Are you considering going on a vegan diet? This is not a decision you should take lightly. While you might have watched videos about the benefits that many people claim a vegan diet has and heard how great they feel, you might not be getting the full picture.
In this article, we’re telling you the truth about going vegan and what it can do to your body. We’re painting a full picture, so you can make an informed decision.
Here are the only good reasons I can see for going vegan:
1. You Want to Develop Nutrient Deficiencies
If you want to ensure your body develops nutrient deficiencies, go vegan. A vegan diet is more likely to result in deficiencies in zinc, vitamin B12, vitamin B3, iron, calcium, iodine, potassium, selenium, vitamin A, vitamin D, and omega-3. (1, 2)
These nutrient deficiencies are caused by a few reasons:
Many Nutrients in Plant Foods Aren’t in Their Most Bioavailable Forms
You might have heard that carrots are high in vitamin A, but they actually contain beta carotene, which has to be converted to vitamin A, and the conversion is actually 12:1, which means you’re getting far less vitamin A than you think you’re getting (3). The same goes for iron. Non-heme iron from plants isn’t as easily and properly absorbed as heme iron from animals. (4)
And if you think you’re getting a lot of omega-3 fatty acids from things like chia seeds and flaxseeds, they contain the form of omega-3 known as ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), which the body has to convert to DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid). You get far less than you think. The conversion ratio is roughly 5% to 8%, meaning that you can expect only 5% to 8% of the ALA you consume to be used by your body. (5)
Plant Foods Contain Antinutrients
Plant foods also contain antinutrients like oxalates, phytates, goitrogens, and lectins, which make it harder for the body to absorb certain nutrients.
Lectins are found in grains, nightshade vegetables, and legumes (lentils, chickpeas, peanuts, and soybeans). They actually make it harder for your body to absorb calcium, zinc, iron, and phosphorous. (6, 7)
Oxalates are found in various foods, such as beetroot, nuts, leafy green vegetables, beans, tea, chocolate, and soy products. They interfere with calcium absorption in the body. (8, 9)
Phytates are found in seeds, legumes, nuts, whole grains, and tubers. Phytates decrease the absorption of important nutrients like calcium, zinc, magnesium, and iron. (10, 11)
Goitrogens are found in cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale, and cabbage. They make it harder for your body to absorb iodine. (12)
Plant Foods Aren’t Complete Proteins
Complete proteins are protein sources that contain all 9 essential amino acids, which are amino acids your body cannot produce. The essential amino acids are lysine, leucine, methionine, histidine, isoleucine, phenylalanine, tryptophan, valine, and threonine. (13, 14)
The only plant source of complete proteins is soy, which contains isoflavones — phytoestrogens that bind to your body’s own oestrogen receptors and disrupt your endocrine system. You definitely don’t want to consume a lot of soy unless you want to disrupt your hormones. (15, 16)
Otherwise, to get all the essential amino acids on a vegan diet, you have to pair different plant protein sources like lentils, rice, nuts, nut butters, chickpeas, peas, hemp seeds, quinoa, sunflower seeds, tofu, and tempeh.
Here are a few food combinations that will give you all the amino acids:
Beans with whole grains (like beans and wholewheat tortillas)
Wholegrains with nuts or seeds (like whole-wheat bread with peanut butter)
Beans with nuts or seeds (like sunflower seeds with black beans)
Legumes with whole grains (like lentils paired with rice)
Vegan protein powder — a protein powder made with a combination of pea protein powder and rice powder
But even though you can get all the essential amino acids with strategic food combining, you still won’t get the amino acids in the ideal amounts, unless you eat incredibly large portions.
Meanwhile, animal foods like eggs, meat, organ meats, cheese, and yoghurt all contain complete proteins and you don’t need to combine them with anything.
But, if you prefer the extra effort and if you prefer to not give your body amino acids in optimal quantities, stick to a vegan diet.
2. You Want Bad Digestion
A vegan diet is a great way to ensure bad digestion.
Not only is a vegan diet generally very high in fibre, which is hard for the body to break down and too much can make you bloated, but the high lectin content also harms your gut as lectins cause damage to your gut lining.
Many people on a vegan diet end up with leaky gut syndrome due to high lectin consumption, which means that their guts have become very permeable and food particles and proteins are pushing through the gut lining and end up in the bloodstream, where they cause other problems like inflammation. (17)
3. You Want to Eat Fake Foods
If you prefer eating fake foods like plant-based “meats” like Beyond Meat and Impossible Burger, instead of the real thing, a vegan diet is for you. These fake meats are highly processed and contain harmful ingredients like canola oil, sunflower oil, and soy.
On a vegan diet, you also get to skip real dairy products providing your body with calcium, vitamin D, and other fat-soluble vitamins like vitamins K, E, and A, and then opt for fake milk like oat milk and almond milk. (18, 19)
4. You Want to Feel Deprived
Even though vegans will claim that they love being on a vegan diet and don’t miss meat, isn’t it funny how so many of them try to imitate meat? That’s why the fake meat products exist in the stores. You get “vegan chicken”, “vegan eggs”, “vegan burgers”, “vegan sausages”… So if they didn’t crave meat, why would they seek out fake meat? In a world where you crave meat but prefer to settle for a fake alternative, then a vegan diet is perfect for you.
