Try it Again, Dr. Kim!

Dr. Ben Kim is a chiropractor who has a blog on personal and environmental wellness. In March of 2007, he wrote a piece called More Thoughts on Earthlings Documentary, Including Potential Problems with a Strict Vegan Diet. His article was just recently brought to my attention and I’d like to comment on it publicly because I think there are other ex-vegans out there who have had a similar experience to Dr. Kim.

In his article, Dr. Kim talks about the film Earthlings, which many of you will know is a film that documents the horrible ways that we humans treat animals. He talks about the importance of minimizing animal cruelty and was even vegan for four years. The first two of those years he felt well and the second two he failed to thrive.

Dr. Kim stuck with the diet through his two years of poor health because he trusted the books and “prominent physicians” who were advising him that a strict vegan diet was the best choice. He then found out that many of these people were not actually strictly vegan. He does know of some strict vegans who don’t cheat but they have health problems.

After eating what appears to be relatively small amounts of animal products for three months, Dr. Kim says, “My energy came back, my cravings disappeared, I stopped having skin breakouts, and most notably, I felt physically strong again. I vividly remember going from being able to do about 3 sets of 10 pull-ups before getting exhausted to being able to do 100 full body weight pull-ups within 20-30 minutes….”

Dr. Kim lists his strict vegan diet: “…plenty of fresh leafy greens, tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumbers, celery, sprouts, many varieties of steamed greens, steamed root vegetables like potatoes, sweet potatoes, hard squashes, carrots, and red beets, whole grains like brown rice and quinoa, a wide variety of fruits (including avocados), legumes like chickpeas and red beans, and small amounts of raw nuts and seeds.”

He gives a quick review of some of the typical concerns with the vegan diet, including B12, but he doesn’t mention supplements or fortified foods as a source, suggesting that he probably wasn’t getting any B12.

Okay. So, I really dislike it when someone tries a certain diet for years, and then when it doesn’t work, the proponents of the diet say, “You just did it wrong.” However, there are some glaring reasons why Dr. Kim might have failed to thrive.

Obviously, if a vegan is not taking B12 supplements or eating fortified foods, for more than two years, chances are excellent they are going to get fatigued and have mental issues.

Secondly, if you read Dr. Kim’s description of his diet you have to get well into his list before you come across a plentiful source of protein (quinoa), and the most reliable sources that most vegans rely on, even raw foodists, are listed second to last and last!

When someone asks me what I eat as a vegan, the first thing I tell them are legume products – refried beans, soy foods, peanut butter, chili, bean burritos, lentil soup, etc. If these foods are only an afterthought, then there should be no surprise that someone trying to do 100 chin-ups in 30 minutes is going to have trouble retaining muscle mass.

Reading a few posts on Dr. Kim’s site, it is clear that he places a high value on eating unprocessed foods. So I’m guessing he is not going to be real open to eating a Tofurky or seitan sandwich for more protein. But what about tempeh, peanut butter, lentils, and peas?

Dr. Kim says, “Truly, if I could thrive on a 100 percent vegan diet, I would go back to it this instant. How could I not after having watched Earthlings?”

Indeed. I hope Dr. Kim will give it another try with plenty of high protein foods which are staples of most vegans I know who do not cheat on the diet and are thriving. And a vitamin B12 supplement would help quite a bit also. Is this such a high price to pay in order to end your support of animal agriculture?

62 Responses to “Try it Again, Dr. Kim!”

  1. beforewisdom Says:

    Hi Jack;

    Okay. So, I really dislike it when someone tries a certain diet for years, and then when it doesn’t work, the proponents of the diet say, “You just did it wrong.”

    Like Freud said, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. Sometimes the simple, pat answer really is the answer.

    I’ve known a number of ex-vegans personally. I’ve seen their eating habits up close. They all swear they “were carefull” and they all had pretty bad habits. I saw it for myself. I’m not saying they were lying ( some of them might be ). I read an article a long time ago about a study that found that people habitually underestimate the calories they take in and overestimate the nutrition they get. Even people knowledgeable about nutrition were not immune. I believe it. I keep a food diary. It is a bit like keeping a checkbook balanced. When you don’t write down what you spend your actual habits are not as good as you think they are. Then when you begin writing things down you are shocked to discover how different things really were. It works the same way with food. You always think you are eating better than you are until you begin recording what you do and see how what you actually do, is different from what you think you do.

  2. Joseph Espinosa Says:

    There is no better way to re-enter the world of meat eating than to have a seemingly medical/nutritional need to do so. It is much easier on the image we hold of ourselves as good people than just admitting that we sentence others to horrible suffering and death for our own 4pleasure.

  3. Jack Norris RD Says:

    Joe,

    At least he didn’t go back to eating hamsters!

