Every now and then, it seems like there is a silent war between vegans and meat eaters. Vegans often encounter numerous debates as following a different lifestyle from the rest of the population opens a lot of questions. Those who eat daily products and meat believe that eliminating these foods is unnatural and unhealthy and vice versa.
Veganism is a much stricter diet compared to other types of vegetarianism. Vegans tend to avoid not only meat but also trans fats, processed grains, refined sugar and processed vegetable oils. This sounds like a healthy way to lose weight. Excluding all delicious meat and animal products is definitely hard just to maintain this type of diet.
Most vegans find out sooner or later that their bodies lack essential nutrients because of eliminating certain foods from their diet. Some of the nutrient deficiencies that many vegans experience are:
One of the most common debates, a lot of vegans claim that the protein found in vegetables are more than what’s in meat. The daily recommended dosage of protein for men is 56 g and women need 46 g. Maybe, they are just trying to say that it is easy to obtain all the protein that the body needs even without the consumption of meat.
Let’s compare the lists of protein packed foods for vegans and non-vegans.
Vegans will need to consume a lot of vegetables to meet the recommended protein.
This is a terrifying statement as most people enjoy eating meat, but that is not true. There are numerous studies proving that meat consumption is not the cause of these modern diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
The link between cancer and meat is only associated with the way the food is cooked. Burned, blackened and scorched meat may lead to stomach cancer, but not the meat itself. It depends on how the foods are prepared.
Heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are chemicals produced during cooking of food in high-temperature methods, such as grilling or frying. Many studies have shown that the formation of these chemicals may increase the risk of cancer (2).
This is another line that most vegans would say. Having a plant-based diet can definitely reduce the risk of cancer and various diseases. However, there are many other factors that can contribute to the development of these illnesses like genetics, prolonged exposure to ultraviolet rays, smoking, asbestos, and more.
Lack of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B12, and vitamin D can all contribute to various illnesses and cancer. Vegans may still be at risk for some types of cancer even if they do not consume dairy and meat.
Our bodies cannot produce essential fatty acids and we can only get them by consuming foods that contain healthy fats. The three main types of omega-3 fatty acids are alphalinolenic acid (ALA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). You can get DHA and EPA in fish, sea food and fish oils. These fatty acids are readily available for our bodies to use.
ALA is found in vegetable oils like flaxseeds, walnuts, and soy products, so vegans can still get healthy fats. However, our bodies find it harder to convert ALA into usable forms. Essential fatty acids are important as they help in the formation of healthy cell membranes, proper brain function, proper adrenal and thyroid activity, regulation of blood pressure and immune responses.
Lack of omega-3 fatty acid may lead to poor memory, dry skin, depression, poor circulation, heart problems, macular degeneration, and Alzheimer’s disease.
While fresh vegetables and fruits cost less than meat, being a vegan will still increase your grocery bill. Of course, it is not the veggies or fruits that increased the bill, but other vegan products that are expensive. The reality is that there is no need to consume a fulfilling diet. Some of the cheapest foods are potatoes, beans, rice, bread and pasta.
If you are purchasing a ton of expensive replacement products, it is just the same as if you were buying meat and dairy products.
This is one of the biggest lies or misconceptions that we have heard of. Some vegans believe that humans should not consume meat by nature. Supporters claim that people lack sharp teeth, cloth, and potent hydrochloric acid in our stomach to easily digest meat and we are meant to consume only veggies and fruits.
Research suggest that even if our bodies do not have the same features as carnivores in the wild, people have learned how to cook and consume meat properly. By eating meat, vegetables and fruits, we obtain vitamins, minerals, and other essential nutrients.
In addition, the sizes of different parts of our digestive system are somewhere in between the lengths for herbivores and carnivores. This indicates that we are naturally omnivores (3).
There are many studies showing that vegans and vegetarians have a lower risk of various chronic illnesses and they live longer. However, these studies are inundated by a phenomenon “healthy user bias.”
Vegans and vegetarians are more health conscious than meat eaters. They do not just avoid meat and animal products. They also exercise regularly, they eat more vegetables and fruits, and they also tend to avoid alcohol and tobacco. Thus, it is difficult to claim that vegans are healthier and they live longer because they do not consume meat. Maybe they live longer because of the healthy activities that they do.
In a study of 11,000 vegetarians and health conscious people, there is no difference in the risk of heart diseases and mortality. Regular consumption of fresh fruits and being health conscious is associated with a reduced mortality from cerebrovascular disease, ischaemic heart disease, and all causes combined (4).
Many vegans love telling that since humans evolved from apes, we should follow their diet. Apes and gorillas eat bamboo shoots, stems and fruits. They do not develop diabetes, obesity and heart diseases. Because of this, vegans believe that our primate ancestors manage to avoid chronic diseases by eliminating meat, sugar, and refined grains.
However, apes have longer digestive tract than humans do. This allows apes to digest their food and extract nutrients efficiently. We have shorter digestive tracts, which mean that our bodies need higher amounts of protein to function properly.
This is one of the biggest lies vegans love telling. While veganism is becoming a trend, it is still in the minority. They have a hard time eating out with their non-vegan family members or friends. Most restaurants also cater to meat eaters and going out of town is tough especially if there are not many vegan restaurants available.
Being a vegan requires you to eat more so you can get daily recommended amounts of essential nutrients. Looking for products that can supply you all nutrients without animal foods can be hard and it seems that many vegans are having problems. Nutrient deficiencies are common among vegans, so be extra careful when it comes to supplementation.
1. Web MD Staff. “Look for seafood rich in omega-3s.” Your Omega-3 Family Shopping List. Viewed at: http://www.webmd.com/diet/guide/your-omega-3-family-shopping-list#1
2. What are heterocyclic amines and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and how are they formed in cooked meats? Chemicals in Meat Cooked at High Temperature and Cancer Risk. Viewed at: https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/diet/cooked-meats-fact-sheet
3. Katherine Milton. A Hypothesis to Explain the Role of Meat-Eating in Human Evolution. Viewed at: http://nature.berkeley.edu/miltonlab/pdfs/meateating.pdf
4. Key TJ, Thorogood M, Appleby PN and Burr ML. Dietary habits and mortality in 11,000 vegetarians and health conscious people: results of a 17 year follow up. Viewed at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8842068
Emily has spent the last 8 years comparing, reviewing and analyzing ingredients in the supplements industry. She has worked extensively with dieticians, nutritionists and personal trainers to separate fact from fiction and help people achieve their fitness goals. In her free time she works and enjoys the outdoors with her husband and 2 children.