The other month, Nina Planck published an article about the risks of raising vegan children and I thought I’d answer some of the statements she made. You can find the article here that I’m referring to: Is Veganism Good for Everyone?

I wanted to just offer some of my own information, in response to Planck’s concerns of raising children on a vegan diet or being a vegan while pregnant.

First, Nina Planck wrote that vegans are deficient in many things which “include fully-formed vitamins A and D, vitamin B12, and the long-chain fatty acids found in fish.”

Breeze Harper’s response: Okay, there is a D3 source that is vegan. Vitashine. Yes, a vegan source of D3 and of course, if you live where there is a lot of sunshine, try sunbathing everyday, at least 50-75% of your body being exposed to the sun. Secondly, Fish get DHA from ALGAE, and that is one way how vegans get their DHA. Chia seeds outshine Wild Alaskan Salmon in terms of Omega 3 6 9. Vegans aren’t deficient in these things because of veganism being a deficient diet. It’s usually because people just don’t know they need to eat certain foods to get what they need. And let’s be honest here, there are plenty of omnivores who don’t know what they should be eating, while they are pregnant or not; whether they have children or not.

Planck wrote: “The quantity, quality and bio-availability of other nutrients, such as calcium and protein, are superior when consumed from animal rather than plant sources.”

Breeze: No this is not true either, in terms of Calcium. There is an amazing algae based source of calcium that is vegan and has an incredibly high absorption rate called Algaecal. You can go here and here to look at the articles being written about the “safety” of Algaecal. I took it during my entire vegan pregnancy and drank kale smoothies and ate a lot of chia seeds and nettles (both high in Calcium). I did this while pregnant and breastfed my 1st child (who was 2 at the time) until I was 33 weeks pregnant with my 2nd. Not only did I not have a calcium deficiency, I had so much calcium that my 2nd baby was born with teeth. My midwife and doula are witnesses, and they let me know that when babies are born with teeth this indicates she had enough calcium. Protein? I got this from raw hemp, Organic Hawaiian spirulina, chia seeds, chlorella, avocado, seeds, nuts, legumes, to name a few. I easily ate 70g of protein per day while pregnant. Had a home birth . No complications. My placenta was well nourished. The midwifery team was blown away by how healthy it looked.

Planck: “For babies and children, whose nutritional needs are extraordinary, the risks are definite and scary. The breast milk of vegetarian and vegan mothers is dramatically lower in a critical brain fat, DHA, than the milk of an omnivorous mother and contains less usable vitamin B6. Carnitine, a vital amino acid found in meat and breast milk, is nicknamed “vitamin Bb” because babies need so much of it. Vegans, vegetarians and people with poor thyroid function are often deficient in carnitine and its precursors.”

Breeze Harper: Strange conclusion to draw. First, if you’re worried about getting B6, you can just take a vegan multi-vitamin during pregnancy and/or give your infant and toddler vegan supplements and vitamins. Want to not do vitamins? You can also get B6 from legumes, seeds, and nuts. Raw Pistachios and raw garlic are high in B6 (see: I made pistachio nut ice cream, lightly sweetened with dates. I threw pistachios, water, and dates in a blender and then put them in popsicle molds. Toddlers love ice cream or popsicle anything. Try it. For more information about B6 deficiency concerns, try going here: Jeff Novick on B6.

Also, in terms of vegan nursing, there are plenty omnivorous people I have read about or met who had nutritionally deficient breastmilk as well and had to stop nursing and start using formula for their infants. However, my 8 month old Eva Luna is breastfed from my vegan diet and she has no nutritional ‘deficiencies.’ She was born at 9.5lb, is in the 99th percentile for her age and appears to be healthy. Omnivores, vegetarians, and vegans can feed their children in a way that is balanced or not. It is not about veganism, vegetarianism, or being an omnivore as much as it is just making sure your kid gets what they need. (And I know these factors are not just about vegan nutrition education, but factors such as environmental racism, socio-economic class struggle, your ability to get to healthier food- you could be prohibited, due to mobility issues because you lack transportation for example, or it’s actually not safe to walke around where you live during certain times of the day to find healthier foods.)

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  1. Thank you so much for replying so intelligently and calmly to this rediculous article full of VERY outdated ideas about vegan diet. I’m surprised the NY Times printed it.

  2. The fact is that Vegetarian/ Vegan diets are unhealthy in the long run! If you are missing any nutrient and have to supplement, then it isn’t a well rounded diet.

    “As a cleansing diet, vegetarianism is a good choice. Several health conditions (e.g., gout) can often be ameliorated by a temporary reduction in animal products with an increase of plant foods. But such measures must not be continuous throughout life: there are vital nutrients found only in animal products that we must ingest for optimal health. Furthermore, there is no one diet that will work for every person. Some vegetarians and vegans, in their zeal to get converts, are blind to this biochemical fact. ”

  3. Sunbathing everyday doesn’t sound like a good alternative for Vtamin D. The UV rays that synthesize the manufacturing of Vitamin D are too dangerous. Yes, humans have evolved despite great exposure to sunlight, but the rays are still poisonous poisonous. Modern advancements have increased our ability to avoid it. I advise getting your vitamin D from other sources.

    Nutritional ignorance is widespread among the entire population, but most people don’t need to consider the nutrients in meat and milk. Is veganism risky for children? Not if you’re doing it right. Vegans know that they have to be knowledgeable and diligent in their compensation lacking animal products. It follows that you would make these same considerations for your children, and I’m guessing that most vegans do their research. Sunlight needs to be part of that research, as it is an unsafe alternative.

  4. I am not sure wether to be outrage or just sad at Planck’s ignorance of plant based nutrition. My veg children ages 7 and 5 could write a better article. Thank you A.Breeze Harper for re-educating the misinformed masses and delivering a compassion truth.

  5. I’m new to the vegan diet and I’m currently studying to receive my BS in nutrition science. There are many people in the U.S. who are not vegans and are deficient in so many things not to mention obese. What works for me may not work for you but if its working for me and I have more energy, a clear mind, in great spirits, and most importantly healthy why knock it. Some vegans may be deficient for lack of knowledge about the diet but definitely not from a vegan diet. Black people really should take a serious look at a no meat no dairy lifestyle because we are dying at a higher rate from heart disease, diabetes, and cancer than any other group of people. We are so blind to the facts staring us directly in the mouth at the dinner table, from fast food to sugar filled drinks to cancer causing animal products. And let me break it to you its not whats in your genes… just because your mother and your father had diabetes doesn’t mean you’re going to have it. But if you eat the same bad diet as your elders you most certainly will carry the family torch of disease. If you love life and your family take time out to watch a food matters documentary or pick up a book and research whats in your food. Why do you think Trader Joe’s and Whole Food stores aren’t anywhere close to our neighborhoods. Because so many of us including my family are low information folks and these companies feel we aren’t ready to stop poisoning our bodies yet so why bother. Turn off that reality TV and research your food……

  6. so Breeze Harper admits that Nina Planck is right? She doesn’t actually rebuttal her points, Harper just provides what the vegan needs to do to cover those deficiencies.

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