  4. Sandra Rosenfeld Says:

    I believe many of the people who are former vegans due to lack of health simply did not eat the right foods and take a multivitamin.
    The lack of protein (legumes, seeds, nuts, tofu, seitan, tempeh tvp and whole grains), calcium ( green leafy vegetables), . B12 (supplements), iron ( vegetables,nuts, fruit and grains)and essential fatty acids( seeds like pumpkin, chia, flaxseed and hemp, avacados and walnuts)might have been the cause of the health problems many former vegans faced, but by eating right it is possible for vegans to get these nutrients.

  5. Sandra Rosenfeld Says:

    P.S. I didn’t mention the other ways such as meat and milk substitutes because the article states that DR. Kim does not eat proccessed foods, but they are also options.

  6. Kim Smith, CPBN Says:

    How come I’ve been on what people might call a strict organic whole food vegan diet for 21 years and I’m doing fantastic? I’m happy, healthy and people guess my age to be 15 to 20 years younger than I am. I also build muscle with no problems and I don’t eat any meat substitutes (I don’t like them) or soy foods(don’t like them either). I juice and eat lots of organic greens. I love all kinds of legumes, and hemp and chia seeds. Of course, I try to get a large array of colorful veggies everyday. My goal is to eat a very alkalizing diet. Too bad when people use excuses to give up veganism so easily when it is SO EASY to thrive on diet!

  7. Tess Says:

    I’m in such a quandry over beans, nuts and grains. I have a grown son who has been reading books/articles/websites about how our bodies are not made to absorb the nutrients from nuts and beans. Grains are the cause of inflamation and such things as ‘ leaky gut’. When I shop now, I’m not sure what to buy. I was in the habit of having a bowl of quaker oats made with chia seeds. I would sweeten my cereal with dried cranberris and sprinkle walnuts over the top. This was completed with almond breeze: now I eat fruit or a handful of spinach leaves and a glass of almond breeze.
    What is the truth about beans, nuts and grains?

  8. Jacob Dijkstra, M.D. Says:

    I am always surprised that nobody mentions the excellent protein content of Quorn. Granted, for the production of the products they use egg white or even buttermilk, but the high protein content comes from the mycoprotein. It is a very tasty product for meat eaters who want to make the switch to vegetarianism. And now they actually are making a delicious vegan burger–our grocery store in Solon, Ohio (Mustard Seed) ordered a case for me after I made management aware of it. And Whole Foods in our area started to carry the vegan burger also. Ten years ago, Michael Jacobson of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, had a, in my opinion, very unscientific op-ed on Quorn and I critized him in a letter. I have not heard anything bad about Quorn from him in the past few years and I do read Nutrition Action every month. I have absolutely no financial or other interest in Quorn (or any other company for that matter) and would like to hear about any comments readers may have.

  9. Doug Spoonwod Says:

    Dr. Kim, on top of putting the higher protein plant sources at the end, he also puts raw nuts and seeds at the very end. He even says that he consumed *small* amounts of these. So, where did Dr. Kim get a decent amount of fat from? If he didn’t have a decent amount of fat in his diet, as well as not enough protein, then he missed two key macronutrients. I’ve never taken a course in nutrition, but wouldn’t his case (given his report as accurate) seem an easy textbook question which goes: “Which key macronutrient(s) did Dr. Kim’s diet lack?”

  10. Jack Norris RD Says:

    Doug,

    It’s a good point. He listed avocados, but again, they were towards the end of the list.

  11. Jack Norris RD Says:

    Tess,

    I answered your question in a post:

    http://jacknorrisrd.com/?p=2795

  12. Jack Norris RD Says:

    Jacob,

    Interesting about Quorn. It also appears to be a good source of the amino acid lysine:

    http://www.mycoprotein.org/assets/ALFT_V2_2.pdf

  13. Cobie deLespinasse Says:

    I feel badly for some of the ex-vegans and ex-vegetarians I’ve known. A couple of people I knew in the 90s said they’d had doctors tell them they had to go back to eating meat. (I’ve heard that a lot of doctors don’t get a lot of training in nutrition, and that less was known about nutrition back then.) I don’t think all of these ex-veg people just wanted to taste meat (re Joe’s thought on this).

    Vegan Outreach’s website has pictures of some former vegans and vegetarians who are going back to veg eating now that they’ve got more information.

  14. Ben Says:

    Dear Jack,

    Why do you think that it’s better to emphasize the legumes first? just because they’re protein-rich? A healthy and balanced diet is so much more than adequate protein intake, which is important, of course.
    Here in Israel, I see lots of vegans eating big portions of soy/seitan products, and too little of dark green leafy vegetables, which aren’t so common here, unfortunately. So, their protein intake is fine, but what about other important things?

