Do vegans need supplements?

Does a vegan diet lead to nutrient deficiency, which can only be solved through supplements? Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, author of The 30-Day Vegan Challenge, dispels the common myth.

For all the time that vegan educators have been promoting veganism, author and vegan advocate Colleen Patrick-Goudreau says that it hasn't been done as well as it could. While the marketplace is ripe with new, meat-like vegan foods and fortified plant-based milks, these items have also created the perception that the vegan diet inherently lacks in essential nutrients.

This is far from the case, said Patrick-Goudreau. Instead of helping someone to go vegan by fortifying with supplements, she lays out a whole food, plant-based approach to the lifestyle—and diet—in her new book,The 30-Day Vegan Challenge: The Ultimate Guide to Eating Cleaner, Getting Leaner and Living Compassionately. See why she thinks a paradigm shift—the idea that plants provide all the nutrients we need—can mold the future of veganism.

Delicious Living: Why do you think veganism is becoming more common?

Colleen Patrick-GoudreauColleen Patrick-Goudreau: When someone's vegan, people usually ask them why they're vegan. While there's one thing that often guides people to being vegan, it winds up becoming manifold. People stay vegan for many reasons because it has a ripple effect and touches so many areas of our lives. Why do I think it's becoming more mainstream? I think it's because things are so bad with our health, our animals and our environment. We're looking to solutions and being vegan really is a solution to so many of the problems that we have right now.

DL: What are the most common questions you are asked by someone thinking of going vegan?

CPG: They have to do with nutrition, because we've all been taught the misconception that we need animal products in order to get the nutrition we need. The protein question is the first question people ask. It's so funny to me, because as I wrote in the The 30-Day Vegan Challenge protein chapter, we're so obsessed with protein it's just ridiculous.

And yet if you were to ask someone what protein deficiency looks like, they couldn't tell you. They don't know what it looks like because we don't have diseases of deficiency [in the United States]. We have diseases of excess. We don't have kwashiorkor, the scientific term for protein deficiency. So everyone's obsessed with it and it really has a lot to do with the successful marketing of the meat industry, and certainly the egg industry as well.

If you go underneath all of this and take a look at where all the nutrients actually come from, the nutrients we need are plant-based. The only nutrient that's not plant based is B12, and that's bacteria based. There's nothing nutritionally that we need from an animal. Frankly, it's incredibly problematic from a resource, ethnical and health perspective to be going through the animals to get to the nutrients that we need.

DL: What is your opinion of fortified foods and supplements as part of a vegan diet?

CPG: Fortified foods make people look at the accessibility and availability of plant foods as being inferior and lacking. The truth is that's [plants] where the nutrients are. You don't have to fortify kale with calcium – it's already there. I look at fortified foods and multivitamins and supplements really as assurance, but not as the replacement for healthful, whole foods. The more we can make the foundation of our diet those whole foods that have all the nutrients we need, the better.

DL: The book is a substantial guide for everything from tackling the milk-calcium connection to navigating social situations as a vegan. How long did it take you to write this book? How did you determine what to put in it?

CPG: This really is the culmination of 11 years of my work, so it was just a matter of putting it all together. There's so much information out there on why vegan. I don't care why people want to come to it. [The book] doesn't even say why you're coming to it—who knows? —I just know there are enough people interested in it. But there's so little out on how to actually do it. That's what's so exciting about this book. It really holds people's hands through all of the different challenges: the nutrition myths, the social aspects and the treatment of animals.

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