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Real vs fake vegetarians

Maybe you’ve heard about, or even watched, the recent much-hyped documentary “The Game Changer” on Netflix?

It presents a lot of information to argue that a vegetarian diet is the healthiest approach. But it’s very much a one-sided presentation, without any real scientific evidence, and with some information that is simply wrong. Yet so many people are watching programs like this and then following a diet trend, because they think it’s going to be the perfect solution for them.

So which is better — being vegetarian, vegan, or maybe carnivore? There is no clear answer for that, it depends so much on WHY you are choosing. First, we need to know the reason behind it. If you find that your way of eating makes you feel good, puts your body at ease, and maintains your energy throughout then it’s no one’s business to say that you should not eat this way!

I believe that we can only talk from our own experience. If you want to go looking for evidence, then we can easily find evidence that supports whichever side we want. But just listening to one side, with one approach, is not giving you the balanced information and education that you need.

My biggest worry is that we’re making what we eat feel like a religion, we’re following something without really being aware of how it is affecting our personal health — mind and body.

Have you seen the “fake” meat that is now available? Why do you think that many vegetarians are attracted to eating foods that are made to look like (and taste like) sausages, burgers, and even bacon? If they’re craving these foods, why are they still following a vegetarian diet? If you’re trying to cut added sugar and you switch to sugar substitutes then (even if it might cause other side effects and not be the healthiest option) I can understand it.

But why choose a vegetarian or vegan diet and still try to imagine that you’re eating meat?

Have you ever looked at the ingredient list of plant-based chicken nuggets? Here it is: Textured vegetable protein (soy protein concentrate, soy protein isolate, wheat gluten, water for hydration), water, enriched wheat flour (flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), bleached wheat flour, corn oil, cornstarch, contains two percent or less of wheat starch, salt, methycellulose, modified corn starch, dextrose, autolyzed yeast extract, potassium chloride, natural and artificial flavors from non-meat sources, sugar, maltodextrin, disodium inosinate, soybean oil, hydrolyzed soy protein, onion, paprika, dried yeast, inulin from chicory root, caramel color tapioca dextrin, xanthan gum, sodium alginate spices, yellow corn flour, paprika extract for color, annatto extract for color, baking soda, garlic, tomato powder, celery extract, wheat fiber, lactic acid, safflower oil, barley extract, citric acid, niacinamide, egg whites, nonfat dry milk, succinic acid, disodium guanylate, iron (ferrous sulfate), thiamin mononitrate (vitamin b1), pyridoxine hydrochloride (vitamin b6), riboflavin (vitamin b2), vitamin b12

Reading the list of ingredients takes longer than it takes to eat the nugget.

In comparison, here’s the ingredient list for regular chicken nuggets: Chicken breast meat. Marinated in water and sea salt. breaded in unbleached wheat flour, water, cane sugar, dried yeast, sea salt, black pepper, paprika.

Which of those two would you rather eat?

How about hot dogs? Here’s the ingredients for plant-based hot dogs: Water, wheat gluten, textured vegetable protein (soy isolate, wheat gluten), soy isolate, corn oil, torula yeast, contains 2% or less of defatted wheat germ, hydrolyzed soy protein, autolyzed yeast extract, defatted soy flour, minced onion, disodium guanylate & inosinate (vegan source), corn syrup, cottonseed oil, soy concentrate, garlic powder, caramel color, soy lecithin, natural smoke flavor, salt, lysine, spices, vitamins (niacinamide, thiamine, vitamin B6, riboflavin, vitamin B12), red #3 and yellow #6 for color

And for regular hot dogs:

Organic grass-fed beef, water. Contains less than 2% of the following: sea salt, organic spices, organic dehydrated garlic, organic dehydrated onion, organic paprika, celery powder

Some veggie burgers can be more acceptable than others. For example, here’s the ingredients for one organic veggie burger:

Organic Vegetables (Organic Carrots, Organic Kale, Organic Onion), Organic Wheat Flour, Organic Quinoa Cooked In Water, Organic Chopped Almonds, Organic Soybean Oil, Sea Salt, Organic Spices, Organic Garlic,

A whole food plant-based diet, and a processed food plant based diet are really two completely different ways of eating! Now I’m not suggesting that you have to eat chicken nuggets or hot dogs, I’m just saying that if you decide to go plant-based this may not be the healthiest food option.

When a manufacturer writes “plant-based beef” on the package most people believe that plant-based meat products are healthier, more natural, less processed, and better for the environment. When you read the ingredient labels you will see that this is not the case.

I don’t believe that there is one way of eating for everyone. However, I do strongly believe that whatever diet we follow, we can do better. We should eat food that looks like food! Food is information for the body. Interestingly, we are able to eat badly and still survive. But we can survive beautifully, peacefully, or lousily, depending on what we give our body.

I think that we all need to step back and educate ourselves and feel the connection with our food. How do you feel after eating certain foods? Food is energy, so it must energize us. If we feel lethargic or in any way negative after eating, then we are eating something that is bad for us. If you are eating a correct diet, you should see:

• After eating you should not want to sleep

• You should feel the food is nourishing you

• You should not feel bloating or gas

• Increased sleep quality

• Mental clarity

• Easy digestion, that should not take your energy

• You should feel light

• Your mood should be stable

• You should not be addicted — you have control, your food does not control you

In other words, we need to eat as much unprocessed, single ingredient food as possible. Most people call this “real food” — simple, nutrient dense food.

Changing your diet and going on a plant-based “whole foods” diet is great for some individuals, depending on their goals. However, a lot of people feel a lot better, and react a lot better, from consuming animal protein.

We should stop blaming the type of diet, and look instead at what is the food content that we are consuming? And please stop following someone else’s diet! You are living your own life, you need to find what is correct for YOU.


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Ayda Ersoy: Nutritionist (Dip.C.N., Dip.S.N.), Master Trainer, (CPT ACE, NCSF, CanfitPro), Registered Yoga Teacher Founder, Health Angel Nutrition, Fitness and Wellness Founder, SMS (Stability, Mobility Strength) Intuitive Training System. She can be reached at and
Source: The Garden Island

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