Going vegan is one of the strategies many people are looking into as a good alternative for losing weight, staying healthy or healing one’s body from health issues. Some people who go vegan do so for a much greater cause – they fight for animal rights and refuse to eat foods that come mainly from animal products. The extremists go to the extent of not buying clothes or products that are derived from animals.
The vegan diet means consuming foods that are plant-based, such as fruits and vegetables. Extreme vegan dieters take away from their diet anything that comes from animal sources and processed foods. Their diet consists mainly of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, soy, nuts, and seeds.
Though the vegan diet gives more emphasis on healthy foods, a strict vegan lifestyle may not be a healthy choice because you may run yourself the risk of nutritional deficiencies. Your body is a complex system that needs to get nourishment from lots of sources, animal products included. Though proteins that come mainly from animals can be sourced from plants, there’s a downside to this. Too much consumption of plant-based protein may not support your health.
People who went extremely vegan for a certain period had experienced firsthand the disadvantages of being purely vegan. They reported the following health issues
1. Anemia due to inadequate iron supply
Anemia is a disease that occurs when your body is deficient in iron. Extreme vegan dieters are at risk of developing anemia because plant sources can only provide the body with nonheme iron and not with heme iron.
Heme iron is absorbed by the body at a higher rate than nonheme iron. Heme iron can only be sourced from red meats. If you’re a vegan dieter, you need to eat twice as much iron than the red meat eaters so that your body can absorb an adequate amount of iron each day.
When the body is deficient in iron, you get tired easily or feel fatigued quickly. Though iron supplementation is an option, this comes with side effects that give your body some levels of discomfort.
2. Hair and skin problems due to problems in zinc absorption
A vegan diet is also linked to low zinc levels. Consuming too much of plant foods containing phytic acid is found to inhibit the body’s ability to absorb zinc.
Zinc plays a crucial role in your health. A deficiency of it can lead to hair loss, diarrhea, loss of appetite, eye and skin sores.
3. Gut problems resulting from antinutrients
Vegan dieters get most of their proteins from legumes. However, higher amounts of legumes can be toxic to the body.
Legumes contain substances that can be harmful to you such as phytates, lectins, and phytoestrogens. Phytates prevent the absorption of minerals while lectins can lead to a leaky gut and can increase inflammation in the gut. Phytoestrogen can lead to an overproduction of estrogen, which can disrupt your entire hormonal system.
4. Hormone disruptions due to overconsumption of soy protein
Vegans choose not to eat animal products because they know they can get their proteins from plants like soy.
Soy is essentially a healthy food that provides lots of benefits like supporting heart health, aiding in weight loss and building muscle. However, soy also contains antinutrients like phytate, which can reduce the availability of iron and zinc in the body. Soy is also linked to hormone disruption and thyroid problems.
5. Risk of osteoporosis caused by low levels of calcium
Bone health is another concern that you must put into consideration once you go vegan. Animal products have high levels of calcium that your body needs every single day. Though certain plant sources contain a rich amount of calcium, they’re not enough to support your body’s daily calcium needs. You need to add to your diet calcium-fortified soy milk and juices to solve this health issue.
Another thing is, some plant sources of calcium like Swiss chard and spinach contain oxalates that can inhibit calcium absorption. Because vegans typically eat less calcium, they fall short of the recommended daily amount of calcium. Studies show that vegans have higher rates of fractures compared to those who are not vegans.
Your body also needs vitamins K and D, which are both crucial for bone health. You can get more vitamin D from supplements or directly from sun exposure. An adequate amount of vitamin K can also be sourced from fortified foods.
6. Mood swings caused by an inadequate supply of omega 3 fatty acids
The body needs a balance of fatty acids for optimal function. Any imbalances thereof may lead to mood swings and depression.
Fish and fish oils contain omega 3 fatty acids that help regulate your mood. Vegans need to ensure they’re getting an adequate amount of omega 3s to avoid developing the risk of depression.
Health experts also reveal that a diet high in omega 6 and low in omega 3 can increase inflammation that may lead to heart disease.
7. Nerve problems due to a deficiency in vitamin B12
The body needs Vitamin B12 to keep the nerves and blood cells healthy and also to make DNA. Unluckily, this essential vitamin can be found only in animal products, which means vegans might be at risk of having a deficiency of this nutrient.
While Vitamin B supplementation is possible, it does not guarantee that all vegans can get enough of it because some people have genetic variation known as methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase or MTHFR. This genetic mutation can reduce the amounts of folate and other vitamins in the body including B12, which, experts say, can lead to health issues. In worst-case scenarios, health issues linked with Vitamin B12 deficiencies can be irreversible.
Being on a vegetarian diet brings enormous benefits from health to weight loss to energy levels. But we’ve always known that anything we do in extremes can be dangerous for us generally.
To remain healthy and maintain a healthy weight, sticking to a plant-based diet is helpful but you also need to consider what your body needs. There’s no better thing you can do for yourself than feed it with vital nutrients and vitamins and keep it nourished every single day.