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8 Proven Reasons Why Vegan and Vegetarian Diets Easily Ruin Your Body

 

Avoiding animal meat and animal products is often touted as being 'healthy' in mainstream media. But this is not the case, in fact, as I will explain in this article. Vegetarian and especially vegan diets are far from being the perfect diet for the human body.

Below, I explain why you should never follow a long-term vegan or vegetarian diet. You will learn how vegan and vegetarian diets do not have the health benefits that an omnivore diet has—an omnivore diet includes both plant foods as well as several types of animal foods.

In a previous article, I’ve talked about how food from animals—milk, oysters, eggs and liver help you build muscle and lose fat. But this article goes deeper than finding the perfect foods for body composition. This article looks at how the food we eat impairs or benefits our health.

 

Eight Reasons Why Vegan and Vegetarian Diets End Up In Disaster

In this article, I first look at the different vegan and vegetarian diets that exist. Next, I will have a look at all the problems associated with vegan and vegetarian diets—by giving you eight reasons why you should steer clear from any vegetarian and especially vegan diet.

This article is not written as an attack on vegans or vegetarians. I have good friends who choose to follow these particular diets.

Instead, this article is meant to help clear the confusion around whether plant-based diets are the best for our health or not.

The sad thing is that a lot of people have been misled into believing that vegan or vegetarian diets are optimal for their health and mental performance. While in reality, this is far from the truth.

Note, if you are a vegan or vegetarian and you know that all the evidence in the world won't change your way of eating, then I highly recommend downloading my FREE Essential Supplement Guide for vegans and vegetarians. Click HERE to download.

Different Vegan and Vegetarian Diets

For those who are not acquainted with vegan and vegetarian diets:

  • Vegan diets eliminate all animal meats and animal by-product foods (such as eggs and milk which come from animals).
  • Vegetarian diets, on the other hand, allow for some animal food consumption, as long as the food does not come from the body of an animal. So, milk and eggs are allowed on a vegetarian diet, while bone broth, meat cuts or fish are avoided.

There are subtle differences between variations of vegetarian and vegan diets. Some vegans, for example, might even allow the consumption of oysters and mussels because of the argument that the nervous systems of these creatures are not developed in such a way to allow these creatures to feel pain. This is called ostro-veganism.

Other than ostro-veganists, there are all kinds of difficult names to describe different vegan or vegetarian diet variations: there are lacto-vegetarians, raw-vegans, ovo-vegetarians, partial vegetarians, pesco-vegetarians and so forth. For the purpose of this article, you do not need to remember all these names.

To keep things simple, this article assumes that vegans do not eat any animal products at all. And I assume that vegetarians still consume milk and eggs—because their argument basically boils down to the notion that milk and egg consumption does not hurt animals.

When considering the health effects of these two diets, I criticize vegan diets more heavily in this article, because I consider vegan diets more dangerous than vegetarian diets for your energy levels, mental well-being and physical performance.

As will become clear, if you’re following a vegan diet, you will be missing out on even more nutrients than on a vegetarian diet. However, keep in mind that you will still be missing out on essential nutrients on a vegetarian diet compared to the omnivorous diet that I consider best for your health.

Enough of the context, let's look at eight reasons why a vegan or vegetarian diet is damaging to your health.

Reason 1: It’s Hard to Get Enough Protein in a Vegan or Vegetarian Diet

It’s much harder to get sufficient protein from a vegan diet.[1] This is true for vegetarians as well, but only to a lesser extent.

Steak or fish contains 20–30 grams of protein per 100 grams of the product. The main protein sources for vegans—vegetables, beans, soy, tempeh, and rice—contain only 5–20 grams of protein per 100 grams of the product.

Why is this an issue? Inadequate protein consumption leads to protein deficiency. This leads to edema, fatty liver, hair, skin and nail issues, poor recovery and growth, a weakened immune system and loss of muscle and bone density.

Sure, there are high-protein sources for vegans, such as hemp protein powder, that you can use to increase your protein intake. But hemp protein powder contains large amounts of unstable polyunsaturated fatty acids. That PUFA content only becomes higher in other hemp products, such as hemp seeds. So, hemp is not a great option to get your protein needs met, given the dangers of PUFA overconsumption (read more about this topic HERE).

