HPN 9: Do Plant-Based Diets Risk Nutrient Deficiencies? Plus: Quercetin Benefits, and the Real Deal With Canola Oil

August 23, 2019


You can support Endurance Planet when you shop on Amazon! It’s super easy: Just be sure to open Amazon via enduranceplanet.com—it’s just one extra click to link to Amazon through the sidebar banner (to the right of the page) or click the Amazon links in the show notes. Thanks for supporting the show.

Welcome to episode 9 of Holistic Performance Nutrition featuring Coach Tawnee and Julie McCloskey, a certified holistic nutrition coach who you can find over at wildandwell.fit.

Intro Banter

  • Tawnee’s vanlife adventures take them up the California coast, but they are putting full-time vanlife on hold for now.
  • Julie just got finished hiking the Wonderland Trail and you can read her blog about it here.


Study mention:

Quercetin phytosome® in triathlon athletes: a pilot registry study.


Why Do Vegans Get Looked at As Unhealthy?

Angela asks:

I really enjoy your podcast. I do wonder though how it’s always assumed that vegans are more likely to require supplements than omnivorous people. As a vegan it’s tiresome. So if there are stats I’m not aware of I would be open to hearing about it. I follow so many plant-based athletes and nutrition gurus that it’s jarring to hear vegans referred to as deficient in vitamins or minerals due to diet. 

What the coaches say:

  • Whatever diet you adopt, understand WHY you are eating that way.
  • Meat is one of the most nutrient-dense food sources on the planet.
  • Vegan diets, in many cases, may only temporarily make you feel better, and there’s nothing wrong with eating more plants, but at one point you may find yourself craving meats and animal-based foods – honor those cravings because they are there for a reason.
  • Bioavailability – in many cases animal-based sources are much better than plant-based foods in terms of bioavailability.
    • Bioavailability means the portion of a nutrient that is absorbed in the digestive tract.
  • Conversion – many plant foods do not easily convert into nutrients found in animal-based foods. 
    • ALA conversion is poor in humans: 5-10% for EPA and 2-5% for DHA. 
    • Chris Kresser says, “On average, less than 0.5% of ALA gets converted into the long-chain EPA & DHA, and that number is even worse in people that are chronically ill or have nutrient deficiencies (common in vegans and vegetarians).”
    • Are plant proteins as bioavailable as plant-based protein sources?
    • Beta carotene found in plant foods, which is inefficient at converting to vitamin A.
  • Nutrients at risk on all plant-based diet:
    1. Vitamin A
    2. Vitamin B12
    3. Vitamin D – high levels in seafood, dairy, eggs, organ; not much in plant based foods (the sun may not be enough for many of us)
    4. Calcium
    5. Iron
    6. Zinc
    7. Iodine
    8. Choline
    9. Selenium
    10. Creatine
    11. Taurine
    12. Methionine
    13. Glycine
    14. Omegas-3s, EPA and DHA
  • Testing nutrient levels is tricky. So look to symptoms, listen to your body! If you feel off, irritated, fatigued, sad, etc., those are all signs.
  • Even supplements aren’t a perfect solution. Bioavailability is limited in many supplements.
  • Vegan Diets: practical advice for athletes and exercisers
    • B12 – “The body appears to have a limited capacity to absorb vitamin B12 supplements orally [88, 89], which is limited by the presence of intrinsic factor, a glycoprotein secreted by the stomach that combines with B12 prior to absorption in the small intestine [89]. For an ingested 500 mcg oral supplement, only an approximated 10 mcg might be absorbed [89]. Because of this poor bioavailability, sublingual drops, lozenges and transdermal products have been developed and marketed under the pretence that they offer better absorption, however research supporting these claims could not be found when writing this article.”
    • B12 is needed for nervous system function, red blood cell formation, etc, and you can’t get from plants.
  • Food prep matters:
    • Phytates and lectins found in plant foods may further inhibit absorption rates of nutrients (e.g. iron and other essential minerals).
    • Soak and sprout grains, nuts, seeds, etc. for optimal nutrition.
  • EAT diet, which is high in plant-based foods and very low in animal proteins, is deficient in the following nutrients according to work by Zoe Harcombe:
      1. B12
      2. Retinol – the form of vitamin A we need since we can’t rely on carotene to be converted.
      3. Vitamin D
      4. Vitamin K – 71% in this diet was K1 in broccoli, but K2 from animals is better absorbed
      5. Sodium
      6. Calcium
      7. Potassium
      8. Iron – 94% in the EAT-Lancet diet is from plant-based forms of iron. But heme iron from animal products is more bioavailable than most plant forms of iron.
  • Environmental concerns of eating meat.
  • One more thing on B12:
    • This study showed: 92 percent of vegans and 77 percent of vegetarians were deficient, compared to just 11 percent of omnivores.
    • Vegan subjects and, to a lesser degree, subjects in the LV-LOV group had metabolic features indicating vitamin B-12 deficiency that led to a substantial increase in total homocysteine concentrations. Vitamin B-12 status should be monitored in vegetarians. Health aspects of vegetarianism should be considered in the light of possible damaging effects arising from vitamin B-12 deficiency and hyperhomocysteinemia.
  • Nutritional epidemiology
    • Context matters!
    • Correlation does not equal causation. SO when we hear “meat is bad” studies that is NOT telling the whole story because often it’s about context. The people eating meat in these studies
  • Correlation does not mean causation. Here’s a good website that will make you see this: Spurious Correlations
  • Diana Rogers’ upcoming documentary Sacred Cow.

