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"B12, Omega-3's, and the Vegan Diet" or "Should I Eat Fish?"

post #1 of 44
Thread Starter 
as salaam alaykum

i've been vegan for almost ten years now. i've never been a junk food vegan, i stay away from refined carbs and hydrogenated oils and all that, we eat a ton of greens etc... i've been very attached to being vegan for quite a while, so even *thinking* of consuming fish is a big deal for me. i haven't felt healthy in a LONG time. there was a time that i did, back when i was off meat and dairy for the first few years... but in retrospect i still had some health issues, hypoglycemia and iron deficient anemia, to be exact. (to be fair, i don't think my anemia is related to not eating meat, as i was anemic as a meat eater as well.) my first pregnancy, i was able to keep my iron up with my diet alone, but during my second and third pregnancies i took supplements. now that i'm done having babies, i feel worn out... depleted. it's not like we don't eat well though, or that i don't get enough sleep (hooray for the family bed). i have been taking supplements, but i don't feel like it's helping, and i would rather meet my nutritional needs without them if possible. i'm not worried about protein intake.

last night i read this, and the suggestions at the end on how to maintain a truely healthy lifestyle with a vegan diet included supplements, massive amounts of flax daily, and fortified foods. it just doesn't seem all that natural to me... neither does consuming massive amounts of soy/wheat meat (which i intend to cut down on).

so...

what are the benefits to eating fish? are omega 3's from fish superior to the ones you get in flax/primrose oil? how often would i have to eat it to reap the benefits? i'm not interested in eating other animals or their by-products. i want to be healthy, in the most natural way possible, while doing the least amount of harm possible. i have a major problem with facotory farming and conventional slaughterhouses... but can anyone tell me about organic fish (what makes them organic) and wild fish? i have always been committed to being vegan, and i did it from the very beginning for ethical reasons (the health benefits weren't much more than a cool side effect)... but now that i have kids and i don't feel all that great, i am getting concerned.

thanks.
post #2 of 44
I was vegan for many years and had similar a low iron issue. with my first pregnancy i found that my body really needed eggs and fish (wild salmon). i could feel directly the result of eating these foods! now that our daughter is 2.4 and still breastfeeding i still eat the salmon when my body asks for it. i drink a tablespoon of ground flax a day. i find the flax helps with my body's digestion/elimination.
if you think your diet is sufficient as is, you might try going on a cleanse, if you are not still breastfeeding. personally, i can't wait. i know my body would benefit so much from a fresh fruit juice cleanse but will wait until dd's breastfeeding slows down. cleansing the liver and the digestive tract will aid in nutrient absorbtion.

all the best
tricia
post #3 of 44
I am vegetarian and non pregnant I have done good on a mixture of flax and hemp seeds and oil. But with being pregnant and nursing so much the last few years I have started taking a fish oil and it made a big difference, my hair and skin really benefited from it. I do plan on stopping once I am done being pregnant. I also started giving my daughter fish oil once or so a week. I felt with her small appettite i couldn't guarantee that she was eating as much oils as she should.

good luck to you, it is a hard decission to make and for me I can't think too much about the fact that it is fish (which i never liked)

Tara
post #4 of 44
Alaikum Asalaam! How interesting that you posted this--I have been seriously considering going vegan, or at least modified vegan until I'm done with pregnancy/bf-ing, for ethical reasons. I recently started on fish oil supplements b/c of my high cholesterol and depression. I asked my doctor if I could take vegan forms instead, and she told me (as you've probably already discovered from your research) that the body has to work very hard to extract the essential fatty acids from flaxseed or flaxseed oil, and it's hard to get sufficient quantities from vegan sources. I don't feel comfortable with eating a lot of fish because of the mercury.

I don't know how to address the ethical concerns. I take Nordic Naturals http://nordicnaturals.com/direct/faqs.asp, but unfortunately don't know how the fish are treated.
post #5 of 44
Thread Starter 
salaam

tricia- totally planning on a cleansing fast as soon as i'm done nursing my littlest! i am definately feeling worn out from nearly 6 years of constant pregnancy and/or nursing, lol. i nursed both of my older two for two years, and the third is just finishing her first year.

tara- that's exactly what i've been going though... my skin just feels dry and my scalp is all dry and itchy not matter what i do. at the moment, all of the B12 and essential oils i get are in the form of fortified foods and vitamins... it just doesn't seem natural. and feeding 2 T of flax per person, per day in a large family gets expensive. not to mention the cost of vitamins etc... i imagine that occasionally eating a little bit of fish (maybe once a week or every other week) might meet those needs without costing us quite as much.

darlene- salam! i love the vegan diet... the idea of eating fish is just such a weird idea to me. i think that i have a problem absorbing certain nutrients, which i understand is not a problem for everyone. but i do think that it may be the reason that i haven't noticed any difference in my health since i started eating flax (which i have been for a while, and i also too primrose oil supplements for a time as well).

where i am right now... still deciding if the benefits are worth it. one thing that is making me hesitate is that i've carried the "vegan" label for so long, that i'm afriad of being a sell-out (lol). while animal welfare is important to me, and while i have no desire to kill anything i don't need to kill, i don't want decisions about my health to be based on how other people are going to judge me. **edited to say** it's not that i'm afraid of being judged... more that i really liked being a part of something... the whole belonging issue.
post #6 of 44
What I understand is that the Omega-3's in fish are often contaminated with PCB etc (ethical issues notwithstanding), and the Omega-3's in supplements are often rancid by the time you take them. I eat a tablespoon of raw ground flaxseed daily and drink soymilk w/vegan-sourced Omega-3's added--simple enough. Flaxseed does seem like a "fringe-food" or supplemental in the modern diet, but keep in mind that it was a huge staple of ancient times.

As for B-12: *IF* we were growing fruits and veggies as nature intended, instead of growing them with tons of pesticides that we have to wash off before eating, we'd get more than enough B-12 from the residual soil on the fruits' and veggies' surfaces. Since we have to wash the fruits and veggies so thoroughly, we're missing out on the natural B-12 that we'd get. [IMO: this is yet another piece of evidence showing how we are meant to live in harmony with nature instead of trying to micromanage it.] At any rate, since eating the pesticide isn't an option, and since you can't be sure of how any food was grown unless you've grown it yourself.....you can rely at lest partially on B-12 fortified foods--there are a plethora of them. Just a glass of soymilk daily gives you like 50% of your B-12, and its also in tofu, cereal, mock meats, etc etc. Not to mention, virtually every vitamin out there contains B-12. I take one called Gentle Care by Dr. Fuhrman (author of Eat to Live) which is specifically meant for whole food/natural hygiene vegans. (www.drfuhrman.com)

HTH!
post #7 of 44
Flax (you only need 1 Tablespoon per day), walnuts and legumes (especially soybeans) all contain Omega 3's. I try to eat them all on a regular basis. The health benifits from fish is greatly out weighed by it's negative health effect. Eating mostly whole foods is the best way to go and if you are low in b-12 fortified soy milk, nutritional yeast ...... or a supplement ,imo is way healthier than eating fish, any other animals or dairy.
post #8 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by Krystal323
What I understand is that the Omega-3's in fish are often contaminated with PCB etc (ethical issues notwithstanding), and the Omega-3's in supplements are often rancid by the time you take them.


Cod liver oils are free of contaminates and if bottled and sold in dark containers and kept refrigerated will not be rancid (that is also true of flax and many other oils).


To the OP, that article was certainly full of confusing statements. Personally I don't see how a diet that is "putting a person at risk for nutritional deficiencies and must be carefully monitored and suppplemented" could also be the one with the most health advantages I think they're looking at the importance of eating lots of veggies and whole foods and saying that that must make strict veganism healthy. But you don't need to be vegan to reap the benefits of veggies and whole foods. I'm much more concerned about getting all those vital nutrients than I am about trace amounts of contaminants, those are already in my water and air which is why it's so important to eat plenty of nutrient rich foods to combat them.

I also agree that the dependence on fortified foods makes veganism seem unnatural.
post #9 of 44
Thread Starter 
i did a quick look at the pcb issue, and it seems like the MOST danger is in farmed salmon. i mean it really just looked like an underwater factory farm, with all the same issues... disease and antibiotics/hormones etc. i've got no interest in big buisness aquaculture... IF i go ahead and do this it will be strictly wild and/or organic fish.

i appreciate all the advice about supplementing these thing with vitamins and fortified foods... but you have to understand i've been eating those things for YEARS. i have a tendency to absorb nutrients better when they come directly from my food, rather than from those particular products. for example, during my first pregnancy, i was able to keep my iron at a good level just by adjusting the food i was eating. during my second pregnancy, since i didn't have a ton of time to cook, i tried using iron supplements... i went through three different forms of iron before i found one that my body absorbed.

about the 2T a day of flax... that was based on dr. klaper's recommendation in that study i posted.
post #10 of 44
Hugs to you mama. If you are not feeling well, I applaud you for taking steps to change your diet. I was very strict whole foods vegan for 5 years and after pregnancy and 1 yr of lactation I was really suffering. Depression, heart palpitations, suicidal thoughts, teeth rotting, it was pretty bad. But we still didn't change our diet because we were so committed to veganism until I saw my baby's teeth rotting. That was what kicked us in the behind to start reassessing our diet.

Fish is a good place to start. If you are feeling depleted you should go for the fattier fish like wild-caught salmon. Unfortunately a lot of our seafood has been contaminated with things like PCB's and heavy metals, and that kind of stuff concentrates in the fats. Stay away from any farmed fish, as they are terribly contaminated (like fish feedlots). Getting essential fatty acids from fish is superior to flax/hemp oil because it has already been converted to EPA/DHA. If you take plant sources of EFA's then your body has to convert them and everyone's capabilities on conversion vary. But for me, the positives of adding animal products to my diet greatly outweighs the negatives.

If you are wondering how well your body converts EFA's, then you can do a simple vegan test. Try taking a vegan DHA supplement (extracted from algae) and see if you feel better over just your plant oil supplements. If you do notice a difference, then you are probably having some problems with conversion.

The amount of fish you would need to consume would vary as well. Trust in your body and see how you feel after eating some. You may need to eat a lot if you are severely depleted but if you are not really depleted then just a little might do you.

But honestly, I did not notice a huge energetic difference until I started expanding my diet into land mammals. I was severely depleted and even chicken/fish did not suffice.

If you suspect a b12 deficiency, you may want to see a doctor quickly to get some shots into you. B12 deficiency is nothing to mess around with! And some people despite taking oral supplements have problems with absorption, so this would be the quickest way to up your stores.

You may want to do a search in this forum about vegetarians going back to meat. There are a few of us out here that did not thrive on veg*n diets and changed accordingly, even despite supplementation and strict whole foods.

Good luck and HTH!
post #11 of 44
http://www.drfuhrman.com/ask/default.aspx

You can ask Dr. Furhman, who specializes in treating his patients ailmlent with diet. You can specifically ask him what he would recommend you do. If you honestly are wanting to resume eating flesh by all means do it but you probably don't need to in order to regain your health.
post #12 of 44
i'm not vegan so i hope i can post here. i am veg + fish for the moment! constantly learning more!

to the op, have you tried FRESH GROUND flax seeds? i just put them in my blender, maybe a few Tb. then i add either a few Tb of pumpkin, sesame, or sunflower seeds. grind them up and then i add the rest of my smoothie ingredients (frozen fruit, banana, juice, maybe yogurt). the vit c from the fruits will help you absorb the iron better. after drinking it i feel great! there is way more iron, fat, calcium, protein in these seeds than in meat. i'm sure you can look up the nutritional value yourself but i can if you need me to!

i personally feel it is important to take your flax the minute it was ground up if possible (of course store bought is better than nothing). i would try this before eating fish if you feel uncomfortable doing so.
post #13 of 44
Something to think about, all those studies that prove five + servings of vegetables a day fight cancer are done using conventional pesticide sprayed ones. So I think the good things in food almost always outweigh the bad.
post #14 of 44
Thread Starter 
Quote:
If you honestly are wanting to resume eating flesh by all means do it
it's not about wanting to do it. if i wanted to, i could go down the street and get some fried chicken (though, at this point, the idea grosses me out). fish never was a favorite of mine, and never will be. i know what is wrong with me, and what my options are... just trying to research the option i don't know much about so i can make the best decision for my health.

i am aware that i can probably eat massive amounts of ground flax/hemp, and down a ton of vitamins and fortified soymilk. i am not deficient in vitamin B12, probably because i DO eat so much of that stuff, though i tend to be iron deficient. what i don't know at this point is whether it is better for me to continute to rely on heavily processed (and expensive) foods, that my body has a hard time using... rather than continue my mainly vegan diet, switch the emphasis from vitamins and meat analogues to whole foods, with a little fish every now and then to take care of the EFAs.

and honestly, while the idea of eating something that was alive and swimming still grosses me out... i have never claimed that i believe that veganism is for EVERYONE. i certainly wouldn't try to tell nomads in a desert that they would thrive if they gave up animal products. similarly, i do believe there is a big difference between factory farms and fishermen... same goes for the difference between eating meat, with a side of meat, for breakfast lunch and dinner... and eating a fish fillet a few times a month.
post #15 of 44
[QUOTE=LoveMyLittles[...and honestly, while the idea of eating something that was alive and swimming still grosses me out... i have never claimed that i believe that veganism is for EVERYONE. i certainly wouldn't try to tell nomads in a desert that they would thrive if they gave up animal products. similarly, i do believe there is a big difference between factory farms and fishermen...[/QUOTE]


