Veganism has rapidly gained its popularity in the recent years. It is a form of vegetarianism that eliminates all animal products from their diet, including dairy products, eggs, honey and gelatin. They also abstain from using anything made from animals such as silk, leather and wool. People who are turning vegan have made this decision for a number of reasons. For some, they believe that all form of life is sacred and animal cruelty should be stopped. Others believe that raising dairy cows and beef cattle has negative effect on the environment and that meat is not good for our health. Whilst being vegan promotes a healthy lifestyle, do you know that it has its drawbacks as well?
Vegans want to create a world where animals are safe from human cruelty. They also want to promote optimum quality of life for humans by eliminating the harmful effects of animal products on our body. Some nutrition experts though believe that being vegan has certain negative health effects.
According to a study published in Acta Scientarium Polonorum on its April 2012 issue, vegans have higher risk of vitamin B-12 deficiency. Out of the 20 participants, half ate vitamin B-12 fortified foods and half went on an entirely vegan diet. Those who were on a vegan diet showed a significant decrease in vitamin B-12 levels. In addition, infants of vegan mothers are at higher risk of impaired growth and permanent damage since vegan breastfeeding mothers failed to supply their little ones with this essential vitamin.
According to Vanderbilt University Health Psychology Department, switching to a vegan diet will increase your risk of osteoporosis or bone fractures and low bone density. Why does this occur? Vegans have lower levels of vitamin D and calcium compared to non-vegans. To avoid this one of the negative effects of veganism, make sure that you pack on foods that are high in calcium. Collard greens, kale, broccoli, bok choy, oranges, pasta, cereals and many commercial soy milk are excellent sources of calcium.
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential as they provide many health benefits. They are known to be useful in the treatment and prevention of heart disease, treatment for depression and important for cognitive function.
Vegetarians and vegans have lower levels of omega-3 fatty acids compare to the meat eaters. Does this mean that they have higher risk of heart disease? Not necessarily so. Vegans can take DHA supplement to ensure that they have the same DHA levels with non-vegans. Be cautious in taking supplements though since too much omega-3s can lead to bruising and bleeding.
Iron and zinc are important for good health. The first is necessary for your body to produce red blood cells that carry oxygen around your body while the latter is essential for growth, healthy immune system, fertility, reproduction and sense of smell and taste.
Since the major source of iron and zinc is meat, vegans are more likely to develop iron and zinc deficiencies. To combat this one of the negative effects of veganism, make sure to include plant iron sources such as pulses, beans, green vegetables, nuts and dried foods on your diet. Plant-based zinc sources on the other hand include chickpeas, beans, peas, mushrooms and white rice.
If you want a normal function of your brain, heart and kidneys, you should have ample amount of iodine in your body. Your metabolism also requires this nutrient to function properly. Since the best source of iodine comes from dairy and seafood, vegans are on the disadvantage side. Because you have eliminated dairy from your diet, you are at higher risk of developing iodine deficiency which can lead to side effects such as goiter and hypothyroidism.
Switching to a plant-based diet makes you consume fewer calories compared to animal-derived foods. This could mean that you are not consuming the recommended amount of calories that your body needs, hence you feel tired and sluggish. There are some new vegans who assume that vegan foods are healthier compared to the “regular junk”, hence they allow themselves to consume so much more. This, however, results in excessive weight gain and energy crashes.
This is one of the negative effects of veganism that most beginners experience. When you change your diet by replacing animal products with plant-based foods like vegetables, grains and legumes, your stomach suddenly gets a completely different composition of food. This immediate switch can lead to digestive problems such as diarrhea, constipation and bloating.
Just like with any diet change, the type of foods that you consume and your caloric intake has an impact in your sleeping patterns. Some vegans experienced problem of getting the required number of sleep. This must be brought about by the splurge of energy that they feel which makes it hard to fall asleep or stay asleep.
Getting rid of the foods that you’ve been eating for years is not a piece of cake. Our taste buds were aligned with the type of foods that we used to have. From time to time, you would have fatty, sugary or meat cravings. Thanks to the advancement of food and technology, there are a lot of vegan options out there that can satisfy these cravings without going back to being non-vegan. You can try some new vegan cheese or meats to curb these cravings.
Let’s face it, majority of our population are carnivores. Most of the restaurants serve menus that cater to the need of people for meat. When you go to social gatherings, most of the foods served are non-vegans. When going out to grab lunch with some friends, they would often ask you questions like “What can you eat?” Some people would even openly ridicule and mock your belief and practice. Make sure to stay firm on what you believe in and don’t mind what other people are saying.
As mentioned above, you can prevent nutrient deficiencies from happening. Get these vitamins and minerals from your plant-based food and you can even discuss adding supplements with your doctor to ensure that your body has the sufficient amount of nutrients and vitamins needed. The initial stage would be the hardest since you would experience a lot of side effects brought about by this transition. Make sure that you are firm on what you believe and surround yourself with people that support your advocacy.
Veganism may have its negative effect, but the positive effects of eliminating animal product from your diet as well as daily life outnumber these negative effects.