Following a vegan diet comes with some noteworthy potential health benefits.
From possibly reducing the risk of developing some cancers to helping combat a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes, a vegan lifestyle is a popular choice for people who want to support their health. But, are there some vegan health risks that people should be aware of.
Risks of a vegan diet are simple to tackle or proactively prevent with a little know-how.
Regardless of whether a person is adopting a vegan diet for environmental, health, or moral reasons, certain steps should be taken to make sure that their bodies are getting everything that it needs to stay healthy.
Risk: Vitamin B12 Deficiency
Vitamin B12 is an important nutrient for blood cell and DNA formation, among other functions. Not getting enough of this vitamin can result in fatigue, weakness, constipation, loss of appetite, weight loss, and numbness and tingling in the hands and feet.
To prevent a vitamin b12 deficiency, taking in enough of this nutrient is needed. This can be a challenge for vegans since most food sources that contain this vitamin is not permitted on a vegan diet.
It appears that vitamin B12 deficiency is prevalent among vegan populations who do not supplement.
Solution: Focus on Vitamin B12-Rich Food
To combat this risk, eating vegan sources of vitamin B12 should be a priority. Nutritional yeast is a popular choice and can be added to dishes like pasta and avocado toast. Supplementation can be considered as well.
Risk: Not Getting Enough Protein
Focusing on more plants and eliminating meat, dairy and eggs can result in a person eating too many carbohydrates and not enough protein.
Protein is needed for everyone’s body to function properly and eliminating so many protein-rich foods can put some people at risk.
Solution: Include a Clean and High-Quality Vegan Protein Powder
Protein powder can be an excellent product to include in a vegan diet to ensure enough protein is being consumed.
Whether you choose a pea protein powder, brown rice protein, or powdered peanut butter, make sure that they are free from animal products, GMOs, and additives, like Naked Nutrition’s entire line of vegan protein powders.
Risk: Not Supporting Bone Health
When people eliminate an entire food group like dairy, they are eliminating food sources that are rich in certain important nutrients.
Calcium is a mineral that supports bone health, and dairy foods like milk, yogurt, and cheese are all excellent sources. If a person is eliminating dairy foods and not replacing them with non-dairy sources of calcium, over time, their bones may become weaker and they may be at a higher risk of bone fractures.
Solution: Include Calcium-Rich Foods That are Vegan-Friendly
Finding foods that naturally contain calcium are not hard to find. From tofu to almonds, including calcium-containing foods are simple to include.
If your intake of this important mineral is notably low, a calcium supplement can be considered. Just make sure to not take in more than 500 mg of supplemental calcium at a time to maximize absorption.
Risk: Unable to Meet Nutrition Needs While Pregnant
Certain nutrients are needed in higher amounts when a woman is eating for two. Two nutrients in particular, DHA Omega-3 fatty acid and choline, are important prenatal nutrients that primarily come from animal sources. Women who follow a vegan diet are at risk for being deficient in these nutrients.
Both DHA and choline play a role in a baby’s brain development during pregnancy. If a mother is not including adequate amounts of these nutrients in her diet, she is putting her baby at risk. DHA is most often found in fatty fish, and choline is found in liver and egg yolks.
Solution: Supplement These Nutrients Accordingly
Some women who practice a vegan lifestyle choose to include fish and eggs into her diet during the nine months that she is carrying her child. Others choose to include supplementation into their diet.
Many experts recommend a pregnant woman supplement her diet with 200 mg of DHA per day. While fish-sourced DHA is popular, algae-based options are available for those who are avoiding seafood.
Choline can easily be taken in supplement form. A woman’s needs for this nutrient increases to 450 mg/day during pregnancy, so taking a quality supplement is often necessary, vegan or otherwise.
Risk: Hair Loss
While hair loss can be associated with many factors, nutrition can certainly play a role. If a person is not getting adequate protein, zinc, or b-vitamins, they may find that their hair is not looking quite like it used to.
Hair production depends on certain nutrients, many of which may be lacking when a person is following a vegan lifestyle.
Solution: Focus on Protein, Zinc, and B Vitamins
First and foremost, if a person is experiencing hair loss, that person should have a discussion with their health care provider to make sure there is no underlying medical concern.
Your provider will likely want to know if there have been any changes in the diet. Being proactive and ensuring adequate protein is being consumed, either from food or by including a vegan protein powder into the diet, you can help move a solution in the right direction.
Focusing on zinc and B-vitamin rich foods can also help with hair loss challenges in certain cases.
Final Thoughts on the health risks of a vegan diet
Following a vegan lifestyle can be a healthy choice, but it is not without risk. Those who follow vegan guidelines eliminate certain food groups which are sources of important nutrients such as protein, DHA omega-3 fatty acids, and zinc.
Ensuring that the diet does not have gaps by including a high-quality vegan protein powder like Naked Pea, Rice, or PB powder can help ensure that enough protein is being consumed to support overall health and potentially prevent certain unwanted outcomes.