    Secondly, why do you object lower-fat diets so strongly? As long as we get enough EFA, why should we load more fat? If someone wants to do that, fine. But why do you think that a lower-fat vegan diet could be harmful? Even if done properly? Personally, I get 15-20% of my calories from fat, mainly PUFA, by eating 1-2 oz. of nuts/seeds a day, and I’m fine. As I tend to be a binge eater, a “balanced” diet of 30-35% fat would mean I’ll crave more food (volume), or otherwise I’ll be overweight from too many calories.

  15. Jack Norris RD Says:

    Ben,

    When it comes to failure to thrive, getting enough protein in the short term is key or you are bound to feel fatigued. When people ask me what I eat as a vegan, I want to focus on the foods that, if they don’t eat, they might find the diet unsatisfying.

    > Secondly, why do you object lower-fat diets so strongly?

    If you feel good on 15-20% fat diet then I have no problems with it. My concern is when people who fail to thrive on a vegan diet insist on eating a low-fat vegan diet and then start eating meat again (which is going to be high in fat), feel better with more fat, and then assume they could not have felt good on a vegan diet when they could have at least tried eating more fat.

  16. Ben Says:

    Thank you Jack.

    Of course, there isn’t a “one-size-fits-all” diet, and it’s very probable that some people need to get more of X and less of Y. I greatly appreciate your response.

  17. Kensi Says:

    Whenever I use a nutrient intake tracking app it puts my fat intake around 30-45% of my total caloric intake, and I’m actually having issues keeping my body fat percentage up. I went to see a nutritionist and she encouraged me to eat a lot more protein and try to avoid coconut oil (which seems to just make me burn all my fat off). Most of the fat is from nut butters, nuts, plant oils, avocados, and coconut-based foods.

    Anecdotally, I haven’t seen a high correlation between my fat intake and body fat percentage, unless it is a negative one.

  18. Jack Norris RD Says:

    Kensi,

    Your fat intake could be 100%, but if you are not eating more calories than you burn, you won’t gain weight. Maybe you just need to eat more food? Are you at an unhealthfully low body weight? If so, have you had your thyroid checked?

  19. Kensi Says:

    Actually the nutritionist also brought that up and I am having my thyroid checked tomorrow!

    I have been having a hard time not rejecting food lately, which hasn’t helped. Most recently legumes became an issue (which is when I started to panic and made the appointment). So far I have not had an issue digesting nut butters. My other issue is I have braces on my teeth, which can limit my options (I can’t wait until they are removed).

    She put me on a scale that also measures body fat percentage and I was around 116lb and between 10 and 11% body fat (I’m a female, 5’7″… so from what I understand that is very low). Do you know how accurate those are? I am hoping things aren’t as bad as that but am basing my current diet on the assumption that they are.

    I am at a point where I’m not sure what to eat a lot of the time for fear of triggering a reaction and losing everything else I ate in close temporal proximity. But to be perfectly honest I am skeptical that I have IBD or some other condition that suddenly arose in the last few months… I think I lost the weight due to poverty. I think you are right, I just haven’t been eating enough. Everyone who knows that I eat mainly vegan has jumped to the vegan-based conclusion, but all the corrective strategies prescribed by my nutritionist have actually been vegan-friendly (besides eating wild fish, which I am eating at least until I can reintroduce legumes with more success – though non-aquaculture fish are incredibly expensive; my parents bought them for me; I had some success with a small and spaced out amount of Eden canned chick peas which are packed with kombu to improve digestability).

    I don’t suppose you can think of any cheap weight gain options that are light on legumes (for now), gluten free, and low on soy (unless it’s fermented). I am still really interested in veganism, and I am literally starved for ideas…

    (not that I have found any satisfying non-vegan equivalents, just stating I am out of ideas in general)

    I’m hoping once I gain a bit more weight I will be able to sustain myself on cheaper food. I’m using my savings to help get myself back to better health but they won’t last forever and I also need to pay off student loans. My parents have been helping me buy some food for the past month but it was too much for them to continue since they don’t make enough money.

  20. Jack Norris RD Says:

    Kensi,

    Can you eat peanut butter? Peanuts are technically legumes, but don’t seem to give people problems like other legumes can. Why can’t you eat legumes? By “rejecting” do you mean digestive problems?

    Other nut butters or olive oil could also add a lot of calories. If you just want calories, fruits smoothies can work. Hope that helps.

  21. Kensi Says:

    I don’t seem to be having issues with peanut butter (or other nut butters I’m trying, including almond, cashew, walnut, pumpkin seed, sesame, pecan, and macadamia). By rejecting I mean GI problems like cramping, bloating, vomiting, or bowel issues.

    I haven’t had any problems with fruit so I am a really big fan of all things fruit-related. I find most fruit a bit low in calories though?

