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#1 Old 12-10-2016, 11:04 AM
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Junk Food

I have noticed that many times, on this or other vegan sites, the term "junk food" or "vegan junk food" is used to describe anything other than whole plant food vegan items. So, for example, faux meats are often described as "junk food."

I am wondering why this is the case. With all due respect, I personally disagree with the view that faux meats or other "processed food" are somehow "junk food." I also suspect that there is a hint of asceticism or Puritanism underlying it. Does anyone else feel the same way?
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#2 Old 12-10-2016, 11:37 AM
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It may also have something to do with the nutrient diversity and fiber-richness of whole foods. However, I have wondered whether there is some asceticism there, or maybe a "back to nature" aesthetic?

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Specific recommendations for a healthy diet include: eating more fruit, vegetables, legumes, nuts and grains; cutting down on salt, sugar and fats. It is also advisable to choose unsaturated fats, instead of saturated fats and towards the elimination of trans-fatty acids."
- United Nations' World Health Organization
http://www.who.int/topics/diet/en/
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#3 Old 12-10-2016, 11:57 AM
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It may also have something to do with the nutrient diversity and fiber-richness of whole foods.

I agree that some degree of nutrient diversity and fiber richness is important in one's diet. However, if one has, for example, half a can of refried beans (close to being a whole food), mixed with two or three ounces of Beyond Meat Beefy Crumbles, one gets the advantage of the flavor and the protein from the Beefy Crumbles, without losing out on any of the fiber and micro-nutrients of the beans. This is only win-win, and I don't see why it would be called "junk food." In other words, adding moderate amounts of processed, high-protein, high-flavor foods to whole plant foods gets the benefits of processed foods without losing the benefits of the whole plant foods.
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#4 Old 12-10-2016, 12:10 PM
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With plant based diets being more popular for health it seems many take on the label of vegan without wholeheartedly incorporating the idea of vegan being animal rights oriented and not all about health.
I've seen dessert recipes referenced as healthy put down because they include dates- and dates have to much sugar to be healthy!

I include some processed foods, not because they remind me meat either, but because I like them. When I was in elementary school we had soy burgers (70's) and I loved them! I find Trader Joes (or Nates) meatless balls are very similar.

It's just as if you were on a omnivore site that was about paleo health, except you'd expect it there!

I get tired of the assumptions myself
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#5 Old 12-10-2016, 12:19 PM
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Some of my relatives and friends have told me they wouldn't go vegan because they don't like the "fake stuff".

Processed food doesn't mean bad food, people...
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#6 Old 12-10-2016, 06:12 PM
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Processed doesn't exactly say much either. White rice is ''processed'', yet it's an ancient food that many cultures thrived on for centuries. Tea is processed.

Peanut butter is processed. Etc. Processed just means that a food is not like it's original form.

Junk food is different though, that's usually used to describe foods that are high in fat or sugar with low nutritional value. From a health point of view I understand that you might want to avoid those foods, but from a vegan perspective there is no reason to. I will also not judge any vegan that eats a lot of junk food.

After all, being vegan just means not consuming animal products. Not only eating healthy foods, that choice is up to the individual who wants to be vegan.
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#7 Old 12-10-2016, 08:22 PM
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I think that when it comes to fake meats, it depends... There's a difference between having a veggie burger/patty alongside some veggies and rice, and having it in a burger bun topped with vegan cheese and vegan bacon. I would consider the latter one, junk food.

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#8 Old 12-11-2016, 11:38 AM
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I think that when it comes to fake meats, it depends... There's a difference between having a veggie burger/patty alongside some veggies and rice, and having it in a burger bun topped with vegan cheese and vegan bacon. I would consider the latter one, junk food.

I wouldn't necessarily consider the latter one junk food. I don't see anything wrong with burger buns. I don't particularly like bacon, vegan or otherwise. But I sometimes eat a Beyond Burger on a burger bun with chopped onions, a medium-sized baked potato with vegan cream cheese, and possibly a side of sauteed spinach. I feel great after that meal. It's delicious, high protein, and not very high in calories, and I would never describe it as "junk food."
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#9 Old 12-11-2016, 04:42 PM
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I am not saying burger buns are unhealthy. However, if we (general we) see someone eating a big mac and fries, we think "that person is eating junk food", why would it be different just because it's a vegan version?

