The vegan diet: healthy or just trendy? – Way of life

The vegan diet is all the rage right now. Its popularity has grown as the diet is believed to be eco-friendly, cruelty-free and heart-healthy.

Going vegan can benefit cardiovascular health because it promotes the consumption of less processed, factory-raised meats, which can contribute to high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and heart disease.

Processed meats tend to contain more sodium and chemicals. If one consumes meat, it is important to ensure its quality. One way to ensure this is to opt for desi chicken (organic) on broiler chicken.

Picking out desi, pasture-raised eggs rather than conventional eggs and pick grass-fed red meat rather than grain-fed red meat. Eating naturally raised animal products ensures a higher omega-3 to omega-6 ratio. A diet rich in omega-6s has been linked to various potential diseases.

Let’s dive deeper into the negative implications of going vegan.

The vegan diet excludes all animal products such as dairy, seafood, chicken, red meat, etc.

By going vegan, you may be lacking in essential vitamins, for example nutrients such as vitamin B12, vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids, zinc and iron.

If you’re going vegan, it’s highly recommended that you supplement your diet with clean vitamin B12 and try to get daily sun exposure to boost your vitamin D levels.

Vitamin B12 is needed to form DNA blood cells and without adequate levels of B12, one could suffer from low energy levels. Vitamin D deficiency can lead to major bone dysfunction and low levels of immunity.

Additionally, try to consume plant sources of omega-3 fatty acids such as tukh malanga (basil seeds), chia seeds, flax seeds, hemp seeds, walnuts, etc.

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for fighting inflammation.

Low iron levels often lead to anemia. Anemia is a condition where you have insufficient hemoglobin levels, which can be dangerous because you don’t have enough red blood cells to deliver enough oxygen to your body tissues.

Its side effects include fatigue, weakness and fainting. Plant sources of iron include pumpkin seeds, raisins, figs, dried apricots, kale, etc.

Zinc deficiencies have been linked to hair loss, loss of appetite, poor immunity and stunted growth. Plant sources of zinc include cashews, oatmeal, sesame seeds, etc.

Another major problem with the vegan diet is that it is low in essential macronutrients – protein.

Protein is important for bone health and for achieving a healthy weight. Protein repairs and strengthens our bones and muscles. Additionally, proteins are needed to make hormones and enzymes.

You can get your daily protein intake from the following plant sources: quinoa, tofu, dals (Lentils), lobes (beans), etc

However, one problem with getting your protein needs from legumes is that they are not complete proteins. This means they don’t contain all nine essential amino acids that are important for supporting muscle protein synthesis post-workout.

Muscle protein synthesis is the metabolic process of assimilating amino acids into bound skeletal muscle proteins that is necessary to promote lean muscle mass and reduce body fat.

One way to solve this problem is to consume the famous and delicious desi plate: dal chawaal. By combining lentils or beans with rice, you get all the essential amino acids in your meal.

Vegans can also suffer from a damaged gut and poor sleep quality because their diet is lacking in glycine.

Glycine is an amazing amino acid that seals the intestinal lining and improves sleep quality. Without a properly functioning bowel, one can experience severe bloating, constipation, gas, or even diarrhea.

Glycine acts as a neurotransmitter and has a very calming effect on the body, improving sleep quality and decreasing the time it takes to fall asleep.

Plant sources of glycine include spinach and cabbage, although not as high in glycine as animal foods, it is still an adequate source.

While there are countless benefits to going vegan, there are also many side effects unless you supplement your nutrition properly.

If you decide to go vegan, be sure to consume the plant-based foods recommended above to avoid any nutrient deficiencies that could negatively impact your health.

Remember, no diet is right for everyone. One may do very well on a vegan diet and another may not.

Several risks apply so it should be approached with caution.

The author is a Certified Functional Nutritionist