Are you thinking of going vegan/vegetarian?
Or maybe you’re just interested in whether this diet is as healthy as people say?
In this post I’m going to explore some of the pros and cons of a vegan/vegetarian diet.
My goal here is not to tell anyone what to do—you’re an adult after all—but just to help give you all the information you need to make an informed decision. I also want to give you a view of vegan diets that you might not have considered before.
With that said, here are the pros and cons of a vegan diet:
Vegan Diet Pros
Here are some of the benefits of eating a vegan diet:
For most average people, a vegan diet represents a major diet upgrade.
“Eat more fruits and vegetables.”
It’s common diet advice, and for good reason.
Fruits and vegetables are some of the healthiest foods out there. They are rich in fiber, antioxidants, and many important vitamins. They’re also low in toxins and calories compared to processed foods, which means that the more produce you eat the less crap you are liable to get in your diet.
And if you’re a vegan or vegetarian, you presumably will eat a lot more fruits and vegetables.
Which is a good thing!
Eating vegan or vegetarian will probably reduce your risk of disease.
Because of the benefit I just said, vegan/vegetarian diets will probably reduce your risk of disease through one or more of these health upgrades:
- Lowered cholesterol
- Lowered blood pressure
- Increased intake of antioxidants, (some) vitamins, & fiber
Which, once again, is a good thing.
Vegan diets force you to avoid processed crap.
It’s hard to say what is more beneficial about eating vegan:
Getting MORE vitamins, fiber, etc. from increased fruits & veggies…
Or getting LESS crap from processed foods.
I’m leaning toward the latter.
Now keep in mind there are still some crappy vegan foods out there.
Some processed foods are technically “vegan” but still contain unhealthy vegetable oils and so on.
But in general, eating vegan will help you to avoid a lot of the processed crap out there (simply because a lot of that crap has meat or animal products in it).
Vegan Diet Cons
Here are some of the downsides of eating a vegan diet:
Vegan diet promotes several nutrient deficiencies.
While a diet rich in fruits & vegetables is going to be rich in nutrients, there are a few vitamins and minerals that are difficult to get through plant sources alone.
There are some nutrients that are more prevalent in meat sources (and some nutrients are more bioavailable when getting them from meat sources).
A few of them include:
- B vitamins (if I were vegan I would absolutely take a B complex every day)
- Vitamin D
Finally, some vegans find it difficult to get enough calories in general! This is because fruits & veggies are not very calorie-dense, so you have to make sure to eat enough nuts/seeds/grains etc.
Vegan diets are difficult to stick to.
I eat a pretty strict diet. I usually track my calories and macros, I avoid processed food as much as possible, I eat mostly organic food and grass-fed beef, and I make sure to get a variety of different nutrients through my diet.
But that’s still not as strict or restrictive as a vegan diet.
Avoiding all animal foods is tough. It can turn simple daily events (like eating out at a restaurant) to become more difficult and stressful than they need to be.
Vegan diets are low in protein.
Can you get enough protein on a vegan diet?
In fact there are several notable professional athletes and fitness pros who have achieved or maintained an outstanding level of fitness while on a vegan diet (such as NFL running back Arian Foster).
However, they are probably the exception to the rule.
In order to get enough protein on a vegan diet, you have to make a focused and sustained effort to seek out protein sources.
This can be hard to sustain over time.
Also, the vast majority of vegan protein sources are incomplete proteins (meaning they do not have all the essential amino acids).
Hardcore vegan advocates will point out that there are ways for vegans to get complete proteins, and I don’t disagree.
But it doesn’t change the fact that MOST vegan foods are incomplete proteins, and getting enough complete protein as a vegan/vegetarian is much more difficult than it is for a meat eater.
Is Meat Bad For You?
Up till now I’ve talked about vegan diets helping you to avoid eating processed crap…
But what about meat in general?
And more specifically, red meat?
This is still a controversial topic, and I don’t think there’s a clear answer. But my opinion on the matter, after LOTS of reading and research, is this:
- Eating charred red meat is bad for you. (Carcinogenic)
- Eating processed red meat is bad for you.
- Eating healthy, organic, grass-fed beef in moderation is fine and even has some health benefits.
Pretty much everyone agrees with 1 and 2, while 3 might be a little more controversial depending on who you ask.
But guess what?
If you don’t think red meat is healthy, you can always avoid it.
Just eat fish instead.
The “Vegan Trap”
No discussion of vegan diet pros and cons would be complete without mentioning what I like to call the “vegan trap.”
The vegan trap is where a person switches to a vegan diet…
…and they immediately feel GREAT.
They have more energy and focus and less lethargy and brain fog.
And they rightly assume that the diet is responsible for this great feeling.
They believe that they have stumbled onto the holy grail of diets.
But then over time, those health benefits don’t last.
In fact, they start to experience low energy and lethargy again as the weeks and months roll by.
Why does this happen?
When they first switch to the vegan diet, it represents a big diet upgrade. They are consuming more vitamins & antioxidants, more fiber, fewer processed toxins, and fewer calories. Their blood sugar is more stable.
All these things make them feel good!
But over time, the deficiencies of a vegan diet (which I list above) begin to wear on the person.
Over time, their body starts to become depleted of B vitamins, iron, protein, and so on.
And that leads them to feel tired and/or sick.
But here’s the kicker:
They never blame their diet, because they still think they have found the holy grail of diets.
The diet made them feel so good when they started it that they are reluctant to blame it for their health problems down the line.
The Ethics of Being A Vegan or Vegetarian
Health is only part of the picture. A lot of people want to be vegan or vegetarian for more ethical reasons.
Specifically, they are (1) protesting the poor treatment of animals, and/or (2) trying to eat in a more sustainable way.
And those are both GREAT things.
But in my opinion, you can achieve both of those things without being vegan.
In fact, in my opinion you can achieve them even better without being vegan.
The only way you’re ever going to change things is by voting with your wallet.
Money is the only thing that food companies are going to listen to.
If you don’t buy that heavily processed food (which vegans don’t), then you are voting with your wallet by not supporting those jerks.
But you could take it one step further by actively supporting—with your wallet—the companies that DO treat animals well. That DO provide food in a sustainable fashion.
Companies like US Wellness Meats that treat their animals well.
That’s just my two cents on the matter.
The Bottom Line…
As you can see, I am personally not a big fan of vegan or vegetarian diets.
I believe you can achieve better health, AND still support the ethical treatment of animals and sustainable food practices while eating meat.
Earlier in this article I said that I believe the biggest health benefit from eating vegan comes from NOT eating processed crap.
And guess what?
You can still do that as a meat-eater!
Just make a point to avoid processed foods and eat a moderate amount of meat that is organic, healthy, ethically raised, etc.
It seems to me that this will give you the best of both worlds: you’ll be eating a nutritionally complete diet while helping to make the world a better place.