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#10 Old 12-14-2016, 10:38 AM
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Faux meat is a category far too broad to paint with the brush of "junk food" in my opinion. I think they can absolutely be part of a healthy and balanced diet, and an excellent and convenient source of protein Perhaps the "junk food" label is appropriate for some products with lots of chemicals and additives/takeout versions of veggie burgers etc., but even those are fine if enjoyed in moderation, and certainly FAR healthier than their animal-derived counterparts.
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#11 Old 12-14-2016, 11:50 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dilettante View Post
...a hint of asceticism or Puritanism...
My whole food plant based diet is absolutely wonderful, I eat all the delicious food that I want. I would be hard pressed to call that asceticism.
As for puritanism, the Puritans aimed to rid themselves of immorality and corruption and to get themselves educated enough to study and evaluate situations for themselves. I dont see how Puritan became a derogatory term. I guess I'm a buddhist puritan

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Some of my relatives and friends have told me they wouldn't go vegan because they don't like the "fake stuff".
The same thing turned me off when I was 14. I went to a vegan families house for dinner and it was a horrible 1990's mock meat dinner with very little flavor or variety. Soy patties on white bread buns with vegan mayo, that sort of thing. Vegan junk food. I was 30 before I would even consider going vegan. Had that introduction to vegan cuisine been home made chilli or curry or something I would have had a vastly different impression of veganism for those 16 years.

People consider most factory processed vegan food as junk food because it is junk food.
Junk food is food which is predictably conductive to harm. Most factory processed vegan foods are high in salt, fat, and sugar, low in fiber, phytonutrients, and naturally occurring vitamins, containing advanced glycation end products, oxidized and rancidifying fats, and even cancer causing polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and acrylates, endocrine disrupting bisplenols, and a vast assortment of food additives. Even the term 'natural flavoring' includes synthetic, factory produced, chemicals known to cause disease, this includes banned chemical solvents like benzene and ingredients of superglue that gives the glue those friendly labels like 'avoid contact, may cause cancer'.
Vegan junk food is vegan because it doesnt hurt cows or chickens, and thats cool, but what about the harm to yourself and your children. Or future children?

Edit: Just a thought for those of the 'I dont have time to cook' camp. I bet you find time to watch TV to relax. I have a stereo in the kitchen so I can relax listening to music and cooking.
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Last edited by Auxin; 12-14-2016 at 11:58 AM.
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#12 Old 12-14-2016, 03:06 PM
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Faux meat is a category far too broad to paint with the brush of "junk food" in my opinion. I think they can absolutely be part of a healthy and balanced diet, and an excellent and convenient source of protein Perhaps the "junk food" label is appropriate for some products with lots of chemicals and additives/takeout versions of veggie burgers etc., but even those are fine if enjoyed in moderation, and certainly FAR healthier than their animal-derived counterparts.
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#13 Old 12-15-2016, 12:20 PM
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People consider most factory processed vegan food as junk food because it is junk food. Junk food is food which is predictably conductive to harm. Most factory processed vegan foods are high in salt, fat, and sugar, low in fiber, phytonutrients, and naturally occurring vitamins, containing advanced glycation end products, oxidized and rancidifying fats, and even cancer causing polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and acrylates, endocrine disrupting bisplenols, and a vast assortment of food additives

I disagree. Regarding your assertion of processed vegan foods being high in salt, there is a little bit more than ideal, true, but honestly, sodium is an overblown concern in most peoples' diet. Also, I eat a lot of processed vegan foods and average only around 2000 or 2500 mg of sodium per day. Despite the USDA being around 2500, studies have shown that most of the real harm comes in when average 3500 or above. I'm middle aged and have perfect blood pressure. No, I'm not worried about sodium. Plus, salt tastes good.

Regarding fat, there is actually nothing whatsoever wrong with this macronutrient, except for trans fat and, in large quantities, saturated fat. Almost all of the fat in processed vegan foods is monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. Zero harm there.

