The Unhealthy Vegan

It’s a bit deceiving, this vegan diet. You would think that someone who is vegan is indeed a healthy person. Well, like any unbalanced diet, you can be both vegan and unhealthy. In an ideal meal plan, a vegan’s diet should consist of mostly plant-based foods which include fruit, vegetables, seeds, nuts, grains, fermented foods, legumes, beans, etc. A junk food vegan is a vegan who consumes a high amount of processed foods which are essentially made in a science lab. 

Moving on from that sad reality, let’s focus on what makes our mouths water and causes our sweet tooth to take the lead in our food decisions.   

Here are my top 10 vegan junk foods that made me squeal for joy and forget all about my own home-made, self-loved muffin top:

  1. Thin Mints
  2. Oreos
  3. Smartfood Delight Sea Salt Air Popped Popcorn
  4. Sour Patch Kids
  5. Cap’n Crunch Peanut Butter Crunch
  6. Lay’s Potato Chips
  7. Clif Bars
  8. Airheads
  9. Fritos
  10. Nabisco Triscuits

Don’t be Fooled by Labels

Although I joke around in this article, we all know just because a junk food is vegan, it does not mean that it is nutritious. Therefore, vegans wanting to improve their health should stick to minimally processed plant foods and limit their use of the following products:

  1. Vegan junk food: Vegan ice cream, candy, cookies, chips and sauces generally contain just as much added sugar and fat as their non-vegan counterparts.Plus, they contain almost no vitamins, minerals and beneficial plant compounds. 
  2. Vegan sweeteners: Vegan or not, molasses, agave syrup, date syrup and maple syrup are still added sugars. Eating too much of them may increase your risk of developing medical issues such as heart disease and obesity. With obesity on the rise, don’t allow yourself to be a part of the issue. If we could take away one quote from Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, it would be “Take care of you”
  3. Mock meats and cheeses: These processed foods generally contain lots of additives. Additives equate to added health issues. They provide you with far fewer vitamins and minerals than whole, protein-rich plant-based foods like beans, lentils, peas, nuts and seeds.
  4. Some dairy-free milks: Sweetened dairy-free milks generally contain a good amount of added sugar. Opt for the unsweetened versions instead. Eventually, you will get used to the taste.
  5. Vegan protein bars: Most vegan protein bars contain high amounts of refined sugar. What’s more, they usually contain an isolated form of protein, which lacks the nutrients you’d find in the plant it was extracted from. That’s not great news – sorry for the being the bearer of bad news.

But wait, there’s more….

Profit over Responsibility

Nutritional content and marketing are two ways businesses are deceiving us and impacting society in an unhealthy way (pun intended). The nutritional content of food is an ethical issue. Companies are solely focused on profit over responsibility. Food developers are concentrated on ways to entice addictions by making foods convenient, less expensive, and extremely unhealthy. As we know, salt, sugars, and fats satisfy our physical cravings and create powerful food addictions. 

This practice has had a profound effect on our public health. The next time you are at a public place, stop and look around. You will notice the increase in American obesity. The State of Obesity has published data that shows in some states, obesity has increased nearly 40% since 1990. Americans have nearly doubled in size. 

So, who is to blame for the U.S. obesity epidemic? Is it the public for not taking good care of its health? Is it the government for not doing their job in regulating the food we consume? Or is it the food industry that sells us our food? I would dare to say, it is all of the above. 

If we can not make the government do its job or change the way the food industry does business, then the responsibility lies solely on us, the consumers. 

When food companies choose to be less responsible and increase sales without considering the long-term health impacts for their formulating and marketing decisions, it inevitably makes it much harder for the consumers to do the right thing. The good news is that this will not last forever. 

One group leading the way for ingredient and brand integrity is the Council for Responsible Nutrition. CRN’s mission is to sustain and enhance a climate for our members to responsibly develop, manufacture and market dietary supplements, functional food and their nutritional ingredients. In a recent statement towards the FDA’s commitment to increased enforcement action, CRN applauded the FDA Commissioner for recognizing the maturity of the dietary supplement industry and the need for increased agency activity to promote consumer safety:

"As the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA) celebrates its silver anniversary, the time is right to dream of an even more vibrant future. CRN imagines that in the next twenty-five years, science-based nutritional products will become universally accepted and trusted as essential choices for consumers to achieve and maintain good health and wellness. The balance DSHEA achieved between preserving consumer access and assuring consumer safety, along with FDA’s appropriate regulatory oversight under DSHEA, have helped make the industry the robust market it is today. Through the commitment expressed today, FDA can make possible an even more vibrant industry tomorrow.”

Eventually stakeholders will follow pursuit. We can only hope they will begin to demand and define the limits of responsibility for the companies rather than leaving it for the companies themselves. 

We must begin to educate ourselves on what we eat. We need to stop asking, “where’s the beef?” and start asking ourselves, “what do our bodies need?”. (Answers are found all over Google.)

But, when in doubt, remember the Vegan Golden Rule.

Vegan Golden Rule

If a product is loaded with salt, sugar, fat, and/or is derived from an animal – and lacks any notable nutritional value – abstain from eating it. If you are still in doubt, simply eat your vegetables and pop an Ahiflower pill for a superpower dose of your daily need for omega-3, 6, & 9. 

Like everything in life, balance is the key. Sorry to break it to you, Junk Food Loving Vegans.