Moving to a plant-based diet is a dramatic and exciting lifestyle change that adds another level of awareness to your existence. But going vegan isn’t just a shift away from animal products and embracing a healthier eating pattern. Side effects from a strict vegan diet can be expected. To successfully adopt this new lifestyle, it is critical to understand possible changes and the reasons for any physical symptoms.
Going vegan can have significant side effects, ranging from initial vegan detox symptoms to more serious nutritional deficiencies. Fortunately, this is not a new path, and many are reaping the health benefits of this dietary change. There is plenty of inspiration available to motivate new vegans.
Converting to a new healthy eating pattern by becoming vegan can be tricky. After all, you want the health benefits of eliminating animal products from your diet while avoiding nutritional deficiencies. So let’s explore some common side effects of a vegan diet and how to ensure that you radiate good health throughout your journey to this plant-based diet.
Top Vegan Side Effects
There has been a lot of misinformation about moving to plant-based foods. If you are new to being vegan, prepare yourself for some quite defensive reactions from meat-eaters. However, the evidence is clear that following a vegan diet has enormous health benefits if you prepare correctly and eat mindfully.
- “Quite simply, the more you substitute plant foods for animal foods, the healthier you are likely to be. I now consider veganism to be the ideal diet. A vegan diet – particularly one that is low in fat – will substantially reduce disease risks. Plus, we’ve seen no disadvantages from veganism.”
[Dr. T. Colin Campbell – https://nutritionstudies.org/ ]
- “Some people think the ‘vegan diet’ is extreme. Half a million people a year will have their chests opened up and a vein taken from their leg and sewn onto their coronary artery. Some people would call that extreme.”
[Caldwell Esselstyn, M.D. https://www.azquotes.com/author/35524-Caldwell_Esselstyn ]
- “Hands down, eating a plant-based diet provides the most nutrients per calorie, including many phytonutrients that cannot be obtained through meat, poultry and dairy. Fiber accompanies plants, not meats. Cancer and heart disease-fighting nutrients are found in plants, not meats. Anti-inflammatory nutrients are found in plants, not meats”.
On the other hand, some nutritionists are not sure about the health benefits of embracing a vegan diet. Most of us were raised consuming animal-based products, so making a successful transition must be done carefully to avoid dietary deficiencies.
- ‘A B12 deficiency can make you depressed, cause memory loss, and just gives you the blues.’
Lorraine Kearney – Nutritionist: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-5168823/Dangers-vegan-diet.html
- “Due to the restricted nature of the vegan diet there is a high risk of deficiency in a number of nutrients, including iron, B12, calcium, vitamin D, and omega-3 fatty acids. A number of these nutrients are found in rich quantities in animal products, fatty fish, and dairy.”
[Alicia Romano – Registered dietitian: https://www.technologynetworks.com/applied-sciences/articles/debunked-vegan-diets-and-health-329460 ]
Experts conclude that switching to a plant-based diet can be extremely healthy if it is done with some planning. However, simply cutting out animal products and finding other ways to feel full may cause weight gain and nutritional deficiencies.
It is critical to know and understand the side effects of a vegan diet to avoid adverse side effects and reap the bountiful health benefits. These are some common side effects of switching to a plant-based diet.
Lack Of Energy Or Fatigue
Vitamin B12 is a tricky nutrient for the body to hang on to because it cannot be stored, and when your body doesn’t get the supply it needs, it results in a lack of energy. This vitamin is found in eggs, fish, poultry, and cheese.
An easy way to manage this situation is to take a Vitamin B12 supplement each day.
It is natural to think that cutting out animal fats will lose weight. This is often the case, but it does also happen that protein sources are replaced with carbs, or processed foods, resulting in a weight increase. These foods are often highly processed and low in fiber, so switching to a vegan diet that is not done correctly does not naturally equate to a healthier diet.
The solution is to remain mindful of what you eat and plan your grocery list. In addition, refined carbs should be replaced with complex carbohydrates like oats and brown rice. These will provide more fiber, but they will also make you feel fuller for longer.
Vegetables are generally very healthy, and beans are a great source of protein, but some people experience digestive tract discomfort when consumed in excess. As a result, they can feel bloated, gassy, or need to use the bathroom more frequently.
One of the best ways to negate this is to cook vegetables and increase your vegetable intake slowly. Beans are brilliant but don’t eat them at every meal if you are prone to digestive issues.
A decline in omega-3 fatty acids in a plant-based diet can increase the risk of depression. This vital nutrient is usually obtained from fatty fish like salmon and tuna, so it is good to anticipate this challenge when moving to a vegan diet.
Fortunately, nature has provided everything needed for a perfectly balanced vegan diet. Omega 3 can be found in chia seeds, Brussel sprouts, walnuts, and flaxseed. So there is no need to feel blue while doing the right thing for your health and the world – ensure that you are getting enough of the proper nutrients.
You are only human, and moving to a plant-based diet is not always easy. When switching to a vegan diet, there will be times when you start feeling uncharacteristic cravings for particular foods. After all, we can’t simply forget the taste and texture of foods that we might have been raised on. Cravings tend to be especially challenging in the first 3 weeks after becoming vegan, and once your system has detoxed, they do become less.
Anticipate cravings and have something on hand to counter them as soon as possible. You probably won’t feel like whatever you are craving as much if you have had a satisfying meal or delicious vegan snack on hand. In addition, vegan alternatives exist for most cheat foods, so you don’t have to feel deprived.
It is not just vegans that can experience iron deficiency, leading to anemia. Plant-based foods do contain iron, but it is not in an as available form, so they may require a slightly higher iron intake to meet the recommended daily requirements.
A great source of iron for vegans is legumes, tofu, spinach, and fortified cereals.
One of the most frequent sources of protein for vegans is soy. Processed soy products are enjoyed in forms ranging from soy milk to tofu. However, it contains phytoestrogens which share some characteristics with estrogens. So consuming more than the recommended amount can cause hormonal imbalances, like changes in the menstrual cycle or acne.
To avoid or counter this side effect, try to limit your soy consumption and don’t become too heavily dependent on it.
One of the more common effects of going vegan is changes in sleeping patterns. There could be several reasons for this, including stress or the effects of detoxing, but other possible culprits might be a lack of Vitamin B12 or Omega 3 fatty acids. A lack of these vitamins and some minerals like zinc, calcium, and iron can have various effects, one of which is a disruption of sleep patterns.
Ensuring that your food is balanced and getting into a regular sleep pattern is essential. Also, check for vegan foods that are fortified.
Hyper awareness about nutrition intake can sometimes lead to obsession and eating disorders. It has probably become a habit if you have adequately prepared and read all the foods’ labels regularly to maintain a healthy diet. This can be an excellent trait unless it goes too far and you scrutinize each calorie and restrict yourself.
This can be extremely dangerous, so if you find yourself obsessed with a restrictive diet, you should work with a therapist or nutritionist to find a way forward to healthy living.
Vegan Diet Advice From Professionals
Switching to plant-based eating is gaining momentum, and those who have been vegan for a while have valuable tips to share. From Beyoncé to Bill Clinton, they all agree that the move to a vegan lifestyle has brought significant health benefits. Still, it is not something that can be embarked upon haphazardly. Here are some tips from professionals about successfully transitioning from consuming animal products to a strict vegan diet.
- “Be open to trying new food.”
This is the advice of Sarah B, whose My New Roots offers some fabulous vegan recipes that will keep you excited about food.
- “My number one tip is to focus on substitution rather than elimination.”
[Taylor Wolfram – registered dietitian nutritionist]
Instead of focusing on removing particular foods from your diet, see it as an opportunity to replace animal-based foods with healthy alternatives. For example, you don’t have to eliminate ice cream from your diet; you have to choose a delicious plant-based variety.
- “Avoid sodium and sugar-laden vegan foods.’ – [Maggie Michalczyk – registered dietitian] Remember that just because a food is labeled vegan, it is not necessarily healthy.
- Go at your own pace. There is no rush to a sudden end mark, and you have not failed if you move slowly towards a plant-based diet rather than an overnight transition. Vegan author Victoria Moran recommends the following: “Start with the one thing you consume the most and substitute it with the vegan version.”
- “Be still and strong in your ability to control your own life.” – John Salley, a four-time NBA champion. This expert recommends taking the possible societal pressure off yourself by quietly moving to a plant-based diet.
Although there are many health and ethical reasons to go vegan, making this radical dietary change can have side effects. Ensuring that your body is getting enough of the correct nutrients and taking the necessary supplements will make the journey to a plant-based diet less challenging, and you will soon feel the benefits.