Vegan diet: FAQs

Since my adventures as a Vegan, I get some commonly asked questions on this type of diet. Questions on soy and cancer risk, how do you get enough iron/B12? Are your kids on this diet? Is this diet okay for kids? What other weight loss programs would you recommend?

Here I share to some of these questions and their evidence based answers.

1. Isn’t Soy bad for you? I heard it’s correlated to increased prostate cancer risk especially in men.

  • There is an increased prostate cancer rate in males in Western countries compared to their Asian counter parts. Asian countries have greater consumption of Soy based products then Western countries.
  • The incidence of prostate cancer in Asia is far less than in African American and European Caucasian males.
  • Epidemiological studies show that the consumption of soy can lead to a 25-30% reduction in prostate cancer in men.
  • For the science nerd in you, here are some scientific journals to provide evidence of the above statements:

    Kimura T. East meets West: ethnic differences in prostate cancer epidemiology between East Asians and Caucasians. Chinese Journal of Cancer. 2012;31(9):421-429. doi:10.5732/cjc.011.10324.

           Yan L, Spitznagel EL. Soy consumption and prostate cancer risk in men: a revisit of a meta-analysis. Am J Clin Nutr. 2009;89:1155–1163. [PubMed]
         
     Kurahashi N, Iwasaki M, Sasazuki S, et al. et al. Soy product and isoflavone consumption in relation to prostate cancer in Japanese men. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2007;16:538–545. [PubMed]
       
      Hwang YW, Kim SY, Jee SH, et al. et al. Soy food consumption and risk of prostate cancer: a meta-analysis of observational studies. Nutr Cancer. 2009;61:598–606. [PubMed]
  • For other health benefits of Soy visit: https://www.dietitians.ca/Downloads/Factsheets/Health-benefits-of-soy.aspx

2. How do you get enough Iron and B12? How about Protein?

Iron: Adults (19-49 years of age) require approximately 8 mg iron for men and 18 mg for woman on a daily basis. Vegetarians need twice as much–>14-33 mg per day.

  • Most vegetarian foods are fortified with Iron. 1/2 to 3/4 cup of lentils, oatmeal (iron fortified) or soybeans can give you a whopping 4-6.5 mg of iron per serving. Extra firm Tofu can provide up to 8 mg per serving.
  • Meals need to incorporate Vitamin C for better absorption so I try to have Vitamin C rich fruits and vegetables to help absorb Iron.
  • Blackstrap Molasses also contains approximately 12 mg/1 tbsp of iron. Great to add to your holiday baking!

B12: Adults need 2.4 mcg/day.

  • Soy or almond milk have 1.0 mcg B12 per cup serving.
  • Soy burger can have up to 1.8 mcg per serving.
  • Meatless luncheon meat can have up to 3.8 mcg/day.

Although it may be easy to meet these requirements with proper meal planning, one can always take supplements to ensure that they are having enough Iron and Vitamin B12 and Iron in their diet. Here’s a link that discusses a healthy Vegan diet further: https://www.dietitians.ca/Downloads/Factsheets/Guidlines-for-Vegans.aspx

Protein: Adults need approximately 0.8 g/kg of body weight (lbs/2.2 = kg)

  • The Vegan diet provides many types of protein choices including soy based protein such as tofu, soy milk and ground veggie round along with fibre rich beans and legumes such as beans and lentils. Vegan diet also incorporates nuts and nut butter.
  • Here’s a comparison of a non-vegan diet to vegan diet in terms of incorporating protein. Quick nutrition check for Protein-Sample Menus
  • Here’s a simple handout on how to enjoy a healthy vegan diet: Healthy eating for Vegans

3. Are my kids on this diet? Is this diet okay for kids?

  • Short of dairy, my kids follow my diet most of the time. They don’t mind lentils, beans or tofu and enjoy the different recipes I try at home. With proper meal planning, iron, B12 and calcium needs are met for these growing children. I’ve incorporated dairy in their diet only because it’s easier to pack lunches with yogurt and cheese strings.   Kids usually need 7-10 mcg of Iron (double that for vegetarians) and they mostly get their iron from eating well on this diet. I also allow my kids to eat animal protein if they wish. I’m not controlling them to go Vegan!
  • Here’s a resource to guide you about Vegetarian guidelines in children. Vegt and kids

4. What other weight loss programs would you recommend, I just can’t do Vegan!

  • There are many options out there for weight loss. Vegan diet is not the be all end all of diets. I choose this for myself to meet guidelines for lowering heart disease risk but choose what’s right for you.
  • Dietitians of Canada has a great resource for choosing a weight loss program that is right for you: https://www.dietitians.ca/Downloads/Factsheets/Guidelines-for-Choosing-Weight-Loss-Program.aspx
  • If a diet promises quick results, it’s likely not a “healthy” or sustainable diet. Remember, small changes are better than quick fixes.
  • There is no proven miraculous diet pill out there. If that worked, well, I wouldn’t be blogging about diets.

Hope this helps some of your questions! If you have more questions, drop a comment below!!

Take care!

Laila

Dietitianonadiet

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