Are There Risks To A Vegan Diet?

Last week I nearly went vegan. This is how it happened… I practice yoga. Many yogis are vegan (enlightenment and tempeh are a common pairing). My teacher is my own personal manifestation of Buddha, sent to me to help settle my mind and lengthen my hamstrings. Her poses are bold yet effortless, her tone firm yet compassionate and the dime sized tattoo on the inside of her forearm – understatedly rebellious.

So when she announced she was going vegan, my first reaction was, “Well then sign me up!”, but when I returned to my earthly self, I decided not to.  Though animal products play a supporting role in my diet, they play a critical one.

First off, let’s separate the ethical/moral rationale from the nutritional one. Yes, most factory farms are despicable, and I think it’s honorable to reject these practices, but if you’re not eating animal products (and fish)because of the inhumane treatment of living creatures, there are farms that raise animals with care and slaughter them with dignity. The animals are drug-free and run around like animals do.

So the nutritional argument….

Many people go vegan to detox.  I am 100% for detoxing by eliminating sugar, processed foods, refined grains, dairy (especially if one’s lactose intolerant), and alcohol (though I think the occasional drink is essential for mental health if not digestive). But I don’t believe there is anything about fish (in particular small ones with low mercury) or pasture-raised animals and their eggs, that our bodies find toxic.

We have been eating animals and their offerings quite healthfully for hundreds of thousands of years and in fact physiologically our digestive systems appear to be more like dog’s (carnivores) than cow’s (herbivores).  Lactose intolerance, yes. Gluten intolerance yes. Nuts allergies, for sure. Soy allergies, yes. But meat allergies…. some people may find that it doesn’t suite them, but I have never heard of a true meat “allergy”.

The biggest challenge that I would be concerned about with a strict and long-term vegan diet is that there are critical vitamins and minerals that could easily not be consumed in adequate amounts.

Nutrients Potentially Missing On A Vegan Diet

Vitamin A: The “direct” form is only found in animal products -meat, egg yolks, dairy (though much less so than meat) and fish. The vitamin A found in orange and green vegetables is beta carotene which the body must first convert to the usable form of Vitamin A.  That conversion requires bile salts, which are produced by your liver when you consume fat (making fat essential on a vegan diet). So yes, you can obtain a version of Vitamin A in plants, but you’ll need about 6x as much beta cartonene to equal the amount found in direct Vitamin A.

B12:  This is the nutrient which vegans can potentially become deficient as you can only get naturally occurring B12 from animal products. (There are eight different B vitamins and our body needs them all).  It can take time for the implications of low B12 to show up, with anemia being the most common outcome of very low levels.

Vitamin D: This is another one found only in animal products. Cod liver oil is super high in it, as is shrimp, wild salmon, sardines, full-fat dairy products, and egg yolks. Yes you can get it from the sun, but most of us don’t spend 15 minutes a day, flesh exposed, palms open. Furthermore, the darker your skin, the less D your body will produce.

Protein: You can get some of the components of protein (the amino acids) from legumes, seeds and grain, but meat and fish contain complete protein (meaning they have all the essential amino acids). The amino acids in meat/fish are also in a form that is very easy for most people to digest. Many people find grains and legumes (which contain digestive inhibitors) quite hard to digest. Note too how little meat you actually need to get protein – 4 oz of beef provides 30 grams protein; salmon 25 grams; tofu 8 grams.

Zinc: Red meat is high in it and it comes in a form that many believe is easier for the body to break down than that found in grains and legumes.

How To Get These Nutrients If You’re Vegan

Vitamin A: Eat loads of bright orange veg and fruit (carrots, yams, squash, apricots) and dark green ones (spinach, kale, chard etc) which provides beta carotene that the body can convert to Vitamin A. Be careful taking synthetic Vitamin A supplements, as they can be toxic at high levels.

B12: Unfortunately B12 is not available in plant form.  Spirulina and other sea vegetables, are considered by some to be good sources, but whether that form of B12 can be assimilated into the body, is under dispute.

Many plants including whole grains are rich in the other B’s. To enhance the digestive properties of the grains, make the Bs more accessible, and eliminate the phytic acid in grains which can draw minerals out of you, I highly advise soaking them. This is especially important if you’re eating large quantities, which many vegans do.

Avocados are also super rich in the other Bs.

Though mostly known for its Vitamin C, cabbage has several of the Bs. Click here for a fab cab dish.