  22. Jack Norris RD Says:

    Fruit is low in calories, but if you blend it up you can eat a lot more than if you don’t blend it up. I particularly like adding some sparkling water to my smoothies which gives it a soda-like feeling. :)

  23. Sharon Says:

    Dear Jack,

    I appreciate all the information you provide in you site. I been doing a lot of research on the positives effects of vegan diet and just like i am learning the good i also want to learn about the bad effects a vegan diet can cause. I came across Dr. Kim’s letter just a few weeks ago and i got concern, so i am delighted you are writing about it.

    I truly love the vegan diet, i enjoy the foods i eat now, and I lost 30 lbs. I been educating myself about nutrition, I am inspired. But i must be honest, i constantly worry that i will end up with a deficiency or something even though i follow the supplement guidelines for vegans such as B12, vitamin D, etc.

    I will be doing my physical in 2 weeks, wish me luck!

  24. Jack Norris RD Says:

    Sharon,

    Good to know my article was timely for you! If you follow my recommendations, then you should be getting all the nutrients of concern that meat-eaters get. Good luck on your physical! Let us know how it goes.

  25. Rusty Says:

    I appreciate what you have to say and have learned some useful information but I just wanted to ask you a question about your response to the Kim article.
    First off I think you read way too much into his food list. I really do not think that the food he lists is in order of what he consumed the most of. He certainly does not state that. It is just a list of what he ate in no particular order, but with a sense of food groups. So I think it would be a very large leap in logic to assume he did not eat enough legumes for his protein because he list them toward the end, thus causing him to be lethargic. Are we to assume by your logic that he ate way more tomatoes then fruits based on his list? His assessment that he was lethargic due to B12 deficiency could be very accurate, as your own site states that tiredness as a symptom of B12 deficiency. In terms of him not wanting to be a vegan again I do not believe you countered his argument. In your own argument you said that he does not want to eat processed food so how could he get B12 if he does not want to eat processed food? Your answer does not solve that dilemma, as any food that is fortified is the very definition of processed food as is the same case with supplements. They both are food sources that have been processed (in some cases highly processed) for us to consume. I even went to the Nature’s Path (Organic Cereal) website, who I believe is a very trusted company in the health food industry, to see why they stopped fortifying one of their cereals with B12. This was their response to a customer’s question:
    “Our cereal isn’t fortified with B12 because we don’t fortify our products on the whole. The reason being is that organic food companies are limited by government regulations as to fortification (a controversial topic) that in most cases involves adding synthetic substances to food – even if they are called minerals & vitamins. Also, fortification can be misleading as to the nutrient value of food because simply eating food that’s fortified doesn’t mean that your body is actually absorbing the listed nutrients.
    So my question to you is how would I stay a vegan if I too do not want to eat processed foods and yes I consider fortified foods and supplements to be very processed unless you can prove that a particular brand is not. As for supplements there is no one that regulates them, so for me they are definitely out of the question. But with fortified foods I will only eat something fortified if it is labeled organic, but the problem is that for something to be labeled organic only 95% of it has to be actually organic and since ingredients on a label are in order of largest to smallest in content. I always find that B12 is last meaning it makes up a small fraction of the overall product. So it very well could be that the B12 is in the other 5% and synthetic. How do we have any idea how it was cultivated? Thank you.

  26. Tess Says:

    Thanks for responding to my e mail Jack. I’ve copied the info from your past posts.
    I’m also going to encourage my son to check out your website and see how healthy vegans live.

  27. Jack Norris RD Says:

    Rusty,

    I do not know for certain if Dr. Kim was getting enough protein, but given his condition and his list of foods, I think it’s a pretty safe bet.

    > So my question to you is how would I stay a vegan if I too do not want to eat processed foods and yes I consider fortified foods and supplements to be very processed unless you can prove that a particular brand is not.

    Anyone eating a vegan diet and not getting vitamin B12 through fortified foods or supplements is most likely going to suffer from B12 deficiency. The only potential way around this that I can see, and it is by no means a sure bet, is by using some seaweeds, none of which have been proven to have B12 activity, but some might. I wouldn’t recommend it, though.

    Dr. Kim was very moved by Earthlings and indicated that it is important not to support what is done to animals, yet he has an anti-vegan article which is helping to support that very thing. The potential harm that will come to someone by taking vitamin B12 supplements is, for the vast majority of people, non-existent, and so if you care about animals, making the ethical decision to use B12 supplements should not be a hard one.

    I should add that I do not consider oysters, clams, and mussels to be capable of suffering and they contain vitamin B12, so you could eat them while minimizing harm to animals, as well as eating eggs from companion chickens. I know some vegans are adamantly opposed to such things, but I think it’s better than supporting factory farms.

  28. Kensi Says:

    Another thing to keep in mind is that unless the animal you eat is wild or raised in a completely natural setting, the B12 you get from it is because the animal has received B12 supplements (along with many other supplements). B12 is found in bacteria in soil (and in the ocean), so most animals eaten by humans today which are raised in artificial environments (i.e. via agriculture or aquaculture) do not themselves have a B12-rich diet.

