Q&A: When can vegan be unhealthy?

By Haley Hernandez - Health Reporter

HOUSTON - There are famous YouTube vloggers who give advice on everything from diet to fitness to health.

Recently, Yovana Mendoza, a.k.a. "Rawvana," posted a video apologizing to her fans for eating fish and eggs. In the confession that went viral on YouTube, she claims her dedication to a raw, vegan diet caused health complications like being premenopausal and developing small intestine bacterial overgrowth, which is more commonly known as SIBO. It's a real condition, but skeptics wonder how she really got it.

“It’s been kind of detrimental to the movement because not only is it making people question those who actually are vegan and promoting this message but the people who are coming out and saying that they’ve been eating animal products in secret are now coming out saying they have health issues,” said Houston YouTube sensation, Kristina Carillo-Bucaram, a.k.a. "Fully Raw Kristina."

Carillo-Bucaram is also known for her raw, vegan lifestyle. She doesn't eat anything from animals or anything cooked. Instead, she only eats raw fruits, vegetables, nuts and she said it has made her healthier.

“I’ve been doing this for almost 14 years now, 100%, no slip-ups, and my health is better now than it ever has been,” she said. “It has continuously gotten better. I was a type-2 diabetic, hyperglycemic and I naturally reversed it with this lifestyle.”

She said she's skeptical of anyone selling books or meal plans for one type of diet and not living the lifestyle.

Kelsey-Seybold Registered Dietitian Ronda Elsenbrook said not all vegan foods contain nutrients, and without a smart variety, that can cause deficiencies in nutrition and weight that can cause hormonal complications.

Q&A with Elsenbrook

Q: Is there a right and wrong way to eat vegan? Can being too strict cause health problems?

A: “Not all vegan foods contain nutrients. For example, sugar is vegan but does not provide good nutrition. To have a healthy vegan diet, there needs to be a variety of all natural plant-based foods. Rawvana developed health problems after a 25-day water fast which deprived her body of nutrition for 25 days and also dropped her weight below a level that she could maintain healthy hormone levels. The SIBO is not uncommon in the population as a whole regardless of whether or not a person is vegan or omnivore.”

Q: Is eating fully raw (no cooked foods, all plant-based diet) a healthy option?

A: “Eating a fully raw vegan diet can be challenging to maintain (a) healthy weight if the person does not eat enough volume since most of the foods are bulky and have a lower calorie density. But it can be done with planning. Overall, a whole food plant-based vegan diet can be healthy. Vitamin and mineral deficiencies can occur if processed, refined foods are the basis of the diet instead of whole plant foods and those following a vegan diet should supplement with Vitamin B12.”

Q&A with Fully Raw Kristina

Q: Are there health complications with living fully raw?

A: “I have been a fully raw vegan for this entire time and I dedicated my platforms to promoting this message and I will continue to promote this message because I do believe in it so much.

“We’re telling people to eat more fruits and vegetables, to eat more plant-based foods. It’s not just for our health, but it’s also for the animals and the planet. There’s so many reasons to go plant-based or to go vegan or just to incorporate one more raw vegan meal in your day every single day.”

Q: Just a little bit of non-animal meals once a day would be good enough?

A: “I tell people there (are) so many alternatives out there to eating animal products. You don’t have to eat meat, you don’t have to eat dairy. You can eat almond milk, you can drink almond milk instead of regular cow’s milk. There’s beyond beef now that you can have instead of eating real beef. Not only is it way better for your health, but you save an animal’s life and you help to reduce your carbon footprint on this planet.”

“There is a lot of vegan junk food out there. It’s basically just you know tofus and nut cheeses and you know you can have vegan burgers now with all kinds of substitute patties.”

Q: Do you ever miss cooked foods?

A: “The things that I crave now are, especially in summer, hydrating fruits, a lot of juicy vegetables and I mean people tell me all the time that they think that it’s boring that I eat nothing but fruits and vegetables.”

“The benefits that I experience from it are, not just physically feeling better, but you know I sleep better, my skin looks better, there’s no constipation or migraines or digestive issues that I used to have. I just, I love this lifestyle.”

Copyright 2019 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.