A calcium-rich plant-based meal using a variety of cooking techniques and ingredients. Photo by Susan Waxman
It has been my observation that recently more and more vegans have been having bone problems including hip fractures and replacements. In the past, hip fractures were considered to be a sign of old age and impending death. This may not the case today, but I do believe that the food choices common to much of the vegan practice are creating an overly acidic condition which may cause calcium loss. Calcium is available in all plant-based foods, especially greens and beans. Proper food preparation aids in the absorption and utilization of calcium, minerals, and other nutrients.
Current vegan recommendations advise avoiding all added salt, sugar, and oil. In addition, nightshades and other acidifying vegetables are highly recommended. Furthermore, smoothies are often used to replace some meals altogether. It is my concern that this may not be a healthy direction for a sustained vegan practice. All of the world’s long-standing civilizations were plant-based; their mainstays were grains, beans, vegetables, and fruits. They also used salt and oil in their food preparations (this includes the people of Blue Zones). It seems it is safer and healthier to base our general recommendations on what has already worked for many hundreds, or even thousands of years.
There’s no doubt that the excessive use of salt and oil is unhealthy, especially when these are poor quality. It might be advisable to take a softer approach by recommending a minimal use of natural sea salt and high quality sesame and/or olive oil. Salt makes food tastier, more enjoyable, and satisfying. High-quality sea salt, used in cooking, aids in carbohydrate digestion and absorption in the small intestine. Oil, used in cooking, aids in the absorption of minerals and fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K). It also adds to the taste and enjoyment of foods cooked in oil.
I am concerned that current vegan recommendations are an overreaction to a meat and dairy-based diet. The world is watching us; let’s make sure we get it right. I’d like to add more detailed information about specific recommendations and food choices in future blogs. Stay tuned.