It is a common assumption to many that the vegan diet requires some form of nutritional supplementation, since the regimen is 100% free of animal products. There are usually questions about protein, calcium, iron, B-12, omega 3 fatty acids, and a host of other nutrients thought to be available either exclusively, or in superior form, in animal foods like meat, diary and eggs. This is classic folklore. Instead, let’s set the record straight with this time-tested quote from my book, Muscles, Mangos and Meditation:
Fact #1: Every nutrient you will ever need comes in its purest form direct from the earth, via a variety of plant-based foods. That’s where the animals get them, and when someone eats animal products, they are getting a second-hand version of these nutrients, encased in a “delivery system” (the animal’s flesh, milk or eggs) that is devoid of any dietary fiber or live enzymes and usually loaded with factory farm-related toxins, artery-clogging saturated fats and protein ratios that make our blood acidic.
Still… supplements are an important consideration to the plant-based diet, but not because of any kind of inherent shortcoming in plant-based foods. Once upon a time, in the most primal form of human experience, our Creator ensured our optimal health and well-being by providing us with a multicolored cornucopia – literally hundreds of nutritionally dense plant foods – most anywhere on the globe. Many of these foods were devoured raw after being picked from the richest, most pristine soils imaginable. Those were the days, and they were quite a while ago!
Since then, of course, everything has changed. So now we’re left to make the best of an over-processed, over-populated and over-extended Mother Earth by supplementing our diets, when necessary, with alternative forms of nutrients that are either no longer present (or as prominent) in the food we eat, or nowhere near as potent as they once were.
On the other side of the debate, there are still some vegan and raw food purists out there who do not want to believe that one should have to resort to anything packaged, canned or bottled, no matter what the contents, as they hold steadfast to the concept that everything we need should come exclusively from our food. I wish I could agree but, instead, I have to respectfully disagree. Which leads us to fact #2:
Fact #2: While you could likely do okay with a well-planned, food-only regimen, to experience the absolute ultimate levels of superior health, we need a little assistance.
As a quick analogy, consider the world of resistance training. For all of the newfangled machines and gimmicks, free weights are still the best singular kind of equipment you can use. It’s old school, but it’s timeless, much in the same way that a clean, simple plant-based regimen is. The fruit, veggies, legumes, nuts and grains that were the foundation of our ancestors, the rural Chinese, the Himalayans, etc., are still the best. But in the same way that the contemporary, well-equipped health club supplements their free weight section with a variety of machines and cardio equipment to give you an optimal training experience so, too, does adding few key supplements to your nutrient-dense eating regimen optimize your diet. So consider all that we discuss around here to be the valued synergistic addition to your present efforts.
There are several profound reasons why supplements are critical to your Rock-Solid nutritional regimen:
A) Assist: To assist the body in key digestion/assimilation/immunity functions by strengthening or supplementing the body’s natural mechanisms. This might include probiotics or prebiotics, digestive enzymes, certain antioxidant blends, etc.
B) Enhance: To enhance your program by enjoying a few products that offer, dare I say, superior forms of certain nutrients than much of our food. (Certain probiotic, enzyme, antioxidant and chlorophyll-based products come to mind.) This is one of the few ways where technology has actually improved upon an otherwise dreary forecast in modern eating practices.
C) Augment: To augment the nutritional efforts of your eating regimen by filling in the occasional blanks of what you are not able to get on any given day. This might include key supplements like vitamin B-12, vitamin D, essential fatty acids, high-chlorophyll greens, etc.
Therefore, your supplement program should ultimately be a living, breathing element of your routine that picks up the slack and accommodates the variables of your day-to-day lifestyle particulars.
In part two, I’ll break down the five different categories of supplements for you as we get into some specifics about how to put together the right regimen for you.