Vitamin D: Besides the sun and animal products there is no other way to naturally get D. If as a vegan you can make a small exception, consider cod liver oil capsules, they are exceptionally high in D. The risk with a high intake of synthetic Vitamin D (including the D that’s often added to non-dairy milk), is that at high levels it can be toxic since the body stores it – not a concern with sun-created vitamin D as the body simply stops producing it when it’s had enough.

Protein: Tempeh provides the highest protein of any plant form and I’d recommend it over tofu. (See this post).  Quinoa, is a complete protein, so it’s a great source. Lentils and beans have many of the amino acids though they’re incomplete, so to get the missing ones, eat them with grains. The starch and sugar however, of legumes can be hard to digest, so like grains, soak them for a minimum 5 hours in water + vinegar or lemon juice (or whey), ie anything acidic.

Zinc: Found in beans, whole grains and nuts. The phytic acid, however, in non-fermented soybeans (ie tofu), as well as in grains and legumes, can bind to minerals (including zinc and calcium) in the digestive tract and carry them out, making vegans potentially more susceptible to mineral deficiencies. Eating fermented soy (tempeh) and soaking grains and legumes in water+an acid, will eliminate most of the phytic acid.

Sunflower seeds are exceptionally high in zinc as well as several of the Bs

So my advice: pay close attention to what is right for your body. And if you’re going vegan, know what you could be missing, and then find ways to vigilantly incorporate that into your diet – with food first, supplements second.

Ok, over to you …

Update: After many comments poured in saying,”I am vegan and happy and healthy and you are wrong about there being any “risks”, I wanted to say this: I fully respect everyone’s desire to choose whatever way of eating feels right for them. Just because something feels right for me, it may NOT be right for you and I respect that. What we choose to eat/not to eat is an extraordinarily personal decision – up there with religion and politics.  So if what you’re eating is working for you, keep eating it.  And ignore what anyone else says – including me.

Related Posts

Looking For A Protein That Never Walked or Swam? (All about lentils)

 

Tofu: White-bread of the Soy World? (The case for tempeh)

 

Grains Don’t Want You To Eat Them (An explanation as to why grains are hard to digest and why eating sprouted grains solves this)

 

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  • Tracy W.

    This author is under-informed and the information in this post is incomplete and potentially misleading/inaccurate. The only item on the author’s list of essential nutrients missing from a vegan diet that is actually a risk for vegans who are eating properly (i.e., a variegated assortment of vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts and whole grains, and NOT simply cutting out animal products without increasing the consumption of these other foods) is B12, of which, the author neglects to list the informed vegan’s main sources: i) nutritional yeast, ii) fortified foods, and of course, iii) supplements (if necessary).Non-vegans/vegetarians are as likely to be deficient in B12 as healthy vegans, whereby absorption of B12 is more of an issue than consumption of it. More importantly, the list does not mention a crucial nutrient which is often missing from a vegan diet: omega-3 fatty acid. Though it is possible to meet ALA, EPA and DHA (fatty-acids) requirements by regular consumption of walnuts, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, hemp seeds, hemp oil, flax seeds, and flax oil (studies indicate that 1 Tbsp per day of flax oil is sufficient — source: http://www.savvyvegetarian.com/articles/omega-3-vegetarians-vegans.php), vegans may be prudent to ensure these levels are adequate with a blood test, and otherwise, look into taking a vegetarian DHA supplement, and lowering their intake of omega-6 (which must be offset by omega-3s). Protein deficiency is really not a concern for vegans who are eating a proper vegan diet (as mentioned above). We are more closely related to gorillas than dogs. Gorillas are, pound for pound, the strongest animals on the planet, and meet all their protein requirements from a diet which consists almost entirely of plant food (that is they are strong, healthy vegetarians, and if it weren’t for the small percentage of insects consumed, vegan).I think it would be a good idea for people to blog about topics on which they are fully informed and not superficially ‘researching’ by means of a few Google searches! If you are thinking about going vegetarian or vegan, I recommend that you seek out information from people with credentials (http://www.vegansociety.com/downloads/PBN.pdf, and http://www.amazon.ca/Plant-Based-Nutrition-Health-Stephen/dp/0907337260 are good for starters). There is so much research/information now about plant-based diets, there is no reason to be discouraged from making the transition. Most people who have done so can attest that they feel better, and are healthier than they have ever been! And it’s certainly healthier for the planet.