  29. Kensi Says:

    Also, further to Jack’s point above, I can tell you as a neuroscientist that many animals do not have a brain region analogous to the human anterior cingulate cortex / prefrontal cortex feedback loop, and so would not experience pain, specifically suffering, as humans do.

    Many animals DO have a similar structure (especially other mammals), and most definitely experience pain and suffering in a highly similar way. Rats, for instance, have a very complex ability to suffer when in pain.

    This kind of knowledge is very ethically informative.

  30. Jack Norris RD Says:

    Kensi,

    You make a good point, though some animals can obtain B12 from bacteria in their digestive tracts, ruminant animals especially. I’m not sure how that bacteria is affected by eating a primarily grain-based, rather than grass, diet.

    > B12 is found in bacteria in soil (and in the ocean),

    I’m not aware of B12 producing bacteria in the soil other than from soil contaminated by feces. I haven’t seen any evidence that a random sampling of soil, that is not contaminated with manure, contains B12 or bacteria that produce B12 active for humans. But I haven’t looked in awhile – do you know of any studies?

  31. Rusty Says:

    Hi Jack thank you very much for your reply. I think we will just have to agree to disagree about Kim’s article simply because I think ethically he wanted to not eat meat but the pragmatist in him made a decision not to eat processed foods. Thus fortified foods and supplements did not meet his criteria therefore he switched to small amounts of animal products to obtain his B12. I think he was just saying for him that he wanted to stay away from processed foods.
    As for your response to me I realized that my question wasn’t quite clear enough and for that I apologize. I will try to restate it hear. First though, to respond to Kensi’s kind insights, I would only eat wild caught or animals that are pasture raised and grass fed only. As for eggs I am even against American standards for cage free egg laying hens. If I ate eggs they would only be from pasture raised organic hens (sorry I don’t have the means to have companion chickens). Local sourced as a first choice. So B12 would be a natural occurring source. Back to Jack: Call me strange but I actually have more of an ethical dilemma with getting B12 from dairy products than killing, simply because I think it is indentured servitude, that and stealing the milk that was intended for the mother cow to feed her calf is cruel and unusual punishment. Not to mention the hooking up of tubes with a suction pump has transfixed how our ancestors used to supplement their diet. Personally I would rather die in the wild then live like a slave. So if I had to used animal products I am more in line with killing them in the wild then making them live a life of indentured servant.This would rule out four legged creatures. I apologize for preaching to the choir. With that in mind I was thinking of around 3 organic pasture raised eggs a week, a serving that is bare minimum to obtain a 2.5 mcg per day of scallops, mussels, clams, oysters (that come from wild caught sustainable fisheries) split into two and served two times a day every other day. Supplemented once a week with a B12 rich fish (Salmon/Mackerel/Tuna wild caught from sustainable fisheries), mInd you it would not be the whole fish but two small sashimi cuts of the fish ( I would even like to cut these out and eat the original four if they could provide enough B12. Also I would like to add that my wife is Japanese and we eat a lot of seaweed and she has done a lot of research in Japanese medical articles as well as here. We are of the opinion that no seaweed has B12 that our body uses in the same way an animal B12 is used in our body. I can actually sympathize with Kim because like him I too would like to eat non animal sources of B12. Fortified foods and supplements are processed foods though and this is where our dilemma lies. I am of the opinion that anything processed should stay out of my body. However if bacteria is cultivated using organic means I would not consider that processed. Much like bacteria is used to make yogurt. My question is there an organic cultivation of the B12 like the B12 that is found in animal products by any company and sold in that state (is in still alive). For all the fortified foods we usually do not know what type of B12 is used nor do we know their ability to be absorbed. This is compounded when they are supposed to be made from bacteria but many of them stay on shelves in a dried out state in cereal and nutritional yeast (neither of these I could find to be organic). My second question is what specific brands do you use. Maybe that would be more useful in this discussion. Thank you and I really appreciate you taking the time to respond to my questions

  32. Jack Norris RD Says:

    Rusty,

    All B12 in fortified foods and supplements is well absorbed. For supplements, you should chew them before swallowing just to make sure you digest them (though they are not particularly hard to digest). B12 from fortified foods and supplements is easier to absorb than B12 from animal products because you don’t have to cleave it from the protein that it is attached to in animal foods.

    As for organic cultivation, I have no idea.

    Let me put this in some perspective: Pretend you eat a 1,000 microgram (1 mg) B12 supplement twice a week as I recommend. Let’s say that a 1 mg B12 supplement actually weights 5 mg when you add in the ingredients that come with it. Over a course of a year, that equals .5 grams of non-organic product you are taking into your body. It doesn’t seem to me like that could do you much harm.

  33. Kensi Says:

    I’ve read articles on the cobalamin content of soil and sea areas (the precursor necessary for B12); I might have saved some of the articles last term – I will look at the university library later this week.

