Diet Myths Debunked
The Vegan Diet
The Myth: It's low in the saturated fat found in meat, so it's better for you.
The Truth: Many women go vegan to reduce their risk of heart disease or other chronic conditions, or because they're morally opposed to eating animals. That's fine, as long as their diet contains a healthy mix of vitamins, minerals, protein, and fiber. The problem is, many vegans come up short -- meaning that they're missing out on vitamin B12, found in animal foods, and healthy fats such as DHA and EPA, the two types of omega-3s found primarily in fish like wild salmon, says Giancoli. That's a major concern if you're one of the 20 million Americans who suffers from dry-eye syndrome, in which insufficient tear production causes painful, burning irritation. Women whose diets had the highest levels of omega-3s were 17 percent less likely to have dry eyes than those who ate the least, according to a Brigham and Women's Hospital study.
Omega-3s are also vital for stabilizing mood, and may even help ward off depression. The risk of mood disorders is compounded if you don't get enough B12, which helps your brain produce feel-good neurotransmitters. A lack of this vitamin can lead to memory loss and disorientation, research shows.
The Fix: Get your omega-3s by eating ground flaxseed (sprinkle it on yogurt, oatmeal, or cereal), walnuts, and tofu, and by using canola, walnut, flaxseed, and soybean oils, which contain the fat alpha-linolenic acid. Include some of these foods every day to meet your omega-3 requirement of 1.1 grams. To load up on B12 (your goal: 2.4 micrograms a day), take a multivitamin or have several servings of fortified foods, such as soy milk, cereal, or tuna.
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