A strict vegan diet is one that excludes all forms of animal protein, including eggs, dairy products and any foodstuff derived from animals. There are pros and cons of vegan eating plans, some of which are related to your health and nutritional status.
Here's a look at health-related pros and cons.
Reduced Risk of Heart Disease
Several well-respected and well-known cardiologists recommend a vegan diet over the standard American diet, which is based on animal fat and animal protein. There is evidence that a low-fat plant-based diet may not only prevent, but actually reverse cardiovascular disease, although the process of how this works is unclear. It is known that high meat diets and high fat diets contribute to high cholesterol in the bloodstream, a risk factor for heart disease.
Reduced Risk of Type II Diabetes
The reduced risk of type II diabetes could be associated with a lower body weight, lower body fat, better blood glucose control or an increased intake of phytochemicals (compounds found only in plants) known to be beneficial for diabetes. It is likely that all of those factors combine to lower the risk.
Reduced Risk of Certain Kinds of Cancer
Certain types of cancer, such as colon cancer, are related to high meat consumption. Vegans usually get large amounts of fiber and a high fiber diet is associated with a reduced risk of colon cancer.
Chronic inflammation plays a role in all forms of cancer. Natural anti-inflammatories, most of which are found only in plant foods, fights this kind of chronic inflammation. In addition, increased intake of fruits and vegetables is accompanied by improved antioxidant status. Antioxidants prevent and help to reverse the free radical damage that plays a role in cancer development and progress.
Reduced Risk of Obesity
Although a vegan diet could be high in fat and high in calories, it is pretty difficult to consume enough calories to be overweight or obese by consuming plant foods alone. These foods are inherently low in calories and high in fiber. Fiber fills you up, but is not a significant source of calories.
Increased Risk of B12 Deficiency
Most experts agree that B12 supplementation is necessary for anyone following a strict vegan diet. B12 is an essential nutrient but is not found naturally in plant foods that have been washed properly. B12 is produced by bacteria. Meats and meat products contain it because the animal's food contains B12-producing bacteria. A lack of B12 can cause anemia, nerve damage and other health problems. B12 supplements are not derived from animal products. They are derived from laboratory-grown bacteria.
Increased Risk of Calcium Deficiency
Without there are enough dark leafy greens and / or other sources of calcium in the diet, there is an increased risk of calcium deficiency. Vegans must carefully plan their diets, take a supplement or choose calcium fortified foods to avoid this deficiency.
Calcium deficiencies increase the risk of osteoporosis, an age-related condition in which the bones become brittle and break very easily.
Increased Risk of DHA and EPA Deficiency
DHA and EPA are essential omega-3 fatty acids. There are no vegan dietary sources of the fatty acids. They are primarily in fatty fish. The body can produce the two from ALA, the omega-3 found in plant oils, but the process is a long and complex one. Research has shown that supplementation with ALA does not increase circulating blood levels of DHA in vegans. DHA is essential for normal brain function.
A lack of the nutrient can cause depression, learning difficulties, memory problems and other issues. Fish oil supplements provide both DHA and EPA. The vegan alternative to fish oil is marine algae, which is what fish eat and why their fat contains DHA.
Increased Risk of Amino Acid Deficiency
Most plant-based proteins are incomplete, meaning they do not provide all of the amino acids essential for humans. Soy is the only complete protein in the plant world. Tofu, tempeh and other soy-based products need to be included in the diet to get complete protein from a single food. This makes it difficult for a person with soy allergy to follow a strict vegan diet and is one of the reasons that many choose a less strict form of the diet that allows for fish consumption.
Other alternatives to prevent amino acid deficiency include food-combining and taking a dietary supplement that contains the missing amino acids. Food-combining refer to eating two different plant-foods, one providing the amino acids missing from the other. Beans and rice is a common example of a dish that provides complete protein, because rice contains the amino acids missing from beans.
Some of the better multi-nutritional supplements contain a variety of amino acids, along with the other nutrients that may be missing from a vegan diet. Taking a supplement is the easiest way to insure that you get the pros of the eating plan, but not the cons.