Veganism is a no-meat lifestyle that abstains from the consumption of animal and animal-derived products.
Some nutritionists often regard veganism as an extreme type of vegetarianism – a type of diet that supports the consumption of veggies and animal-by products.
The term “veganism” was first coined in 1944 by Donald Watson – the founder of the Vegan Society. However, the concept of veganism and vegetarianism can be traced back to the Indian Valley civilization and eastern Mediterranean regions.
As it is with any kind of diet, veganism has some pros and cons. Here, we will highlight some major side-effects of going vegan.
In addition, we will discuss why so many people have become and continue to become vegan, and whether or not it is a healthy diet to follow.
- 1 Side Effects You May Experience When Going Vegan
- 2 Why do People Choose Veganism?
- 3 Conclusion
Side Effects You May Experience When Going Vegan
1. Lower Energy Levels
Your energy level mainly depends on two factors – what food you eat and how much food you consume.
Every human body requires certain nutrients that work to create energy in the body; one of these nutrients is vitamin B12. This is an energy-boosting nutrient that is involved in the production of energy in the body.
People that have lower levels of vitamin B12 consume supplements of this vitamin to ensure they are lively and active.
The main natural source of vitamin B12 is the food that you get from animal products. These include:
- Tuna fish, haddock
- Liver and kidneys
- Cooked trout
- Beef taco
- Low-fat milk
- Hard-boiled eggs
- Nutritional yeast
These animal products and byproducts are the main sources of protein – a nutrient that is crucial for the body. This means that vegans have to rely on fruits, vegetables, and grains for their much-needed protein intake.
Vegans who have a low protein intake may have low energy, and they may feel tired and exhausted most of the time.
This, as a result, can hinder vegans from performing both basic (eating, walking, moving, breathing, etc.) and complex (thinking, remembering, concentrating, etc.) tasks.
Nutritionists encourage eating a variety of foods so that you get adequate amounts of various nutrients – vitamins, proteins, minerals, etc.
It can be difficult, if not impossible, to meet the daily protein requirements on a vegan diet. Without a varied and wholesome food intake, a person is likely to suffer from low energy levels.
2. Weight Loss
As compared to other diets, a vegan diet probably has the most dramatic weight loss effects.
A study conducted by the researchers at Loma Linda University in 2013 found out that vegans have a 47% lower Body Mass Index (BMI) than those that eat both meat and plant-based food.
This form of diet can be beneficial for those that want to lose weight. However, underweight people can’t benefit much from veganism.
People on a vegan diet consume less saturated fat. According to the World Health Organization, people shouldn’t consume more than 10% of their calories from saturated fat.
Why is that so?
It is because saturated fat leads to higher risks of cancer, heart diseases, and type 2 diabetes.
Unfortunately, 70% of Americans have more saturated fat than they should on a daily basis. One of the major reasons for that is because most Americans love fast food – pizza, burger, fries – and all of these food items are high on saturated fat.
Research shows that cutting out animal products or byproducts from your diet significantly reduces the consumption of saturated fat.
Fruits, vegetables, and plant-based food (celery, parsley, broccoli, etc.) focus on unsaturated fats or good carbs that allow a high intake of fiber, minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants.
Women typically need a daily intake of 2000 calories to maintain an ideal weight. On a vegan diet, this number drops to approximately 1500 calories a day.
On the other hand, men require 2500 calories per day to maintain their weight and 2000 calories to favor weight loss. Men can achieve their weight loss goals with a vegan diet.
But if you are undernourished, then veganism may not prove to be of any use for you.
3. Intense Cravings
Switching to a strict no-meat diet is not easy. You have to give up some major eating habits, such as avoiding beef or any food that contains eggs, etc.
Your taste buds are also well aligned with the kind of food you eat that the transition becomes incredibly difficult to make.
Dietary changes can become quite a challenge in your midlife or mature adulthood as you are accustomed to a traditional diet of animal-based products.
So, if you change your diet and become a hardcore vegan, you may struggle with occasional or frequent cravings for non-vegan food. This is when your patience and endurance will truly be tested.