Regarding your assertion of sugar, I'm really curious what processed vegan foods you believe are high in sugar? Certainly not faux meats, which typically have none at all.

Regarding the rest of your parade of horribles (not enough fiber, phytonutrients, naturally occurring vitamins, etc.), this is honestly a red herring. Eating faux meats doesn't stop anyone from getting all of that other stuff from the whole foods that one eats alongside the faux meats. Eating, for example, a faux burger on a bun with a side of refried beans and brown rice, you'd get plenty of fiber from the beans alone. Regarding phytonutrients, most vegans get toward the high end of this and, if anything, too much. I'm a vegetarian who eats vegan nearly all the time (exception is very occasional cheese in social situations). From a nutritional standpoint (as opposed to an ethical standpoint), my diet is effectively vegan. The amount of phytonutrients I get in soy milk and tempeh alone pushes me to the high end from health standpoint. Also, I wouldn't want any more fiber in my diet. I already average up around 40 grams per day. And, regarding vitamins, there is plenty in the whole foods that the average vegan eats alongside the faux meats.

No, I think your arguments against processed foods are not very well founded and, I suspect, are essentially a form of asceticism. Faux meats are a nice flavor and protein boost when consumed in a normal diet that also includes whole foods. Besides which, I find a plate full of green stuff--kale, broccoli, whatever--to be not really all that appetizing. I think this is rather common for humans, which is why only 3% of the population is vegetarian, and only 0.5% of the population is vegan, with a subset of that being whole plant food vegan. It's also why wpf vegan is such a tough sell, and why "processed" vegan food should be the type used to try to convince omnis to explore a less animal-based diet.
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Last edited by Dilettante; 12-15-2016 at 01:04 PM.
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#14 Old 12-15-2016, 02:59 PM
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Are you only thinking of things specifically marketed towards vegans, and not all the foods that just happen to be vegan?

Hydrogenated oils- that can of solid white vegetable shortening is vegan for example
High fructose corn syrup
Potato chips, Wise onion rings, cookies, Top Ramen oriental and chili flavors, many corn puff snacks, Fritos, Doritos, Swedish Fish, sour patch kids, many breakfast cereals like Froot loops and frosted flakes (some have D3),
Many soy foods are made with hexane
Processed oils are certainly junk

In my elementary school in the early 70's we had soy burgers. I loved those! I would not have been happy with quinoa raw veggie salads. I don't like to call things faux meat when they're simply plant recipes.
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#15 Old 12-16-2016, 09:37 AM
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...I eat a lot of processed vegan foods and average only around 2000 or 2500 mg of sodium per day. Despite the USDA being around 2500, studies have shown that most of the real harm comes in when average 3500 or above.
2500 is not a recommendation, its the USDAs idea of the maximum tolerable intake and many health organizations [remember, the USDA is an industry lobby group] argue that that value is set too high. Many clinical studies say that 2000 is too high.
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Regarding fat, there is actually nothing whatsoever wrong with this macronutrient... the fat in processed vegan foods is monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. Zero harm there.
Except for stroke, heart disease, obesity, as well as microscopic tissue damage/accelerated aging from the oxidatively damaged lipids?
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Regarding your assertion of sugar, I'm really curious what processed vegan foods you believe are high in sugar?
Snacks and desserts. Yeah, not fake meats.
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Regarding phytonutrients, most vegans get toward the high end of this and, if anything, too much.
So you think humans evolved for 2 million years eating mostly meat?
Our ancestors consumed a hundred times more phytonutrients than the average westerner and at least ten times more than most vegans. Its possible to overdo a specific thing, like the woman who died of massive bok choi consumption or all the children who have died eating natural licorice [a few kids and elderly each year, globally], but in general large amounts of fruit and vegetables pose no harm whatsoever. If you dont find vegetables appetizing that is an issue of habit. If you give it an honest try you can train yourself to love things you previously found revolting. I've done it, its fun to observe... and educating.
As for a whole foods diet being ascetic, I just generally laugh at any label of asceticism these days anyway. Nearly everyone thinks I'm ascetic for not eating meat. Many think I'm ascetic for not drinking alcohol or smoking. My neighbor thinks I'm ascetic for not smoking marijuana and I had two guys call me ascetic for not smoking crack! The label of asceticism, in common parlance, is usually just used to demean people who are different that yourself.
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Eating faux meats doesn't stop anyone from getting all of that other stuff from the whole foods that one eats alongside the faux meats.
Now this I will agree with. Even tho I dont eat them, including some of the healthier kinds in a healthy eating plan probably would not cause any negative health outcomes in the vast majority of people. To be honest, the reason I eat none whatsoever is because in comparison to my food faux meats are quite expensive and I simply have no fetish for them.
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#16 Old 12-16-2016, 10:47 AM
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Auxin, I disagree with virtually all of that. As I said, the sodium scare is mostly just that, a scare, unless someone averages above around 3000 or 3500 on a long-term basis. I'm about as healthy as someone can get and hope to live a long, healthy life (no guarantees, of course). No one ever suggested eating only processed foods. There is plenty of ability to get the fiber, phytonutrients, etc. from the whole foods one eats alongside the processed foods. I still suspect that the underlying factor with the insistence on "whole plant foods" is asceticism.

