Lexington, KY – I hear a lot of people raving about quinoa. It’s gluten free. It’s a complete protein source. It’s low-fat. Health fanatics, particularly vegetarians and vegans, love this grain-like crop. It sounded like soy or black beans –– another way to fill the void of meat from a diet.
At the same time, after working on a series of health stories relating to diets, I had countless conversations with people who were either recovering vegetarians; vegans or vegetarians who were always at the doctor; and vegetarians who struggled to meet simple fitness goals due to a lack of strength.
What I’ve concluded is that there are so many ironies and time-consuming steps involved in the life of a vegetarian or vegan to meet simple nutritional needs that come with being human, that I honestly don’t know why people bother.
After talking with experts on the topic, I learned that the nutritional deficiencies presented by many long-term vegan or vegetarian diets are difficult to overcome at best, and unfortunately many people take on a limited diet without proper research. Also, I talked to people who had to go for monthly B12 shots, add fish to their diet, or ditch their vegetarian lifestyle altogether because it was not working.
Michele DeJesus, a Lexington-based Ph.D. in holistic nutrition with an emphasis in vegan and vegetarian diets, concluded that these diets can possibly create a healthier lifestyle only if done responsibly, because of the risk of severe dietary deficiencies that can lead to major health issues.
“Don’t do it just because you want to be on a diet and lose a bunch of weight,” she said. “That kind of nutrition requires a great deal of thought, research and frankly, cooking … I would really recommend you go to a nutritionist or a dietitian.”