I’m not saying that it’s impossible to get your daily need for protein met through a vegan diet—instead, I’m saying that you’re swimming against the current when trying to get your daily protein needs to be met exclusively through plant food consumption.

An analogy would be my vision towards strength training: would you rather train 15 minutes a week, and get excellent results or spend five hours a week sweating in the gym to get the exact same result?

The same is true for getting your protein needs met on a diet that includes animal foods: it takes less work to get all of your protein requirements from animal foods.

What about vegetarians?

The fact that vegetarians eat milk and eggs does give them a huge advantage compared to a vegan diet. However, most vegetarians do not make milk and eggs a staple of their diet and only eat small amounts of milk and eggs to avoid health problems. Many vegetarians, therefore, end up having too little protein in their diets as well.

If you’re following the diet on my Hormone Reset Program, where fish, meat, liver, bone broth, milk and eggs are staples of your diet, then you will have a lot lower chance of ingesting too little protein.

Reason 2: Vegan and Vegetarian Diets Have Lower Protein Quality

Vegan diets not only make it more difficult to ingest sufficient protein, but the protein quality of many vegan foods is also lower than that of animal foods.

Animal proteins are the highest quality proteins: eggs, fish, milk, whey protein and beef, for example.[2, 3] I wrote a detailed article on protein quality HERE.

Yes, I acknowledge that soy protein made it on the list of high-quality proteins as well, but soy has enormous drawbacks as a food group. Soy is a GMO crop (meaning it is extremely high in glyphosate). It increases your estrogen levels, and it is also high in PUFAs.

Other plant-based options, such as hemp, pea or rice protein powder, all have much lower protein quality compared to animal sources, such as fish or meat.

Vegan Protein Staples. Source greatist.com

Protein quality is always really important. Let’s say you’re trying to improve your results in the gym. In that case, when soy, rice, beans, grains, and vegetables are the staple foods of your diet, you will just not have the same muscle-building response compared to ingesting different types of animal foods.[4] In essence, more muscle tissue is built on high-quality animal foods compared to plant foods.[5]

Protein quality is not only important for muscle mass. It has other benefits as well.

The greater the quality of the protein you ingest on a diet, the easier it becomes to lose weight.[6] Ingesting higher quality proteins will also help you build stronger bones.[7] And a higher quality protein—as found in animal products—is better absorbed in the body than proteins derived from plants. [73]

The fact that vegetarians eat some animal foods, means that they will have less of a problem with regard to protein quality. So, if you’re a vegetarian, make sure that milk and eggs become a staple of your protein-rich foods.

If you’re a vegan, however, these protein quality issues cannot easily be circumvented. By following a vegan diet, you’re making it harder for yourself to achieve optimal health and performance.

Reason 3: Vegan and Vegetarian Diets Lack Specific Amino Acids

There is another big issue with both vegan and vegetarian diets: these diets lack specific amino acids. Amino acids are the 'building blocks' of proteins. You need a balanced intake of amino acids to get the most benefits out of your diet.

Bone broth, a food source avoided by vegans and vegetarians, is one food group that contains unique amino acids that are lacking in our modern diet.

In my guide to bone broth, I covered how bone broth has so many amazing health benefits. You can make bone broth by slowly boiling bones over a long period of time which takes up to 48-hours.

Gelatin and collagen proteins (which are often sourced from the skin and connective tissue of animals) contain the same unique amino acids that are found in bone broth.

Consumption of collagen or gelatin proteins, however, are avoided by both vegetarian and vegan diets because they stem directly from the connective tissue of animals. As the bone broth is sourced directly from the bones of animals, vegetarian and vegan diets avoid the use of bone broth as well.

bone broth—a nutrient dense food 

Sure you can make vegetable broths, but from a nutrient standpoint, these lack the amino acids found in traditional bone broth. Just because they share a name doesn't mean they share the same nutrient properties.

The elimination of these foods creates big problems for vegetarian and vegan diets: the specific amino acids contained in them, such as glycine, proline and hydroxyproline, cannot be ingested at adequate levels in a typical vegan or vegetarian diet.

Even omnivores need to consume bone broth, collagen or gelatin, to get adequate amounts of these amino acids in their diets. By just consuming meat, fish and shellfish, you cannot get these amino acids.

