We tend to associate those who eat a vegan diet—aka those who don’t consume any animal products including all meats and dairy, which contain saturated fats and cholesterol, with being healthy. Since so much of fish, meats and poultry may have hormones, antibiotics and chemicals not eating these is super healthy…right?
Don’t get us wrong, there are still lots of benefits to adopting a vegan diet. For one thing, being vegan has been proven to help you lose weight—“because in addition to knocking out the meat, you’re also knocking out high fat dairy products,” says Reed Mangels, a registered dietitian and lecturer in nutrition at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. So if your ultimate goal is to shed some pounds, then you go ahead and rock this diet.
However, just know that,while veganism has been linked to weight loss, it’s also been linked to weight gain as well. Did you know that Oreo cookies, Pillsbury crescent rolls, Ritz crackers, and unfrosted Pop Tarts are all technically vegan? Of course, these foods aren’t exactly the epitome of health. Vegans need to be extra vigilant if they’re doing it for weight reasons as not all vegan food will help you lose weight.
On another positive note, 2015 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science showed that vegan diets are even more effective than vegetarian diets in protecting against hypertension, type-2 diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases.
“Assuming you’re consuming many fruits and vegetables, you’re also getting more phytochemicals and antioxidants from your diet,” says Jackie Keller, a nutritionist and weight loss expert. “Both these powerful substances significantly reduce the risk of chronic illnesses.”
However, back the negatives of being vegan, and perhaps the biggest con of all: When you go vegan, you begin to miss out on some important nutrients from the food you aren’t eating, according to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition—for example, calcium, vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B-12 and folate, which are all heavily present in meat and dairy. And deficiency in these nutrients may cause a host of problems.
“If you’re not getting enough B-12, you may feel weakness, fatigue, constipation, and lack of appetite,” Keller says. “Without proper amounts of B-12, an infant cannot thrive, and as we age, we have fewer of the gastric acids that synthesize the B-12 from foods, so that’s why my recommendation for B-12 is so strong.”
Additionally, while there are some protein options for vegans, such as beans and legumes, it’s hard to get an adequate amount every day. Plus, “They can make you feel bloated, they can make your digestive tract feel off,” Keller says. “Many people will feel bad because of this as their system adjusts and they’re not making the necessary adjustments as far as hydration goes to accommodate these new protein sources, so they just feel uncomfortable.”
So what’s the deal, should you become vegan or not? Bottom line: Know your body and eat foods that make you feel good!
What do you think about the cons to going vegan? Could you ever eliminate animal products once and for all?