  • http://www.terrabeads.com/t-skirts.aspx long skirts

    I in truth believe you should not add any things about this topic. Thank you a lot for a cool story

  • Virg

    I just came across your blog and this post.. and haven’t read any of the comments below, but am compelled to put my 2 cents in.  I began having a real ethical dilemma with eating meat about a decade ago.  I took me a while to give up meat completely but I did.  Being veg, and for a while vegan, did feel great, but I was not thriving.  After some blood work I learned that I am anemic.. it’s a mild form and genetic as my sis & dad are both mildly anemic.. not the end of the world, BUT my body needed more iron, period.  After much discussion, research & soul searching.. I decided to eat meat again.  I came to realize that the first place I need to practice ahimsa is with myself.  Denying my body what it needs, not just to thrive, but to not degenerate faster than most (anemia), was not an option.  I needed more iron from food sources high in iron.. not supplements.  This journey has led me to have much more reverence for my food sources.  How they live, how they are treated, how they are slaughtered, what they ingest.  I am fortunate to live near a fantastic butcher (a former vegan) who feels the same.  When I eat meat, I do it consciously. And while veg I learned a lot about complete proteins.. new studies has proved that you do not need to eat your beans & rice in the same meal.  You’re golden as long as you consume this within 24 hours.  Your body stores the individual amino acids and pulls what it needs when it needs to create protein.  

  • No Name

    Well… this is a tough one.  I gave up Gluten which was the BEST decision I ever made but then I gave up meat.  Not too sure that was a good decision or not.  My Asthma improved and is just about gone and I lost a good amount of weight.  Now I have a serious flare up of crohn’s disease and am sitting in the hospital on IV anti-biotics and Iron infusions because my Iron has dropped to an all time low.  Was it from going vegitarian?  I am not sure.  I take suppliments and drink and eat many green veggies.  My body decided not to absorb it anymore.  On a positive note, I haven’t got a cold since I became a vegitarian.  I don’t know.  I think I HAVE to go back to eating red meat, I don’t think I will have a choise if I want to live.

    • Kimberly S.

      GMO food has been linked to Chron’s disease! It’s been reported by the Institute for Responsible Technology and in their documentary Genetic Roulette. Most soy and corn is genetically modified – so avoid those at all costs!!! Plus the fact that they feed those to animals, so you indirectly are affected. I had ulcerative colitis and am now vegan organic and don’t have any more symptoms. If you have to eat meat I would suggest you only eat organic grass fed beef and organic poultry to avoid the GMOs.

  • Blake Johnson6464

    “…in fact physiologically our digestive system appears to be more like a dogs, rather than a cows…” do some further research before posting unsupported facts..
    FACT: a carnivores intestine is 4-6 times the length of its torso so it may digest decaying flesh quickly. A herbivores is 7-12 times longer than their torso because plant matter takes longer to break down. Humans intestines resemble that of the latter. And how can you compare a humans digestive system to a cows? They have 4 Stomachs!!!
    FACT: A carnivores jaws can only move up and down for biting and tearing. A herbivores moves in all directions so that it may grind plant matter eg. Cow, horse, rabbit and HUMAN!!!
    And did you ever think that people don’t get ‘meat allergies’ because it is the flesh of another lifeform. Have you ever heard of someone being allergic to the touch of one particular person?

    • Cogito ergo sum

      We are not herbivores or carnivores, but omnivores. Is that so difficult to grasp?

    • Cogito ergo sum

      We also produce bile, for the purpose of digesting meat. Is evolutionary biology so wrong?

  • well

    Not true — there are a lot of dangers within animal products, we’ve been eating animals for as long as we have because way back when, we weren’t polluting the ocean with harmful factory discharge and poisoning our food before we slaughtered it. If you’re “aware” of the conditions of these areas, you’d know that it contributes to a lot of toxins and poor meat. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Janet-Geren/811617434 Janet Geren

    I am with Jason. I have been a vegetarian since the early 80′s.  I love  animals and because I felt sick after I ate meat and if it wasn’t soaked in garlic, pepper, teriaki and other seasonings I couldn’t eat it.  But after reading John Robbins great book, “Diet for a New America,” I realized that I could never kill anything with my hands, even if I was hungry.  It was the best decision I ever made in my life.  I no longer had indigestion and have never had any digestive problems since that time.  I had severe ear infections since I was a child and asked Dr. McDougall what I could do to stop them.  He told me to give up ice cream.  I did and never had an ear infection since 1984.  I did hang onto cheese.  I finally gave up cheese when I became very ill and almost died in 2007 and I was made aware of how cruel dairy farms were, even worse then slaughter houses.  I actually have recovered after losing the use of my legs and right hand and I also had foot drop in both feet.  I truly feel being vegan has put my body back in balance, but like Jason, I don’t eat any processed foods, I eat organic vegetables and fruits, no sugar at all or candy, lots of almonds, coconuts and quinoa, which is a complete protein and we love it here.  I truly believe for me (I won’t speak for anyone else) that my body was not meant to digest meat.  I feel lighter, stronger, healthier, have more energy then most of my close friends that still eat meat.  I could never go back to that again.

    The article is wonderful and very educational, but I have to say and express my dismay at one thing that was said.  That is

    ” Yes, most factory farms are despicable, and I think it’s honorable to
    reject these practices, but if you’re not eating animal products (and
    fish)because of the inhumane treatment of living creatures, there are
    farms that raise animals with care and slaughter them with dignity. The
    animals are drug-free and run around like animals do.”

    I don’t believe there is any way around the ethical killing of any creature.  I see nothing about raising animals with care, so they can be raised with care, anything but humane.  And I know of no way to slaughter any animal with dignity.  Because they are the voiceless, doesn’t mean we can speak for them.  Their silence and suffering is very deafening to me.  Without words, the pain I see in the eyes of farm animals tells me a very sad story.  They love, they care, they feel anger, hurt, emotional and physical pain, separateness and loneliness, just as we do,  But imagine not being able to tell anyone how you feel?  Without expression, their pain and fear must be greater, without expression they suffer, without words, and I believe they know their fate, all the way to their last breath here.

    • Bhayes22

      Thanks Janet, the author lost credibility with me when he said, ” … slaughter them with dignity.” Clumsy thinkers generally give themselves away with statements like that.  

    • Cogito ergo sum

      So, if you were faced with starvation and eating meat, you would choose starvation? If all people thought like you, we would have gone extinct eons ago.

    • Cogito ergo sum

      You must really hate bears then. They’re omnivores. And if animals can express all those emotions you listed, bears must know that they are inflicting suffering when they kill another animal for food. What about plant life? Do they not feel? If the criteria for feeling is expressed within the eyes, then what about animal life that don’t have eyes or faces? Do they not suffer too? Life devours life. Death is life. I didn’t make that rule, Mother Nature did. You can eat meat with respect towards the animal. I don’t see bears going out of their way to find grass-fed, certified-humane, free-range meats. But I do. I’m so evil though.

      • Kat

        Except bears don’t exploit their resources or create factory farms.. If everybody hunted their own meat, your argument would be valid. Unfortunately, you may need to reassess your critical thinking skills.

  • Brick

    It would be nice if people who posted articles would spell words correctly. 

    • Name

      words’

  • Mark V

    “…there are farms that raise animals with care and slaughter them with dignity.”

    This is absolutely ludicrous. “Slaughter them with dignity”? How does this work?

    You know, would you be okay if somebody kidnapped members of your family and murdered them, only to assure you “It’s okay…they’re dead, but I slaughtered them with dignity”? Hey, if that sounds horrid, it’s simply your own “logic” being used against you.

    I’m also a little sick and tired of all this stuff about ”What we choose to eat/not to eat is an extraordinarily personal decision”.

    It may surprise you to know that the “personal” nature of your decision is forfeited the moment you take away the right to live from the animals that you eat.

    What if someone wants to eat other human beings (after letting them run around on a paddock, undrugged, before “slaughtering them with dignity”, of course)–would you also defend that person’s “personal decision”?

    You spend one paragraph on the ethical issue and then dispose of the issue quickly, before launching into an epic monologue about the ostensible nutritional shortcomings of veganism–because quite honestly, you’d rather not think seriously about the ethics of the issue. You find it inconvenient, you see.

    Ironically, there is a related article entitled “Grains Don’t Want You To Eat Them”. I’d hazard a guess that animals don’t want to be eaten, either!

    Regarding alcohol, you said: “I think the occasional drink is essential for mental health if not digestive.”

    Erm, really? And where is your raft of facts to back up this little treasure? I don’t drink alcohol, and there is nothing wrong with my mental health. I can’t be so certain about the author of the above article!

    • Cogito ergo sum

      Whoa! Someone’s angry. I’m sorry, but I don’t value a chicken as much as my family. Do you? So, that comparison is just stupid. All species respect their species as the most important. A wolf will not devour pack members, but will devour a caribou. What about all of the plants you eat? They have their own energy (souls). I firmly believe that. Who are you to say otherwise? Life devours life. Keep being angry at people you don’t know over their beliefs which have no bearing on you. You must be a real peach to be around.

    • Cogito ergo sum

      If an apex predator came into my home and ate my family I would call that natural. If a human did it, it would be murder. There is a difference between consuming your own species and consuming another. If these laws of nature did not exist, there would be no diversity. We’d all be one species. As it is, the laws do exist, and the world is diverse and beautiful, filled with life and death. Death paves the way for new life. There is a way to respectfully eat meat. Did you become vegan for the sole purpose of putting yourself on a pedestal or are you really doing it for Mother Nature?

  • becks

    You do know, of course, that this: ‘ We have been eating animals and their offerings quite healthfully for
    hundreds of thousands of years and in fact physiologically our digestive
    systems appear to be more like dog’s (carnivores) than cow’s
    (herbivores).’ couldn’t be further away from the truth, right?

  • Totus90

    I would just like to urge you to research the nutritional value of hemp. Thanks.

  • SS

    Vitamin D is the sunshine vitamin and not just found in animal foods….do your homework.

  • http://twitter.com/gabi532 Gabi Bhandari

    What about iron? I have learned the importance of IRON due to some extreme blood loss and simply being a woman…Had I been a vegan, I may not be here. My body says, ‘NO.’

  • http://twitter.com/gabi532 Gabi Bhandari

    WE are at the top of the food chain for a reason. :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/dsunn723 Daniel Christian-Grafton Hutch

    good article

  • Katja Van

    Lacto-ovo vegetarian is healthier.
    “The lower mortality from ischemic heart disease among vegetarians was
    greater at younger ages and was restricted to those who had followed
    their current diet for >5 y. Further categorization of diets showed
    that, in comparison with regular meat eaters, mortality from ischemic
    heart disease was 20% lower in occasional meat eaters, 34% lower in
    people who ate fish but not meat, 34% lower in lactoovovegetarians, and
    26% lower in vegans. There were no significant differences between
    vegetarians and nonvegetarians in mortality from cerebrovascular
    disease, stomach cancer, colorectal cancer, lung cancer, breast cancer,
    prostate cancer, or all other causes combined.” – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10479225

    But with eggs even free-range ones the male chicks are “disposed” off. Sure it’s quick but it’s not death free. But vegan isn’t death-free either, veg farming is just as much a cause of deforestation and animal death (pest control, including shooting deer not just pesticides). So morally and environmentaly one is no better than the other.
    Just do what you want, eat what you want and enjoy your short time on this earth as much as you can, eitherway you aren’t going to live forever.

  • Ananda

    Watch Earthlings – then say that you’ve made the ‘enlightened’ choice if you continue to eat meat….

  • Kristina

    Correction: Spirulina is a superfood that has high levels of B-12. Soymilk with added B-12 has a whole days worth in 2 cups, so getting this vitamin in your diet is really not hard. Anyone is deficient (including animal eaters) if they don’t research what they’re eating compared to what they need.
    Animal allergies isn’t why people promote vegan ism, it’s the fact that animal based proteins increases and even causes the cancers (not to mention diseases) people assume they get by chance. I’m not just a vegan, I’m a common sense vegan who chooses whole wheat over white grains, no high fructose corn syrup, organic, and no processed foods. If you eat a whole food, plant based diet (with at least 51% of everything you eat as raw), you will be the healthiest and happiest you! If you just love meat, well that’s okay there are alternatives that you can eat that taste just as good without the detrimental effects. Try barbecuing seitan! :). Staples of my kitchen include lentils, cashews, almonds, quinoa, spinach, kale, bean sprouts, onions, garlic, squash, potatoes, apples, oranges, bananas, cacoa nibs, spirulina, green tea, soymilk, almondmilk for my husband, brown rice protein powder, whole wheat flour, and a ton more! I have a full food pantry, not medicine cabinet. Cheers to long efficient living :). (BTW did I mention that my husband is vegan too? He’s never been smarter, healthier, or happier).

  • Eugenia Loli

    There’s also taurine (only found in meat), and CoQ10 and PQQ that mostly found in animal heart (found in very small doses in plants). I believe that vegans should be supplementing with these too. I looked for a multi-vitamin geared towards vegans specifically, and none includes these. They don’t even include true folate (they include folic acid, which is not the active form — but it’s cheaper to produce). That’s why multivitamins are not good for anyone, to get the best possible supplementation, you’d have to supplement wisely, from different sources. It can get expensive, but it’s possibly required for some.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/L5CFTZHMYBUPCUSF6MU2OJTTMU Linda

    Apparently this beet person here doesn’t know that b12 does NOT come from animals ORIGINALLY. Look it up.

  • Canine

    Dogs are omnivores.

  • Happy Again

    I was a dedicated vegan for 9 years… I lived and breathed veganism, in fact it is how I met my partner and played a huge part in my life. I spent a long time campaigning… hunt sabbing you name it. One day I got really ill and at the time i just thought it was because i was pregnant (excuse spelling mistakes etc im styping and feeding my youngest). My illness lasted four years and towards the end of it i was bed ridden had carers and couldn’t even read my child one page of his story book. I tried everything i could with my diet but was so brainwashed into believing veganism is the healthiest diet and right for animals and the planet that i ruled it out right away… “everybody can be vegan”; is something echoed in vegan communities and something im [retty sure the vegan society itself said. So i tried bettering my vegan diet… eating more fatty foods, cutting wheat?gluten out… raw.. I tried it all and then one day when i heared my child having fun and i had been in bed all day — yet again i felt like i didn’t wanna be here `anymore and i decided to push the social vegan pressures to one side and got my in laws to buy me some milk and some eggs as ethically as possible. Within two weeks i was laughing, i could get up the stairs, sit on the toilet and be the mother i’d always wanted to be. A year on i’m a happy omnivore, im climbling mountains instead of crying collapsed on the stairs, im running about with my kids and im well and i’d never take a day for granted again. i would say to anyone BE CAREFUL on a vegan diet and there’s nothing to say it works for everybody- No science can tell us this for sure. If you are happy and vegan that’s great…… I have been shunned by the vegan scene because they can not cpme to terms with the fact that my illness stemmed from vegan diet but then again it makes them question their whole outlook on life. I myself never for one moment believed it could have been my diet as i had been asked to do food workshops for nhs organisations and also everything we eat is organic and whole…. lots of everything good and nothing processed. I thought i had it spot on esp compared to the junk i see some vegans eating. I myself was brainwashed. Sorry for the personal ramble but this is what happened to me…. my kids and partner are no longer vegan either after they saw miraculous recovery and how dangerous it can be when you get it wrong. I gained my partner from veganism and he cared for me while i was ill and for this i feel that atleast i found love through it :) i gained something positive!

    • queen

      Hi Happy, I want to thank you for your story. I don’t know if you will read this but your story has really helped me. I have been a vegetarian for 22 years and a vegan for 6 of those,. Due to stressful events in my life and other genetic predispositions, despite being thin and trying to eat “healthy” vegan (or what I thought was healthy) my health started declining 3 years ago. I found out I had diabetes (and yes, I am thin and small – 100 lbs 5’4″) and now I have found out there is something wrong with my thyroid and adrenal glands. I don’t get enough protein or other vitamins/minerals. It is difficult to be a vegan AND diabetic. (my grandmother was diabetic). Even a dr friend of mine who is vegan said that I was on the right diet and there was nothing I could have done to stop it – of course stress probably didn’t help either. It is very heartbreaking because as you said – when you can’t eat all the vegan staple foods (which are high in carbs not diabetic friendly) you feel left out. I became a vegan for ethical reasons and I still believe in that and always will. It is part of me and I don’t regret my decision to be veggie at all. Unfortunately unless I want to be bed ridden I have to change somethings now with my new health problems etc.. No soy (which is almost impossible to avoid on a vegan diet) and I need more protein which is hard to get unless you eat some soy. (and having to watch carbs doesn’t help – I can’t just eat ANYTHING that is vegan which leaves out all the yummy fruit I used to love). This is very difficult for me to change this because it is part of who I am – but what does that matter if I am dead or can’t even do anything or walk up the steps without wanting to collapse? I am currently getting alot of blood tests done to test my levels and I am making proper food and vitamin changes. My plan is to hopefully be vegetarian and add some dairy for extra protein (as little as I can get away with). I was a vegetarian for 15 years before I went vegan and I felt energetic and good back than. It wasn’t until after I became a vegan that things went down hill healthwise for me. I was also a strict raw vegan for a while and I felt horrible on that diet! Although I wish it wasn’t true, I may have to accept the fact that I may need a bit more variety in my diet and because I can’t eat alot of carbs, fruit or anything that a non-diabetic vegan can eat. I may have to give up my vegan diet. Nothing is breaking my heart more I tell you. I was so happy to hear your story! I don’t think I could ever eat meat again (I get bad stomach cramps) but I hoping I will feel better and get my life back by adding something that I am obviously missing. So I guess I will be 90% Vegan 10% vegeterian. And not because I want too but because my body apparently can’t do it so I totally understand where you are coming from. Everyday I wish I had a different body. Well, I don’t. I guess it would be hard for other vegans to understand unless they felt like you did or like I do. It is scary to feel like crap all the time – no matter what you try, right? And yes, I have supplemented (I always take vitamins) and that hasn’t been enough. And I quit coffee (that helped!) and I am staying away from the processed vegan foods! Thanks again, your story couldn’t have come at a better time for me. I have been in tears over this and I probably always will. How will I ever look at a cow in peace again? I just hope they forgive me. :(

  • trex

    “nutrients potentially missing on a vegan diet” what a moron, whether vegan or omnivore those nutrients are potentially missing, you still have to get the right nutrients no matter what diet you’re on. This article was so full of shit it made my head spin.

  • Gary

    I’m a healthy Vegan of 25 years. Many non-Vegans have nutritional deficiencies based on poor diet. The only way to get maximum nutrients is via plants, sunshine, balance & sleep. Livestock are fed plants & heavily pumped up with vitamins ( let’s not mention antibiotics, steroids and a plethora of dubious chemicals) so I’d rather stay clear and skip that step in the food chain as more and more people opting for a plant based diet ase becoming aware that the risk that the consumption of Animal products exceed those of a plant based diet – BY FAR. Humans are not designed to drink other animals milk – even human mother’s milk is for infants. In countries where dairy consumption is high – osteoporosis is high too. Dairy blocks the consumption of many nutrients hence most of the world’s population is lactose intolerant. To this day human infants reject other animals milk until they are forced (weened) onto it. Eggs are just too disgusting to discuss. Good luck to anyone who wants to boil, fry, poach or scramble a chicken’s period and eat it. I’ll pass. I’m sure that there’s lots of other disgusting things animals excrete that may contain nutritional value – but if their body is getting rid of it – it’s for good reason – including for me not to eat it. But the reality is that poor diet is poor diet and the evidence of risk proves to be much greater in an animal-based diet, not a plant-based one.

  • SEL

    See Peaceable Kingdom: http://www.peaceablekingdomfilm.org/ This is the greatest myth, perpetuated by not farmers who now are speaking out, but by the managers of huge industries (yes, the large industries) that there is such a thing as humanely treated animals who are then slaughtered. Nuh-uh. There is no humane way, say more and more farmers, to take a life.

  • Jennifer Brown

    Really It all comes down to caring for all life. No one has mentioned the animals. “What’s right for me”. What’s “right for you” plays a large role in whether they live or die. That’s why I went vegan. Not because It was “right for me”, but because It was right for them.

  • Karlasmith

    Some people go vegan and stuff their face with fake meats and cheese which seem to be mostly full of nasties let alone overdosing themselves on soy products. Other people follow a perfect fresh food diet, eat the right amount of protein etc and still manage to fall ill in the long run. When you follow the vegan pages you are bombarded with how its the healthiest diet in the world without any consideration to those who do suffer ill health on it. There are vegans on you tube practically crying because they are so depressed and you can tell that they are anything other than healthy, obviously we don’t know what they would be like on an alternative diet. For me, I felt great for a bit but as I don’t like to eat much processed food I really struggled with IBS and Hypoglycemia, my food choices were becoming more and more limiting, after all how do you follow a healthy vegan diet on a lower residue diet? Well it doesn’t take a genius to work out that its impossible, you are going to miss out on a lot that way and I just cannot continue with the IBS pain so that’s that for now.

  • Drisa

    Mushrooms have vitamin D. Maitake being the highest at 1123 mg.

  • George Wright

    Vitamin D is not only found in animal products. It is also present in mushrooms that have been exposed to sunlight, albeit in the form D2 which needs to be converted to D3 in the body. Alfalfa also contains vitamin D2 and may even contain D3 as well. One should bear in mind that vitamin D3 is toxic at high levels so in some ways it is best to eat more D2 and allow your body to regulate the amount of D3 it produces from the Sun/mushrooms. The same can be said for vitamin A which makes carotenes a lot safer than animal derived vitamin A. If you eat too much beta-carotene it isn’t toxic, it just leaks out of your skin and makes you look orange!

