By Aly Rutherford
In light of the beckoning bikini season, people should be wary of the endless tweets and statuses doomed to plague social media; ones that will either boastfully document every fit decision a person makes, or ones that will reflect somebody’s remorse for a lack of progress made thus far. This epidemic occurs every year around vacation time, and it is inevitable that many people will begin to pursue diets, which hopefully will end up transitioning them into a permanent, healthier lifestyle. But when it stops becoming a quick fix and matter of sustained health, where does one begin?
One diet that has been largely popular and around for some time is the Vegan lifestyle. It spawned primarily to promote animal rights, and its central theme is to avoid all animal products, including dairy. While many processed and refined foods can qualify as vegan, it concentrates on consuming whole grains with plenty of fruits and vegetables. The diet has become widely recognized for its many health benefits and success with weight loss.
Seeing as the vegan food pyramid is composed of a huge variety of natural health foods, it delivers a wide array of nutrients. You can expect to receive ample vitamins and minerals, and it is recommended to consume plenty of greens, such as kale and spinach. These are considered one of many “super foods” that will provide iron, calcium, vitamin K, along with many other essentials. It is claimed to reduce risk for heart disease and various chronic illnesses since processed meats can be linked as causes of these ailments.
Some disadvantages may arise in the lifestyle, the most glaring one being a lack of vitamin B12. This nutrient is only found in animal protein, and vegans are commonly found to be deficient in it. Omega-3 fatty acids, which are important for optimal brain function and healthy skin, are also not supplied as efficiently through vegan sources, such as flax and pumpkin seed, as they are through animal sources, such as salmon. Additionally, Iron and Zinc are much less prevalent and are more difficult to absorb through plants alone. These complications can be especially concerning for young children or pregnant women where the effects may be more impending and lasting.
On the opposite end of the spectrum lays the Paleo diet, one that has boomed to the forefront in recent times. The theory behind it is that if one eats in accordance with how our ancestors did, they’ll reap ultimate health. This means adopting a diet heavy in vegetables, fruit, and lean, grass-fed, free range meats. It prohibits consumption of all grains, legumes, and dairy due to their inflammatory nature.
Vitamins, minerals, and all sorts of nutrients are prevalent in the Paleo diet. The same fruits and vegetables that were essential to amplifying veganism’s health effects are still delivering their natural magic with this omnivorous diet. Buying and consuming high quality, minimally processed meats provides complete sources of protein, chockfull of premium B12 and D vitamins. Red and organ meats are also particularly healthful, containing superior “fatty acid profiles.” They, along with other meats, have potent amounts of iron and zinc.
Cons of the lifestyle revolve primarily around the difficulty to adhere, seeing as it eliminates three different food groups. Some nutritionists argue that this lack of balance makes maintenance difficult. Additionally, it may become costly, especially as specialty replacement ingredients are factored in, such as gluten- and soy-free tamari (mock soy sauce). Buying organic, grass-fed meats can also add up, and they are not always as high quality as they may seem.
So which one do you choose? Both diets are infinitely better than a Standard American Diet consisting of nutritionally-devoid processed food, and to make the switch to either one would improve a person’s health ten-fold. Either one promotes a healthier environment as well, in hopes of limiting factory farming. Ultimately, it boils down to a matter of personal preference. In other words, if you can’t give up filet mignon, try out paleo; if the thought of dead animals makes you gag, give veganism a run. At the end of the day, your individual sense of health and well-being is the most important factor, and expanding your health consciousness is a great objective.
So ask yourself, how can you be a healthier person today?