5. You Want to Mess Up Your Hormones
If you’re not too fond of healthy hormone levels, go vegan. Being on a vegan diet can result in messed-up hormone levels that cause other problems. For example:
Oestrogen: a vegan diet is often high in phytoestrogens like those found in soy products and foods like chickpeas. These plant-based oestrogens get absorbed by the body and interfere with healthy, natural oestrogen production. There’s a reason the term “soy boy” exists. If boys and men consume a lot of soy, they end up getting a lot of phytoestrogens and their oestrogen levels become too high. This can result in feminisation effects occurring like the formation of gynecomastia (“man boobs”) and also lead to heightened emotions. (20, 21,22)
Testosterone: a vegan diet can result in lower testosterone levels. This is partly due to the high phytoestrogens in the diet, but also because the vegan diet is so low in cholesterol and quality fats, which the body needs to produce testosterone. Too little cholesterol and animal fats in the diet can therefore lead to a low libido, reduced sperm count, impaired muscle-building ability, an increase in breast size, poor concentration, irritability, body hair loss, and even hot flashes. (23, 24, 25, 26, 27)
Insulin: A vegan diet is often low in protein and quality fat and very high in carbohydrates, which can lead to high insulin levels and insulin resistance. Even if you try hard to consume enough protein, good luck getting protein that doesn’t also come with carbs unless you have protein powder. Lentils, chickpeas, nuts, seeds, quinoa… all these protein sources come with carbs. And you won’t only eat these foods while vegan. You’ll typically have grains, fruits, vegetables, and other carbohydrate sources as well.
6. You Want to Take a Laundry List of Supplements
If you like getting your nutrients from supplements instead of real foods, a vegan diet is perfect for you. Because of the risk of nutrient deficiencies we mentioned above, vegans usually have to take supplements in order to prevent or reduce their nutrient deficiencies. This can become quite expensive and many people hate popping pills. But if you prefer to get your nutrients from supplements, a vegan diet is great for you.
7. You Want More Animals to Die for Your Food
I know, I know, many people go vegan because they don’t want animals to die for their food. But the truth is that thousands of animals are killed when growing crops and plant foods. Small animals like insects and rodents are killed during the ploughing process and when harvesting the plants.
Birds and insects are killed to help protect fruit trees and stop the animals from eating them. Plants are also sprayed with pesticides and insecticides to kill any insects that try to feast on the plants.
But, if you eat an animal-based diet, you can kill one animal like a cow, and have food for months. One animal’s life can feed you for a long time and provide you with a lot of nutrition, but if you have to eat a lot of plants to get your calories in and to get nutrients, far more animals have to die in order to feed you. You might be the reason why 100 animals had to die instead of the one animal that gave its life for the animal-based individual.
8. If You Want a Mental Health Problem
A vegan diet can often result in mental health problems like depression and anxiety. The vitamin B12 deficiency most vegans develop is a big reason for this. Vitamin B12 is very important for optimal mental health and many people start to automatically feel much better as soon as they fix their vitamin B12 deficiencies. (28, 29)
A lack of omega-3 fatty acids can also contribute to brain inflammation and therefore depression. (30) Omega-3s can also help reduce anxiety. (31)
If you don’t care about your mental health, go vegan.
9. You Want Low Energy
Because plant foods are harder to digest and it’s not that easy for your body to get nutrition from them, you’re likely to end up with lower energy levels than you would on a diet that includes animal foods. Vegan diets are also often low in fat, which is a great source of energy for the body.
Plant foods are also generally high in fibre and lower in calories, meaning that you can start to feel full before your body has received the number of calories it really needs. It’s very easy to undereat on a vegan diet. Even if your calorie-tracking app says you’re eating enough calories, remember that you’re not absorbing everything you’re eating.
A vegan diet also usually results in an iron deficiency, which is guaranteed to make you feel tired. (32, 33)
Sure, you can just consume a lot of caffeine from coffee, energy drinks, and vegan chocolate, but this is not optimal and you’ll need frequent top-ups. On an animal-based diet, you’re far less likely to be low in energy because your body will get all the nutrients it needs, it’s easier to get enough calories, and it’s easier for your body to absorb the nutrients in your food.
10. You Want Inflammation
If you like being inflamed, the vegan diet is perfect for you. A vegan diet is often high in omega-6 fatty acids due to all the plant oils, nuts, and seeds they consume and they’re usually very low in omega-3 fatty acids. The ratio between omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids is very important for keeping inflammation at bay.
If you consume far more omega-6 than omega-3, and the ratio between the two is off, it can cause inflammation in the body. (34, 35, 36)
The gut damage you get from lectins, for example, can also cause inflammation in the body, especially if you develop a leaky gut.
11. You Want an Eating Disorder
People on a vegan diet can develop the eating disorder, orthorexia. Orthorexia can be defined as an unhealthy obsession with eating a certain way. People with orthorexia develop an idea of what they believe is a healthy diet (in this case, being vegan) and then can become incredibly fearful of breaking the rules, to the point where it damages their health. (37)
Say you’re a vegan who has developed orthorexia, you can become obsessed with your diet and what is healthy, and you can live in fear of accidentally eating an animal food. Plus, if you develop any health problems that can be fixed by including animal foods in your diet, your irrational fear of eating animal foods can prevent you from taking the steps necessary to improve your health.
I suspect that a vegan diet could also result in the urge to binge eat and overeat, partly due to the nutrient deficiencies you’re likely to develop. If the body is lacking essential nutrients, it can start screaming for nutrients in the form of excessive hunger and cravings, making you more likely to binge or overeat in an attempt to give your body what it’s asking for. Of course, unless you give your body the nutrients it actually needs, a plant food binge won’t satisfy your body’s needs and cravings and the cycle is likely to start again.
So, there you have it, 11 reasons to go on a vegan diet. I hope that you will keep this list in mind if you’re considering going on a vegan diet and sacrificing your health.