News flash: there is no universal standard for “a healthy diet”. Every body is different. Even among the Blue Zones (places on earth where people live healthily the longest) there are discrepancies in diet. That said, there are many foundational principles of nutrition that serve most of us…is veganism one of them?
From day one, we’ve been a wellness site that serves up a variety of views. We may share a vegan, gluten-free recipe the same day as a profile on a grass-fed cow farmer. We believe there is room for everyone and value in exploring the variety of philosophies on optimal health.
As one of the most prominent and prolific ‘bio-hackers’ out there, best-selling author and founder of Bulletproof, Dave Asprey is one of our continual references. Pairing the latest science with his own body as guinea pig, Dave shares his learnings through a podcast, programs, supplements and books that provide a fascinating lens through which to view wellness.
Dave’s newest book FAST THIS WAY: Burn Fat, Heal Inflammation, and Eat Like the High-Performing Human You Were Meant to Be will demystify and bring precision to the way you fast or cleanse. Grab the book, but in the meantime, hear Dave out on a larger nutrition issue: veganism. In the coming months, we’ll be interviewing a variety of figures on the topic and asking them to weigh in on veganism overall. Here’s Dave with his own experience…
Why I’m Not A Vegan.
When I tried veganism in the early 2000s, I thought it was the perfect diet.
I felt amazing at first. I had tons of energy and was mentally sharp. It occurred to me that there might be a reason many vegans are so vocal about their diet — it really seemed to work.
Here’s the problem: after a few months of veganism, all those benefits disappeared. Before long I was exhausted all the time, I had terrible brain fog, I was constantly hungry, I struggled to recover from workouts, and my day-to-day wellbeing generally suffered. About six months in I started eating meat again and kept the vegetables — and I felt like myself again almost immediately.
If you’re eating a standard American diet packed with fried food, sugar, and other processed crap, veganism is going to make you feel great, purely because of all the junk you cut out. Eating only vegetables is a lot better than having fast food every day.
However, there’s a good chance you’re going to struggle with a plant-based diet long-term.
Vegans are at high risk for vitamin B12 deficiency because B12 doesn’t occur widely in plants (only animal products)[*]. Vitamin B12 is essential for brain function and red blood cell production, and a long-term deficiency can cause anemia[*].
Vegans are often deficient in omega-3 fats, a class of healthy fats that lower inflammation and create strong brain cells[*]. Plenty of plant foods contain omega-3s, but they’re the wrong form; your body only converts and uses 3-6% of them[*], which leaves vegans at high risk of not getting enough omega-3s.
It’s hard to get enough high-quality protein on a vegan diet[*]. Your protein sources are limited and often high in carbs, and vegans are at risk for lower muscle creatine and carnosine levels, which can decrease strength and slow recovery[*]. If you’re an athlete or want to build or maintain muscle, you can get enough protein with a carefully designed vegan diet, lots of soy protein shakes, and a few different supplements — or you could just eat meat.
I agree with vegans on a few things. We both promote eating lots of leafy green vegetables, as well as paying attention to where your food comes from and how it’s made. I also believe in humane, sustainable farming, which is why I eat only organic grass-fed meat and pastured animal products.
That said, you’ll look and feel a lot better long-term if you include meat in your diet. I designed the Bulletproof Diet to include the best of both worlds: plenty of meat and high-quality fats, tons of vegetables, and minimal refined carbs, sugar, processed foods, and other junk that saps your performance and makes you weak.
What’s your take on veganism? Stay tuned for a variety of perspectives as we explore the topic this spring!
this was actually a really poor article … it’s trivial to get all of those things you mentioned whilst on a vegan diet. I was expecting something more nuanced
I disagree. You do not need animal meat to feel good. Animal meat is filled with TONS of junk our bodies don’t need or want. We can get all we need from plants! Animals do not create B12 — they get it from bacteria living in the soil that the food they eat grows in. We pick it up when we eat them. Why would we want to eat animals to get it when saturated fat and cholesterol are part of the package? We never needed a B12 supplement before we started sanitizing all of our vegetables. Now all we need to do is take a B12 supplement — a modern day convenience! All plants are complete proteins and contain all 9 essential amino acids. And VERY high quality. All we need to so is eat a well-rounded, whole food, plant-based diet to look and feel great and get all the protein we need. I don’t think it’s a great idea to be promoting animal-products when we know it leads to chronic disease, like heart disease, diabetes and obesity and it’s one of the biggest contributors to climate change. Ditch the animal products for a long, healthy, vibrant life–feel better than ever– and get everything you need from eating whole plant foods!
