“Veganism Ruined My Health” … (the rise of the ex-vegan)

Sensationalist headlines from the gutter press claiming “veganism ruined my health” can be found all over the web. It’s pretty desperate to be honest but something we should address as there’s usually a large dose of insincerity in these articles.

“Veganism Ruined My Health” – Are You Sure?

 Before we get started you should know there is now a huge body of evidence to confirm the many health benefits of a vegan diet. When done properly, veganism does not ruin your health. We need to take these sensationalist claims with a pinch of salt because there’s usually a hidden agenda going on. 

 

Watch: Mic The Vegan unpacks a unique “ex-vegan” health claim

 

The popularity of veganism has exploded over the last 10 years. Maybe you’re considering moving over to a vegan lifestyle? Maybe you’re already there or, quite possibly, you’re in the transition from meat-eater to plant-based.

Whatever stage you’re at, you’ve probably heard it said that a vegan diet is more healthy than one rich in animal fats – So why is there a small, but vocal group of people claiming their vegan diet ruined their health?

 

It’s All About The Benjamins Baby

"Veganism ruined my health" (image of US 100 dollar bills spread out) As veganism has risen meteorically in the last decade or so it has caught the attention of marketing types. These days we have the evolution of the “influencer” and big business have been keen to capitalise on the phenomenon.

Not everyone can stick it out as a vegan. It’s a major lifestyle change, after all and if you’re heart is not in it 100% (for the animals) then it’s likely you’ll struggle to keep it up.

So there is the inevitable attrition as people quit veganism and go back to eating dead animals. Often, a deterioration in health is cited as the reason – well unless they have a rare medical condition, they were simply doing it wrong.

Then there are other wholly disingenuous individuals who give it up as part of a ‘marketing tactic’. Really?

Yep. Someone even wrote a step by step guide on how to exploit the vegan community in order to further their social marketing ‘career’. Pretty desperate … but it works!

In essence, you proudly claim you’ve gone vegan and the community welcomes you with open arms. You spend a year or so creating tons of vegan content then suddenly you announce you’re quitting because veganism “ruined” your health.

These types were always chasing the money and were probably eating meat all along! In the immortal words of Puff Daddy, “It’s all about the Benjamins baby” 🙂

Why don’t we look at veganism and health in a more measured manner … ?

 

Turning Back The Clock – Vegan Weaklings!

In the dark ages when vegans were burned at the stake on sight, we were perceived as frail and lacking in life’s nutrients, always portrayed in the media as pale individuals with no get up and go. The reality couldn’t be further removed from this perception and these days most experts agree a balanced vegan diet is healthier than one focused on animal fats.

Image of a jar of milk

If you are of a certain age it would’ve been drummed into you how important it was to consume plenty of milk, cheese, eggs and various meats in your diet. The tentacles of the meat and dairy industry reach far and wide. You were told without these dietary elements, you would not be getting enough protein, calcium, vitamins etc etc.

It was believed your bone mass would deteriorate, your muscles would wither and you would generally be a sub-optimal human being, physically and mentally. This portrayal suited the big agricultural lobbyists in the meat and dairy industry and they capitalised on the imagery.

Fast-forward to the future and the situation has been completely reversed. These days, most people I talk to are of the opinion that a vegan diet is more healthy than a more traditional one in which animal products figure highly; and most of the evidence corroborates. But why is a vegan diet healthy? Let’s investigate …

 

The Vegan Diet Can be Healthy – But Not Always

The subject is huge and way beyond the scope of a single article but we will try to summarise as best as possible. Looking into the topic at the very top-level, it has been shown in numerous studies that a vegan diet tends to be more healthy than what we refer to as the ‘Western diet’. Having said that, it is important to pay attention to the nutrients and vitamins you may miss out on when cutting out animal products.

Image of fresh, vibrant tomatoes

Most authorities now agree a diet rich in fresh vegetables and fruits, including berries and nuts, is a healthy diet and many studies have confirmed this. In fact, one study from Finland carried out over five years, involving over 2500 men between age 42 to 60 and followed up, on average, 13 years later concluded the risk of death from all causes in those individuals who consumed a high proportion of fresh fruit and veg was over a third less than those at the other end of the scale.

Since a vegan diet is more likely to include greater amounts of fresh fruit and vegetables, it could be claimed with some confidence, that a vegan diet is a healthy one. However, this is not always the case by any means and it’s easy to become quite unhealthy when following a vegan lifestyle. It is essential to educate yourself on the needs of the human body and there are some critical vitamins and nutrients which you can easily miss in a vegan diet.