Why do the amino acids found in bone broth matter so much?

Bone broth has been shown to:

  • improve your gut health [89]
  • smoothen and strengthen your skin [89]
  • toughen the connective tissue in tendons and ligaments and increase bone health [10]
  • decrease joint pain [11]
  • improve sleep quality [12]
  • improve overall mental well-being [13]

What about supplementation? 

You might think that vegans and vegetarians can get the specific amino acids contained in bone broth, collagen or gelatin by supplementing their diet with them. But even supplementation is difficult. I’ve searched far and wide and cannot find any vegan or vegetarian sources of proline or hydroxyproline which are key amino acids in bone broth, gelatin and collagen.

Eating a vegetarian or vegan diet, you will not get the benefits from consuming bone broth, gelatin or collagen.

However, the problem with amino acid deficiency does not stop with bone broth. There’s an additional amino acid that’s almost exclusively found in animal foods: taurine.

Taurine is mostly found in shellfish, meat and fish. Eggs, seaweed and milk are a suboptimal way to get some taurine in your diet.

The only way to get taurine for vegans is to supplement with taurine or to ingest taurine through brewer’s yeast. I hope you are beginning to see a pattern here: it takes a lot of time and effort to support the body with all the individual nutrients that you will be missing out on with vegan or vegetarian diets.

Sure, vegetarians can ingest some taurine through their eggs and milk, but the taurine content in eggs and milk is not nearly as high as it is in meats and fish. Therefore, if you’re a vegetarian, you still need to supplement with additional taurine.

You can download my FREE 'Vegan and Vegetarian Essential Supplement Guide' by clicking HERE.

Why is Taurine important?

  • you need adequate amounts of taurine to lower your chances of getting cardiovascular disease [14]
  • to develop and maintain a healthy nervous system and eyes [15]
  • to prevent inflammation [16]—which lies at the root of many modern diseases
  • for optimal immune functioning [17
  • to slow down aging [18
  • and to improve exercise performance [19

Taurine really has all-around benefits for your health.

Scientists have actually tested the levels of taurine in different populations. In vegans, taurine levels were much lower than omnivores.[20] This means that almost all vegans are not getting enough of this key nutrient right now. 

 

Reason 4: It’s Hard to Consume Enough Quality Fats on Vegan and Vegetarian Diets

I’ve already stated that getting the right amount (of proteins and good-quality proteins) is much more difficult, if not impossible, on a vegan or vegetarian diet. To make matters worse, it’s also problematic trying to get the right fats into your body on these diets.

Sure, there are some great options to get some healthy fats in your diet as a vegan, such as high-cacao dark chocolate, coconut oil or avocados. But let’s say that you’re mostly eating beans, rice, soy, fruits, vegetables and (hopefully soaked or sprouted) grains. In that case, you will still end up having problems getting the right fats into your diet.

If you’re eating foods such as full-fat raw milk, oysters and pastured free-range eggs, then you will be getting all the healthy fats you need.

 Just by eating these staple foods, you get healthy fats such as saturated fats, cholesterols, some omega 3s, etc.

These high-quality (animal) fats are essential to your health. High-quality fats reduce your body fat, are great for your heart and brain health and give you stable energy for hours.

Don't believe the lie. Animal fat is actually heart healthy. Read more here.

Sadly enough, many great fat sources such as beef or fish are avoided by vegetarians. This problem is worse for vegans as they do not even consume eggs or milk which contain some of these important oils and fats.

The problems do not stop there: there’s an additional problem with many vegan foods.

Almost all oils that are found in many vegan products, such as soybean oil, rice oil, margarine, different vegetable oils, sunflower oil and even flaxseed oil are very high in PUFAs.

PUFAs are extremely detrimental to your health. Therefore, as a vegan, you need to avoid many supposedly 'healthy' pre-packaged foods that are stuffed with these PUFAs. 

Meat-free does not equal healthy

The soy found in your tofu burger is bad in and of itself, but the additional PUFAs added to the burger make it a toxin bomb. See the label of the vegetarian burger above: sesame oil, safflower oil and ten additional 'Frankenstein' ingredients, which no health-conscious person should consume.