You will have to crush your cravings for non-vegan food and stay on track with your vegan diet. But that’s easier said than done.
To avoid these cravings, you should consider switching to a vegan diet slowly and steadily, not overnight.
For example, start by incorporating vegan meals more into your mixed diet. Try out new vegan recipes; see which ones you like the best and meet your body needs and have them more often.
In this way, giving up your favorite food for the sake of a new diet won’t upset you. Once you get used to having vegan meals that you also love, try doing away with meat, fish, and other non-vegan food.
Some people jump right into a diet, and that’s not a wise step. The new diet requirements may overwhelm them, which will inevitably cause them to stray from the diet and go back to their old eating ways.
4. Digestive Issues
A plant-based diet cuts out your intake of added sugars and refined grains and reduces risks of various diseases. However, this form of diet may not be ideal for your gut health.
In fact, a vegan diet may not be a perfect source of nutrients that improves digestion. For instance, probiotics assist in digestion, and dairy products are filled with these good bacteria.
But since vegans do not consume milk, yogurt, or cheese, they may suffer from a probiotic deficiency. This can highly affect their gut health, and they may suffer from digestive issues.
Digestive problems can be resolved without giving up your vegan diet. Many vegans don’t realize that simple tweaks to their eating habits can make a world of difference.
For example, vegans should have more dark-green leaves to improve their digestion. Dark, leafy greens are an amazing source of fiber and help lower inflammation
Even if you’re having a heavy meal, you should include greens on the side. One of the best ways to incorporate more greens into your diet is by having a green smoothie for breakfast. You can consider lettuce, kale, spinach, or a cilantro smoothie.
Another way to improve digestion is to opt for unprocessed plant foods as they lack harmful additives, artificial flavoring, and preservatives. At times, vegan processed food is shockingly unhealthy.
They contain high levels of sugar and sodium and forms of soy and wheat that can damage your digestive system. Speaking of processed food, it is also best to go for raw seeds and nuts instead of roasted seeds and nuts.
A better alternative to raw nuts and seeds is to have them soaked and sprouted. They are easy to chew, consume, and when mixed with the right spices, they can taste delicious.
It is also better to avoid oil as much as you can. During the manufacturing process, oil goes through an oxidization process that leads to a loss of a lot of nutrients.
Olive oil, canola, sesame oil, and coconut oil are loaded with omega 6 instead of omega 3, and this can lead to unintentional weight gain.
5. Hair Loss
Going vegan means you cut all animal-derived products from your diet.
Please note that most animal-based food is loaded with protein – a nutrient important for hair growth. This is because our hair follicles are mostly made up of protein.
However, many studies have shown that protein malnutrition leads to hair loss.
For example, in a survey conducted by the Indian Market Research Bureau, 9 out of 10 Indian people have low levels of protein in their diets. Most of these people are vegans, which is why their protein intake is so low.
According to the Recommended Dietary Allowance, a person with an average weight of 65kg should consume at least 52g of protein daily.
Unfortunately, many people fail to realize the significance of protein. Vegans can increase protein levels in their bodies by taking protein supplements.
6. High Risk of Osteoporosis
As compared to meat-eaters, vegans are at risk of vitamin D deficiency.
This is due to the lack of calcium in their daily diet. It is a known fact that dairy products contain high amounts of vitamin D, and since vegans do not consume these food items, they are at risk of developing osteoporosis.
Recent findings have shown that vegans have lower bone density, resulting in osteoporosis.
A 2017 Harris Poll National Survey of 2,017 adults concluded that over 1 million Americans strictly follow a vegan diet, and thus, they are at risk of developing weaker bones, and more so if they do not include vitamin D supplements in their diet.
An Australian-Vietnamese study also showed the impact of diet on the bones of over 2700 participants and found out vegetarians have bones that are 5% weaker than meat-eaters while vegans have 6% less dense bones.
In osteoporosis, the quality and density of the bones weaken. The bones become super fragile, and the risk of fractures increases greatly.
Due to this reason, vegans may not be able to participate in rigorous workout sessions. Vegans may suffer from high risks of fractures, more so if they partake in heavy lifting, push-ups, bent-over row, and abdominal crunches.