In any event, I'll be eating Beyond Burgers, Gardein Meatless Meatballs with marinara and pasta, and tempeh sauteed in olive oil and soy sauce. You can feel free to eat kale and squash over a bed of quinoa.
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#17 Old 12-16-2016, 02:49 PM
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Your either not an american or you had a much better upbringing than I.
I was raised from the age of 6 months to adulthood on a diet of, literally, 100% processed foods. Its killed most of my family and I had heart disease by the age of 18. We werent some extreme outliers either, I know many people who eat exclusively processed foods and, by far, most americans get the majority of their calories from processed foods.

This is literally what an americans weekly diet looks like


...I think I see some grapes
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#18 Old 12-16-2016, 04:31 PM
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The bottom line is that you can eat quite healthy on a omni, paleo, vegetarian or vegan diet.
I know people who eat only small amounts of sustainable fish, pasteured beef and Whole Foods chicken with pretty much all organic veggies grains and fruit. No sugars or added oils. Nothing processed. They live active lives
I mostly eat whole homemade foods, not much organic, and like Trader Joes meatless meatballs with white spaghetti, and their soy chorizo and vegan mozzerella. I do eat packaged snack things and sweets
As far as healthy, the above omnis are far 'healthier' than my diet
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#19 Old 12-17-2016, 12:36 AM
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Your either not an american or you had a much better upbringing than I.

This is literally what an americans weekly diet looks like


...I think I see some grapes
Right. That explains a lot about the vigilant stance some people here take against processed foods.

As a European, I have always had a diet that contained some processed foods but the majority was and is still fresh food.

I see what the difference in perspective is now. When I say I eat some processed food, I mean that I eat for example a veggie burger with some salad and home fries.

Or I have store bought vegan ice cream after a dinner made of fresh ingredients. That's what I mean with some processed food being ok, definitely not the above. I know literally zero people who eat like that.
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#20 Old 12-17-2016, 01:03 AM
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I have noticed that many times, on this or other vegan sites, the term "junk food" or "vegan junk food" is used to describe anything other than whole plant food vegan items. So, for example, faux meats are often described as "junk food."

I am wondering why this is the case. With all due respect, I personally disagree with the view that faux meats or other "processed food" are somehow "junk food." I also suspect that there is a hint of asceticism or Puritanism underlying it. Does anyone else feel the same way?
That's a very interesting point. Perhaps we should try to avoid terms that are so loaded and pejorative. Processed veggie foods and refined veggie foods are still veggie food. The plant based whole foods movement is great but choosing that lifestyle shouldn't be seen to be any way more 'virtuous' and morally superior than eating processed or refined vegan food. I wonder if using condemnatory terms like "junk" might promote that popular perception and as such detract from the core message of veganism.
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#21 Old 12-17-2016, 08:06 AM
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I used to think only the highly processed and packaged foods were considered "junk" foods. Then I learned of cultivars and such. Anything that requires the hand of man to develop could technically be considered "junk", as well, especially when compared to what grows wild and naturally, without needing to be planted and maintained. Then I start thinking of how the animals eat and I wonder what they would consider to be "junk".

I remain amazed that my body (and many others) can still function considering all the actual junk that passes these lips. Allowing key words to trigger and shut down our responses and thought processes tends to cause more harm than some of the things that are considered "junk" ever could. Choosing the cleanest versions of whole foods vs. packaged stuff, whenever possible, is about all we can truly strive for, especially given the choices laid out to those in the deepest of struggles.
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#22 Old 12-17-2016, 10:08 AM
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I used to think only the highly processed and packaged foods were considered "junk" foods. Then I learned of cultivars and such. Anything that requires the hand of man to develop could technically be considered "junk", as well, especially when compared to what grows wild and naturally, without needing to be planted and maintained.

. . .

Choosing the cleanest versions of whole foods vs. packaged stuff, whenever possible, is about all we can truly strive for, especially given the choices laid out to those in the deepest of struggles.


I disagree with virtually all of this. The human body needs calories as fuel, amino acids (protein) as building blocks, fiber as a stool conditioner, and various vitamins, minerals, and other micronutrients to perform specialized functions. This includes antioxidants to reduce cell damage. The human body doesn't know, or care, where it gets these nutrients from. With what you're calling "processed" and "packaged" foods, there is sometimes a deficit of the micronutrients like vitamins, etc., and there is also often a deficit of fiber. However, nobody has ever suggested eating processed foods to the exclusion of all else. Some amount of processed foods alongside the "whole plant foods" that almost every vegan and vegetarian consumes on a regular basis is perfectly fine, I think.

The other thing one needs to watch out for in "processed" foods is some anti-nutritional factors, like excessive sodium, refined sugar, or saturated or trans fats. However, eating, for example, one veggie burger a day, would result in zero extra sugar, very little extra saturated fat, and only a moderate extra amount of sodium. For example, Beyond Meat burgers have 450 mg sodium per patty. This is no big deal.

So, with all due respect, the mantra of "whole plant foods" to the exclusion of all else seems a bit cultish and asceticism-based.
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#23 Old 12-17-2016, 02:51 PM
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We really do need a WFPB forum here!

I find all these arguments over "healthy' and unhealthy frustrating and unhelpful. Some here seek the plant based diet for their own personal health and others for ethics, and many in between. Our goal is to avoid animal exploitation

I doubt I'd stick to a complete whole food diet. I have, it's not like I don't understand it, I just like different tastes and textures than that provides. I don't feel I'm jeopardizing my health with the foods I choose. I could use to exercise more but that's another thing
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#24 Old 12-17-2016, 03:09 PM
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I think I have something we can agree on.

Junk food = Unhealthy food.

In this case, animal products would be considered junk food, for example.

I think we can use this as a good way to deduce what is and isn't junk food. Sure, some processed foods are junk food, but not all are.
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#25 Old 12-17-2016, 03:39 PM
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I think I have something we can agree on.

Junk food = Unhealthy food.

In this case, animal products would be considered junk food, for example.


Honestly, no. I don't agree that all animal products are unhealthy. Many are, but for example, wild caught salmon or tuna on the grill is extremely healthy. High in omega 3 and protein, no saturated fat, no refined carbs (or, for that matter, any carbs). I still don't eat it because the process of "harvesting" causes the fish to suffer. But let's be clear: pescatarians have a slightly higher life expectancy than vegans. I believe the order from maximum to minimum life expectancy is: pescatarians, vegans, OL-vegetarians, standard (non-pesc) omnivores. Again, I don't eat fish because I can get my omega-3's other ways and eating fish causes sentient beings to suffer, but they are NOT unhealthy.

Nor, I think, is roasted turkey breast especially unhealthy.

The animal products that are unhealthy include most or all red meat, to some extent milk and cheese due to the saturated fat content, and most smoked or processed meats due to the sodium nitrate.