It’s almost impossible to get all the right fats in your diet when you’re eating a vegan diet on a daily basis.

The problem gets worse though. There are also some very specific oils and fats that are lacking in vegetarian or vegan diets.

  • One main missing healthy fat for vegans is CLA—or conjugated linoleic acid. CLA is mainly found in butter, eggs and beef. There’s rising evidence that CLA will help you lose body fat,[21] improve insulin functioning and aid in building muscle.[22]

Thus, as a vegan, you can only obtain this fat in your diet once you supplement with it.

  • There’s yet another very important healthy fat called DHA which is lacking in vegan diets. DHA is also very hard to consume within vegetarian diets (but not entirely impossible).

DHA (or docosahexaenoic acid) is an essential fatty acid that is mainly found in oily fish, such as wild salmon, sardines or mackerel. Other sources of DHA that work reasonably well are krill, meat and eggs.

It is possible to supplement with DHA in the form of fish oil, but most fish oil on the market has a very poor quality. The fish oil is often either oxidized or not very well absorbable.[23] So supplementation is not always your best option to meet your DHA needs.

Vegetarians and vegans can use an algae oil as a DHA supplement or they could simply consume some wild caught fish or even egg yolks—both of which contain readily absorbed DHA.

 The Garden of Life Omega 3 Algae product is a vegan DHA supplement —use discount code BHS654 to save on your iherb.com purchase.

You can find a great quality algae oil here (and download my free supplement guide HERE). Such a supplement is very expensive though, costing $120 a month to get DHA’s maximum benefits. It’s much easier (and tastier) to just eat a can of sardines!

At the end of the day, vegans and vegetarians don't get enough DHA in their diets. When measured, vegetarians have lower DHA levels than omnivores—and the problem gets even worse for vegans.[24, 25, 26]

The reason vegetarians and vegans have lower DHA levels in their blood is that it’s extremely hard for the body to create the right kind of DHA from plant sources. [27, 28]

Luckily, vegetarians still consume some DHA through milk or eggs, but it’s often not enough to get sufficient levels in their bodies.

Thus, you need fish, shellfish or egg yolks to get optimal DHA levels in your diet. Everyone needs adequate amounts of DHA: it’s important for brain development and brain function,[29] cardiovascular health,[30] curbing inflammation[31] and improving your overall mood.[32]

So, DHA becomes yet another nutrient that you need to supplement while being on a vegetarian or vegan diet!

It now becomes very clear that it is extremely hard to consume enough healthy fats on a vegetarian or vegan diet, and it’s also almost impossible to consume enough of the specific healthy fats that you need as well, such as CLA or DHA.

Reason 5: Vegan and Vegetarian Diets Lack Essential Minerals

In addition to getting enough high-quality protein and fats, vegan and vegetarian diets lack in many very important minerals, such as calcium, iron and zinc.

The problem in getting enough minerals originates because many foodstuffs that vegetarians and vegans rely on, such as grains, rice, beans and soy, all contain anti-nutrients in one form or another. Several anti-nutrients exist, such as lectins, [33] phytic acid, [34] different phytates and fibers.[35]

When foods like grains or beans are left untreated, these antinutrients will prevent the uptake of minerals from that food. Antinutrients are the natural defense mechanism that foods like grains or beans have, to prevent them from being eaten by animals. However, while protecting the plant itself, these antinutrients also prevent you from absorbing the plant’s minerals.

Because vegetarians and vegans rely so much on plant foods, their antinutrient consumption tends to be a lot higher—leading to mineral deficiencies. Remember, it's not what you eat, it's what you absorb.

The issue of antinutrients is actually a lot more complicated than I’m describing here. Overall, the net amount of minerals you get from a diet that is rich in plant food is a lot lower than that of a well-rounded omnivore diet. Let’s look at some examples:

  • Calcium: Vegans have much higher fracture risk, due to their diets containing too little absorbable calcium.[36] While calcium in vegetables absorbs pretty well, you would still need to eat 2 pounds of vegetables on average a day to achieve your daily recommended allowance of calcium as a vegan.[37]

If you eat the wrong vegetable, such as spinach (which contains little well-absorbed calcium because of antinutrients) then you will get almost no calcium that can be effectively used by the body at all.