    I agree that there is no evidence that seaweed is a source of absorbable B12; I have read some better news about algae though (chlorella?).

    Some kinds of nutritional yeast are cultured in a way that B12 occurs more organically, though admittedly I think most brands just add it in. Off the top of my head I think that was the difference between methylcobalamin and cyanocobalamin (the additive) – I might be missing a chemical prefix there though.

  34. Kensi Says:

    But – it does seem to follow that to synthesize B12, ruminants would have to have some source of dietary cobalamin..?

  35. The Nerd Says:

    This is why I love being a member of a vegan web group I can ask questions if a need arises. For example, a couple weeks ago I started feeling weak and dizzy every single day for 2 weeks, and I couldn’t figure out why. Then I looked up the symptoms online (knowing I have a history of low-iron dating back to when I was 6 years old), it suggested that not only was I low in iron but I was also low in B12, as my symptoms matched a deficiency perfectly. This is where the group comes in: I asked them for advice, and was immediately given several good sources of those things! I now make sure to eat raw spinach salad several times a week accompanied by a glass of low-fat B12-fortified soy milk. After a couple weeks of that, I feel great again!

  36. Jack Norris RD Says:

    > But – it does seem to follow that to synthesize B12, ruminants would have to have some source of dietary cobalamin..?

    They would need cobalt.

  37. Kensi Says:

    Sorry, yes, I meant cobalt.

    Ruminants tend to have regional deficiencies when requiring cobalt supplementation in order to synthesize B12.

  38. Tim Says:

    This is why, in addition to everything Jack mentioned, we always strongly recommend including nutritional yeast (a variety with B12) as a regular shelf staple in every veg kitchen. It’s been more than once that we’ve met folks transitioning to veg, who stuck mostly to just the fruits, veggies and such, and didn’t quite feel at their prime. Once they incorporated the nutr yeast, they experienced noticeable improvements.

  39. Kensi Says:

    Yes actually I’ve had problems with B12 absorption my whole life and when I started eating vegetarian I developed a deficiency, but when I adopted a well-planned vegan diet my B12 was shockingly high (for me anyway) after less than 2 months, with no supplements taken.

    I went vegan September 30 and was tested October 11 and my level was 194 (insufficient) and then December 7 I was at 272.

    Me and my roommate really enjoy its savoury (almost “meaty”) flavour on popcorn, in stirfries and as a kind of “cheesy” tasting addition to many sauces or soups. I also used to make a great salad that was just de-stemmed kale rubbed with olive oil and then mixed by hand with some heaping tablespoons of nutritional yeast and hemp seeds. Delicious and bulked up the protein! :)

  40. Kensi Says:

    I am not necessarily advocating that you do not need a supplement because evidence is only anecdotal and I wouldn’t want someone to put themselves at risk.

    My sources of B12 were the nutritional yeast, chlorella (I got it in “Vegan Cheesy”, which is a product containing chlorella and is meant to be added to salads and soups), and occasional fortified almond milk, rice milk, quinoa milk, or soy milk.

    Warning, when you get too much B12 your pee will turn highlighter yellow. One day I pigged out on my favourite popcorn snack (popcorn made on the stove top in unrefined coconut oil and then topped with nutritional yeast, balsamic vinegar, and dried basil) and the aforementioned salad and well I was certainly amused.

  41. Tess Says:

    I have been suffering from IBD for three years. It seems to be stress related. I’ve been taking medication for this (I don’t like to do this, however I couldn’t leave the house without these meds). Do you think that beans, nuts and grains can irritate this disorder? I should probably have mentioned this in my first e mail, however it is a source of embarrassment to me.

    Is there anything else I could substitue if these are not compatible with my situation?

    I’m trying to limit the stress in my life, but that’s nearly impossible.

  42. Tess Says:

    Jack: This is my son’s response to my being vegan: “If you are to ask him something. Ask him about getting Omega 3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA) found only in animal products. Not the plant sources i.e. hemp (which carry a high omega 6 to 3 ratio anyways) or flax …. These omega 3′s are Alpha-Linolenic Acid ALA which are sub par for enhancing health. It will keep you alive but will not help you thrive. They can can be converted to EPA and DHA but is a painfully inefficient process. Why for vegans are there no sources for these vital nutrients actually essential fats (like essential amino acids, body cannot produce but need to survive). If God wanted us to be healthy as vegans would he not provide a non animal source for these Omega 3′s.

  43. Jack Norris RD Says:

    Tess,

    Luckily, God is warming up to a vegan diet as there are now vegan DHA and EPA supplements on the market. Here is a list:

    http://veganhealth.org/articles/omega3#veganDHA

    And you can read everything you want to know and more about omega-3s on that page (I hope).

  44. Jack Norris RD Says:

    Tess,

    I think that any food could exacerbate your IBD problem. The best thing is to do an elimination diet where you start out eating only foods you know won’t cause you problems and slowly add them back monitoring to see if any food causes you problems.