 

Junk Food is Junk Food – Vegan or Not

Seems like an obvious statement, I know, but since the food industry have cottoned on to the popularity of veganism, the marketing machines have kicked in and we’re now presented with a dazzling array of choice in the supermarket aisles. Ten years ago you’d be lucky to find a single vegan friendly product in the superstores (fresh fruit and veg notwithstanding). Now, it seems like every other product has the vegan friendly logo on there.

This is where you need to be very careful. Following a plant-based diet doesn’t mean you can simply replace the non-vegan products you used to eat with a plant-based alternative. Many of these alternatives contain high levels of saturated fat, sodium and similar calorie content compared to their meat-based counterparts.

A good rule of thumb is to be aware that just because a product is plant-based it doesn’t automatically follow that it is healthier. If you replace the animal-based products you’ve left behind with the ‘vegan version’ and don’t pay extra attention to the fresh elements of your diet you could end up dangerously deficient in some essential nutrients.

 

How to Ensure Your Vegan Diet is a Healthy One

It’s easy to find examples of vegan diets which are unhealthy. Often, communities in less well-off parts of the world are compelled to consume very small amounts of animal protein simply because it’s almost impossible to source it. These communities routinely lack access to a wide range of foods like we have in the affluent West.Image of fully loaded supermarket shelves

It follows that these communities could easily be found deficient in many nutrients deemed essential to maintaining a healthy diet. So it is not being ‘vegan’ which makes them unhealthy, it is just their situation. Nevertheless, marketing types will latch on to this and cite it as evidence of a vegan diet being intrinsically unhealthy, which is not the case of course!

That being said there are some specific dietary elements you should be fully aware of if you want to be a healthy vegan …

  • Protein – the most common question you will likely hear is “where do vegans get their protein?” and this is a bit of a running joke in the vegan community! Peas, beans, lentils, tofu, chickpeas, peanuts, almonds, potatoes, hemp seeds and many leafy green vegetables are all high in protein. Consuming a good mix of all of these foods will ensure you get enough of all the different amino acids you need for a healthy life. The myth that vegans are low in protein has been comprehensively debunked!
  • Calcium – another myth pushed heavily by the dairy industry claims vegans don’t get enough calcium. Again, this is utter nonsense. It’s those green, leafy vegetables which are once more your friends. Broccoli, cabbage, kale and spring greens,to name but a few, are high in calcium and vitamin K. Not to mention most plant-based milks are fortified with calcium. There is actually a strong body of evidence linking diets high in dairy foods to increased bone degeneration and risk of fracture! It’s due to the acidifying nature of animal protein in the body.
  • Vitamin B12 – essential for maintaining a healthy nervous system and efficient cell growth, vitamin B12 is not found in plants so this is a problem. However, there is a symbiosis between plants and micro-organisms such as propionibacterium which results in the production of vitamin B12. So, as long as you don’t wash your veg to within an inch of its life you will be ingesting B12 without even knowing it. If all else fails, there are always supplements 🙂
  • Essential Fatty Acids – I’ve explored Omega 3s extensively in a couple of other articles on my website, here and here. Along with Omega 6 and 9, these nutrients are essential for human health but don’t worry, it’s easy to include these dietary requirements into your daily life.

Other elements of a healthy vegan diet include, but are not limited to, vitamin D, zinc, iodine and iron. Vitamin D is probably the most difficult to get enough of especially in cloudy, temperate climates. A little bit of sunshine on the face goes a long way!

It is widely believed many people are lacking vitamin D, vegan or not. In fact, it is now officially recommended in many countries to supplement your diet with vitamin D as a deficiency has been linked to a whole host of conditions including depression, diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis, among many others.

 

Make The Right Choices – Live Fresh & Healthy!

Woman smiling with a red chill in between her teeth. In conclusion, if veganism ruined your health then you probably weren’t doing it right. And if you were desperately using veganism as a vehicle to make you a few extra bucks, I hope your conscience catches up with you.

There’s supremely healthy vegans and others who are less so.

It’s not simply a case of black and white. As with many things in life, there are endless shades of grey and there is no one size fits all. Not least, because everybody is different. We all have slightly different needs – although there are certain dietary components we all need to pay attention to.

 

I’d love to hear your thoughts and knowledge on the subject. I’m continuously researching and learning more about veganism every day and your input is hugely valuable. My goal is to educate and help my fellow humans live a happy vegan life. 26 years a vegetarian and 6 of those are now vegan; I’m not going back!

 

Please comment and share below and I will do my very best to respond in a timely manner 🙂

Thanks for reading and have a compassionate day.

Rohan.


This post was originally published on May 16, 2021 at 09:52 and was updated with fresh content and images on August 18, 2022 at 07:06.

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