Drinking a few glasses of milk is a much quicker solution to get your daily calcium needs met. Vegetarians who drink milk or eat eggs are, therefore, less prone to develop these calcium deficiencies.[38]

  • Iron: Both vegans and vegetarians are at risk of developing iron deficiencies. One of the main reasons for this deficiency is the absence of meat in both diets.[54]

The iron that is found in meat is better absorbed than iron from plant sources. Let’s say that the food that you eat contains 2mg of iron. When you ingest those 2mg of iron through meat consumption, the iron levels in your body will end up being higher than when this 2mg of iron comes from plant food.

The type of iron in animal foods is called heme iron, while plants contain non-heme iron. Non-heme iron is absorbed a lot more poorly by the human body. So even if you consume lots of iron as a vegan, you may still end up being iron deficient due to the low absorbability of the iron consumed.[39]

Not only do anti-nutrients lower the iron that you absorb, but the iron that you absorb through plants remains less effective because it is non-heme iron. So, there are multiple mechanisms by which you end up with low iron levels as a vegan or vegetarian.

If you are eating a vegan diet, I highly recommend doing an iron test with LetsGetChecked. They provide accurate in-home tests without needing a doctor. You can get a full iron test for under a $100 (and discount code ALEX will lower the price further). Plus, they offer additional vitamin and mineral testing as well. You can read my LetsGetChecked review here.

  • Zinc: Many people are already zinc deficient—you could call this deficiency a pandemic of low levels. An estimate is that one in five people are already zinc deficient.[40

To make matters worse, both vegetarians and vegans are at higher risks for developing zinc deficiencies than the general population.[41]

Zinc deficiencies are problematic because you need zinc for hormone functioning and reproductive fitness, cardiovascular health, optimal insulin functioning (to prevent diabetes), mental well-being and performance.[42]

These minerals are a great example to show what is wrong with our current food system—meat eaters or not. In our modern world, there are a lot of people who have access to a lot of food. Many people might overeat and be obese but still be at risk of malnutrition. I cover this issue in more detail here.

Not getting enough essential minerals like calcium, iron and zinc will put you at greater risk for malnutrition. That’s why I recommend that you eat a lot of nutrient-dense foods with vitamins and minerals that absorb very well.

Likewise, if you eat a lot of junk food, you will not end up with all the minerals you need, and you’ll be malnourished—even if you’re overweight. The same is true for vegetarians and vegans: eating a vegetarian diet, and especially a vegan diet, will make you more prone to malnourishment simply because you ingest too few absorbable minerals.

The few minerals I’ve just described do not even tell the full story. For example, vegans are also prone to ingesting too much copper because plants contain more copper and less zinc on a relative basis compared to what the body needs.

Meat, on the other hand, allows the body to get enough zinc while preventing the accumulation of too much copper, but meat is avoided on a vegan diet.[43] The mineral problems that vegans and vegetarians need to cope with are actually worse than I’ve just described here.

Overall, it’s slowly becoming clear that the best thing you can do is just avoid vegan (and to a lesser extent vegetarian) diets if you want to consume enough minerals in your diet.

For a comprehensive list of all the recommended minerals vegans and vegetarians should use please download my FREE guide HERE.

Reason 6: Vegan and Vegetarian Diets Lack Absorbable Vitamins

Just as vegan diets tend to lack essential minerals, vitamins are problematic for vegan diets as well. The same is true for vegetarian diets but to a lesser extent: when you’re on a vegetarian diet, you cannot consume some foods that are really high in vitamins, such as oysters or liver. So as a vegetarian, you’re still more prone to develop vitamin deficiencies.

Let’s have a look at different vitamins that are missing in vegetarian and vegan diets:

  • Vitamin K: Vegan diets lead to higher risks for bone fractures because vegan diets contain little vitamin K that is absorbed well. I already talked before about the fact that vegan diets are missing absorbable calcium, and inadequate vitamin K creates yet another problem for bone health.

It’s important to distinguish between vitamin K1 and vitamin K2 here.

Vitamin K1 is found in plant sources. Different types of vitamin K2 are found in animal foods, such as butter, cheese, milk, eggs, meat and especially liver.

