Plant foods alone can keep you healthy in every stage of life.
There is so much information available on the benefits of a plant-based diet from infancy, childhood, adolescence, pregnancy, lactation, middle age and old age.
But just like with any diet, you have to know how to eat right at each stage in order to remain healthy.
The Designer’s Plan
In the Bible, we find that the original diet God gave Adam and Eve was plant foods only:
God said, “I have given you every plant with seeds on the face of the earth and every tree that has fruit with seeds. This will be your food.” Genesis 1:29
Meat-eating only came in after the Flood when God ordained it as there was no plant food left on the earth.
Genesis 9:2 – 3 (after the Flood) – ”Everything that lives and moves will be your food. I gave you green plants as food [the original plan – my comment]; I now give you everything else.”
That means all the children before the Flood were also eating only plants. AND they were living to grand old ages – until after the Flood. It is no stretch of the imagination to guess that one reason for the much shorter lifespans could be because of the massive dietary change – after all, meat-eating has been proven to shorten productive life today too.
Of course, choosing to eating plant foods alone during pregnancy and lactation and feeding infants and young children a plant-based diet means you have to know you are getting it right.
A growing child does not have as much room for ‘error’ in their small, developing bodies as a grown adult with plenty of stores of most nutrients.
If you are anticipating pregnancy or have a small child you wish to arm with the lifelong gift of health available through an excellent diet in childhood, I would strongly encourage you to do some reading of your own. Disease-Proof Your Child by (medical) Dr Joel Fuhrman is excellent and, though a bit more in depth, Becoming Vegan by Brenda Davis and Vesanto Melina (both highly acclaimed and registered dieticians) is exceptional. All of these health professionals explain what to be careful of when embarking on a whole food plant-based pregnancy or lactation or feeding your infant or children a diet of solely plant foods. The main concerns are that you or your child are getting a good source of
- Omega 3 fats
- Vitamin B12 and
- Vitamin D
Other than those concerns, a plant based diet will provide much more balanced nutrition that the destructive Western diet – even a Western diet based on whole foods and no processed foods.
A diet based on meat and dairy is not a healthy diet, whichever way you look at it. The science simply does not stack up in its favour.
Children need a little more protein than an adult does, but it does not need to come from meat and dairy. Since most of us did not learn from our own childhoods how to put together a balanced plant-based diet plan for different ages, it stands to reason we must educate ourselves on how to do so, in order to bring about health in our families. Guessing or deciding what to eat based on tastes is not wise when we have no good marker with which to compare. Learning to put together healthy and balanced plant-based meals suitable for different ages is an important skill to learn if you intend to feed a family. It’s not rocket-science at all, but does take some focussed attention at first.
No Vitamin B12
From time to time we hear about a tragic infant death to vegan parents. It hits the news and puts a black mark against plant food diets. People understandably fear avoiding animal foods with their children as a result. The fact that more infants die regularly from illnesses caused by being fed poor diets which caused the illnesses in the first place does not hit the news.
These vegan infants usually have one thing in common however. Their parents failed to include a reliable source of Vitamin B12 during pregnancy and lactation for the mother or for the baby upon weaning. Vitamin B12 is made by bacteria picked up in soil, dirt, faeces and dirty water – in the general grime of the farmyard. In the past our ancestors did not have the sanitary conditions we live in today, so getting enough Vitamin B12 was not difficult. The reason animal meat has Vitamin B12 is because animals live in what we would call ‘unsanitary conditions’. The B12 is stored in their flesh, milk or eggs. Eating an animal is how most Westerners obtain Vitamin B12.
By adulthood, most of us have stores for up to 3 years in our own livers. Some people have enough for 20 – 30 years without eating any more meat products! However, babies and children have NO stores of Vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 is vital in building DNA and red blood cells, particularly in times of rapid growth like childhood. It maintains protective sheaths around nerve fibres and keeps a damaging substance that weakens inner arterial walls under control (homocysteine), and high levels of this substance trigger heart disease in a different way to the way most people get heart disease – from fatty plaque build up from eating too much animal food. You can see why it is important to make sure you and your child are getting this vitamin, the only one not found in plant foods.
Here is an easy to read article on babies and plant-based diets which adds a few more thoughts to this conversation. Please read it if you are contemplating pregnancy or raising children on a plant-based diet. It includes the recommendation of the American Academy of Pediatrics to no longer give children cow’s milk as well as Dr Benjamin Spock’s recommendation to not feed animal foods to children. <Click here>
If I had my time over…
The more I find out about the benefits of eating plant foods and the contrasting destructiveness of eating foods from animals, the more sure I am that, if I had my time over, I would raise my children without animal foods, or at very least, keep them for only occasional events. If we were to base our dietary choices on solid science rather than on our culture, we would stop eating animal foods today – it is our culture that tells us “it can’t possibly be so bad” and blinds us to the truth –-And the truth is:
that children can be much much healthier, in childhood and beyond, on a well-planned plant-based diet than they can hope to be on a diet that regularly includes animal foods.