Real deal with canola oil and navigating our fat and oil intake?

Mary asks:

Hi EP Team! It’s Mary from Carbondale, CO – I’ve been enjoying listening to Lucho on ATC and liking the new HPN podcasts too!

I have a topic that I’d love to hear about on HPN at some point down the road – fats and oils! I know we’ve pretty much covered it before, and I’m a fan of healthy fats for sure. I use ghee or avocado oil for high-heat cooking, and coconut oil (“organic unrefined cold-pressed virgin”, kind of hilarious) or EVOO or grass-fed butter for stuff under about 350 degrees. I see canola oil and sunflower oil in just about everything, especially dressings and even some of the nut milks that I thought would be good for coffee (I don’t seem to do cup-full amounts of dairy very well). I was liking this oat milk for coffee that foamed nicely because, latte snobbery, but it says it has “rapeseed oil” in it – is that like canola? I think the upshot is that anything processed, stay away from or have less of. Is canola oil really that bad? If there’s any science about fat and oil consumption we should know (like, is there a “worst” time to have them as it relates to exercise), or any other reminders for the audience or stuff I mentioned above that’s not quite right, I’d love to hear it!

What the coaches say:

  • Canola oil
    • Neither of us use canola oil. 
    • Canola oil was created through plant-breeding in order to get rid of 2 undesirable components of rapeseed – glucosinolates and erucic acid
      • The new plant was named Canola, a mix of Canadian and Oil (ola)
      • But they belong to the same family (mustard/cabbage)
    • Canola as heart healthy? Nope.
    • It consists of PUFA which are highly reactive to heat. In the refining process there are many steps exposing canola to heat which damages and destroys any of the “good” omega 3s. Resulting molecules cause inflammation and damage.
    • “If we could somehow get canola oil out of the seed without exposing it to heat, it would be good for us. But nobody can.” – Cate Shanahan
    • Trans Fat – Vegetable oils like canola contain mostly heat-sensitive PUFAs and when heated these fragile fats turn into toxic compounds including trans fat, which can multiply in your body.
    • Oils can be reused in restaurants for up to a week, getting more and more toxic with every use. Fried foods are especially dangerous.
    • Contributor to disease? Links with: osteoarthritis, inflammation, IBS IBD, heart disease, diabetes and obesity, autoimmune, asthma.
  • Why have these oils been marked as heart healthy? Read Big Fat Surprise or anything about Ancel Keys and all that to get the backstory.
  • What’s the balance? Is any and all exposure to these heats bad, or is a little ok in small quantities? What is the ratio we should strive for when it comes to good vs. bad fat & oil consumption? How to best approach and not become “orthorexic” about it.
    • Control what you can control – hands down choose good healthy oils at home!
    • When you are out in the world, don’t worry too much about every component of your food, including the oils and fats used.
      • However, if and when you can still control it, that is a good idea. e.g.
        • salad dressing on the side, request olive oil instead, don’t be afraid to ask food servers about fats and oils that are being used and request alternatives if that’s possible, and so on.
    • The stress over fearing what’s in food may be more dangerous to you health than the occasional canola oil consumption.

Comments (2)

  • John says:

    That was the worst misinformation podcast ever. You stated that vegans are more healthy than non vegans, like get real. Why not get a real doctor like Tim Noakes or Jason Fung. Somebody that actually knows nutrition.

  • Courtney Burgess says:

    Great episode! My brother recently opened a fast casual restaurant in Chicago that doesn’t use any harmful oils (mostly a paleo friendly option, all gluten free, but with vegan options)… check out Dirty Root and give him a shoutout for trying to make his city healthier!

Add your thoughts

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.