7. Skin Breakouts and Weak Nails
Switching to a vegan diet may cause acne and brittle nails. This is again due to the lack of calcium in the diet.
Health specialists believe that when you replace meat with sugar and carbohydrates, you tend to suffer from skin breakouts. Having a clean and well-balanced diet leads to better skin and nails.
When you change your diet and stay away from animal food, your skin can react in the form of breakouts. Your skin may not get enough nutrients to keep it healthy.
Some people attribute this to the fact that vegan food doesn’t leave them feeling satisfied. As a result, instead of opting for healthy plant-based food to fill their stomachs, they reach for processed vegan-friendly snacks.
Vegan snacks are extremely unhealthy as they contain artificial ingredients and processed sugar that may translate into skin breakouts.
This usually happens with people that newly switch to veganism or are experimenting with the diet for a short period of time.
Transitioning to a vegan lifestyle can lead to symptoms such as severe headaches. Some people experience headaches along with stomach aches.
However, there’s no need to worry because this is not a long-term problem.
Headaches and stomach aches are just a natural sign of your body adjusting to the dramatic lifestyle changes, and once your body gets used to the changes, everything becomes fine.
When experiencing headaches, it is advised to drink lots of water, eat healthy fruits and veggies, and make sure to have varied forms of food to meet up with your body’s daily needs.
You can also track your food intake by using nutrition apps that give you a clearer idea of how much you eat and what nutrients your diet is missing. If the pain doesn’t go away and gets worse, take pain killers, or consult a doctor right away.
9. Affect Sleep Patterns
Vitamin D deficiency affects both the quality and quantity of sleep. Research shows that vitamin D deficiency is linked to short sleep durations.
According to various clinical studies, older adults on a vegan diet tend to suffer from insomnia due to a shortage of vitamin D in their bodies.
Low vitamin D is also linked to a high risk of sleep apnea. In sleep apnea, a person’s breathing is interrupted a lot during sleep.
This is a dangerous situation as the brain doesn’t get enough oxygen. When it goes untreated, sleep apnea can stop you from performing everyday activities at home, school, or work.
Other than vitamin D, a lack of vitamin B12 and iron can also result in poor quality sleep.
People may also have difficulty when it comes to falling asleep at the right time, or they may wake up recurrently during the night. All of this usually happens due to a shortage of one or two nutrients.
10. May Suffer From Anemia
Another possible side-effect of going vegan is a high risk of anemia. This is a serious condition in which the body fails to produce enough red blood cells.
Vegans that eliminate animal products such as eggs, dairy, and honey, may suffer from anemia due to a vitamin B12 deficiency.
Ideally, women from age 14 to 18 should consume 15 mg of iron daily, women from age 19 to 50 should consume 18 mg of iron, and women ages 51 and older should consume 8mg of iron.
On the other hand, men aged 14 to 18 should consider 11 mg of iron, while men who are 19 and older require 8mg of iron daily.
Vegans can increase their iron intake by having green leafy vegetables, whole grains, dried beans, lentils, molasses, prune juice, pumpkin seeds, and enriched rice more frequently.
Why do People Choose Veganism?
Veganism has plenty of side-effects, and at this point, you may be wondering why people opt for this lifestyle in the first place.
Different vegans have different reasons for choosing this diet. Many people find the slaughtering of animals for meat cruel and unethical.
They also believe that egg-laying chickens and other farm animals are forced to live a short and miserable life just to fulfill our dietary needs.
Due to these moral reasons, many people turn to veganism. There are people who also choose to become vegan because it is a healthier lifestyle and has less of a negative impact on the environment.
There is no denying that going vegan has some advantages (protecting animal rights, keeping the environment and endangered species safe, a healthy lifestyle, and many more).
However, this is the kind of lifestyle that requires you to be super vigilant about your nutritional needs.
Make sure that you incorporate foods that provide you with all kinds of nutrients – iron, vitamins, fiber, etc. If your vegan meals are not enough to meet your dietary needs, try taking supplements to make amends for any deficiencies.Last updated on: