Beyoncé, Queen Bee herself, released a pretty exciting opportunity this morning where if you turn to veganism through the Greenprint project, you can win tickets to her shows for life. That’s right, from now until the end. It’s a massive opportunity, although a huge lifestyle change for some. And although most of us know the benefits of taking on the diet, lots don’t know the drawbacks of the diet and how it can potentially affect your body and life. So here I am to give you the lowdown, just in case you do decide to take the plunge, to do it the right way to prevent serious issues in the future.
#1 Heightened Amenia Risk
With Iron-deficient anemia being the most common nutritional deficiency in the world, even meat eaters are at risk, let alone those on a vegan diet. Yes, plant-based food does contain a form of iron, but this type is not easy for our bodies to absorb. This means that by not eating meat, you are not getting the iron you need which could, in turn, cause symptoms of fatigue, shortness of breath and headaches. Those who lose blood on a monthly basis (you know who you are, ladies), should be especially careful of this.
But, all is not lost. There are ways around the risk. Iron supplements are the easiest way around the issue, although some can have negative side effects. You can also increase your intake of green leafy veg, whole grains, dried fruit and even prune juice. And nope, I hadn’t exactly heard of that one either, so don’t go asking me which aisle of Woolies it’s in.
#2 Vitamin B12 Deficiency
This is a huge one for vegan’s and is all too common, unfortunately. Vitamin B12, needed for producing red blood cells, is only found in animal foods and therefore going through with the diet leaves you at a much higher risk of developing this deficiency. Problems can occur around numbness and tingling of limbs and poor memory. And we’re far too young for the latter.
One of the only reliable ways around this danger is to take high-quality supplements. You can also ensure you are using products that say ‘fortified with B12’, often found in almond milk (and other plant milks) and nutritional yeast.
#3 Decreased Zinc Absorption
A vegan diet may result in a decreased ability to absorb zinc into the body. However this time, it’s the higher consumption of plant foods that contain phytic acid that may be the cause and catalyst to the issue. On the other hand, meat actually increases zinc absorption.
It’s often recommended by nutritionists that vegans and vegetarians increase their zinc intake by up to 50% to ensure the body absorbs adequate levels to keep their health in good condition. Of course, supplements are always an option but finding the vitamin-rich foods is always better for your body. Zinc can be found in legumes such as lentils and chickpeas, seeds and whole grains.
#4 Lack Of Vitamin A
Another deficiency and another barrier. Vitamin A is found in both plant and animal based food, however, is much easier for our bodies to use when we consume it through animal products. The body has to work harder to convert Vitamin A from plant-based food and therefore your body needs a lot more of it.
Studies on Vitamin A have shown that supplements aren’t great at increasing our body’s supply, so making an effort to eat more A-rich foods may be the only answer when following a vegan diet. Vegetables that contain a lot of the stuff are sweet potato, pumpkin, carrot, and apricots, among others.
Switching to a vegan diet is definitely not as easy as it says on the tin, and requires careful planning as well as research into what’s best for your body. Everybody will react differently to it. It’s not ‘failing’ if you need to eat an egg or a bit of cheese every week just to keep your body healthy, and that’s exactly what Greenprint is all about. If you’re thinking of switching, try phasing into the diet with one or two plant-based meals a day. Trust me, Beyoncé will be proud of you whatever you or your body decides to do.