Before I open my door to a bunch of angry people with pitchforks, lit torches, and a burning zealousness to murder me, this is NOT a post emphasizing that a vegan diet is unhealthy. If a vegan diet was unhealthy by default, I wouldn’t be following it. However, there is this preconceived notion that vegan ALWAYS equates to healthy, just as gluten free, raw, sugar free, or Paleo does. Figuratively, this notion is actually dangerously misleading, as it places veganism in this extremist stigma that requires “willpower”, “commitment”, or “discipline” to follow. NO.
In order to follow a vegan diet, you need to believe in it, be well-educated about it, and make sure that you personally feel good on this diet. With that being said, I’ve seen many people reverting away from the vegan or even vegetarian diet because they claim to experience some health issues from abstinence from animal products. To be fair, I don’t know what they eat in private and I’m in no position to refute how they feel. On the other hand, I do believe that if one is truly, truly devoted to being a vegan, he or she would research endlessly on the different ways of veganism and make it work, whether that involves supplementing, incorporating more fats, carbs, protein, or anything else. Even if it just means being plant-based, that’s awesome too. With that, there is still plenty of wiggle-room to fail on a vegan diet, and plenty of ways to be unhealthy as a vegan.
- To name a few: Oreos. Swedish fish. Hershey’s chocolate syrup. Reese’s Puffs. French fries. Oil. Agave. Stuffed French toast. All heavily refined. All vegan (or can be vegan).
- Excess consumption of nutrients. Eating too much Omega-6’s, saturated fat, sugar (from refined sources, that is), or even healthy fat-soluble vitamins, carbohydrates, protein, and certain water-soluble vitamins have their individual consequences. Overeating Omega-6 fatty acids causes inflammation and interferes with the body’s ability to convert Omega-3 fatty acids into EPA and DHA, both of which are vital for the body. Overeating refined saturated fats and empty sugar actually increase LDL “bad” cholesterol, whether plant based or animal based. An excess amount of anything for your body will obviously result in weight gain, which is not helpful if trying to lose weight.
- Incorporate a large variety of food. It’s great to eat the same foods every day for a certain period of time, but it’s very important to incorporate a wide range of plant foods for meeting nutrient needs. For instance, rice is awesome, but you’ll be missing out on certain amino acids that can be found in quinoa or wheat germ. Every week, I switch up certain nutrients sources. For instance, one week I consume kale as my primary calcium source and fortified almond milk the next. The kale boosts my levels of vitamins A, C, and K, whereas the almond milk boosts my vitamin D intake. Alternatively, sweet potatoes are often my primary Vitamin-A (as well as fiber) food, but other times it’s butternut squash, which has more vitamin E and magnesium, or spinach, which is higher in iron. Besides, I don’t know about you, but a vegan diet that consists of a variety of food that can supply a whole supermarket is much more appealing than one where I can only have a two-hand count’s amount of food.
- Make sure you’re eating enough IN GENERAL. You could be eating the healthiest vegan foods in the world, but if it’s deficient in too many calories, then nutrient deficiency is bound to happen. A quick anecdote of mine involves a friend who wanted to become a vegetarian. Unfortunately, he barely lasted for three days when my roommate told me that he failed because he felt as if he was lacking protein and didn’t eat enough. Well, the solution is RIGHT there, correct? Additionally, I found that my protein count was LOW a month ago because I was barely consuming enough food to suffice my daily hour-long workouts. Obviously, I wasn’t starving myself intentionally, but I just prioritized other things over food and limited my time to eat–which TBH, I am still occasionally guilty of. Since then, I’ve doubled my food intake, adapting to consume more protein, healthy fats, carbohydrates, water, and just more food in general to restore my nutrient levels and a healthy weight. Dessert every night? Don’t mind if I do!
- Stick with wholesome foods as the base of the food pyramid. As much as I loved being a junk food vegan for several days, I broke out for the first time in months, retained a lot of water, and felt like crap overall. Mock meat should not be a primary source of protein (unless if specified by a medical professional otherwise) when tofu and beans are more nutrient dense sources. Cereal won’t provide the same kind of nutrients as sweet potatoes or oatmeal. However, all of these processed foods can be included as part of a healthy daily diet, but make sure to consume plenty of micronutrient-dense foods as well!
Well well, I hope these little explanations on why veganism isn’t the full package to health makes sense to you! If I missed any other pointers regarding health and veganism, do let me know below! Have an amazing day everyone!