“Plant-based” diets SOUND healthy…but are they?

I guess I’m just in a myth-busting mood this week. Yesterday, it was cholesterol. Today, I’m taking on veganism — with the help of some brand new research from a team of German nutritionists.

Leave it to the straight-talking, sausage-loving Germans to invoke common sense and set the record straight on this subject. They’re certainly not a culture that minces words. So I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to hear that they’re calling out vegan diets for being downright unhealthy.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s easy to see how people have been duped into becoming vegan. Toxic and cruel practices are par for the course when it comes to commercially farmed animal products. And with so many celebrities now jumping on the “plant-based” bandwagon, the temptation to throw the baby out with the bathwater is even greater.

Obviously, even Germany hasn’t been immune to this misinformed health fad. In fact, the Vegetarian Times recently called Berlin “one of the hottest vegan dining destinations.” Much to the dismay of the German Nutrition Society.

This non-profit research organization recently published a study that takes a firm stance against veganism — asserting that it simply doesn’t offer your body the nutrition necessary to sustain health.

Again, this is just plain good sense. Whenever you restrict your diet to a few foods — especially when you start eliminating foods that humans, as omnivores, are meant to eat by our very nature — you’re going to come up short in crucial nutrients. The most critical of which, in the case of veganism, is B12.

As these German researchers point out, animal products are pretty much the only place you’ll find ample quantities of B12. And deficiencies in this essential nutrient can lead to very serious problems, compromising everything from your brain function to your heart health to your bone density.

But there are other nutritional risks to veganism — including low levels of vitamin D, calcium, iron, and zinc. Which is why the study authors also go out of their way to warn that veganism is especially dangerous for pregnant and nursing women, as well as infants, children, and adolescents.

And this is absolutely my stance too. Remember, children thrive on fat for proper growth and development. So depriving them of fat-rich animal products is tantamount to child abuse, if you ask me.

Unfortunately, however, not everyone in this country agrees with me. The Academy of Nutrition and Diatetics, for example, says that veganism is a perfectly acceptable lifestyle at any age. Their own research suggests that with proper planning and use of fortified foods and supplements, there’s no reason even babies and pregnant women can’t thrive on a vegan diet.

Of course, notice the words “fortified foods.” That’s right — let’s all fill up on some fake chicken and turkey formed out of tofu that has been genetically modified rather than eat foods that Mother Nature has provided for us.

That sounds really healthy, now doesn’t it? Hmmm….Do you think this group might get part of their funding from the food industry? Certainly sounds suspect to me.

You can’t argue with science. And at the end of the day, there is really no convincing evidence that so-called “plant based diets” are good for us. I know it’s all the rage — not always for health and ethical reasons, either, but for environmental ones, too. And I’ll make a mental note to tackle that one day soon — because the truth is, it isn’t any cleaner for the environment to raise soy beans or sugar than it is to raise cattle.

But that’s a different discussion for another day.

For now, I’ll simply point out the fact that — despite veganism’s reputation for being the gold standard of good health — most vegetarians eat nothing but carbohydrates and processed foods. And that’s one lifestyle you’ll never see me advocating.

Obviously, I’m not saying you shouldn’t eat vegetables. (In fact, I dare say I eat more of them than most self-professed vegans.) On the contrary, eat your veggies at every meal. Just do it with a serving of responsibly raised, grass-fed and finished beef or wild-caught fish on the side.