There is a lot of talk about how healthy a plant based diet is, but few articles about the dangers with a plant based diet. If you have all the facts, you don’t have to worry about these dangers, but too often people don’t do thorough research and create their own diet without paying attention to the nutrition it contains. One of the biggest pitfalls of going vegan—plant based—is the potential to miss out on valuable nutrients. Lack of adequate protein and mineral and/or vitamin deficiencies can take their toll if there’s not adequate meal planning.
If the diet contains no milk, eggs, fish or other animal protein sources, getting adequate protein takes a toll on the body.
Your body needs protein from somewhere and unless you’re planning your diet right, that somewhere could be from your own stores from the muscle tissue. That can mean less protein to rebuild muscle tissue tears and ultimately lead to loss of muscle strength. It’s not impossible to get a full supply of the protein you need, but you do need to make sure your diet contains plant sources, such as legumes, lentils, beans, seeds, nuts, tofu, pea protein and tempeh. To build muscle, you need about 30 g of protein and 3 g of leucine (an amino acid used to build muscles). You might have to eat more protein rich calories in the plant based world to get as much as you would if you ate animal products and need to be more careful with other food intake to account for the extra calories.
Vitamin B12 deficiencies are also a risk for those on a plant based diet.
Since B12 is only available in animal based foods, which includes eggs, meat, poultry and dairy, you may find you’re facing some scary symptoms, such as fatigue, numbness, tingling, memory problems and anemia. Taking a vitamin B12 supplement may be one way to overcome the problem. Other potential nutritional shortages include vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids, calcium and iron. However, these are far easier to include in the diet. If you live in a warm area, just getting a half hour of sun daily can help fill the vitamin D void. Walnuts, chia seed and Brussel sprouts provide omega-3 fatty acids, use bok choy or kale for calcium and dark leafy vegetables as a source of iron.
Seriously, not all plant based foods are healthy.
Sugar comes from plants, it’s not a boost to your body. Dairy free snacks, such as ice cream, won’t make the cut either. Those lucious fries made with potatoes and fried in plant based oil are definitely not on the list. Just because it’s vegan, doesn’t make it healthy. You’ll see all types of hype when you go to the grocery, which lulls unsuspecting people into buying products and then patting themselves on the back for eating them. Gluten free, dairy free, vegetable based and other catch phrases don’t make the product healthy, the nutrients they contain and the chemicals or empty calories they don’t contain are what makes them healthy.
- Going vegan doesn’t mean you’ll automatically lose weight. Protein is filling and if you’re not getting enough, you’ll fill the empty spot with carbs that can pack on the pounds.
- Anyone that goes full force into a vegan or plant based diet, needs to be aware of the potential for lots and lots of gas because of higher fiber content. Start slowly and gradually add more fiber.
- A healthy plant based diet can lower your risk of heart disease by 25 percent. An unhealthy one, which contains sweets, fried vegetables, soda and refined grains, increased the likelihood of heart disease by 32 percent.
- If you decide to go plant based for health, rather than for other reasons, one alternative to totally plant based diets is lacto-ovo vegetarian diet first and learn the nutritional content of food, then slowly switch to strictly plant-based/vegan.