In any event, the problem with all animal products is the suffering of the animals. The problem with only some animal products is that consuming them is unhealthy for humans.
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#26 Old 12-17-2016, 03:59 PM
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I don't agree that all animal products are unhealthy
They've been dinners for animals forever

To clarify- I'm referring to the animal that's eating, not the one eaten. Humans don't need to eat animals, but I don't feel it's entirely unhealthy for them, and certainly not the ones " raised' for food

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#27 Old 12-17-2016, 06:27 PM
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I believe the order from maximum to minimum life expectancy is: pescatarians, vegans, OL-vegetarians, standard (non-pesc) omnivores.
Is that a gut feeling or is that backed up by studies? I seem to recall that the difference in overall health indicatores between pescatarians and vegans was not that large and perhaps within the margin for error. Also I don't think there is any study between pescatarians and vegans that looked at whether the vegans were getting omega 3s so any advantage for pescatarians could be because some of the vegans did not try to get omega 3s.
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#28 Old 12-17-2016, 06:34 PM
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Good discussion.

One alternative way to look at it....Arguably there is no such thing as a healthy or unhealthy food, but the question is how much of a food we can eat before it becomes healthy. My theory is that against any food you could put a rough % above which it becomes unhealthy for it to be more than that % of the total calories or total weight of food you eat.

Even if you eat arsenic or untreated nuclear waste you might be OK if you eat 0.000001 grams of it.

Things like trans fat and saturated fats might be OK being 0.1% of your calories, but not at 1% for example.

Meats might be fine at 10% of your diet, but not at 30%.

Even carrots or broccoli are bad for you at 100% of your diet - since that doesn't leave enough room for other things.

My gut feeling is that if processed fake meats accounted for 10-20% of your entire diet you would probably be fine, but if it was 50% you might not be.

Don't take the precise numbers too literally, I am just using that to illustrate my point.

Everything is OK in moderation.
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#29 Old 12-18-2016, 07:04 AM
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Is that a gut feeling or is that backed up by studies? I seem to recall that the difference in overall health indicatores between pescatarians and vegans was not that large and perhaps within the margin for error. Also I don't think there is any study between pescatarians and vegans that looked at whether the vegans were getting omega 3s so any advantage for pescatarians could be because some of the vegans did not try to get omega 3s.
Probably the biggest difference is individuals ability to convert omegas into the formulated DHA. There's so many different studies on the difference I'll just post this general link-
http://universityhealthnews.com/dail...l-vs-fish-oil/
I started taking an algael DHA supplement again.

Why are so many here ignoring the fact that it's as easy to be a junk food vegan as an omni vegan? It's more than just veggie burgers after all

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#30 Old 12-18-2016, 07:51 AM
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Is that a gut feeling or is that backed up by studies? I seem to recall that the difference in overall health indicatores between pescatarians and vegans was not that large and perhaps within the margin for error.


I take it back. I thought I recalled seeing data showing vegans and pescatarians close in life expectancy, with pescatarians living slightly longer. However, I am unable to find that data. and the data I could find, from a large study among Seventh Day Adventists, shows vegans with reduced mortality (so presumably vegans living longer). Here is a link:

http://www.nhs.uk/news/2013/06June/P...-lifespan.aspx

In particular, it shows that vegans have 74% of the annual mortality of standard omnis, pescatarians 81% of the mortality, and ovo-lacto vegetarians 91% of the mortality. It makes sense to me that OL-vegetarians would show the least health gain over standard omnis because of the high levels of saturated fat in dairy and eggs. (I still seem to remember seeing data elsewhere showing that pescatarians live slightly longer than vegans, but since I can't find it, I think it can be disregarded.)

A couple of things of note about the study:

First, it counts as "vegetarians" anyone who eats meat or fish one time per week or less. This probably makes sense from a health/nutritional standpoint, though it does not from a moral/ethical standpoint.

Second, a study like this can show correlation between diet and mortality, but it is unable to show causation. For example, people who eat a vegetarian, vegan, or pescatarian diet are likely to be healthy in other ways, like potentially reduced levels of smoking. These cofactors may explain some of the mortality gap, though I doubt they explain the entire gap.

Of course, as I said previously, none of this has anything to do with the moral and ethical issue. It's just a discussion of the nutritional and health issue. I do think it's good that the diet that is probably best for health, vegan, also happens to be the one that's the most ethically sound.
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Last edited by Dilettante; 12-18-2016 at 09:00 AM.
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