A vegan diet completely avoids animal foods. Convinced vegans argue, among other things, that there are health benefits. However, these should be viewed critically. From an ethical and ecological perspective, however, it is advantageous to reduce animal foods somewhat. If you follow a vegan diet for these reasons, you should take a few things into account, as the risk of a nutrient deficiency is relatively high. However, if you consciously deal with it, you can live well without animal foods. However, this form of nutrition should under no circumstances be considered for small children and babies.

What is vegan nutrition?

A vegan diet is a diet in which you completely avoid animal-based foods: meat, fish, eggs, dairy products and even honey are taboo here. Instead, you focus on eating plants.

In our society, the nutritional trend of being vegan or vegetarian is increasing significantly. For ecological, ethical and health reasons, more and more people want to partially or completely eliminate animal products from their diet.

Is a vegan diet healthy?

It is a myth that consuming animal foods is inherently bad and unhealthy and a vegan diet solves all problems. Studies are often cited that are supposed to prove that meat promotes cancer and makes people sick. Unfortunately, these studies do not differentiate, because there is a difference between eating cheap meat from factory farming and processed sausage products and eating beef from species-appropriate pasture-raised animals.

The same applies conversely to a purely plant-based lifestyle: those who increasingly use natural and fresh organic foods naturally have many health benefits. However, vegan meat substitutes and all other processed foods are inflammatory.

Among other things, because they are way too much Omega-6 fatty acids as well as trans fats and the anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids are missing.

Does this make a vegan diet unhealthy?

However, a vegan diet can be healthy if you take certain factors into account. On the one hand, it depends on individual genetics and that Microbiome dependent. Someone with Nordic roots is usually more suited to a diet consisting of animal proteins (fish, meat, eggs), whereas people with ancestors closer to the equator also do relatively well with an increased plant-based diet.

Can a vegan diet cause nutrient deficiencies?

This question can be clearly answered with “yes”. The main problem is the intake of sufficient vitamin B 12, iron and omega-3 fatty acids. Although there are plant-based foods, such as cereal bran, which have a high iron and vitamin B 12 content, such plants also contain Antinutrients that simultaneously prevent the absorption or binding of these micronutrients in the human intestine.

This means that little of these nutrients reach the body. Vitamin D3 is also found more in animal foods. However, this vitamin is most efficiently absorbed by staying in the sun every day (lightly clothed for 1 hour), which is why a vegan diet is not a limiting factor here.

The omega-3 fatty acids are actually rather difficult to absorb in sufficient form. Linseed oil, walnut oil and hemp oil are recommended sources, but the bioavailability is not as good as, for example, fish oil.

Above all, they are also essential amino acids important because these are primarily found in high doses in protein-rich meat. Quinoa, for example, has a very good amino acid profile and some nuts also contain good proteins. The problem, however, is that if you want to get the same net amount of protein as, for example, 100g of steak, you have to eat so much of it that you consume 2-4x as many calories. This doesn't make things so easy.

Benefits of the vegan diet

Switching to a vegan diet can bring many advantages, especially if you previously ate more processed sausages and didn't eat enough vegetables. By eating more plants, you can easily increase your intake of fiber, fruits and vegetables. Above all, a vegan diet has benefits for the environment and also for wildlife. Because of course this suffers from factory farming. From an ecological point of view, this also has a very negative impact. It can also be good for the intestines to consume more plant-based foods, at least for a limited period of time, as these can also support the intestinal mucosa, as long as they do not contain grains containing gluten or an excess of legumes.

Disadvantages of the vegan diet

The disadvantages of a vegan diet largely relate to the topic mentioned above: Macro and micronutrient deficiencies can be the result of an untargeted vegan diet. There is a lack of vitamin B 12, omega-3 fatty acids, bioavailable protein and amino acids and, accordingly, the release of these Neurotransmitters Acetylcholine and dopamine. That too Structural protein collagen , which ensures healthy bones, tissue, hair, nails and muscles, can hardly be absorbed through a purely plant-based diet.

However, as an adult, these things can be solved with the right approach. This includes, among other things, a regular visit to the doctor, during which the important micronutrients mentioned are checked. If these are too low, the doctor or alternative practitioner can offer solutions without you having to go back to eating meat.

Vegan diet during pregnancy

It is not recommended to live a vegan lifestyle during pregnancy. This is where the above-mentioned micronutrients, fatty acids and amino acids are very essential for the development of the unborn child. In any case, you should consult a doctor who is familiar with the subject and can make recommendations and, if necessary, supplementation of such nutrients or even infusions. Iron deficiency is a common side effect of pregnancy.

Feeding a newborn or small child vegan is not a promising idea. The B vitamins and other nutrients contained in animal foods are essential for brain development.

There have already been enough cases of irreversible brain damage in small children because they were fed a vegan diet from the start. Veganism is not for small children, because a vitamin B12 deficiency is dangerous! Here, too, you should speak to a doctor.

Lose weight through a vegan diet

You cannot lose weight through a vegan diet alone. Every diet is about eating the right thing and the right amount of it. Even with veganism, you can consume an excess of calories from processed foods, trans fats and sugar.

Overconsumption of sugar and wheat as well as processed fats combined with lack of exercise are the main causes of overweight and obesity.

All 4 points are not excluded by a vegan diet. However, it is often seen that with the trend of veganism or the change in diet a more conscious lifestyle is being developed and that there are some people who eat more fresh vegetables and more natural foods as a result. However, this is just as possible with a mixed diet.

So you can lose weight through a vegan diet, but veganism is not the main factor. You should eat a lot more protein and fiber-rich foods and eat lots of vegetables, natural fats and more complex carbohydrates. The general elimination of cow's milk products, sugar, soy, processed foods, trans fats and gluten is also an important factor for losing weight - as is getting enough exercise.

Vegan diet and sport

Since sufficient high-quality protein is crucial for building muscle, combining exercise and veganism is often challenging, but not impossible. Here too, you have to find solutions for consuming more protein; additional shakes are unavoidable here.

Finally, the following can be said about veganism: A vegan diet is certainly possible, but it should be practiced smartly, taking a few factors into account.

Ines Schulz
Ines Maria Schulz, born on December 1st, 1992 in Basel, Switzerland, also completed her Master of Education in Biology and WAH there, laying the foundation for the understanding of physiology and anatomy as well as nutrition. She is also a trained primary school sports teacher. For two years she has been a coach at MTM Personal Training, the most successful personal training studio in Berlin. There she supports customers every day who want to exploit their maximum potential in terms of mental and physical health and performance. In cooperation with doctors like Dr. Dominik Nischwitz and a laboratory for intestinal health as well as the constant exchange within the team, she can provide her customers with optimal advice about training, nutrition, micronutrients and lifestyle. She has already written a breakfast book and a large part of a lifestyle booklet for MTM. She also writes the weekly newsletter, which publishes nutritional tips and recipes she has created. Ines has completed seminars and certificates with a variety of successful coaches and specialists and is constantly expanding her skills. The young trainer has been writing blog articles for Supz Nutrition since January 2019.

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