Have you noticed how the world’s going vegan? for instance, look at celebrities. Bill Clinton, Madonna, Stevie Wonder, the Williams sisters, Russell Brand, and so many more! Yet, your mind must be full of questions about a vegan diet's advantages and disadvantages.
Veganism means you give up foods that cause animal cruelty. It’s great for the planet and your health, too. But it may cause nutrient deficiencies. Plus, increased demand for certain crops affects their supply and raises their prices. There’s also the hidden truth of labor exploitation.
If you are interested in the pros and cons of going vegan, keep reading, so you can decide for yourself if this is the right lifestyle change for you.
People often confuse veganism with other non-meat diets. What sets a vegan diet apart from pescatarian, eggetarian, vegetarian, etc., is that it excludes all animal products. That’s not just meat but also fish, poultry, eggs, dairy, and fat like lard, tallow, and schmaltz.
In addition, veganism should be differentiated from other plant-based diets, too. It's more of a lifestyle and a set of beleifs than a just diet. While many people go vegan for health and spiritual reasons, the primary reasons for others is a stand against animal cruelty and environmental welfare. The focus for vegans is also preventing animal exploitation in all forms.
Vegans care deeply about the cruelty associated with animal rearing, dairy farming, poultry farming, beekeeping, etc. So, they even avoid consuming honey, eggs and dairy. Veganism also doesn’t contribute to the negative environmental effects caused by livestock farming.
You may find it hard to believe, but millions of people are going vegan, and the vegan food industry will likely grow to $68 billion by 2028. The advantages of a vegan diet are many, however, there are also some disadvantages. Let's look at the pros and cons of veganism below.
|Advantages of Veganism||Disadvantages of Veganism|
|Animal Welfare||Labor exploitation in agriculture|
|Lower negative impact on environment||Higher demand and prices with low supply|
|Growing mindful, healthy food habits||Agricultural and environmental footprint|
|Enhanced weight loss||Lack of certain nutrients|
|Reduced health risks||Digestive issues and stomach discomfort|
|Development of discipline and self-control||Limited food and medicine options|
There's a rise in the number of vegans globally, so let's look at the reasons why so many people are drawn to such a big lifestyle shift.
The most obvious reason behind veganism is to stand up against animal cruelty. Since a vegan eliminates all animal foods, it effectively cuts out the slaughtering of animals. It also puts a stop to the appalling treatment of animals at slaughterhouses and farms.
Vegans are also committed to reducing inhumane practices at dairy and poultry farms, hatcheries, apiaries, etc. These include stunning, mutilation, genetic manipulation, separating offspring from lactating mothers, poor hygiene, etc.
Did you know that animal agriculture is wasteful, as it takes 10 pounds of grains to feed animals for just 1 pound of meat? Plus, the demand for land causes deforestation, animal displacement, water pollution, water scarcity, and other environmental issues.
The animal industry has a massive impact on the planet and the environment, and not in a good way. The animal industry contributes to greenhouse gas emissions and global warming. And veganism is a lifestyle that lets you make an eco-friendly choice.
A vegan diet can set you on a path of selective eating, as you eliminate certain food groups. As you become more careful about what you put in your mouth, your relationship with food improves, leading you to make healthy choices.
Vegans get creative with using plant-based sources of fats and proteins, and discover new ways to appreciate the gifts of nature. Thus, they usually choose wholesome foods over fast, frozen or packaged foods full of sodium, additives and preservatives.
Veganism is often associated with weight loss. A vegan diet involves fiber-rich foods that keep you full for a long time and curb hunger pangs. Plus, it reduces the consumption of unhealthy fats that stick to your body and make your BMI shoot up.
Plant-based foods also develop healthy gut flora. And on top of that, you start counting your calorie intake and watching what you eat. Thus, you start to lose weight faster when you’re on a vegan diet.
A plant-based diet is associated with better health, as it reduces many conditions and risks. This is mainly, due to better eating habits that avoid unhealthy ingredients.
Check out how the vegan diet can enhance your health:
Evidently, obesity can increase the risks of these conditions. So, by maintaining your BMI, you can prevent them.
We all understand the importance of self-restraint when it comes to our favorite foods. But when restriction becomes part of your everyday life, you develop the willpower to say no - to yourself! And veganism can promote great discipline and self-control skills.
As you watch what you eat, you also manage to maintain control over portion size, macronutrients, and calories. And when the reason for becoming vegan is much bigger than just you or your health, you feel more committed to stick to it in the name of animal welfare and the planet's well-being.
The advantages of veganism are loud and clear. But wait! There are downsides to this diet that you might be ignoring or not know about.
