Some time ago I did wrote a very comprehensive review about the documentary The Game Changers. Before we continue with this article I want to emphasize once again that I have absolutely nothing against vegans, or a vegan lifestyle. As you can read in the Game Changers review, I will only discuss substantive points; you will not see me make any value judgment, not even in this article.
Speaking of this article, the scope of this will focus more on the considerations that you can / should make when you still want to switch to a vegan lifestyle from your current non-vegan lifestyle.
Perhaps because of the idea that it will benefit your health, perhaps because of animal suffering or the idea that you are helping the environment, perhaps purely out of curiosity. None of these reasons are the wrong motivation for wanting to take this step, but it is good to realize that such a lifestyle is potentially inferior when it comes to results and perhaps even to health.
Take into account potential shortcomings
This article will explore the potential shortcomings of a vegan diet, especially when it comes to optimum and maximum results.
First of all, it is good to have a moment of clarity about what this change in lifestyle means; I will not have to explain where they are being changed: A vegan lifestyle. However, from where changes are made is extremely important.
Someone who uses an average Western diet and makes a switch to a vegan diet with many plants, vegetables, unsaturated fats and not so much processed food will certainly experience a positive change in health.
However, both physically and certainly also mentally, imposing restrictions is not necessarily positive; that is not to say that a diet cannot work, but freedom of choice is something that many people find very important. Whether that freedom of choice is limited by income, by a partner who is bossy, or by dietary rules that you impose on yourself makes little difference.
In addition, I would also like to say that it is certainly possible to get all essential foods from vegetable sources. However, where the shoe is going to wring is whether it is possible to obtain all essential foods in optimum quantities from vegetable sources.
The 8 biggest pitfalls with a vegan diet
That said, I'd like to start with the biggest pitfalls of a vegan diet in my eyes when it comes to optimizing progression. As far as possible, I also want to immediately provide the solution for the vegans among us.
This water-soluble vitamin has an extensive role in our body in the healthy functioning of red blood cells, nerve cells, and the synthesis of DNA.
The main dietary sources of vitamin B12 are beef (liver), meat, eggs, tuna and some types of dairy.
In addition, some foods contain added vitamin B12 and can vitamin B12 be added to the diet through supplementation.
This important mineral has various functions in our body, the most important of which is the transport of oxygen (red blood cells). In addition fulfills iron also a role as part of some proteins and enzymes.
Iron comes in various forms in our diet, namely heme and non-heme iron. Heme iron is absorbed most efficiently of these two (~ 25% compared to 1 to 10% for non-heme iron) and is only found in animal products. Heme iron is mainly found in meat, chicken and also in fish.
The addition of vitamin C can slightly improve your uptake of (non-heme) iron, while phytate, polyphenols and calcium can reduce uptake.
Essential amino acids
The essential amino acids are the amino acids that the body cannot synthesize itself but must absorb from food.
A diet that is completely vegetable has two problems when it comes to proteins; the first problem is that it can be very difficult to get enough protein, especially if there is a calorie restriction on the diet. In addition, the amino acid composition of most vegetable sources is a lot less favorable than the amino acid composition of animal proteins.
Animal protein sources usually contain all amino acids and also in correct or almost correct ratios. Bee vegetable proteins this does not always have to be the case. It is certainly possible to combine different plant foods to achieve a complete amino acid profile, this will quickly make a big dent in your calorie intake.
As said, the goal is very important here; if you just want some results, you want to feel a little healthier and maybe want to build up some muscle mass, this is of course a lot less important than if you want to go for maximum muscle growth.
Fortunately, there are many options nowadays when it comes to vegan-based protein powders.
Essential fatty acids
These are the fats that you need to get through your diet, because the body cannot make them themselves. Just like with the essential amino acids. EPA / DHA (Omega 3) should take the body out of the diet. There are certainly plant forms, such as ALA, that can be converted to some extent into EPA and DHA, but this will only happen sparsely. For that reason, it is recommended to get these fatty acids through the diet, for example in the form of fatty fish.
Nowadays there are supplements based on algae that can achieve this in a vegan-friendly way.
Zinc is a trace element that plays a major role in many different enzymes involved in the metabolism; for example in the construction of proteins.
Zinc is mainly found in animal products, such as (red) meat and cheese, but also in fish. You can also get some zinc through nuts and grains, but with a vegan lifestyle it may be wise to supplement zinc. Be careful with overdosing; a long-term surplus of zinc can cause a buyer shortage.
Iodine is of great importance for a functioning thyroid gland. When the thyroid gland is not functioning properly, this has a negative effect on the metabolism, but also on growth.
Iodine is naturally found in sea fish, seaweed, eggs, dairy, and cranberries, but is also added to table salt, bread and some cold cuts.
It is generally advisable for everyone, including non-vegans, to monitor their iodine intake. However, if you delete half of the foods as an option, you need extra attention.
Vitamin D is needed to absorb calcium and therefore important for healthy bones and teeth. Furthermore, vitamin D has a function of the immune system and the functioning of muscles.
As almost everyone knows there is a very good vegan source of vitamin D, namely sunlight. In today's society, people often do not go out much, and certainly in the fall and winter the amount of sunlight can be somewhat limited anyway. In addition, people with tinted skin color have a greater risk of deficiency.
The advice for, among others, the elderly and pregnant women is on vitamin D to supplement, but also for vegans the extra supplementation of vitamin D does not hurt. Vitamin D is in fact in fatty fish and also somewhat in meat and eggs. In addition, vitamin D is often added to foods such as some types of milk, butter and baking and roasting products.
Calcium occurs in a huge number of foods, but given the importance of vitamin D in its absorption and the removal of one of the main sources of calcium (dairy), it may be wise for vegans to be aware of their calcium intake.
Calcium is especially important for the construction of bones and teeth. When no dairy products are consumed at all, the nutrition center warns of an increased risk of a shortage.
Not on this list?
Of course there are many, many more nutrients that might be interesting to keep an eye on. As indicated at the beginning of this article, the imposition of restrictions can lead to consequences. If you completely remove such an enormous food group as 'animal' from your diet, the chances are high / almost unavoidable that you will get less from many substances. For this reason, as a vegan, you will need to be more aware of your dietary intake to ensure that you get enough of everything for optimal functioning of the body.
It goes without saying that supplementing nutrients can offer a solution, but that when using supplements the risk of overdosing is many times higher than when obtaining these nutrients from food.
So be careful with the frequency and quantities that you use, if you want to use supplements to supplement any deficits.
The choice of whether or not to eat vegan is one that everyone must make for themselves (and luckily may!). I hope this article provides some clarity for those who may want to become vegan, or who are vegan but want to optimize their results.
I maintain my view that when maximum results are the goal, the deletion of options is not the way to go especially if the deleted choice can provide so many high quality nutrients.
However, that does not mean that a vegan cannot achieve good results! However, you will have to work much more precisely.