    You are right about B12. All vegans should take supplements or fortified foods – spirulina and tempeh won’t provide enough or the right sort of B12. Many doctors also recommend that older people take B12 supplements regardless of their diet as the body’s ability to absorb it declines with age.

  • Former Vegan

    I often hear evangelism from Vegans about how great they feel, and therefore how right it is. This is often in the first 5 years , from an adult who was not raised Vegan.
    I became vegetarian (in the late 70′s) as a child, and then very strict Vegan by 13, right up to my late 20′s, then Vegetarian eating fish till late 30′s till the birth of my son.
    The damage was already there health wise in my 30′s, but I refused to link it to diet.I started eating organic meat again when he was 6 months old, and the change to my nervous system, hair/skin, mental health was un believable.

    Veganism is not maintainable (to full health) for the whole of a Human life cycle, and I feel really strongly that pregnant/ lactating women, and children from birth should not be Vegan.

    I don’t think we need MUCH animal protein, but we need it to live and reproduce effectively

    There are no continuous cultures on earth who have chosen veganism, and there is a good reason why

  • gypsyjudy

    Nutritional yeast is a good source of vitamin B12 if you’re a vegan.
    And there is another quiet little vitamin which hasn’t been mentioned here – which is awfully important! It’s vitamin K2. It works together with Vitamin D3. D3 pulls calcium into the blood stream; K2 directs it OUT of the blood vessels and into the bones. It has been known about for years but not exactly what it was or how it worked. Vitamin A also works with the other fat soluble vitamins (D3 and K2), as a tight little trio. Vitamin A is available (or a precursor of it is) from veggies. If you eat LOTS of plants, and a good variety of foods, you really don’t need to have “squillions” of dollars, or watch every mouthful you eat. I have overcome osteoporosis with this knowledge and hope to live a long, happy life, with good health – AND I enjoy eating and cooking very tasty food. You don’t need to sacrifice taste to be a vegan!

  • Java

    What about retinol..?

  • jess

    Ohhh thanks so much for this! I did actually recently go vegan but i wanted to make sure of what i needed to do it healthily and this helped soooo much! :) however, i do think you can get B12 from nutritional yeast! great article though, thanks for sharing <3

  • Olga

    There are many reasons to consider not eating meat. Meat is
    high in saturated fat; which causes, heart strain, arterial blockages,
    increases blood pressure, a major fat responsible for weight gain, and creates
    high unhealthy cholesterol. Additionally, meat consumption is hard on the
    digestive system, taking a long time to pass through the intestines where it
    putrefies and creates toxins that accumulate in the liver, kidneys and
    intestines. This time factor causes carcinogens to damage the colon lining. The
    American Cancer Society’s estimates for the number of colorectal cancer cases
    in the United States for 2014 are, 96,830 new cases of colon cancer. It is
    apparent that there are many more reasons to not eat meat, other than our blind
    appetite to consume the, antibiotic hormone ladder corpse of a tortured animal.

    Leo Tolstoy said it best, “A man can live and be
    healthy without killing animals for food; therefore, if he eats meat, he
    participates in taking animal life merely for the sake of his appetite.”

    From my own experience, as a meat eater I suffered from painful constipation
    and was over-weight and didn’t have a great deal of energy. Now 40 years later
    as a non-meat eater, I am very regular,energetic, look 15-20 years younger, I
    am fit and slender and my weight fluctuates by only 3-5 lbs. Overall, it’s a
    healthy and compassionate lifestyle.

    Jonathan Safran Foer said it best and I quote, “Just how destructive does
    a culinary preference have to be before we decide to eat something else? If
    contributing to the suffering of billions of animals that live miserable lives
    and (quite often) die in horrific ways isn’t motivating, what would be? If
    being the number one contributor to the most serious threat facing the planet
    (global warming) isn’t enough, what is? And if you are tempted to put off these
    questions of conscience, to say not now, then when?”

  • jujubelly

    We. Dont. Fucking. ‘Need’. Meat. And there is no dignified way to slaughter anyone or anything. Hey? You’ve had a good run mind if I shoot a peg in your head? Or spite your throat I mean it might hurt s little but AT LEAST ITS FICKING DIGNIFIED!

  • mike berrt

    this article is so stupid. you are an idiot