The Vegan View
How do you feel about a vegan diet for those with food allergies? Just a few examples, my mother in law has celiac disease, and cannot eat wheat, barley, rye, or oats or any of their derivatives. At my work, we are a peanut free facility because of the number of people with peanut allergies. They tell me that along with their allergy, a vegan diet would be too restrictive. Any opinions?
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VegFamily readers reply:
I have been a vegan for three years and have brought my twin girls of three years up as vegans as well. I can not see how anyone can say it is restricting. You can get most things that you would usually eat but vegan i.e. jelly, ice-cream, chocolate, cheese. I think people who say this have not looked throughly into what is avaliable.
While there are people like your mother-in-law that have restrictions like Celiac Disease, you must remember that meat, dairy, eggs, and honey aren't going to give her what she's missing from the various grains she cannot consume. The above provide protein, fat, and some other nutrients (honey providing some nutrients and quick-digesting carbs), which people with Celiac's Disease can get from other sources, like legumes, grains without gluten, vegetables, and fruits.
Because there is a wider variety of plants available to eat than there are animals to consume, I find a vegan diet far from restrictive, even if you have certain allergies.
I am new to vegfamily.com, but this question caught my attention immediately. I think it is absolutely ridiculous for someone with food allergies to claim that a vegan diet would be too restrictive because of them. One of my children has PKU. Because of this, she cannot eat meat, eggs, dairy products, nuts, legumes (i.e. beans, peas), regular wheat-flour products, or soy products (i.e. tofu), and [refined] sugar is her "free" food (doesn't need to be weighed and measured on a gram scale). Yet, ask anyone with PKU, they eat healthier than the majority of people. Just as with peanut allergies, they are not allowed nuts of any kind. Just as with Celiac disease, they must use special baking mixes in place of regular flour, specialty pastas, and, usually, immitation rice. Their diet is based on fruits and vegetables and, as with vegetarians/vegans, they have the occassional meat alternative, though theirs is designed specifically to be lower in protein than soy-based meat alternatives.
While the PKU diet is restrictive, it is absolutely do-able. It is, of course, supplemented with medical food (in the form of formula, pills, powders, drinks, food bars, etc.), but that is really similar to a vegetarian's or vegan's use of vitamin and mineral supplements. The only difference is that PKU medical foods are primarily designed to give the remaining amino acids missing from a low protein diet.
The main difference between a PKU patient's diet and a vegan diet is simply CHOICE. A vegetarian/vegan follows that diet by choice, while someone with PKU must follow that diet in order to save themselves from mental retardation in the early years, and lowered I.Q., aggression, and other mental, emotional, and physical problems afterward. Food allergies, as well, are not by choice. However, the question posed was whether or not a vegan diet would be too restrictive on top of food allergies. Well, look to the PKU community, full of people who are, in essence, vegetarians by force. While their diets are restrictive (and no one will argue that), they eat full, healthy meals, develop normally, and are more healthy than I, or anyone else I know. They get to eat cakes, cookies, ice cream, smoothies, even low protein chocolate, in addition to a full range of vegetarian/vegan fare.
If one doesn't want to be vegetarian or vegan, don't try to blame it on the fact that one already has food allergies. Just own up to the fact that one likes to eat meat and doesn't want to quit. Any vegetarian or vegan out there would respect honesty more than a cop-out excuse, any day. And yes, there are vegetarians/vegans out there who would practically tear your head off for saying that you like meat and don't want to stop eating it. True. They still respect honesty over a load of bull.
A vegan "diet" isn't a diet at all; it's a lifestyle. It's not about what you don't eat; it's about feeding your body the foods that it's meant to have, while not exploiting animals for human gain. When looked at that way, being vegan can't be seen as restrictive at all. Not to mention, there are vegan replacements for just about any nonvegan "food" out there, from burgers, to milk, to bacon, to eggs, to ice cream... the list goes on. Anyone who says that a vegan "diet" is too restrictive is either uneducated or just plain selfish.
I am vegan and have a tree nut allergy. I choose not to eat any nuts due to the possibility of developing allergies to other types of nuts. I just try to include more whole grains and beans. The only difficulty i have had is that often vegan recipes include nuts.
I agree that peanut allergy is a severe contraindication to veganism. I also am very allergic, and I recently tried the vegan diet for 6 months and could not continue because I discovered I am allergic to soy and other beans as well. Allergies trump vegan principles, unfortunately, so I had to go back to eating some animal foods to get protein. I am very disappointed, but there is no way to cure allergies, and so I had to give up veganism.
If being vegan is important to a person, than they will find a way to be vegan despite an inability to eat some other foods. The peanut allergy excuse is utterly without merit. I've been allergic to peanuts since birth and I've also been vegan for more than eight years. The two have never caused problems any more than they would have if I'd just been allergic to peanuts but not vegan. Being gluten-free and vegan is certainly more difficult but if you are cooking for yourself rather than eating at restaurants, it is still pretty easy. Transitioning to a gluten-free diet takes planning and trial and error whether vegan or not. (My mom is gluten-free but an omnivore.) Being gluten-free does reduce the type of grains you can have, but it doesn't stop you from eating beans, seeds, or nuts, and generally expands the repertoire of grains to more uncommon ones like quinoa, millet, amaranth, and teff.
I am a celiac, and therefore can't handle wheat, barley or rye, and can only tollerate GF grown oats. But it really doesn't influence my decision to be vegan. I have never liked eggs or handling meat, and dairy doesn't sit well with me so its pretty easy. But you have to be comfortable with your allergies or sensitivites. Being Celiac is a necessity for me, Vegan is a choice. I know like when I do all my shopping I have to read lables for gluten ingredients, I have done that for years, so now also look for vegan ingredients. The only tough area is that most meat substitutes have gluten in them, so I can't just grab some "soysage" but that stuff is very overprocessed anyways, so isn't very good for you. It may seem hard for some if you live on processed and pre packaged foods, which often have added ingredients. I eat a very unprocessed diet, keeping foods as close as possible to their natural form, and am all the healthier for it.
So no peanuts? Remember that peanut is actually a legume and not a nut...
That still leaves cashews, hazelnuts, pine nuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, pecans, macadamias, walnuts, linseeds...
Can't have oats or wheat?
That still leaves polenta, quinea, millet, red and green lentils, kidney beans, black beans, soy beans, split peas, barley, buckwheat, tofu...
Coconut is always good too. Have you ever met anyone allergic to this? Great for milk or cream, a very good meat...
Think outside the square!
I've found that when a person complains, and you give them advice but they continue to complain, they are enjoying wallowing in self pity and do not want to change..
My sis is a vegan. She has many food intolerances/allergies (gluten,soy,dairy) her diet is very restricted,but for her health it is worth the benifits. She follows Dr. Furhmans "Eat for Health" books.
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