It is estimated that there are approximately one million vegan Americans, and the trend is gaining more force every year. While some people begin this lifestyle for animal welfare purposes, many other choose vegan-ism in an attempt to better their health and prevent disease. However, a vegan diet can prove challenging. It requires you to drastically overhaul your eating habits and food choices, and also forces you to pay better attention to food labels. Here are some of the important considerations of becoming vegan.
By its very principles, vegan-ism shuns the consumption, and often the use, of any animal-derived products, including eggs, seafood, dairy and by-products like gelatin and tallow. Instead, vegans focus on a plant-based diet that can include grains, legumes, fruit, vegetables and nuts.
Although avoiding animal products in the diet has been strongly associated with a reduced risk of heart disease, obesity and some cancers, it’s not a perfect diet. Vegans may find it difficult to get adequate amounts of many essential nutrients, resulting in deficiencies that can cause health problems.
Vitamin B-12, which is mainly found in meats, is something that is rarely available in plant foods. For that reason, it’s critical for vegans to supplement with a seaweed-based B-12 product. B-12 is needed for red blood cell production, proper nervous system maintenance and regulation of heart rhythms. Deficiency can result in pernicious anemia, cognitive problems, neurological disorders and an increased risk of cardiac arrhythmia.
Heme iron, the most bio-available kind of iron, is solely found in animal products and is therefore nonexistent in a vegan diet. These people may find it difficult to maintain proper iron levels without supplementation. This can lead to anemia, physical weakness, menstrual irregularity and infertility.
It’s also incredibly difficult for vegans to get enough protein in their diet. Most plant foods are very low in the nutrient, and even nuts and legumes don’t contain as much as animal products. Therefore, it may be necessary to use a plant-based protein concentrate supplement to achieve optimal intake.
Another common issue with vegan-ism is more a matter of choice. Many people on this diet find it tedious and time-consuming to prepare each meal from scratch, and it’s also easy to get bored with the diet. This drives many people to consume pre-packaged junk foods, a surprising variety of which is entirely vegan. On its own, this kind of behavior can lead to obesity and related health problems. In order for vegan-ism to truly be effective at improving health, it’s important to incorporate plenty of fresh, wholesome and minimally processed foods into your daily diet.