Is veganism a life you would want to live? Think about it; no turkey at Christmas dinner, no Sunday roast, no more dairy. These are values vegans nowadays demand and live by. According to the “Vegan Society”, in 2016 there were an estimated 540,000 vegans swamping Great Britain. It is estimated that since 2006 they have further invaded the country, their levels rising by 150,000. Women are more prone to being vegan, approximately there are twice as many women than men due to the pressure of social media on women; the idealistic body type that can only be achieved by nibbling on a carrot. The growth of the clan of vegans has increased dramatically over the past few years, their numbers spiralling out of control. Veganism is getting more and more popular by the minute, nowadays it’s a modern trend. But what causes this surge of ‘healthy’ eating?
Supermarkets are stocking more vegan options to keep up with people’s fluctuating dietary choices. Waitrose launched a dedicated vegan section in more than 130 shops while Iceland reported that sales of its plant-based food had risen by a shocking 10% over the last year. The UK market for meat-free foods was reportedly worth £572 million in 2017. And it won’t stop there, retail sales are expected to increase to £658 in 2021 (from the BBC news website). A vegan diet is fashionable for a number of reasons: weight loss, the ability to lower blood pressure and animal welfare. The list is endless. This all sounds like everyone should go vegan! But the question we should all be asking ourselves before jumping on the band wagon with all the other vegans is: what are the bad things about becoming a vegan? Surely it’s not all it’s cracked up to be?
The health risks of becoming vegan is only getting worse. Protein in our daily diet is a vital component of body tissues, enzymes, and immune cells. It helps to keep the immune system functioning properly, maintain healthy skin, hair and nails. Not only does protein make you look good, it makes you feel good too. In contrast, a vegan diet contains no meat and no dairy making it tricky for the protein to reach the body. Protein is available in items that contain meat and dairy; steak and fish contain 20-30 grams of protein per 100g whereas what vegans eat – vegetables, beans and rice – contain just 5-20g. There are other sources of protein for vegans such as hemp protein powder, although this powder contains unstable polyunsaturated fatty acids. Unstable polyunsaturated fatty acids are very vulnerable to damage from heat, light, and/or oxygen. If they are damaged by heat, light, and/or oxygen they can get oxidized. This is not good as oxidized fats are dangerous because they’re inflammatory. Eating oxidised fats increases inflammation which contributes to chronic diseases like obesity and diabetes.
On all vegan diets, the body is not receiving anywhere near enough protein to run efficiently meaning vegans cannot complete daily tasks. A sport a vegan may love is destroyed, because they are too tired and too weak. They lose touch of daily activities, they spend more time indoors, would rather sleep than hang out with friends. They lose muscle and bone density. But isn’t veganism healthier than eating a McDonald’s every Saturday night? Yes, I guess this is true; a big mac meal contains a whopping 610 calories per one burger! In comparison, an avocado on toast contains only 300 calories. But, it contains 30g of protein, meaning, a person who chooses a big mac having over a healthy portion of avocado on toast will have significantly more energy.
Eating on a vegan diet can be expensive. Vegans may believe they are able to dodge high prices by buying cheap fruit and avoiding overpriced meat but it turns out this diet has costly consequences. Some Organic foods such as quinoa, vegan staples has to be imported from abroad meaning that prices skyrocket. Vegans have a limited choice of food so are willing to pay any price. Another way a vegan diet can be expensive is that food comes in small portions so people buying this food will have to buy more to satisfy their needs. A lot of foods that are bought by vegans are wrapped in plastic, this contradicts their views as plastic hurts the environment.
In some cases a vegan diet can be downright exclusionary. After all there is a reason why health guidelines rule against a meat free diet for younger children, the pregnant or the infirm. For children, starting a vegan diet at a young age can cause complications. Due to the weight loss factor of veganism, children can experience severe loss in weight if their diet is not properly controlled. Plant based diets can possibly be used instead of meat. But even if plant-based diets can in theory provide the nutrients needed, that is not to say that people on the diet will follow a well-planned out diet. If a vegan diet falls through, it may end up in serious physical impairment. Nigel Denby, a dietician and author of Nutrition for Dummies, says: ‘It can be hard enough bringing a child up to eat healthily, but with a vegan diet you are really making a difficult job for yourself. It is absolutely not something that should be tried without support from a dietician.’ Animal products are high in nutrients, removing them from your diet, makes you tired and unable to function at 100%. Without being thourghly researched, it is easy to overlook important details about the diet. Vitamin B12 is a vitamin that is often known as “memory-boosting, brain health” nutrient. We need B12 to, prevent brain shrinkage – a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease, depression and Vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to anaemia, fatigue or depression. For the first few months of swapping to a vegan diet, you will still have adequate vitamin B12 but in the long run you can end up with a nutritional deficiency. Having a B12 deficiency can make you feel tired, unhappy and have a difficulty breathing. Because vegans do not consume any meat or dairy, they tend to end up with this deficiency over time. Six or seven years later, the B12 that is stored in the liver will be exhausted. At this point, vegans may start to have serious brain breakdown. The way to reduce the risk of developing vitamin B12 deficiencies, is to get frequent (and costly) B12 injections. However, B12 injections might become a problem as vitamin B12 might not be absorbed if your body doesn’t have the cofactors of B12.
Therefore, a protein diet, eve with the consequences of gaining weight, is better than only eating nuts and avocadoes. A vegan diet requires attention. It’s extremely dangerous to miss a certain food out of your diet, especially in children. Veganism is popularised by social media which younger children year by year watch and become vulnerable to. Stories about young children becoming anorexic from a vegan diet continuously circle the internet, granted their diets may not have been properly planned but is that a risk you are willing to take. Constantly worrying about protein deficiency can become exhausting. A lot of research must go into a vegan diet before you actually take the leap into the world of veganism.