In our article about the standard American diet and mental health, we discussed what an overwhelming issue mental health has become and it’s only getting worse. The rise in mental health concerns seems to coincide with the rise in popularity of a diet touted as the the diet that will save our health, heal our planet, and make the world a utopian, harmonious place where everyone is happy, healthy, and free of toxic masculinity. Is this true? Read on.
Everyone knows the American way of eating is bad and no amount of fortification of Lucky Charms with calcium or iron or whatever is going to make it healthy, but what about veganism? It’s all the rage and it’s super healthy, right? If we all went vegan, our mental health issues would totally disappear, wouldn’t they?
Despite being incredibly popular amongst affluent, self-described intellectuals to the tune of a 500% increase in the last 3 years, 95% of veganism (1.5 billion people) isn’t voluntary. It’s a result of lack of access to quality animal foods. And despite the studies (comparing veganism to the garbage SAD) that affirm a reduction in heart disease and diabetes (again, everything is better than a steady consumption of sugar and seed oils), a vegan diet is not optimal. Whether you’re an overpaid, virtue signaling politician or a poor, 3rd world individual with no access to animal products, a vegan diet is terrible for your physical well being and your mental state.
First, we need to understand what the brain is made of. ⅔ of your brain is fat, and you can rest assured that fat is not in the form of seed oils. Nope, a lot of it is the aforementioned, anti-inflammatory Omega 3s… specifically DHA. DHA is in the mitochondria of of every cell, including your brain cells, and it is responsible for a whole host of functions including maintaining the integrity of the blood brain barrier, myelination, neurotransmission, neural connectivity, retinal photoreception, and works as a semiconductor in the heart. Without DHA, we cease to think. Literally. And guess what? There is exactly zero DHA in plants and it’s nearly impossible to convert ALA from plants into DHA, and extra impossible without adequate amounts of B12, which is also not found in plants. This is why vegans have 59% less DHA than those who aren’t vegan; and that includes those non-vegans eating that standard American diet we just vilified. Compared to optimal levels, vegans are far more deficient than 59%.
The brain isn’t just composed of DHA. It’s also comprised of protein which makes up neurotransmitters, cholesterol in a concentration 10x higher than the rest of the body, vitamins and minerals which we’ll discuss in a minute, and glucose and ketones for energy.
The brain needs iron, which is 3x more bioavailable in the form of heme iron, which is only found in animals.
It requires Vitamin D. Plants have Vitamin D2, which is largely useless, whilst animal products contain Vitamin D3, which we can actually utilize IF we have enough fat to carry it, which isn’t abundant in plants. Sense a theme here?
Your brain needs all essential amino acids. To get them from plants, you’d have to consume enough quinoa, soy, and buckwheat to be the first vegan on My 600 Lb Life. In addition, plants don’t have choline, carnitine, or creatine, amino acids critically important for optimal brain development and performance.
The brain needs Vitamins K2 and B12, which aren’t in plants… AT ALL.
You know what your brain DOESN’T need? It doesn’t need dietary carbohydrates, plant antioxidants, or fiber.
We’ve discussed at length the things your brain requires that plants don’t have, and that’d be enough for most to go to their nearest steakhouse and devour a medium-rare ribeye, but if you’re still not convinced, check out what plants DO HAVE that are kicking your brain’s ass. We call these antinutrients. Plants have a ton of oxalates, tannins, and phytates, which inhibit the absorption of iron, in some cases 100%. If you’re not already aware of the importance of iron in the brain, it is critical for dopamine synthesis, brain development, neurotransmitter synthesis, hippocampal function, energy production, and cell signaling. If that wasn’t bad enough, phytates also disrupt the absorption of calcium, magnesium, and zinc, which is needed for dopamine transport and serotonin synthesis.
Plants also have goitrogens, which halt the uptake of iodine, which is important for thyroid function and brain development. Last, but certainly not least, plants have protease inhibitors, which decrease protein synthesis which adds insult to actual injury in protein deficient vegans who are far more prone to musculoskeletal maladies that result in an increase in broken bones, muscle tears, and of course, brain trauma from events that may not result in such trauma in healthy individuals.
So… That’s a long winded way of saying that it’s no coincidence that mental health decline and the rise of veganism seem to follow one another.
At The Fittest, we know that a proper nose-to-tail, bones-to-blood, horns-to-hooves diet is the most nutrient dense option with the necessary bioavailability to deliver those nutrients to the brain and body. An animal based diet that prioritizes meat and organs contains every vitamin, mineral, and amino acid you need in abundance without the antinutrients, seed oils, and digestive maladies that go along with eating nothing but plants.
For tips on mental clarity, health, and performance, email our meat-eating, optimal-brained performance experts.