  45. Jack Norris RD Says:

    Kensi,

    You should be aware that seaweeds and algae can contain inactive B12 analogues that will show up on B12 tests as B12. Measuring B12 levels in people who eat seaweed should not be considered accurate. More info in Blood B12 Level: Not Reliable.

    Vitamin B2 turns pee yellow, not B12.

  46. Kensi Says:

    When I asked my doctor about it they said at first it was normal for my pee to change colours after increasing my B12 intake.

    I usually have about 480% of the daily B12 RDI without the chlorella. I forgot to mention I also have a smoothie with Vega Whole Food Health Optimizer every day.

  47. Ben Says:

    Jack,

    You wrote:
    “If it weren’t for the (small chance) for potential eye problems, I would suggest either adding 3 g of ALA per day, or taking DHA supplements.”

    I know you have already responded to my email about it, but as I tend to be worrisome, I’ll ask again:
    If I understood your o-3 article correctly, a daily intake of 3.7g ALA could be sufficient for vegans, as long as the omega ratio is balanced. My ALA intake is about 5.5g, and my LA intake is 11-15g. as Vegan DHA supplements aren’t so easy-to-get ouside the US and some parts of Europe, I don’t wish to buy it again, unless I can be sure the traditional way wouldn’t work.

  48. Jack Norris RD Says:

    Ben,

    Yes, that is right. I can’t guarantee it’s enough to produce “normal” DHA levels, but based on the research, it should.

  49. Kensi Says:

    Actually Jack I would be interested to know your opinion on the Vega line of products; I’m depending on them for a good chunk of my nutritional needs while I have my braces.

  50. Jack Norris RD Says:

    Kensi,

    My opinion of them isn’t worth much, I’m afraid – I have not analyzed them or even looked at them in some time. I like their energy bars, but haven’t had one in years. I liked that they weren’t too sweet and they also were satisfying. I should splurge and get some more of their energy bars the next time I see some, and then report back to you. :)

  51. Betty Says:

    I’ve been going to Ben Kim’s site for years for the recipes. I’m sure that about 98% of them are indeed vegan – and very, very good. He doesn’t slap a bunch of ingredients together just because they are healthful; he seems to have some knowledge of classical food preparation techniques. I believe that there’s some input from his wife (Chinese woman) & his mother, which might account for that. There are clear photos of how to put these dishes together. There are a few Korean recipes in there, too.

  52. Eva Says:

    I am so thrilled I have found this blog. I like to learn and investigate and I have come to right place it appears. So, I have been a vegetarian most of my life, my husband was an omnivore but barely ate any meat because I only cook vegetarian food. After watching Forks over Knives, he completely surprised me by saying that we should adopt a vegan diet for the health benefits. He ate a massive amount of cheese before, a latte in the morning, some butter, and sometimes salami. We both were really excited, and he loves what I have been cooking. We both lost some weight (were normal weight before just comfortably slimmer now) and our cholesterol came down (his dropped from 189 to 139). The people we have been listening to recommend not use additional fat for cooking etc. so while I did not eliminate it completely, I cut way back to very little in my cooking. I use a small/moderate amount of nuts every day, and an avocado about twice a week. We take a B12 supplement.

    To get to the point: I feel great but my husband reported that he felt a lack of energy (he started speaking up at month 2 or so), and that his sex drive was cut in half . I was startled and started investigating – I figure this cannot be unique to him – how are these other vegan men athletes and firefighters getting on. After much research, and what I found was nowhere outlined on the “Plant Based Community” websites, I conclude that his NEEDS fat, more fat, saturated fat – that it is tied to testosterone production and that is tied to energy levels.

    The many books I read (Dr. Barnard, Dr. McDougal, Dr. Esselstyn, Dr. Campbell etc.) recommend not to use any extra oil, and if you have heart disease, to even cut out nuts and avocado etc.

    I started to add 2 tblsp of flax seeds and 1 tblsp of coconut oil into his breakfast, and hope this will help him feel energetic and normal again (outside of that, we eat a huge variety and beans and grains every day, and fruit of course).

    I would love to hear what people have to say about this.

    Thank you!
    Eva

  53. Jack Norris RD Says:

    Eva,

    I haven’t seen any hard data on it, but I think it’s a good guess that eating an extremely low fat diet could decrease sex drive. I don’t know that flaxseeds will help, but trying to add more fat into your husband’s diet might make him feel better. I’m not as sure about the fatigue part; that could possibly be due to not eating enough calories for energy. Has his weight stabilized? Is he getting a source of iodine? What about zinc?

