by Jacqueline Yeo
Have you ever wondered if vegans suffer from nutrient deficiencies? What about if they lead deprived lives in Singapore due to the lack of food choices? Here is some esoteric knowledge that can help answer your questions about veganism.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends a minimum of 5% of total caloric intake be from protein, and the most common source of protein for many people is meat. To give you a gauge of how easily this requirement can be met, 9-15% of calories in wheat come from protein; rice and lentils have about 4% and 9% respectively. No wonder we don’t see victims of Kwashiorkor (protein deficiency) in first-world countries; only severely starved individuals suffer from it! But for vegans – especially those looking to build muscles – veggies that are protein-rich include peas, soybeans, mushrooms and tofu.
The next biggest question about vegans who don’t eat cheese or dairy products is: where do you get your calcium from? It turns out that dairy may not be as good a source of calcium as the dairy industry has portrayed. Increasing numbers of studies have shown that milk actually depletes the calcium in bones. This is how it goes: Milk has an acidifying nature and calcium in the bones are released to neutralise it, which will then be excreted out of your body through urination. Real good sources of calcium are actually – wait for it – soybean, bokchoy, broccoli and even oranges!
Surprisingly, most alcohols are vegan, particularly hard liquors like vodka. Vegans will have to take note, though, of the hidden ingredients as some drinks do use gelatin, casein, fish bladder (er, what?) that are not plant-based.
Yes, there are vegans who sometimes crave non-vegan food and this is why the food industry has come out with all sorts of substitutes to satisfy the palates of these people. In Singapore, an increasing number of vegan restaurants are springing up. Even in mainstream supermarkets, like NTUC, aisles with full shelves displaying organic (mostly vegan) choices, including pizza, pies and ice cream (yes, vegan) cater to these minorities. And if you don’t want to feed your system chemicals or unhealthy fats, videos of DIY healthy alternatives can be found on Youtube. Not that hard to be a vegan after all, huh?
This is a highly controversial topic especially in the vegan community. Essentially, vitamin B12 is produced by bacteria which we consume together with the food we eat. It regulates cell metabolism, our nervous system and even protects us against cancer. Meat advocates argue that vegans don’t obtain sufficient B12 because its primary source is meat (as claimed). Yet others maintain that it can also be found in river water and soil. Nevertheless, it is common for both vegans and non-vegans to be B12-deficient so the B12 problem is not solely unique to veganism. However, you can get B12 from fortified soy and cereal products, or a B12 shot or supplement (purists insist that it is not a natural way).
(images credited to their respective owners)