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Vegan diets require critical considerations of dietary choices

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by Parul Tandon, Krishna Meka, Pavan Bhatt, Rupi Mangat,

Hariharan Manogaralingam

Veganism: To be or not to be? This is a question that many students ponder over every day. Is it bad to be vegan? Should you be a vegan and take a stand against animal slaughter? These are just a few of many things to consider before taking up veganism. A vegan diet is an extremist version of the vegetarian diet because it does not consist of any dairy products. It is important to understand how your lifestyle will change and how your body will respond to these changes. Whether you are Irish or Indian, Chinese or Japanese, American or Canadian, you may have chosen this particular lifestyle for nutritional and/or ethical reasons. Regardless of the reason, being vegan has its ups and downs.

A nutritional balance is essential for a good healthy living, which you may or may not get from vegan diets. In order to achieve this balance, it is crucial to supplement this particular diet with lacking nutrients. If implemented correctly, this modified diet can reduce the risk of disease and prolong your life like you never imagined.

So you may be wondering, what nutrients are vegans missing out on? Well, it is widely known that vegan diets usually lack nutrients such as proteins, iron, calcium, vitamin B12 and vitamin D. Furthermore, when comparing a vegan and a non-vegetarian diet, individuals on the vegan diet have been shown to have a lower protein intake. This is because in a non-vegetarian diet, protein can be obtained from animal products such as beef, chicken, fish, eggs and dairy products. Still considering this diet?

Don’t be discouraged! There are still many sources of protein in a vegan diet. It is just a matter of planning your diet according to the recommended daily intake of protein required. A vegan can obtain protein from nuts, seeds, beans, tofu and soy milk. If you still think you will not be able to obtain enough protein from these sources, why not try a protein shake or one of the abundant protein supplements out on the market.

Another key nutrient lacking from a vegan diet is iron which plays a vital role in carrying oxygenated blood to tissues in your body. Individuals on a vegan diet can maintain recommended iron levels by eating a variety of nuts, dark green leafy vegetables, and raisin bran. In a non-vegetarian diet, dairy products are the number one source of calcium for many people.

Now you may be confident about your iron intake as a vegan, but what about calcium? You might be thinking about how you would get the calcium you need to maintain those strong and healthy bones you’ve been nourishing since your early childhood. With a vegan diet, you can get your calcium intake from dark green leafy vegetables such as broccoli and firm tofu fortified with calcium. Calcium fortified soy milk and orange juice are also effective ways of obtaining calcium within a vegan diet. If that’s not enough, why not include calcium supplements with those iron ones you bought last week.

Bring on the vitamins. It is essential to realize that vitamins B12 and vitamin D are also important nutrients that vegans must be aware of. If choosing to pursue a vegan diet, one must be sure to consume these vitamins as they are fundamental to one’s body. Vitamin B12 is essential for the proper functioning of the nervous system and is only found in animal products and fortified vegan foods. To meet your body’s needs, 2-3 servings of B12 rich foods are required daily. Vegans can consume vitamin B12 fortified soy milk and veggie “meats”, that are soy or tofu based, or vitamin B12 supplements. As for vitamin D, it helps control your heart, nervous system and also aids with calcium absorption.

Vitamin D is the one nutrient not found in vegan diets. But fear not, our body is capable of producing this vitamin. That’s right, just soak up the sun for 15 minutes, 3 times a week. But be aware, during the winter months, you should be taking vitamin D supplements and also drink vitamin D fortified orange juice, soy milk or ready-to-eat cereals. All in all, a properly planned vegan diet can satisfy all of your nutritional requirements and make you a healthier individual.

But wait! If you are missing out on so many nutrients, then why convert to vegan diets in the first place? Well, ethics and religion have a major influence on one’s diet, be it from birth or later in life. Many religions often do not condone meat-eating, some even specifying a stance against the consumption of animals. The notion that all life is equal, and killing any animal is a sin is prevalent in every religion.

In Christianity, “Thou shalt not kill” is one of the ten commandments, which some see as a prescription for a vegan diet. According to Keith Akers, a Christian author, humans are stewards of God’s creation, and taking care of all that live is a “sacred task”. In fact, there is much debate as to whether even Jesus was a vegan, scholars citing that Jesus preached nonviolence and compassion for all animals . Similarly, some sects of Buddhism also teach compassion for all that live, stating that refraining from eating meat would help in the path toward enlightenment.

Hinduism preaches the policy of “ahimsa” (nonviolence), and purity of food offered to God. According to the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKON), partaking of food gotten from “sin”, by killing, one would only be consuming and accumulating sin . Any food, before eaten, must be offered to God. Meat is considered an unacceptable offering, considered to be ‘tainted’. Meat-eating is further viewed as unnecessary slaughter and uncivilized.

According to James Laidlaw, a scholar on Janism, it is mandatory that all followers of the Jain religion adhere to a strict lacto-vegetarian diet, again based on the principles of ahimsa and preventing accumulation of sinful deeds. Anything even remotely associated with an animal or animal product (other than dairy) is strictly prohibited, taking care to not hurt even the smallest of animals. Jains consider a nonviolent nature one of the most important objectives in achieving liberation from the cycle of birth and death. Even some sects of Sikhism prescribe veganism as a way of life. In this way, many of the world’s major religions adhere to vegan diets based on grounds of nonviolence and compassion.

There are many who cite ethics, not religious practice, as reason to be vegans. These people object to the killing of life, and also the abusive treatment of many animals during the killing process. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has brought to the forefront the fragile issue of animal mistreatment in killing facilities, producing evidence of prolonged torture of these animals before death: Hens are stuffed into overcrowded cages, often suffocating within and the beaks are cut off to prevent fighting; cows are dehorned with the use of anaesthetics, castrated and branded; it is said that a million pigs die during the gruelling transport to slaughter houses every year, with a further 420, 000 crippled who do not receive medical help. It is essential to support these activists who prohibit animal cruelty for food. Why, you may ask? Well, isn’t it true that animals also feel pain in similar manners as human?

Aside from religious and ethical issues, a major cause for individuals deciding to pursue or maintain a vegan lifestyle is a result of the many health benefits that go hand in hand with a diet lacking in meats. In a study of 175 343 US men published by the American Journal of Epidemiology, it was found that the consumption of red and processed meat was positively associated with prostate cancer.

In contrast, countries with a high intake of soy in their diet tended to have much lower rates of prostate cancer when compared to countries where soy intake was low. Also, vegans have lower rates of coronary heart disease which can largely be explained by lower LDL cholesterol, probable lower rates of hypertension and diabetes mellitus, and lower prevalence of obesity – all factors that increase with the consumption of meats. Data is also strong showing that vegans are at a lesser risk for atonic constipation, alcoholism and overall have moderately lower rates of cancer than others living within the same community. Lastly, vegans when compared to meat-eaters tend to have a higher life expectancy.

So, if you want to shed a few pounds, add a couple years to your life and maintain a healthy lifestyle, then the vegan diet may just be the thing for you. We would argue that a vegan diet is the ideal choice if taken with the appropriate supplements accounting for the lacking nutrients.


Written by thecanadianheadlines

March 26, 2010 at 10:31 am

Posted in Health and Nutrition

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Relaxation technique lowers blood pressure

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Special to The Canadian




A just-published study suggests the practice of meditation may bring cardiovascular and mental-health benefits.

The research, followed close to 300 students, half of whom practiced…

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Written by thecanadianheadlines

January 11, 2010 at 11:03 pm

Trans-Fat: What Exactly is it, and Why is it so Dangerous?

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by Dr. Joseph Mercola with Rachel Droege

Trans fatty acids, also known as trans fat, is an artery-clogging fat that is formed when vegetable oils are hardened into margarine or shortening. It is found in many other foods besides margarine and shortening, however, including fried foods like french fries and fried chicken, doughnuts, cookies, pastries and crackers. In the United States, typical french fries have about 40 percent trans fatty acids and many popular cookies and crackers range from 30 percent to 50 percent trans fatty acids. Doughnuts have about 35 percent to 40 percent trans fatty acids.

Trans fat is known to increase blood levels of low density lipoprotein (LDL), or “bad” cholesterol, while lowering levels of high density lipoprotein (HDL), known as “good” cholesterol. It can also cause major clogging of arteries, type 2 diabetes and other serious health problems, and was found to increase the risk of heart disease. Many food companies use trans fat instead of oil because it reduces cost, extends storage life of products and can improve flavor and texture.

One problem with the use of trans fat is that food companies were not required to list it on nutrition labels so consumers had no way of knowing how much trans fat was in the food they were eating. Further, there is no upper safety limit recommended for the daily intake of trans fat. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has only said that “intake of trans fats should be as low as possible.”

In a step in the right direction, the FDA has announced a final rule requiring food manufacturers to list trans fat on Nutrition Facts labels. The bad news is that the labels are not required until 2006 so consumers will need to fend for themselves when making food choices until that time.

While some foods like bakery items and fried foods are obvious sources of trans fat, other processed foods, such as cereals and waffles, can also contain trans fat. One tip to determine the amount of trans fat in a food is to read the ingredient label and look for shortening, hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oil. The higher up on the list these ingredients appear, the more trans fat.

You can also add up the amount of fat in a product (saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated), provided the amounts are listed, and compare the total with the total fat on the label. If they don’t match up, the difference is likely trans fat, especially if partially hydrogenated oil is listed as one of the first ingredients.

A few companies, like Frito Lay, Lipton, and Nestle have already taken steps to eliminate trans fat in some products. Nestle is removing it from Rolo and Toffee Crisp and possibly other products. Their competitor, Cadbury, is also considering removing trans fats from some of its products.

Recently a lawsuit was filed against Nabisco, the Kraft Foods unit that makes Oreo cookies, seeking a ban on the sale of Oreo cookies because they contain trans fat, making them dangerous to eat. The case was later withdrawn because the lawyer who filed the suit said the publicity surrounding the case accomplished what he set out to do: create awareness about the dangers of trans fat. Kraft is also among the companies making efforts to reduce trans fatty acid in their products.

If you’re wondering what foods are left that don’t contain trans fat, don’t worry, there are plenty! My book, Dr. Mercola’s Total Health Program, contains plenty of recipes that are delicious and full of nutrition. You can also check out Know Your Fats: Complete Primer for Understanding the Nutrition of Fats, Oils and Cholesterol by Mary G. Enig, Ph.D., a nutritionist widely known for her research on the nutritional aspects of fats and oils, for more information about how trans fat–and other types of fat–can affect your health.

About the editor:

Dr. Mercola is the founder of the world’s most visited natural health web site, You can learn the hazardous side effects of OTC Remedies by getting a FREE copy of his latest special report The Dangers of Over the Counter Remedies by going to his to his Report Page.

Written by thecanadianheadlines

December 24, 2009 at 7:18 am

Two ‘Foods’ you should never ever eat

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by Dr. Mercola

For women with heart disease, eating too many artery-clogging trans fats may increase their risk of dying suddenly from cardiac arrest.


Trans fats, found largely in commercially prepared baked and fried foods, have become notorious in recent years because they not only raise “bad” LDL cholesterol, but also lower levels of heart-healthy HDL cholesterol.  High trans-fat intake has been linked to coronary heart disease, in which fatty plaques build up in the heart arteries, sometimes leading to a heart attack.

In a new study, researchers found that among nearly 87,000 U.S. women followed for 26 years, trans fat intake was linked to an increased risk of sudden cardiac death among women who had underlying coronary heart disease. In this group, women who ate the most trans fats were three times more likely to die of cardiac arrest.

Sources:  Reuters December 2, 2009American Heart Journal November 2009; 158(5):761-7

Editorial commentary:

I first learned of the dangers of trans fats in the 1970s, and today, nearly 40 years later, they are finally being labeled as the true poisons they really are.

Tans fats are formed when hydrogen is added to vegetable oil during food processing in order to make it solidify. This process, known as hydrogenation, makes fats less likely to spoil, so foods stay fresh longer, have a longer shelf life and also have a less greasy feel.

Typically, what’s good for food manufacturers’ profits is not so good for your body, and could quite literally kill you. Among women with underlying coronary heart disease, eating trans fats increased the risk of sudden cardiac arrest three-fold!

Even if you don’t have heart disease, you need to avoid these fats like the plague. Even the Institute of Medicine said your intake should be “as low as possible. They were given the opportunity to establish a “safe upper limit,” but declined doing so because, quite simply, there isn’t one!

What’s so Bad About Trans Fats?

The end result of the hydrogenation process is a completely unnatural fat that causes dysfunction and chaos in your body on a cellular level.

Trans fats have been linked to:

  • Cancer: They interfere with enzymes your body uses to fight cancer.
  • Diabetes: They interfere with the insulin receptors in your cell membranes.
  • Decreased immune function: They reduce your immune response.
  • Problems with reproduction: They interfere with enzymes needed to produce sex hormones.
  • Obesity
  • Heart disease: Trans fats can cause major clogging of your arteries.

Trans fat is also known to increase blood levels of low density lipoprotein (LDL), or “bad” cholesterol, while lowering levels of high density lipoprotein (HDL), or “good” cholesterol.