I don't know, I think from an environmental/animal rights perspective land animals from small pasture raised farms or local "game" meat would be better than fish. Fishing is done on such a large scale with other animals getting caught along with the fish, they die a slow death by suffocation, and even the organic fisheries are pretty crowded and the fish can't swim the long distances that they would in nature. There are environmentally sustainable and humane farmers as well as factory farmers, so maybe the same can be said about fisherman? I don't know, from what I've read wild caught salmon is the best choice from a health perspective and probably from an enviro/animal rights perspective as well.
post #16 of 44
Thread Starter 
the only two choices that i would consider are the wild fish that are caught by actual fishermen, or "farmed" organic fish... i wouldn't even think of eating something that was caught through bottom trawling or anything similarly harmful to the ocean's ecosystem. so far, everything i have come across has said what you said... that the wild alaskan salmon is probably the safest and most environmentally concious.

about chicken... the only reason i would even consider fish is because it happens to be a great source of EFAs. i know there are EFAs in chicken, but not as much as in fish... and i just can't see any reason for ME to eat ANY animal if there isn't a good enough reason. consuming minimal amounts of fish seems reasonable to me, but only if it actually would improve my health. STILL, the jury isn't out yet... i don't even know if i could bring myself to do it if it were right in front of me...
post #17 of 44
What about omega-3 fortified eggs? I know for some people, it's easier to contemplate eating an egg than the flesh of an animal... and you can mix them into things like rice pudding and quiche so the taste isn't so noticeable. I'm not sure how easily absorbed the omega-3s in eggs are, though.

As for how much... I've read that 3-5 servings a week is optimal. Dr Weil has some good advice on his site (he's essentially a veg + fish eater, too):

http://www.drweil.com/u/QA/QA332960/
http://www.drweil.com/u/Page/Fish/
http://www.drweil.com/u/QA/QA356000/
post #18 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by christapolis
What about omega-3 fortified eggs? I know for some people, it's easier to contemplate eating an egg than the flesh of an animal... and you can mix them into things like rice pudding and quiche so the taste isn't so noticeable. I'm not sure how easily absorbed the omega-3s in eggs are, though.

As for how much... I've read that 3-5 servings a week is optimal. Dr Weil has some good advice on his site (he's essentially a veg + fish eater, too):

http://www.drweil.com/u/QA/QA332960/
http://www.drweil.com/u/Page/Fish/
http://www.drweil.com/u/QA/QA356000/



The omegas in eggs are just as easily absorbed as the ones in fish are.
post #19 of 44
If you are worried about the EFAs being absorbed from the plant sources (yes, it does take more and your body needs to convert them as opposed to the fish oil) I second Toraji's recommendation for a vegan DHA supplement. (The EFAs in flax are converted into DHA by your body.)

I'm vegan (5 years) and it is possible to live a vegan diet without heavily relying on processed foods. There are quite a few people here on MDC who don't eat soy or processed soy. Dh and I monitor our intake so that we rely more on unprecessed protein sources (beans, nuts, seeds, and whole grains) than fake meats. I certainly see that diet, supplemented with a simple daily multivitamin, to be much more natural and less processed than eating lots of fake meats and milk. We do drink almond milk and occasionally soy milk.

Here is a source of vegan DHA:
http://www.veganessentials.com/ - look under vitamins for "O-Mega-Zen3™ Vegan DHA Supplement by NuTru™"

And here are the vegan vitamins that we take:
http://www.nutraceutical.com/about/veglife.cfm

And here is a more absorbable form of B12 (just FYI):

http://www.vegfamily.com/b12-spray.htm
post #20 of 44
I felt weird about eating so much flax seed (2 tablespoons ground flax seed a day) until I considered that I easily eat wheat products 2-3 MEALS a day, and that doesn't seem weird.

I do think different bodies fare differently on different diets. You might not fare as well on a vegan diet. Omega three eggs seems a "nicer" way to go than fish. If eggs don't seem to help, then maybe you can look at moving up the food chain.

Fish is so contaminated though. And it isn't like the omegas come from teh fish, they come from what thw fish eat, right?

According to a book I have, Fish have omega threes because they eat a kind of algea (or some kind of oganism) that has it, so we should be alle to go strait to the real source. The book said there are a couple of companies that have created supplements from the algea (or whatever).

Perhaps someone else knows more?
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