The Problem With Vegan Diet
Continue to stay off milk and milk products. Milk is inflammatory and has been linked to certain types of cancers
Photo Credit : Reuters,
Every few days, someone or the other asks me if I promote veganism and my answer is a firm No. Why? Because veganism is neither practical, nor complete from the body’s needs perspective, especially if the objective is less fatigue in a stressed out world. All the studies done on veganism compare it to meat eater diets, which means red meats like pork, beef, lamb, so naturally veganism has benefits over these meat and potato diet followers. There has never been a study on veganism versus Ovo-vegetarians (egg eaters who consume a lot of green leafy vegetables and fruits) done, but in my practice I have seen Ovo-vegetarians recover faster from fatigue, cancer and pain-related diseases.
However, on its own veganism can cause the following health issues:
Chronic Fatigue: A lot of vegans (including those part of vegan groups!) have come to me with severe chronic fatigue because the good proteins required by their muscles to eliminate fatigue are missing from the their diets. This leads to muscle fatigue and you end up feeling tired even after 8 hours of good sleep.
Low testosterone: The fat in fish oil, eggs and lean meats such as chicken and fish increases testosterone levels. Vegans eat none of this and hence are deficit. Low testosterone is linked to depression and anxiety in men.
High uric acid. Since vegans rely on lentils and pulses for their protein intake, which have high purine levels, many vegans have high uric acid and some also complain of bone pain even if the uric acid is normal. This is because in people with any internal inflammation (which may not have been diagnosed), lentils and pulses in excess cause unexplained pain.
Mental fuzziness. Vegan diets do not contain healthy omega 3s which keep the brain sharp, moods in order and inflammation in check. The plant-based omega 3s are often accompanied by omega 6 but these should be converted to DHA and EPA before the body can use them and our bodies are not good at converting these. Hence, while flaxseeds are touted as the vegan Omega 3s, you need a very high quantity to convert them to good fats inside the body. This means high oil consumption, which is ultimately high in calories too and without the fish oil omega 3 benefits.
Over-consumption of soy. Since soy is a good, lean plant-based protein, many vegans overdo it. While soy is good in moderation, over eating soy has shown hormonal issues and thyroid disorders, leading to hypothyroidism, weight gain and fatigue.
So what does the balanced diet look like? A revised vegan diet combining good proteins can come to the rescue and give you balanced nutrition. Here are some tips:
Combine veganism with eggs. Eggs (with the yellow) are a complete protein, rich in vitamin D and B12, which most urban Indians are deficit in. And egg yellow does not cause high cholesterol. I have tested this myself as well with my patients and with my own eating habits.
Continue to stay off milk and milk products. Milk is inflammatory and has been linked to certain types of cancers. Cheese is processed, and now raw cheeses are under the scanner as some have been found to contain E. coli bacteria, which is very difficult to treat. Yoghurt is the only good by product, hence consume this in moderation.
Add oily fish. Rich in omega 3s DHA and EPA, oily fish like tuna, mackerel, sardines, rawas, salmon, sea betki, anchovies help our bones and brains stay healthy.
Continue to yield the benefits of veganism by eating more raw foods, but combining them with lean proteins gives you the real balance to ward off chronic fatigue, stress and other lifestyle issues.