Sure, natto (which is a type of fermented soybeans) contains a lot of K2 as well. But soy has big problems of its own, and I do not recommend excess consumption of soy products.

There’s a specific reason you need vitamin K2 and not K1: vitamin K2 absorbs much better than vitamin K1. You cannot get enough usable vitamin K through plant sources alone.

Vitamin K2 is very important for bone health. It ensures calcium is deposited in the right places. Without sufficient vitamin K2, the body is more prone to deposit calcium in the arteries, instead of in the bones where it belongs.[44, 45] Vitamin K2 will also reduce cardiovascular disease,[46] help prevent diabetes[47] and improve hormone functioning.[48]

Vitamin K2 is essential for optimal health.

  • Vitamin D: There are two key types of vitamin D—vitamin D2 and vitamin D3. Vitamin D2 is a plant variation while D3 is the animal form of the vitamin. Only the animal form of vitamin D (vitamin D3) shows great benefits in scientific papers. D2 is often counterproductive for your health.

The best way to get your vitamin D levels up is to get adequate sun exposure during the day. UV-B exposure creates vitamin D3 through the skin.

While the morning sun is very important for your general health, you cannot create vitamin D3 in your skin through morning sun exposure. Thus, you need to get outside during noon with your skin exposed and not wear any sunscreen.

However, the sunlight that supplies enough vitamin D is not available year-round when you’re not living close to the equator. Many cultures that live at higher latitudes have historically gotten their vitamin D3 from animal foods during the wintertime to compensate for the lack of making vitamin D from the sunlight.

Eggs or wild salmon are great sources to get your vitamin D3, but these sources are not consumed while on vegan diets.

Thus, you’ll have to supplement with vitamin D3 on a vegan diet and most probably on a vegetarian diet as well.

You can test your vitamin D levels at home without needing a doctor through LetsGetChecked.

  • Vitamin A: Just as with vitamin D3 and K2, there are differences between the plant version of vitamin A and the animal version. Plant versions of vitamin A (such as beta-carotene) are converted into the animal form of vitamin A (retinol) by the body.[49]

Some people can convert the plant version of vitamin A very efficiently into the animal version of vitamin A. Depending on your genetic profile, this conversion process can vary by as much as 700 percent.

If you are eating a vegan diet and are genetically unable to convert the plant version of vitamin A to the animal version of vitamin A, then you may have a vitamin A deficiency. 

Luckily, this conversion ratio is not problematic when you are eating sufficient amounts of animal-sourced vitamin A. When you eat your weekly dose of liver you will ingest adequate levels of well-absorbed vitamin A.

Liver—nature's multivitamin

As a vegan, you should be concerned about your vitamin A intake. As a vegetarian, you can get most of your animal-form vitamin A from milk or eggs, but these alone may not be enough.

  • Vitamin B12: Adequate amounts of vitamin B12 can exclusively be found in animal food sources. Oysters, sardines, wild salmon, beef, lamb, eggs and milk are all excellent sources of vitamin B12.

You can store vitamin B12 in your body for longer periods of time. However, if you consume too little vitamin B12 on a daily basis, your vitamin B12 deposits will quickly deplete.

Vegetarians have fewer problems attaining enough vitamin B12 through their diets because they can still eat eggs or drink milk. However, vegetarians still have a lower amount of options in terms of food sources to get their B12 needs met. When eggs and milk are the only foods that provide vitamin B12 to you, there’s still a greater chance that you will develop a vitamin B12 deficiency.

Because vegans do not consume any meat, eggs, or milk at all, they tend to end up with vitamin B12 deficiencies over time.[50] The way to mitigate that risk for developing vitamin B12 deficiencies is to get frequent (and costly) B12 injections.[51]

However, even B12 injections might become problematic, as the vitamin B12 might not be absorbed when you do not have the cofactors of vitamin B12 in your body. Even vitamin B12 injections remain just guesswork unless you get your vitamin B12 levels lab tested.

B12 shots or eating meat?

Vitamin B12 is very important in the body. Without an adequate amount of vitamin B12, your brain will not perform well.[52] You also need vitamin B12 for a healthy nervous system, general energy levels and to optimize iron levels in your blood.

