By SARA WEISMAN
Health and wellness is a key consumer trend. From gummy bears that claim to make your hair longer and tea that will make you slim faster, Millennials and Gen Z will try anything to achieve the promoted healthy lifestyle. However, there is one trend that is doing more harm than good to their bodies: veganism.
People change up their diets for many reasons: weight-loss, disease control, compassion or environmental concerns, personal preference, you name it. With fad diets, no one hears about them for many years, then all of a sudden everyone is on them, and they can be dangerous.
Take the Keto diet. It was created a century ago in the 1920s, yet it has only recently skyrocketed in popularity in the last two years. However, according to some health professionals, it’d be better left in the past. Doctors are warning to only switch to this extreme diet if patients have a medical condition, as it can be very bad for a healthy person’s health.
“A ketogenic diet could be an interesting alternative to treat certain conditions and may accelerate weight loss. But it is hard to follow, and it can be heavy on red meat and other fatty, processed and salty foods that are notoriously unhealthy,” said Dr. Marcelo Campos, contributor at Harvard Health Publishing, in an article published last July.
Another concerning diet fad in recent years is veganism. It is great to try to help the animal population by not eating them or their by-products, however, veganism is becoming a dangerous diet in this day and age. Veganism can be a great and healthy diet for people who love animals and want to keep the world clean, but it must be done right.
Because of the popularity of veganism, companies are doing their best to market to these consumers. Beyond Meat is becoming one of the most popular companies for making plant-based beef, sausages and premade burger patties. However, making plant-based, “meat-like” foods comes with a cost. They are extremely processed and can be tremendously unhealthy for your body.
For new vegans just switching over to this diet, they may enjoy the fact that they do not have to give up burgers, or they can easily substitute processed vegan ingredients for what they used to purchase. This is where veganism becomes dangerous. Veganism is supposed to be a plant-based diet, but in 2020 there are so many “easy” options like going into Burger King and purchasing their new Impossible burger. Vegans can feel like they are eating a Whopper, yet it is completely plant-based and highly processed, making it just as bad for your health as a regular Whopper.
Not only is the processed food bad for your health, but veganism comes with some other side-effects that may require monitoring by medical professionals. The first is the vitamin B12 deficiency, leaving B12 out of your diet can lead to anemia, which is a lack of healthy red blood cells. There are ways to prevent B12 deficiency in a vegan diet, however you must do your research and be sure that you are still consuming plenty.
“The only reliable vegan sources of B12 are foods fortified with B12 (including some plant milk, some soy products and some breakfast cereals) and B12 supplements,” said Stephen Walsh, a Trustee of the Vegan Society.
“Vitamin B12, whether in supplements, fortified foods, or animal products, comes from micro-organisms. Most vegans consume enough B12 to avoid anemia and nervous system damage, but many do not get enough to minimize the potential risk of heart disease or pregnancy complications.”
The easiest way to consume B12 is through animal products. With any diet, it is advised to search for any potential nutrient deficiencies and the necessary alternative sources. For veganism, vitamin B12 deficiency is a concern worth noting before jumping on the bandwagon.
A common protein alternative for vegans is legumes which come with their own side effects. They are very high in protein and fiber, making them helpful for people with certain diseases like heart disease or diabetes. However, they contain antinutrients that can be detrimental to human health. One antinutrient in legumes is lectins, they are not easily digestible and can tear the linings of the digestive tract. Lectins need to be properly cooked to be removed from legumes, but that will also remove around ten percent of the legumes’ protein.
Another antinutrient is phytic acid which weakens the absorption of iron, calcium and zinc– absorption that is already difficult for vegans as they are eating slow-absorbing iron foods to begin with. Those who eat meat do not have to worry about phytic acid in their diet because they receive lots of highly absorbable iron-rich foods in their diet and phytic acid will not make a dent. Vegans need to be aware of these two antinutrients when replacing their protein.
Becoming vegan can have many benefits, but for many the switch is due to popularity rather than legitimate health, animal rights and environmental concerns. If you plan on jumping ship from animal consumption, do so, but do your research.