  54. Eva Says:

    Jack:

    Thank you for responding! I really appreciate it. His weight has stabilized (I asked him to weigh himself every day to make sure he was not losing too much weight), and he says that he is not hungry and feels he gets enough food. I only in the last few days discovered commentary about zinc and iodine. From what I now read about zinc, I am not sure we are getting enough. I use sea salt – so I guess we are not getting iodine either. Unless we got it via milk/cheese/yoghurt before, it would not be different. FYI – just ordered your book. I felt a knew a lot (I am into wellness and nutrition) and the only thing I had to be concerned about was B12. We are also taking D because my doctor told me last year that mine was low. I did not realize that I had to pay attention beyond making sure we ate whole grains, a variety of vegetables, fruit, protein and some nuts and seeds.

    I have to say that we were full fletched believers in the plant based diet after watching the documentary, and now we are a little alerted.

    I suppose from your response that you have not heard men say that their testosterone levels fell on a vegan diet? My husband is going to get tested next week – his doctor of course knows nothing about nutrition and proposed viagra. I have to say the impact was really drastic – from having an erection every morning, he now does not wake up with one.

    The stuff I found (mostly on men’ s health sites, and from a urologist in New York who mentions the same situation happening to a vegan man) would not be considered hard science. I started off thinking about fat – in particular saturated fat – when I saw that supposedly saturated fat raises testosterone levels and that can be a contributor to prostate cancer (Physicians for Responsible Medicine). And saturated fat is what he cut from his diet the most when becoming plant based.

    Thank you so much. I love your website and look forward to reading your book.

  55. Jack Norris RD Says:

    Eva,

    > Unless we got it via milk/cheese/yoghurt before,

    Yes, iodine is in dairy via of “contamination” by way of cleaning dairy equipment and cow’s teats with it.

    > I suppose from your response that you have not heard men say that their testosterone levels fell on a vegan diet?

    I have heard from at least one other vegan man that his sex drive decreased on a low-fat vegan diet. The one study that measured vegan testosterone levels found them to be just fine, but they were not on very low-fat diets.

    > I did not realize that I had to pay attention beyond making sure we ate whole grains, a variety of vegetables, fruit, protein and some nuts and seeds.

    Imagine that! (I say with sarcasm.) I’m surprised you listed “protein” as that usually is ignored as well in the popular vegan diet promotion.

  56. Tess Says:

    My son has discovered coconut flour and has added this to his diet.

    He has a pregnant wife and they do consume eggs when making coconut flour breadl, etc.

    Is their a substitute for eggs that would enhance their diet and mine?

    God bless you for all the great things you do for people and animals.

  57. Stefanno De Lira Says:

    Hello Jack,

    I’ve been reading your book for a couple of days now! It’s lovely. We’re making all the corrections we knew deep down we had to.

    However, I’m here to make a quick question. Is it possible to fortify my homemade Seitan with food grade calcium sulfate? Is there anything out there talking about this? We already add nutritional yeast, as we learned in another book, and I just happen to think about fortifying it with calcium as well.

    Thank you so much! Your advice is changing me and my wife into better vegans and we’ll spread it out there as often as possible. You did a great job!

  58. Jack Norris RD Says:

    Stefanno,

    I’m glad you have found the book useful!

    I have no experience or knowledge of cooking with calcium sulfate or fortifying one’s own foods at home. It sounds like an interesting idea.

  59. Betty Says:

    I went back and reread the opening essay “Try it again, Dr. Kim”. So many folks who stop being vegan don’t merely change their diet by introducing a small amount of animal food; instead, they go back to a diet rather high in animal products, including, of course, meat.

    It seems to me that Dr. Kim is to be congratulated for retaining his concerns for animal welfare and doing only as much as he felt (right or wrong) was mandatory for his good health. I read his articles; he is still pro-animal and continues to advocate a high plant food diet.

  60. Jack Hammer Says:

    I relish my position at the top of the food chain. I delight in proving myself superior to the witless, lowing vegetarian beasts of the field by devouring them repeatedly. And I love eggs, although since they are not fertilized they are not nearly as entertaining a prey to eat as a chicken. Now, before I have to listen to the cries of “cruelty!” answer me this; how am I any more cruel than any one of the countless species of predators that exist in nature?

    In fact, because I am an omnivore, I eat less meat than any of the lions, tigers, sharks, hyenas, or wolves that you studiously ignore.

    That’s what I thought. Keep on with your pointless drivel about cruelty. I bet if you were hungry enough, you would enjoy the predator’s feast. Or you would starve. Either way, Nature and the anmials do not care about you at all.

  61. Jack Norris RD Says:

    Jack Hammer,

    If you want to argue that you are not more capable of making ethical decisions than non-human animals, I will not disagree.

  62. Betty Says:

    Hey, Jack H., if I was hungry enough and there was nothing else to eat, I’d go for road kill so long as it was fresh enough. God knows there’s enough of it on the roads. What we do when we are starving, literally, and the choices we make when we are not, is 2 different kettles of fish.

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