Friday, March 12, 2010

Vegan Yogurt, Probiotics, Fiber, and Digestive Enzymes Part 2

So, here's the ongoing dialogue about vegan yogurts, probiotics, etc.

"-rice is much more highly glycemic than dairy and coconut is a saturated fat so I'm hesitant to switch to those kinds of products if low-fat yogurt is healthier, for me in particular.

-I'm wary of supplements unless they are FDA regulated. I prefer to have my nutrition come from natural sources that are tried and true. Not to mention the extra cost associated with buying the supplements.

-I've tried to find journal articles on if such products are FDA regulated or if my concerns with soy are valid. Haven't found anything yet and so until then, want to stick with something natural that I know works for me, especially when it's really the only non-vegan thing that I eat on a regular basis.

So anyway, that might give you an idea of where I'm coming from. Thanks for providing all the info! Let me know if you have a different understanding than I do on these options... "
~Felda, Seinfelds' Biggest Fan

Dear Felda,

I'm totally happy that you have removed so many animal products and I really think that makes a HUGE difference in animal welfare (not to mention better for your health). HUGE!! And if yogurt just isn't something you can give up, then so be it. Like me, you do what you can and there is no such thing as purity of animal products even for those who try to lead a vegan lifestyle. Animal ingredients are just too pervasive in our society and we just have to do the best we can. But if your concerns are purely about health issues, I completely believe there is an option that fits your restrictions and needs; no soy, healthy, safe, low cost, and convenient. An option that is far healthier for you than dairy yogurt. It's just a matter of looking deeper.

Your concerns about the products’ potential shortcomings are valid, but I don’t think you (or I) have all the information about each product you need yet to make an assessment on their validity. In many cases you have to actually look at the product’s nutrition info and ingredient list, as well as review their reputation as a brand, and the efficacy of any ingredients for your purposes. Obviously my hope is that everyone stop consuming dairy, and I am sure that bias is completely evident in my words, but I feel that way for both health reasons as well as animal welfare reasons.

All of my information just gets you started. And I definitely have a different take on these products, and wanted to add my thoughts about your concerns in the hope that they provide a bigger picture.

I don't think even low-fat dairy yogurt is healthier than non-dairy products. I actually think it is worse. Dairy still comes from cows who have been exposed to tons of hormones and chemicals which naturally seep into their milk. They don’t put that on their list of ingredients, but you are consuming them anyway and who knows what the impact is. Plus you never know exactly what those chemicals are, and that's not very natural. I just don’t think dairy hormones/chemicals can be good for you, whereas, most of the non-dairy yogurts are organic and free of those ingredients. Yes, you can buy organic dairy products, but that is still not enough in my book. Dairy products also contain cholesterol, whereas non-dairy products are cholesterol free because they do not contain animal products. Non-dairy yogurts also tend to have fewer calories, but about the same amount of protein. Obviously, this is a general statement and I am not sure how the lower fat ones compare in calories unless they are made to be light in calories too.

Low-fat yogurts are not necessarily low in sugar, in fact, they often have more sugar so that they taste better. If you are worried about glycemic levels, that is something to consider. That's not to say that non-dairy yogurts don't have added sugars, I know most do. But you'd have to compare them side by side with what you are already consuming and see how they stack up. The rice one may be higher glycemic in theory, but in the end, is it still higher sugared than dairy yogurt? I don't know. And does the fiber in the non-dairy product alleviate some of the concerns about that sugar? I don’t know. The Ricera brand I listed is made from whole grain brown rice and that makes a huge difference as far as glycemic levels go.

And if you make your own yogurt you could choose healthier ingredients than what you find on the market, within both dairy and non-dairy circles. It really could be much cheaper once you know how to do it. You could make your own almond milk yogurt.

I personally believe consuming soy over dairy is healthier, even with lower fat dairy options. That doesn’t mean it is not important to monitor how much soy one is consuming, cause I do agree with moderation and the less processed the better, but taking animal welfare out of the equation, dairy just plain sucks health-wise. There is a ton of literature suggesting that dairy products leach calcium from our bones and do our body more harm than good, even in limited intake amounts. I’m trying to remember what else Dr. Neal Barnard said about dairy. Bad stuff, though! And I highly recommend you read one of his books on the subject. He does an excellent job of referencing legit scientific studies.

And even taking soy completely out of the picture as a worthy substitute, there are other options to dairy and I believe those options are also much healthier.

People who consume balanced vegan diets (based on the vegan food pyramids) do not usually need to be worried about fat intake, especially not from coconut. Coconut fats are not really a problem for those who do not consume an excess of fat since more than half of it is composed of medium-chain fatty acids, which are used as energy and not stored as fat. Coconut oil does not contain toxic trans-fatty acids found in hydrogenated vegetable oils, which have been found to contribute to heart disease.

Here is a link where a vegan nutritionist/dietician addresses this very issue about coconut milk and saturated fats.

While I agree that one should not ingest just any supplement without research, supplements are defined as a vitamin, mineral, a botanical herb, or some other dietary substance to supplement the diet. They are supposed to come from food sources. What I know is that as a category they are mostly not regulated by the FDA, unless there are complaints after it is on the market. The FDA relies on the company to ensure its safety before putting them on the market. And honestly, the FDA does a poor job of regulating what it is in charge of anyway. I cannot tell you how many drugs it has prematurely deemed safe and allowed on the market only to discover later that they were not anywhere near safe. And just because supplements aren’t approved by the FDA (nor are they disapproved or they would not be on the market) doesn't mean they should be completely avoided, as there are respected and reliable brands out there. What I am saying is that FDA approval is not really something you can get for supplements, and the fact that a product doesn’t have FDA approval should not be a barrier in that sense. Now, determining if a given herb does a given job is a completely different issue.

Many super-health-conscious vegans successfully rely on multivitamins and supplements. Most doctors recommend a multivitamin and supplements, so getting a recommendation from an expert is always an option. Also, many foods already have supplements added to them. Cereals are fortified with supplements (vitamins, minerals, etc), some yogurts as I mentioned, teas and non-dairy milks have supplement ingredients added, and a lot of processed foods too. We just tend to forget our foods have things added to them because we don’t pay attention or are used to them being that way.

Using supposedly regulated animal products versus kinda regulated supplements, it’s a crap shoot. But I’d take supplements over the animal products any day.

The cost of a month’s supply of a multivitamin with probiotics and enzymes can be cheaper than buying dairy yogurt every day of the month. Mine is about $15 for a month’s supply. If yogurt costs $1 per container, 30 days worth is $30. It also makes sense for me to use the multivitamin because I also watch my B12, calcium, and vitamin D…and ensure that I have little bits of everything else in case my diet is poor on a given day. It’s a one stop shop.

Also, I’m curious, you didn’t mention what you thought about the fermented foods. Yeah, tempeh is soy, but miso is made from many non-soy ingredients, and there were fermented beans, cabbage and other vegetables that were non-soy options which are easily obtainable from stores already prepared. Adding a little bit of fermented foods every day could help replace yogurt too.


Felda, Jerry Seinfeld's Biggest Fan said...

Oh I thought you meant the longer response was the previous post. I just saw this one. Don't have time to go into a detailed response but in short, health reasons are a large part of my decision, but it also includes factors of what I like to eat (don't like tempeh, miso, and coconut only in certain things, among others) and balancing time and other such resources that I have available to me right now. In short I believe that my eating habits are optimal at this moment in my life...I might have to email you later cuz the response would be too large for a comment.

Kenike said...

No worries. I totally get it. And that's why I was saying you would have to figure it out from here since I didn't have all that info...what you like to eat, what you have time for, etc. :)