Are vegans really healthier?

By Malika Sachdeva

In recent times, the vegan diet has increased in popularity. Some have chosen this lifestyle for ethical or religious reasons and some are compelled by the environmental impact of eating meat. But many choose a vegan diet because they are under the impression that it is a healthier choice from a nutritional perspective. The idea that a plant-based diet is healthier has been thoroughly drilled in our minds. Even celebrity endorsements from the likes of Beyoncé and Ellen DeGeneres enforce the idea that veganism is the way to go. But is this really true?

Plant-based diets emphasize on vegetables and fruits which are quite nutritious. However, they usually consist of large amounts of cereal grains which are high in anti-nutrients such as phytic acid. These slow the absorption rate of other vitamins and minerals. Moreover, vegan diets are almost devoid of certain nutrients that are vital for physiological function. Several studies have shown that vegans are more susceptible to deficiencies in B12, calcium, iron, zinc and vitamins A and D. These in turn result in increased risk of heart disease, bone loss and other health issues.

vegan-protein-diet-chart
An average teenage’s protein needs per day.

From an evolutionary perspective, it is hard to justify a diet with low levels of nutrients that are critical to human function. While it may be possible to address these deficiencies through supplementation, it makes much more sense to meet these nutritional needs through food intake. Unfortunately, many are not aware of the nutrient deficiencies that are posed by their dietary choices.

However, this is not to say that veganism doesn’t have its benefits. Research from various universities such as Italy’s University of Florence showed a correlation between vegan diets and significantly lower rates of heart disease and cancer. More research has even tied vegan diets to lower levels of stress. Additionally, when pitted against other diets, veganism came out on top in terms of aiding in weight loss.

Vegan diets are a massive improvement from the refined carb and sugar-heavy eating patterns that many follow. They provide humans with more nutrients that enrich development and reduces health risks. However, for optimal health and longevity, it is probably best eating a balanced diet that is heavy in plants with a bit of meat, fish, and eggs alongside.