any food film that gets people thinking a little harder about where their food comes from and how it's impacting their health is a good thing.

However, there are quite a few problems with this film:

1) It assumes everyone will react the same (positive) way if they go vegan.

Having experimented with vegetarianism and veganism in my 20's, I have learned the hard way that this diet doesn't work for everyone. I felt great for a few years, but slowly became nutrient deficient and ran into problems. Since then, I have seen the same issues in many of my clients as well.

Many women, especially those of child bearing age, really struggle to get all the nutrients they need without any animal protein, particularly iron, zinc, calcium and B12. This can lead to low energy, hair loss, infertility, anemia and other concerns, especially among active women.

2) It writes off all meat as bad

Yes, many meat products do not enhance our health. Some processed meats have been linked to cancer. And it is a good idea to limit factory produced meat due to hormones, antibiotics, corn and grain feed and stressed conditions for the animals.

But grass fed beef is very different from a McDonald's hamburger- with lower fat content and more Omega 3 fatty acids than factory meat. Wild salmon or other seafood is packed with anti inflammatory compounds and natural poultry and eggs are a great source of lean protein.

3) It promotes a high carbohydrate diet

While some people can thrive on a vegetarian or even vegan diet, many others notice an energy drop when their carbohydrates increase. Without meat, eggs or dairy, a vegan relies on vegetables, fruit, whole grains, beans and legumes, nuts and seeds. These are all healthy, nutritious foods. However, the protein content tend to be low. It's hard to get enough protein without also consuming additional carbohydrates or fat or processed soy.

Protein from beans and legumes is mostly a carbohydrate first (20-30 grams of carbs per 8-12 grams of protein). Protein in nuts and seeds comes with a lot of fat (8 grams of protein with 20-25 grams of fat).

Sugar is also lumped together, despite their being a qualitative difference between the sugar in fruit and the sugars in soda or in the form of corn syrup. Vegans can eat white bread, pasta, sugars and other processed foods that have no nutritional benefits.

A higher sugar, unlimited carbohydrate diet is linked to diabetes, cancers and other health concerns. To do vegan the right way takes a lot of careful planning and eating.

The bottom line is that everyone should be including more vegetables, but whether or not you choose to include animal products in your diet should be a decision based on your particular body type, with careful consideration to the nutrient deficiency risks.

Higher quality animal products can make a huge difference in health, rather than scrapping them altogether.

Did you see this film? What surprised you? Did it encourage you to change your eating habits?

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