Vegans and vegetarians are 12–15 times as likely to be deficient in vitamin B12 than omnivores.[53] The reason for this occurrence is because the richest sources of B12 are organ meats, sardines, wild salmon, mackerel or meats such as pasture-raised beef—all foods restricted on vegan or vegetarian diets.

The fact that you have to inject a nutrient instead of eating that nutrient should make you very worried (and also indicate that this particular way of eating is not sustainable long term). Needing to inject a nutrient indicates that the diet might be flawed at a fundamental level which should become clearer now with regards to the vegan diet.

I hope I’ve shown you that both vegetarian and vegan diets are tricky: both diets make you prone to develop vitamin deficiencies: these diets are often devoid of vitamins A (retinol), D3, K2 and B12.

You can test your vitamin B12 levels at home without needing a doctor through LetsGetChecked.

For a comprehensive list of all the recommended vitamins vegans and vegetarians should use please download my FREE guide HERE.

Reason 7: Vegan and Vegetarian Diets Do Not Contain the Four Cs: Creatine, Choline, Carnitine, and Carnosine

In addition to protein quality, the amount of protein, the right healthy fats, enough absorbable vitamins and minerals, both vegetarian and vegan diets have yet another problem.

I’ll call these nutrients the four Cs: creatine, choline, carnitine, and carnosine. If you’re eating a vegetarian or vegan diet, creatine, carnitine and carnosine are unattainable through your diet alone.

Vegetarians and vegans must then supplement these nutrients or start eating an omnivore diet. Choline, while still problematic, is consumable through a vegetarian diet. But reaching sufficient intake is difficult on a vegan diet.

Let’s consider the four Cs:

  • Creatine: I’ve written extensively about creatine on my blog. Creatine is very important because it will increase your maximal strength, power and long-term endurance. Also, it boosts cognitive performance, testosterone, mental well-being, sleep quality and recovery. Thus, creatine has all-around benefits that few other substances can match.

However, creatine is only found in large quantities in red meat and wild fish. Eggs and milk only contain negligible levels of creatine. Thus, as a vegan or vegetarian, you need to supplement with creatine to boost your levels.

Creatine—an essential supplement for those who don't eat meat

Without supplementation, studies show that both vegans and vegetarians end up having much lower creatine levels in their bodies than omnivores have.[54] If you eat meat and fish and do not supplement with creatine, you automatically end up with higher creatine levels than your peers who are vegetarians or vegans.

This is also why vegans who supplement with creatine have the best cognitive and performance gains.

As a solution, there are good creatine supplements on the market for vegans. However, this is another supplement they must pay for and consume to on a regular basis. By now it should be clear that a diet protocol which requires ongoing supplementation is not an optimal diet for health.

  • Choline: Eggs, liver and dairy are all great sources of choline. Plants contain choline too, but it’s harder to get sufficient amounts of choline from plants alone.

For example, the yolk of one egg contains 120–150mg of choline. To get the same amount of choline from plant foods, you would need to eat two cups of cabbage, broccoli or cauliflower. And as a vegan, if you use seeds, nuts or peanuts to get your choline, you might end up consuming too many unhealthy PUFAs (that I’ve been talking about).

You need choline to achieve optimal neurotransmitter and neurological functioning,[55] help your brain and memory work properly,[56detoxify your liver[57] and maintain your heart health.[58]

Vegans need to supplement with soy lecithin to get sufficient amounts of choline in their diets. Vegetarians just need to consume enough eggs to avoid choline deficiencies.

  • Carnosine:  Carnosine is an important nutrient as well. Carnosine helps in preventing diabetes, slowing ageing and keeping your nervous system and eyes healthy.[59] It also helps you perform in the gym by slowing lactic acid buildup so that you can keep on going long before you are too pumped to perform well.[60]

Carnosine is another nutrient that is only available from meat and fish. Even as a vegetarian, you need to supplement with carnosine to avoid a deficiency.

  • Carnitine: Similar to carnosine, carnitine is also exclusively found in meat products or fish. While milk and eggs contain some carnitine, the amounts are very little. Even as a vegetarian, you will not be getting enough carnitine through your diet.

Carnitine helps you lose fat.[61] It is essential to proper metabolic functioning.[62] It increases fertility,[63] helps to prevent diabetes and heart disease,[64] and reduces both mental and physical fatigue.[65] Carnitine also helps you recover more quickly after a workout.[66]

Again, the message is clear for vegetarians and vegans: you need to supplement.

