food

Four issues with veganism nobody ever talks about.

In recent years, the popularity of the vegan diet has sky-rocketed as a result of concerns for animal welfare, public health messages and greater consideration for the environment.

While it’s a worthy path, the extensive body of research on the benefits of veganism when it comes to our health are hard to ignore. Studies have found that veganism is associated with lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, a lower risk of heart disease, and better weight management.

Health and lifestyle bloggers such as Freelee the Banana Girl, Veggieful and Like a Vegan powerfully advocate a vegan diet to hundreds of thousands of followers. In such communities, meat and animal products are seen as the antithesis to a healthy and ethical life.

Freelee the Banana Girl. Image via Tumblr.

But according to Alex Orlov at Mic, the vegan diet is not the "magic health bullet" many believe it to be. He argues that cutting out food groups often means you are missing out on essential nutrients, namely calcium and iron.

In addition, certain vegan foods like protein-rich soy can be detrimental to the environment.

It's important to highlight that these issues do not undermine or dismiss the vegan diet. Rather, if you're considering going vegan - these are the things you absolutely must know.

1. Almonds and avocados require litres of water to produce.

A single almond, often a staple of the vegan diet, uses more than four litres of water to create. Similarly, it requires as much as 280 litres of water to produce half a kilo of avocados. In some parts of the world, like Chile, water supplies have significantly depleted as a result of growing avocados. Tom Philpoo of Mother Jones reports that "the ecological implications are potentially dire" for these types of food.

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Avocados require a great deal of water to produce. Image via iStock.

2. Soybeans are contributing to deforestation.

Soybeans are a go-to nondairy substitute for many vegans, but their production is having devastating effects on the environment. The World Wildlife Foundation has reported that numerous natural ecosystems across South America have been severely damaged as a result of soybean production. Mic reports that as a result "copious amounts of carbon dioxide" has been emitted, which "reduces biodiversity".

3. Research indicates that vegans aren't getting enough B12.

Vitamin B12 is found in foods such as meat, fish, dairy and eggs, all of which are absent from a vegan diet. Signs of the deficiency include tingling and numbness, confusion, fatigue, irritability and general muscle weakness.

4. Vitamin D levels are significantly lower in vegans.

Chris Kresser argues that Vitamin D levels can be as much as 74 per cent lower among individuals who adhere to a vegan diet. Very few plant based foods contain Vitamin D, which is critical for bone health. Signs you're not getting enough Vitamin D include depression, aching bones and osteoporosis.

Although veganism unequivocally offers a host of health benefits, and is gentler on the environment when it comes to animal farming, there are also some shortcomings to consider.

It is critical that we all educate ourselves about where our food is coming from, and how best to nourish our bodies, in order to find the right diet for us.

Tags: food , health , vegan , vegan-diet
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