Is going vegan actually healthier than eating meat? | The Tylt
Many people choose to go vegan for moral reasons; they want to reduce their carbon footprint by eliminating all animal byproducts from their diet. For some, going vegan is simply a health choice, as plant-based diets can be nutrient-rich and ultimately lead to weight loss. But some experts warn vegan diets can also lead to iron deficiency and poor bone health. Is going vegan really the healthier way?
Is going vegan actually healthier than eating meat?
When you eliminate all animal byproducts from your diet, you have no choice but to turn to healthy, whole foods as a replacement. Snacking will suddenly hinge on whole grains, fruits and vegetables instead of processed, sugary foods. With this in mind, it's hard to believe a vegan diet can be anything but healthy.
When done right, a vegan diet can be nutrient-dense. According to Healthline:
...several studies have reported that vegan diets tend to provide more fiber, antioxidants and beneficial plant compounds. They also appear to be richer in potassium, magnesium, folate and vitamins A, C and E.
Consuming vegan-friendly foods will naturally reduce your calorie intake, making the diet ideal for weight loss.
But not everyone adheres to a healthy version of the vegan diet. Eating a ton of fruits and veggies sounds like it's the key to success when it comes to weight loss, but meat offers its own essential nutrients. The consequences of an unbalanced vegan diet can be dire. Quartzy's Sophie Medlin warns that just a few months into going vegan:
...your stores of vitamin D might be dropping as key sources of it in our diet come from meat, fish and dairy, and it isn’t always noticeable until it’s too late. Vitamin D isn’t well understood but it’s essential in keeping bones, teeth and muscles healthy and deficiency has been linked with cancer, heart disease, migraines and depression.
Beyond Vitamin D deficiency, vegan diets can also deplete stores of vitamin B12—found in animal products—which contributes to the healthy functioning of blood and nerve cells. Furthermore:
...many vegans don’t meet their calcium requirements and there is a 30% increased risk of fracture among vegans when compared to vegetarians and omnivores. Plant-based calcium is also harder to absorb and therefore supplements or plenty of fortified foods is recommended.
With these consequences in mind, those not paying extremely close attention to their nutrient-intake should stay away from a vegan diet.
The Netflix documentary "What the Health" brought an onslaught of criticism around eating meat and animal byproducts of all kinds. Although some of the film's extreme claims—such as comparing eating bacon to smoking cigarettes—have been debunked, there is truth to the idea that eating processed meats can negatively impact your health.
Vox's Julia Belluz reports:
Consumption of processed meat — including hot dogs, bacon, and lunch meats — can definitely increase the risk of cancer, according to a new statement from a World Health Organization research agency.
Meat may offer certain benefits, but if you're accustomed to eating processed meats and red meat, you might be better off cutting them out of your diet completely.
For those new to a vegan diet, some of the greatest risks can be due to lack of proper meal planning, which may cause new vegans to reach for packaged, processed, and shelf-stable foods rather than, well, actual plants.
A sleeve of Ritz Crackers and a package of Oreos for the day might sound tasty and vegan, but it is certainly not healthy.