I totally agree with Judi. These things are presented here as facts and are not true for most. I’ve been vegetarian for 39 years and vegan for 8 – my B12 has just been tested and it’s fine. I don’t lack energy and my skin is constantly commented on as looking younger than my 49 years. The author may have been deficient in something else – vitamin d maybe. Or perhaps slipped into eating vegan junk food. Or didn’t take the time to work out the protein and omega sources that work best for him. They’re giving one person’s experience and saying this is how it is for all vegans which is arrogant and kind of weird.
I totally agree with Chris. Anyone who is serious about eating a plant based diet will learn how to get proper amounts of B12, Omega 3s and protein within their first 30 minutes of research. These “risks” and “problems” are extremely avoidable and easy to fix. 🙂
I’m happy he’s found what he likes best. We’re all different. However I don’t think this article was written well and potentially his words were twisted to sound like he thinks this is all that works for anyone. Yes, there are things you have to pay attention to as a vegan. But if you do, you’re fine! I really think this article was written in a completely arrogant way and I don’t appreciate this from a site that I love reading. Don’t make veganism to sound like a trivial fun diet that “doesn’t work for everyone.” It is a lifestyle that many people enjoy.
I respect ones choice. However, the following nutrients are challenging to obtain from a vegetarian diet:
Vitamin B12, Choline, Glycine, Preformed vitamin A (retinol), Vitamin K2, DHA, Iron, Zinc
If you follow a strictly vegan diet, meaning you consume absolutely no animal foods—no meat, poultry, fish, dairy, or eggs—some of these nutrients may be impossible to obtain from your diet. What I find worrying about sources promoting a vegan diet as appropriate is that many of the above nutrients are not even taken into consideration. People should have the right to make their own food choices based on their culture and what the local agricultural system can support.
This is subjective garbage: “you’ll look and feel a lot better long-term if you include meat in your diet” – this is generally a myth that happens to be true for this one person with a business that rests on that (false) principle. And it’s irresponsible to discuss this without any mention of the vast environmental toll that meat and animal products takes on our planet. Super disappointing to see this published.
I’m not a vegan but I agree with the other comments that this isn’t a great article. It just talks about what “could” happen when you’re vegan and how one guy felt on a vegan diet. I understand he’s obviously trying to sell his particular brand of diet but The Chalkboard articles are usually so informative I expected at least some statistics or case studies. This is just a really short opinion piece that just regurgitates literally every anti-vegan argument everyone has already heard before.
Well written article. I appreciate the opening statement that’s diets are not universal. Everyone has to find what works for their body/genetics/gut bacteria etc. Animal meat and dairy have some the best omega 3:6 ratios for the human diet to fight inflammation. Judi, ruminants do indeed synthesize B12 vitamins from the bacteria population in the rumen. B12 is not found in the tissue of plants. Ruminal microbes produce all the B12 required by the animal and therefore what is in their meat and milk. They do find though that B12 synthesis is higher in animals that are on a high forage diet. This could be due to the forage populating a greater amount of cellulolytic bacteria.
I appreciate the other comments here; this article is more of a description of one individual’s experience, and it helps to hear from respectfully dissenting perspectives that are based on personal experience. I happen to eat animal products myself, and feel it is beneficial doing so, but as the beginning of the article attests, everyone has different bodies, which is why it’s important as an individual to ascertain the best diet for his own health. I know of many people who have incredible health following a vegan lifestyle, but as the above article demonstrates, there are several who fail to thrive without sourcing some of their calories from meat.
One study I happened across demonstrated the health/longevity of different populations was determined primarily by the amount of food they consumed, not necessarily the type of food they consumed. I wish I had access to that information now; perhaps I can research the topic more…
Appreciate all these information-rich comments! FYI: this is a part of a series exploring different informed pros diet of choice. We’ll share one from a vegan soon – stay tuned!
Not sure that this piece from Asprey encapsulates the full picture of his dietary philosophy or arguments against veganism well enough. He has spoken and written about it at great length if you want to explore his vegan articles and podcasts.
Yes, but unfortunately 99% of the meat that is eaten (in the US, anyway) comes from animals raised for food on factory farms. These animals are not foraging on green, grassy, fields. They are packed into feedlots by the thousands and fed a diet of soy and corn (which is not natural to them). This means they are not naturally picking up B12 from the soil, so the meat producers supplement their feed with B12, so humans who eat them will pick it up too. People who eat a plant-based or vegan diet and supplement with B12 are skipping the middleman (animal) and taking the supplement themselves, along with skipping the cholesterol and saturated fat, hormones and all the other consequences that comes along with eating meat.
@ chalkboard – I appreciate that series as a concept however this feature isn’t about his “diet of choice”. it’s about why he thinks a diet he doesn’t follow is wrong.
vegan diet has done wonders for my health and yes I do take supplements as well