And no, we're not only talking about nutrient defficiencies. Nor do we mean the vegan diet's inconvenience with regards to possible social awkwardness when all your friends are not on a such a strict regimen.
There are far more serious cons of veganism that people don’t actually talk about.
Plant-based agriculture in some countries that provide supplies globally may involve forced labor, child labor, poor and unstable wages, unsafe working conditions, and more. You may ask, “Aren’t these part of animal agriculture, too?” Maybe. But they’re also linked with certain vegan staples.
These include the production of soy, rice, cashews, avocados, etc., all of which are important for a vegan diet. So, while veganism stands for animal rights, it’s not entirely cruelty-free, yet. If anything, the rising demand may be blamed for labor abuse.
As the number of vegans is on the rise, so is the demand for plant-based foods. And due to their increased production, the earth’s resources are getting exploited. There is a palpable increase in pressure on the food supply chain.
Don't be shocked if you hear about a shortage of vegan favorites like soy or almonds. Plus, growing demand and the possibility of reduced supply can lead to increased food prices. Costs of vegan supplies have already seen inflation of 7.8%-10.5%!
Experts fear that the new farming practices and over-production of plant-sourced foods may affect the earth's ability to produce crops properly. That means agriculture can become unsustainable in the long run, increasing our environmental footprint.
Let’s not ignore the greenhouse gas effects of farming practices like the use of fertilizers. Furthermore, you may not stop to think about where your food comes from. Vegans often depend on exotic crops that need to be imported, leading to environmental pollution.
Coming back to individual health and fitness, you should note that some nutrients are only available in animal-sourced foods. And unless you start taking supplements and fortified foods, you may miss out on some vitamins, minerals, and other micronutrients.
Some of the most important nutrients that can be missing or be obtained at reduced levels in a vegan diet are:
When you adopt veganism, you may experience digestive problems, especially in the initial stage or if the diet is not planned properly. That's because adjusting to a complete change in diet can affect your system, especially if you're not properly hydrated.
Plus, it’s harder to process all the fibers you consume because of a completely plant-based diet. Proteins from grains, legumes, etc., are 10%-20% harder for the body to absorb. So, you can experience digestive problems and discomfort.
Like other restrictive diets, a vegan diet makes it challenging to find appropriate options for foods, desserts, and even beverages. That's not all! It also takes a lot of effort and research to find vegan-friendly medicines, though brands are focusing on that gradually.
There are very few vegan-only restaurants and eateries, and those with vegan meals usually offer a limited menu. Because of this, you may soon find it difficult to socialize with friends, family, and colleagues.
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As we've mentioned already, one of the biggest disadvantages of a vegan diet is the risk of nutritional deficiency. Some nutrients, like vitamin B12 or taurine, are not present in plants. You can only get them from meat, eggs, dairy, etc.
You see, your body is not only used to animal-sourced nutrients but is also habituated to absorbing nutrients in a certain way. When you go vegan, all that changes rapidly. One survey showed 28% of vegans suffer from a nutrient deficiency.
But don't worry. There are ways to combat this. Of course, it's not just one step that will fix everything at once. You should properly plan the change in your diet and daily meals, as well as your nutrient intake, to ensure a healthy vegan journey. Here are a few things you can do:
A: No, veganism isn't automatically healthier just because it includes plant-based foods. Many vegan options are processed or contain sodium, sugar, and other unhealthy ingredients. Plus, they may contain preservatives or chemicals. Don't forget that vegan foods naturally lack some key vitamins and minerals.
A: You may want to rethink your decision to go vegan if you have IBS or nut/soy allergy. Conditions like celiac disease, diabetes, Crohn's disease, cancer, etc., increase your chances of zinc deficiency when paired with veganism. And so does alcoholism. You may also find this diet challenging if you’re on a low-carb diet or dislike vegetables.
A: An unhealthy plant-based diet is one that includes foods that are processed or fried, contain sugar and refined grains, or are pre-cooked and packaged with preservatives. In other words, a vegan diet that excludes fresh produce, whole foods, and healthy sources of important nutrients, such as fruits, veggies, nuts, grains, etc. is considered bad for your health.
A: The rising demand for plant-based foods can definitely raise their prices and make veganism more expensive. However, if you plan your meals and purchase supplies according to your budget, you’ll spend less on vegan foods. Buying fresh, seasonal products from local markets and farmers may help cut costs.
The choice to become a vegan isn’t all black and white, and there’s a lot to consider. As discussed in this article, the positive effects on your health and the planet are many.
But you can’t ignore the downsides of veganism, either. However, the good news is that the risk of nutritional deficiency and digestive issues can be easily avoided. The same goes for the possible limitations of obtaining affordable plant-based food options. All you need is planning, expert help, and mindful eating.