Why Veganism is Not a Healthier Lifestyle
Veganism is a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation, of and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or other purposes. Following a plant based diet can have a lot of benefits for our body and our planet, but often happens that following a very strict vegan diet can lead to inadequate protein consumption. According to a study made by (Larson, Johansson 2002) in the Umea University in Sweden, about the dietary intake of young vegans and omnivores, the dietary habits of the vegans varied considerably and did not comply with the average requirements for some essential nutrients.
First, let’s talk about all the benefits that come following this lifestyle: It can help losing excess weight due to lack of saturated fat from cheese and meat. Elements of a whole-foods plant-based diet, with limited or no intake of refined foods and animal products, are highly beneficial for preventing and treating type 2 diabetes. The advantages of a plant-based diet also include the reduction in risk of certain cancers because vegans consume considerably more legumes, total fruit and vegetables, tomatoes, allium vegetables, fiber, and vitamin C than do omnivores, (Winston J Craig). All those foods and nutrients are protective against cancer.
In addition, animals raised for food production are fed over half of the all the world’s crops. 60% of worldwide deforestation results from land being converted for use as agricultural land, much of which is used for grazing cattle. Following a vegan lifestyle contributes less air pollution and puts less stress on our natural resources by requiring less land, fossil fuels, and water.
On the other hand, it is much harder to get sufficient protein from a vegan diet. Steak or fish contain 20-30 grams of protein per 100 grams of product. The main protein sources for vegans are: vegetables, beans, soy, tempeh, and rice. They contain only 5-20 grams of protein per 100 grams of product.
An examination of the amount of calcium in strict vegan diets has found that these diets lack the calcium needed to prevent osteoporosis later in life. According to Connie Weaver, head of the Department of Foods and Nutrition, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Ind. many nondairy foods contain calcium. However, the amount of calcium in vegetables is very low compared to dairy products, and what makes it worse, many of the vegetables contain substances that block the body’s ability to absorb the calcium. For example spinach, which is high in calcium, contains oxalic acid that binds with the calcium and prevents the body from absorbing 95% of it. According to the study foods that have high levels of sulfur amino acids, like cereals, seeds, and nuts reduce retention of calcium, and these foods are often the only sources of protein in vegans’ diets. Eliminating these foods to increase the absorption of calcium would cause a serious nutritional deficiency.
Not to mention that in one study (R. Pawlak, S.E. Lester & T. Babatunde 2014), was found that vitamin B12 deficiency affected 86 percent of vegans. According to Wikipedia: “Vitamin B₁₂, also called cobalamin, is a water-soluble vitamin that is involved in the metabolism of every cell of the human body: it is a cofactor in DNA synthesis, and in both fatty acid and amino acid metabolism.” Vitamin B12 deficiency disorders are commonly seen only among pure vegetarians, since this vitamin is present only in foods of animal origin. The deficiency may result in serious health threats like anemia, nerve damage, neurocognitive changes, and, over time, paralysis.
Furthermore, a vegan diet has a much lower intake of Vitamin A, D, iron and zink. While plants such as lentils and leafy greens do provide some iron, it is not as well-absorbed as animal-based iron. Vitamin A and Vitamin D are particularly essential for immune regulation, digestion, fertility and hormone balance. A study (Joseph R. Hibbeln, Kate Northstone, Jonathan Evans, Jean Golding) found that vegetarian men have both higher scores on a test used to measure depression, as well as a much higher (about 2/3 higher) risk of depression. The authors of this study suggest that relative lack of cobalamin or iron could play a role in vegetarians increased depression risk.
After all, we humans are animals. And some animals need to eat other animals to be healthy. Some do not.