Trans fats even interfere with your body’s use of beneficial omega-3 fats, and have been linked to an increase in asthma.

 How You Can Avoid Trans Fats

It’s no surprise that trans fats are found in fried foods like French fries, fried chicken, and doughnuts – as well as cookies, pastries and crackers. In the United States, French fries typically contain about 40 percent trans fatty acids and many popular cookies and crackers range from 30 percent to 50 percent trans fat. Doughnuts have about 35 percent to 40 percent trans fatty acids.

Due to all the bad press trans fats are getting, in recent years many food manufacturers have removed them from their products. But there’s an important caveat you should know … The FDA allows food manufacturers to round to zero any ingredient that accounts for less than 0.5 grams per serving.

So while a product may claim that it does not contain trans fats, it may actually contain up to 0.5 grams per serving. If you eat a few servings, you’re quickly ingesting a harmful amount of this deadly fat.

So to truly avoid trans fats, you need to read the label and look for more than just 0 grams of trans fat. Check the ingredients and look for partially hydrogenated oil. If the product lists this ingredient, it contains trans fats.

Watch Out for Trans Fats’ Unhealthy Replacement Fat, Too

Now that the health dangers of trans fats have been clearly exposed, the food industry would do you a great favor by returning to the use of natural saturated fats. But that would mean reversing their entirely unscientific, 50-year campaign to vilify saturated fats, and would bring an end to the enormously powerful edible oil industry.

Instead, the food industry has been widely replacing trans fats with intersterified fat, another unnatural fat that you’d be wise to avoid.

The interesterification process hardens fat, similar to the hydrogenation process, but without producing oils that contain trans fats. The end product, like trans fat, is less likely to go rancid and is stable enough to use to fry foods.

However, like hydrogenation, which generates unnatural trans fats, interesterification also produces molecules that do not exist in nature.

The highly industrialized process of interesterification may result in a product that is trans fat-free, but that product will still contain chemical residues, hexanes, and other hazardous waste products full of free radicals that cause cell damage.

Studies show that interesterified fat raises your blood glucose and depresses insulin production. These conditions are common precursors to diabetes, and can present an even more immediate danger if you already have the disease.

After only four weeks consuming these fats, study volunteers’ blood glucose levels rose sharply — by 20 percent. This is a much worse result than what is seen with trans fats.

Natural vegetable oils that have been processed in any way will create problems for your body at the cellular level. These fats are no longer in their natural state, and your body doesn’t know how to handle them. Your system will try to make use of them and in the process, these fats end up in cell membranes and other locations where they can wreak havoc with your health.

Fortunately avoiding these fats is relatively easy as they are in virtually all the foods that trans fats are, so by avoiding trans fat, and processed foods in general, you will also avoid interesterified fats. If a processed food product is labeled “0% trans fats” or “no trans fats” but is made from vegetable oils, you can be certain it contains either interesterified fats or fully hydrogenated vegetable oils, both of which you’ll want to avoid.

Healthy Fat Tips to Live By

Sadly, if you’re like most Americans, your diet consists predominantly of processed food. And eating processed foods, especially those with a long shelf life, means you’re consuming interesterified fats, trans fats, or some other type of man-made ingredient that your body was not designed to metabolize.

If you want to avoid dangerous fats of all kinds, your best bet is to eliminate processed foods from your diet. From there, use these tips to make sure you’re eating the right fats for your health:

  • Use organic butter (preferably made from raw milk) instead of margarines and vegetable oil spreads. Butter is a healthy whole food that has received an unwarranted bad rap.
  • Use coconut oil for cooking. It is far superior to any other cooking oil and is loaded with health benefits.
  • Following my nutrition plan will automatically reduce your modified fat intake, as it will teach you to focus on healthy whole foods instead of processed junk food.
  • To round out your healthy fat intake, be sure to eat raw fats, such as those from avocados, raw dairy products, and olive oil, and also take a high-quality source of animal-based omega-3 fat, such as krill oil.

Related Links:

  Trans-Fat: What Exactly is it, and Why is it so Dangerous?
  Interesterified Fat — Is it Worse Than Trans Fat?
  Natural Trans Fats Actually Have Health Benefits


About the writer:

Dr. Mercola is the founder of the world’s most visited natural health web site, You can learn the hazardous side effects of OTC Remedies by getting a FREE copy of his latest special report The Dangers of Over the Counter Remedies by going to his to his Report Page.

Written by thecanadianheadlines

December 24, 2009 at 7:03 am

Posted in Health and Nutrition

Tagged with ,