By now it’s common knowledge that a vegan diet is more than sufficient to not only survive but thrive on. There’s really no need to eat animal flesh or consume their excretions.
Public support from major national health organizations confirms this, like that from the American Dietetic Association, the British National Health Service, the US Department of Agriculture, and the Dietitians Association of Australia. Just to mention a few.
However, there’s more to the story.
Compare an average vegan diet with an average omni diet and the vegan will, without a doubt, be significantly healthier. By an order of magnitude. We’ve seen this in study after study - vegans on average have a much more nutritious diet than omnivores.
But that doesn’t mean that all vegan diets are healthy.
You could have french fries for breakfast, instant noodles for lunch, and oreos for dinner. Would it be completely vegan? Yep. Would it be completely garbage? Duh.
So the question isn’t whether a vegan diet can be healthy (it most certainly can).
The question is whether your vegan diet is healthy.
One way to find out how healthy your own diet is, is to visit a dietician. They’re the experts. One look at your food log and they can tell you how you’re doing; what’s good and what you could do better.
Finding the right dietician can help a lot!
The only problem is that, as the name implies, dieticians only look at your diet and that’s just one side of the coin: the input. The other side - what you’re really interested in - is the output; your health.
To figure out how you’re doing there, you have to dig a little deeper. Past skin deep.
Let’s Get Checked
I’ve been curious for a while about doing some blood work done, to quantify my health. (Yeah, I’m weird like that.)
So that’s why I got extra happy when I got an email earlier this year, asking if I would be interested in testing myself for free. Of course I jumped on the opportunity!
The company is Let’s Get Checked.
With labs both in Europe and the US, Let’s Get Checked can provide a really cool service to a lot of people. No explaining your diet to some medic, no exaggerating symptoms to get a test, no need to even be sick. You just pick the test you want (they have plenty) and that’s that.
I got checked
I went with the Basic Vitamin test to get checked for my vitamin B12, vitamin D, and folate levels. If you have deficiencies as a vegan, those are probably it. So good candidates to begin with.
Some days later a package arrived in the mail. A small box containing: blood lancets, sanitiser wipes, a blood vial, a biohazard bag, and so on. All you need to start a party!
Every package has an ID, which you register to your online account. That way no one except you and trusted Let’s Get Checked personnel will know who the sample belongs to - complete privacy.
Collecting the sample was easy. I used a lancet to prick my finger and draw some blood into the vial, which I then put in the biohazard bag, sealed it up, and finally stuffed it all in the return bag. Everything was prepaid so I could just drop it off at the post office.
A few days later they called me up to chat about my results and what they meant. How cool is that? I had expected to receive an email with a link to my results and that’s that.
Throughout the whole process I was in contact with their support a couple of times (to get to know more, for this article) and I was honestly impressed with their service.
So how did I do?
Vitamin D levels
Being deficient in vitamin D puts you at risk for a wide array of problems: severe asthma, cardiovascular disease, cognitive impairment, etc. It’s called “the sunshine vitamin” and while I don’t spend nearly as much time outdoors as I should or would want, I do supplement it.
Reference values differs some but most seem to agree that a healthy level is above 20 ng/mL (or 50 nmol/L). Had I been more serious about taking my supplement daily I might have doubled that but, still, at 81 nmol/L I’m doing pretty damn good.
Vitamin B12 levels
Ah, the infamous vitamin B12, also called cobalamin. The one micronutrient that everyone suddenly becomes an expert in, the moment you mention you’re a vegan.
While it’s absolutely vital to get enough vitamin B12, it’s actually not difficult get that. It can even be done without ever having to touch any supplement but personally I think it’s just very convenient to pop a pill every now and again to have my bases covered.
Looking a my results, I should perhaps pop those pill even less often. ;)
Note: reference values differ but from my research, 231 pmol/L isn’t something negative.
Folate is one of the less known vitamins (B9). Deficiency can lead to anemia and it’s especially important for pregnant women to make sure they get enough folate (through folic acid).
I don’t care too much about it and evidently rightly so.
All in all I’m very happy with my results. It gives me hard proof that I’m doing great as a vegan and it shows that, once again, there’s absolutely no need to eat animal flesh or their excretions.
Should you get checked?
There’s no reason to fear that you’re deficient just because you’re vegan. As long as you eat a varied diet of fruit and veggies, legumes and grains, nuts and seeds, then you’re way better off than most.
However! There’s something to be said for the feeling of knowing for sure.
Also, it can be tough, being constantly surrounded by people who doubt you and who keep having unfounded opinions about your diet. In this cases it can help a lot to have black-and-white proof that you’re in fact healthy an ox. Or, if not, you get a chance to do something about it.
Plus, if you’re anything like me, it’s pretty cool to quantify this aspect of yourself. ;)
Check them out and see what different tests they have:
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