Should I Go Vegan to Get Healthy?

Should you become vegan in order to become healthier? In a word, No! This came up a couple of times recently and I wanted to talk about the idea that being a vegan is somehow healthier than being an omnivore. Let me be clear in what I am and what I am not saying. I am saying that choosing to follow a vegan diet because it is healthier than the alternatives is a misinformed choice, because it is not inherently healthier. I am not saying that it is wrong to be vegan and I am not saying that you can’t be healthy on a vegan diet. I am not debating what diet you are choosing. I am debating why you are choosing it.

Vegan vs omniLet’s start with the major category definitions.

Omnivore = Eats all food source categories

Vegetarian = Eats no meat or animal products

Pescetarian= Eats no meat or animal products, but includes fish, mollusks, and crustaceans

Lacto-vegetarian= Eats no meat or animal products, but may include dairy products

Ovo-vegetarian = Eats eggs, but dairy and meat are still restricted

Vegan = Eats only plant sourced foods

So, there are many steps in-between being an omnivore and a vegan. It’s not always an either/or question. The first problem with comparison is that most often people are comparing the worst omnivore (eats fried meat all day and no fruits or veggies) with the best vegan (is careful to get all of the nutrients they are missing by cutting out many food sources). Most individuals on these diets are neither of these extremes.

Some of the most heart healthy diets, such as the DASH Diet and the Mediterranean Diet are omnivorous ones. Some vegan (plant-based) choices are less than healthy, like processed faux meats (actually there are many vegan options that are processed) and sugar.

If you want to choose to be vegan for ethical reasons or even if you just want to try it, great. Go for it, but don’t do it to become healthier. Make sure that you get all the nutrients that you need and may be missing by having cut out food groups. Also, pay particular attention to getting enough complete protein in your day (soy and quinoa are great sources).

If you want to be a healthy omnivore, add more fruits and vegetables into your diet (most Americans don’t eat enough), eat as many whole foods as possible and keep your protein sources lean and cook them in a lean manner.

Ultimately, both an omnivore diet and a vegan diets can be either healthy or not. Being vegan and meeting all of your dietary needs can be difficult, but omnivores have plenty of their own challenges. Of course, in any of these, you can overeat and that can lead to weight gain. So, manage your calories as well.

Good luck in whatever you choose. Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

Older Americans Month?

I was just tracking down some information for a later article when I happened on to this. May is Older Americans Month (OAM), and, as I start to consider myself “older”, I had to find out what this is all about. It seems that the Administration for Community Living (ACL) has been leading the charge in celebrating OAM. ACL also created the theme for 2017. The theme is “Age Out Loud”, sort of a “Loud and Proud” for the aging adult. Frankly the theme could easily have been “Age Out Loud and Proud” because the point is to give the aging population the recognition that they (well… we) deserve.   Logos2

The older adult population continues to grow and with that, their desire to stay healthy, fit, active, and, as OAM states, “live their lives with boldness, confidence, and passion while serving as an inspiration to people of all ages.” In other words, to continue to kick butt and take names. I’m certainly all for that.

They have some fun ideas for things that you can do in your own community to celebrate Aging Out Loud and have links to some great resources from other organizations for the aging adult. See resources.

Age Out Loud is also meant to keep older adults engaged in the issues going on around us. Getting out and being heard on issues from city planning to healthcare. No retreating from the world here. Always active, always moving forward. #AgeOutLoud

Summer is Coming. What’s Your Workout Plan?

About this time of year, I start hearing people talking about how they’re going to stop going to the gym because they will be active outdoors all summer. I get it, active inside or active outside, it doesn’t really matter, does it? Well, I have to tell you. It’s not the same.

gardener

First, let me say that exercising or being active outside can have some significant emotional/psychological benefits. Even five minutes of “green exercise” can enhance your mood and feeling of well-being. So, yea for being outside! There are, however, a few cautionary notes to dropping out of your regular full body workout program.

Whether we are gardening or playing tennis, activities are never symmetrical. We always favor one arm or leg. Raking, digging, planting are one side dominant. We even get up or down on the ground favoring one leg. Tennis is essentially a one-armed sport. In golf, you always swing to one side. These asymmetries can create strength and flexibility imbalances that may cause injuries in time. kayak

Another issue is that these activities rarely take us through the full ranges of motion that we would (or should) be getting with our  gym workout. Full movement at the knees, hips, shoulders, elbows, etc. doesn’t come without planning for it. Walking, running, hiking, canoeing, kayaking, and biking do not promote joint mobility (or certainly not full-body joint mobility).

trx chest press

TRX (suspension device) for outdoor workouts

There are some solutions that are pretty simple. One option is to just keep doing your regular gym workout. If you don’t seem to have time and want to spend more time outside you can modify your workout to be shorter and/or go to the gym less frequently. In example, you could cut back to a 30 minute, twice a week. Another answer is to do your full body workout outdoors. There are a number of ways to make that happen. You can do bodyweight workouts, use a suspension device such as the TRX, or you could use elastic tubing that is very portable and very effective.

What you can’t do is go from a structured, full body workout program to summer “activities” and expect to maintain the benefits. You’ll come back in the fall having to start up at a much reduced level to reflect what you have lost. So, plan ahead and decide how you can continue your strength and mobility training throughout the summer.