There are many roads to wellness. For some of us, it is a purely vegan diet. A 30-year study in Japan showed that over 600 Okinawan centenarians are able to prolong their life through a low-calorie diet of fiber-rich fruits and vegetables, soy and unrefined complex carbohydrates. Studies found that eliminating meat from our diet can prevent and even reverse heart disease and lower our risk to cancer. It is also found to keep our weight down by eliminating bad cholesterol that is killing us slowly, adding more years to our life as a result.
So, does this mean that everyone should start going vegan?
Well, like all other diets, vegetarianism is not for everyone. This is because a pure plant-based diet has its problems too.
Critical vitamins and minerals could not be adequately consumed by going purely vegan…
One of the biggest concerns regarding a strict and long-term pure plant-based diet is that we could be missing on some essential vitamins and minerals, such as:
Vitamin A – This is directly found in animal products, such as dairy, eggs, meat and fish. Yes, it can also be found in fruits and vegetables, but the vitamin A found in plant products must be first converted by the body to its usable form. The conversion process requires bile salts that our liver produced when we consume fat.
B12 – This nutrient plays a key role in the normal functioning of our brain and nervous system. It is never found in fruits and vegetables. Clams, liver, meat, fish, eggs, milk and other dairy products are among its best sources.
Vitamin D – This is another essential nutrient that can only be found in animal products, such as shrimp, salmon, sardines and cod liver oil. It can also be obtained from the sun, but many of us don’t have at least 15 minutes a day for healthy sun exposure.
Then there’s also the ethical and environmental problems…
Some people switched to a plant-based diet to show their support against the slaughter of animals, while others do so because it is what everybody else are doing. But here’s a fact, a purely vegetarian diet has its environmental and ethical issues too.
Take for example almond milk, now a popular alternative to dairy milk. While industry-scale dairy production can get quite nasty, almond milk production can be impractical and unsustainable too. In his July 2014 column in Mother Jones, Maverick Farm cofounder Tom Philpott pointed out that during the recent drought in California, farmers continued to buy over 8 million almond trees. This is notwithstanding the fact that almond tree takes a gallon of water to produce one almond. Philpott also argued that when vegan milk becomes trendy, it poses an environmental threat – such as the planting of more almond trees in California, which can be detrimental to other crops and the eco-balance.
So, the next you start a new diet, make sure you consider its pros and cons first.