Is All the Hype Worth It?
Why plant-based diets aren’t ideal for women’s physiological needs.
Children or no children’s reproductive health is women’s health. Your decision to have kids or not have kids has nothing to do with the fact that your physiological makeup was designed for reproduction. And supporting that design is what leads to optimal health and feeling your best.
Restrictive diets of any kind are known to cause hormonal chaos because the female body needs a lot of energy and nutrients for our reproductive system to function. As humans, we have also consumed an omnivorous diet (fruits, vegetables, and animal products). Biologically speaking we depend on food derived from animal sources to meet our nutritional needs.
We obtain our energy from food and sunlight. Reproduction consumes a great deal of energy and is extremely sensitive to stress conditions. Women today between 35-54 are likely to be juggling many roles including mother, caretaker of elderly parents, homemaker, and career. Since the pandemic, a lot of women have also taken on the role of teacher as well. We are twice as likely to be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder compared to men, most likely as a result of trying to manage it all.
So, what does this have to do with plant-based diets and how we eat?
Well, more stress means more nutritional demands our reproductive system requires and because of this plant-based diets do not fill those needs. Most women are already undernourished due to diet culture, birth control, and a jacked-up food industry so adding a plant-based diet on top of that leads to broken metabolism, and underactive thyroids and leaves us stuck in survival mode. The body will always prioritize survival over reproduction meaning the very system we need operating optimally to feel our best as women will start to shut down.
“Food is used as a source of energy for a variety of essential and non-essential functions. In times of deprivation, it is necessary to ration available oxidizable substrate in favor of those essential functions involved in staying alive, e.g., keeping warm (Bronson, 1989). Reproduction is expendable at least in the short term and can be deferred until times are more favorable.”
Nutrition and reproduction in women. Human Reproduction Update, Vol. 12, No. 3 pp. 193-207, 2066
As fundamental as diet is to health, you need to keep in mind the diet for which we’ve been genetically designed. Animal-based foods have always been an important part of the human diet. Eliminating all animal foods would be like deciding you’re going to feed a tiger tofu and expecting that it’s going to be healthy. If you want an organism to thrive, you should feed it the diet for which it’s been genetically designed – James O’Keefe, MD, the study’s lead author and director of preventive cardiology at Saint Luke’s Mid-America Heart Institute.
We often see women promoting plant-based diets as “the best they’ve ever felt”, and yes compared to the standard American diet of highly processed, low-fiber, high-calorie, sugary foods, vegan diets have some health advantages. The researchers found, however, that if you avoid all animal foods, you may suffer from nutritional deficiencies in vitamin B12, omega-3, calcium, zinc, iron, magnesium, and high-quality amino acids. Sometimes these deficiencies can take years to manifest as recognizable symptoms.
What we typically see in women with these deficiencies is depression and anxiety, hair loss, weak bones, muscle wasting, skin rashes, hypothyroidism, and anemia and they may be associated with increased risk for certain types of cancer, stroke, bone fractures, and preterm birth.
Vegan and diet culture is filled with propaganda, especially around “saving the planet.” But what is the best way to “save the planet”? By increasing chemicals, emissions, and glyphosate required for said plants and man-made fake food, we are promoting diets and lifestyles that cause malnutrition, increase infertility, and create a toxic, estrogenic environment. That does not mean there isn’t work to be done on the agricultural front or we shouldn’t do our part to take care of the planet, but fighting your body’s intuition and physiological needs for plant-based diet “virtues” leaves women just barely surviving instead of thriving.