If you’re a vegan, then it’s impossible to get enough of the four Cs in your diet. The bad news is that these are not nutrients of lesser importance that you can go without—you need these nutrients to thrive in life.

The message should be clear: to get an adequate amount of nutrients, you really need to eat an omnivorous diet!

 

Reason 8: Vegan Diets Might Make You Feel Good—but Only Initially

If you’ve been a vegan or vegetarian in the past, then the chances are high that this diet made you feel very good, at least initially.

A lot of people who switch to a vegetarian or vegan diet do so because they believe these diets are healthy. These people falsely assume that they will get healthier by cutting meat, broth and fish out of their diets.

When you’re switching to a vegan or vegetarian diet for health reasons, it’s very probable that you’re also cutting out junk food and switching to organic food. Cutting out some bad foods can certainly make you feel better in the short run.

Over time, however, many essential nutrients are depleted on vegan diets. Vitamin B12 is a good example of this depletion.[69] For the first months, you might still have adequate vitamin B12 stores after switching to a vegan diet.

You might feel great during the first months on a vegan diet, especially when you stopped eating junk food or started eating organic foods.

However, in the long run, you will always end up with one nutritional deficiency or another on a vegetarian diet and especially on a vegan diet.

These nutritional deficiencies have real consequences. Studies show that there are many vegetarians and vegans that end up with mental health problems in the long run.[70] For example, you’re more prone to get depression on these diets even if it’s just a vegetarian diet.[71]

Nutritional deficiencies do add up over time…

Take Home Message: Steer Clear of Vegan and Vegetarian Diets if You Seek Optimal Health

It should be clear by now that if you’re following a vegetarian or vegan diet, you will be very susceptible to nutritional deficiencies.

The problem of nutritional deficiencies is not a minor problem, even in rich countries. Almost everyone who is following a standard American diet is currently suffering from one or another nutritional deficiency even though these people might be overweight at the same time.

For example, if you’re eating a standard American diet, there’s a high chance that you’re not getting enough of the mineral potassium in your diet. Likewise, the risk is high that you’re not getting enough choline. Also, there's a sixty-six percent chance that you’re not getting adequate vitamin K.[72] In terms of vitamin D and A, there is also an extremely high rate of deficiencies in these vitamins. 

As I’ve stated before in this article, it’s even harder for vegetarians and vegans to get all the nutrients they need compared to those on other diets. Getting enough nutrients is harder for vegetarians and vegans because their diets do not contain many food groups that are very high in absorbable nutrients.

So, if you’re a vegetarian or vegan and you care about your health, please consider rethinking your diet.

I understand many people choose these diets in the quest for health. But hopefully, I have shown you that this is not the best strategy if health is your goal.

Also, I am aware that many vegans and even vegetarians choose to eat this way to minimize harming animals. I appreciate this concern, but please note that you can still source animal products from well-loved and properly cared for animals.

Whether it's having your own chickens in your back yard or sourcing meat from a caring farmer who uses practices that resonate with your values, there is a way to achieve the best of both worlds.

If you are a vegan or vegetarian and feel angered, frustrated or even depressed after reading this article, please don't blame yourself.

The issue is around the message that these diets are 'healthier'. Yet, as I have shown, this is wrong.

Thankfully, you can change direction now and start turning your health around today.

Not Going To Change? Then Supplement & Test

If you don't want to change your diet choices but still want to boost your health and cognitive function, then I highly recommend supplementing the vitamins and minerals you are missing out on. To help with this, I have created a FREE 'Essential Supplement Guide for Vegans and Vegetarians' that you can download by clicking HERE.

Also, I recommend all vegans do regular vitamin D, vitamin B12 and iron testing. You can do this without having to go to a doctor with LetsGetChecked.com. Use discount code ALEX to save on these tests. 

Update—An Open Letter To Vegans Of The World

I've received a lot of feedback from this article—a lot of good but some very nasty stuff as well. (For people who love animals, some vegans can be very hurtful towards humans!)

Anyway, I have just published an open letter to vegans. You can read that letter HERE.

 

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[+] References

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