I love a good documentary. Really good documentaries can really change your life. Several years ago, my husband DVRd “The Cove” for me. It changed me. I mean it absolutely changed me. I could only watch it in 30 minute increments, if that. I was truly sickened and saddened by it, and while I truly loved the dolphin experience I had with my family back in 2009, I will never ever do another one because of this film. But I digress . . . .
The reason I bring up documentaries is because in the past few months, several people have reached out to me to ask my take on going vegan, or paleo, or food in general, all because they’ve been watching documentaries.
There’s a documentary out there for everything related to food - from why the FDA is evil, to the state of our food supply and everything in between, including value-based diet choices. (That’s fancy, huh? You’ll see what I mean in a bit.)
So many documentaries can have your head spinning, as it did for some of my friends and my sister-in-law. So, it all begs the question, what should I be eating? I’m now going to share with you exactly what I’ve sent to my sister-in-law and I hope that it helps you as much as it did her. . . .
Documentaries can make things very confusing and frustrating. For every one you find on why you should eat vegan, you'll find one that convinces you to eat paleo. Vegan, I wouldn't say is a phase. It's been around a long time and has grown in popularity. My answer is to eat how you want to eat, and within that decision make the best choices you can.
I personally tend towards a more paleo approach. I don't do well on a vegan diet at all, but that is how my body responds. Everyone is different. My mom went vegan a few years ago and it has worked well for her.
Can you get everything you need from a vegan diet? Mostly. Vitamin D is only significant in fish. But get outside in the sun (no sunblock) for Vitamin D and you're fine. You also want to vary your protein sources to make sure you get all 9 essential amino acids. Meat and eggs have all nine already, but there's no vegan source that is a 'complete protein'. But that's not a huge problem. (REVISION: I’ve since learned that potatoes - not sweet potatoes, though - do in fact provide all essential amino acids and are a complete protein!)
As for fatty foods - here's my bone of contention. We are far too focused on the amount of fat in things. To the point where we avoid it and now most of us are deficient in a particular fat - Omega-3. We need good fat to function properly, to line our digestive track which is most of our immune system, and to keep our brains healthy.
Omega-3s are also anti-inflammatory. So if you decide to stay a meat eater, choose grassfed beef (because grain fed beef doesn't have Omega-3), and fatty fish like salmon, tuna, sea bass. Sardines and anchovies are great, too. Eggs from free range chickens will have it as well.
If you choose to be vegan then flaxseed, avocado, nuts, sea greens like microalgae and seaweed. But you can also supplement quite easily. You will also probably need to take an iron supplement as the most readily absorbed form of iron is only in meat.
Oh, and btw - red meat is no worse than chicken or fish. The health industry brainwashed us back in the 90s to think that fat from red meat was worse than anything. But that's simply not true. In fact if it's grassfed beef, some could argue that it might actually be better for us than chicken or pork.
And to add on a little bit from what I shared with my sister-in-law, how you eat should be incorporated into your lifestyle. Dieting just doesn’t work in the long run. Sure, it may get you down to a weight you are happy with, but unless you are making changes to your everyday life, more often than not, your weight will creep back up once the diet has run it’s course.
As for value-based diet choices. These are most likely what will work for you in the long run. If you are an animal-rights activist, you most likely are going to struggle with any diet that has you eating meat, fish and dairy. It doesn’t align with your value system, so your gut and your mind are constantly at odds.
Again, eat how you want to eat (in a way that works best for you) and make the healthiest choice you can. Be knowledgeable about how ethically the animals are treated and how the produce was farmed. And when you're out to eat, just enjoy it. Don't stress over that stuff. As long as most of your meals are coming from home, you'll be fine.