Know Important Benefits & Critical Drawbacks Of The Vegan Diet

Not too long ago, you’d have considered the idea of veganism extreme. The thought of one not eating any animal products, including fish, egg, dairy, and honey, seemed impractical. However, interest in the vegan diet has grown lately with many successful cookbooks and celebrity adoption.

A vegan diet comes with several benefits, especially for the older population. At the same time, cutting animal products from your diet has its fair share of consequences. This article discusses everything you need to know about a vegan diet, including the pros and cons.

What is a Vegan Diet?

Veganism is a strict form of vegetarianism where you are required to refrain from eating all animal products and by-products. This diet is followed by about 3% of America’s population, and their reason for eating this way varies. While some eat a plant-based diet due to health concerns, others stay away from meat products to avoid harming animals.

Here are some foods that you can eat on a vegan diet:

  • Fruits & veggies
  • Bread and rice
  • Legumes
  • Nuts
  • Soymilk, coconut milk, and almond milk
  • Vegetable oil

Here are some of the foods that a vegan can’t eat:

  • Beef, pork, and other red meat
  • Chicken, duck, and other poultry
  • Fish
  • Eggs
  • Cheese
  • Milk, cream, and other dairy products
  • Mayonnaise
  • Honey

Health Benefits of a Vegan Diet

Here are some of the benefits of switching to a vegan diet:

Weight Loss

One of the immediate effects of adopting a vegan diet is weight loss. More people are turning to a plant-based diet in hopes of losing weight. A vegan diet is much lower in calories than other types, including a vegetarian diet.

An observational study has shown that vegans tend to be thinner and have lower body mass indexes than people who eat meat. Other small studies reported that vegan diets are usually more effective for weight loss when compared to other diets.

Richer in Some Nutrients

Switching to a vegan diet may ensure that you get a higher intake of certain beneficial nutrients. Various studies have shown that vegan meals provide more fiber, antioxidants, and other beneficial plant compounds. 

Vegan diets are also rich in potassium, magnesium, folate, and other vitamins. However, you need to choose whole plant foods and fortified foods to access this benefit, as poorly planned vegan diets may not provide the required amount of vitamins. 

Low Blood Sugar and Improved Kidney Function

A vegan diet may also benefit people with type 2 diabetes and declining kidney function. These foods usually have lower blood sugar and higher insulin sensitivity, essential factors in lowering the risk of diabetes.

Even without going fully vegan, you can reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes by decreasing your consumption of meat and dairy foods while upping your intake of plant-based foods. One study in 2006 even indicated that a vegan diet lowers blood glucose levels in people with diabetes.

Reduces Risk of Heart Disease

Adopting a vegan diet may reduce your risk of heart disease. Experts have linked the consumption of fruits, vegetables, legumes, and fiber to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease. Observational studies that compare vegans with people on other diets found that vegans are 72% less likely to develop high blood pressure.

Vegans may also be at less risk of dying from cardiovascular diseases, but more studies are required to ascertain this. Additionally, a well-balanced vegan diet includes plenty of whole grains and nuts, which contribute to improved heart health.

Drawbacks to a Vegan Diet

Here are some of the consequences of a vegan diet:

Vitamin Deficiencies

While whole plant foods are rich in nutrients, many other vegan-based diets may lead to nutritional deficiency. Researchers found that vegan diets are low in calcium, a vital nutrient for bone formation and muscle contraction.

Veganism may also put you at risk of vitamin B-12 (cobalamin) deficiency. The vitamin is primarily found in animal foods and is essential for nerve function and blood cell production. Cobalamin deficiency may lead to a condition called pernicious anemia.

Limited Food Choices

The vegan diet is the most restrictive form of all plant-based diets. Adopting this eating plan will force you to eliminate several foods from your diet menu. This level of restriction may be too severe for some people.

A Vegan diet also prevents you from dining out. In most cases, restaurants do not note vegan foods on their menus, making you unsure of the ingredients. You may have to ask to be sure that no animal products are used in the production of their foods.

Requires Dedication and Diligence

Adopting a vegan diet means that you must be aware of all foods’ ingredients before consuming them. This can be a difficult task for people who eat processed foods as foods that you might assume to be free of animal by-products may contain gelatin, whey, honey, and others.

You need to carefully read instruction labels to ensure that foods that are non-compliant with a vegan diet are excluded. Also, ensure that you choose foods rich in vitamins and minerals to avoid deficiency.

Bottom Line

When it comes to diet, one size doesn't fit all. The ideal diet is influenced by various factors, including personal preference, health, and age. Before adopting a vegan diet, seek professional guidance regarding its benefits and repercussions on your health.