Many, including myself, tout the benefits of a vegan diet. There are documented health benefits as well as support for animals by not promoting (via the use of animal products) cruelty to animals. These are great reasons to adopt a vegan diet. With that said though, are there any disadvantages to becoming a vegan? If so, what are they and how do I negate them?
Where do you get your protein?
If you are a vegan or know much about veganism, you will have heard someone ask “where do you get your protein?” since the primary source of protein comes from animal products (meat and dairy). While following a vegan diet DOES limit your access to certain proteins, there are many available plant sources of protein. Without consciously incorporating these plant-based proteins into your diet on a regular basis, there is the potential to become protein-deficient. If following a vegan diet, be sure to look specifically for protein content in various items (veggie burgers, nuts, fortified grains) to ensure that you are getting the proper amount of protein. According to WebMD, the recommended daily allowance of protein for women is 46 grams per day (71 grams per day if breastfeeding), and for men, it is 56 grams per day.
Potential for Iron Deficiency
Iron deficiency can lead to fatigue and problems with brain function. Women need 18 milligrams of iron per day between the ages of 19 and 50, and up to 27 milligrams for pregnant women. Men need about 8 milligrams daily. Breakfast cereals fortified with iron, soybeans, white beans and spinach are good sources of iron for vegans. Some vegans who don’t care for iron-rich vegetables may need a daily iron supplement. The richest source of iron is meat, particularly beef and also shellfish, both missing from a Vegan diet.
Getting Enough Calcium, Vitamin D, and Vitamin B-12
Vegans need to eat plant sources of calcium, such as dark leafy greens, or fortified soy products, to get the recommended 1,000 milligrams per day. Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium, and adults need 600 international units per day. Vegans need to either take a vitamin D supplement or drink soy milk fortified with vitamin D. Most vegans need to take a vitamin B-12 supplement to get 2.4 micrograms per day since the vitamin is mainly found in animal products. Some soy milk and breakfast cereals are fortified with B-12.
Difficulty Finding Vegan choices at restaurants
A July 2012 Gallup poll reported that only 2 percent of Americans identified themselves as vegans. This means it’s sometimes difficult to stick to a strict vegan diet since most of the country caters to those who eat animal products. It’s often hard for vegans to eat out since many restaurants don’t offer many vegan-friendly choices. Parties and family events can also be difficult, though vegans can minimize this challenge. This can be done by bringing meals from home if they know there won’t be any appropriate choices.
Although there are many health benefits to a vegan diet, there are also downsides that you should keep in mind. Some have been mentioned above. If you are unsure if this diet is appropriate for you, it would be best to begin slowly. Start with small changes over time (like removing a certain item from your diet) and noting any changes in how you feel, or any symptoms you need to address.
In general, a vegan diet is considered a healthy lifestyle. It is certainly beneficial for the sake of animals, but do bear in mind the cautionary notes above. Stay Healthy!