Fatigue, lethargy, weakness, memory loss, neurological and psychiatric problems, anaemia.
These are just a few of the side effects of a B12 deficient diet. What is B12? It’s a water-soluble vitamin that has a key role in maintaining brain and nervous system functions, as well as the formation of red blood cells. Sounds important. Yet one study found that 92% of vegans have a B12 deficiency, while other studies suggest 75-85%. That’s because B12 is only found in animal products, which vegans do not eat any of.
Us humans are omnivores by nature.
There is no traditional culture that has ever had a vegan diet, ever. Even the most vegetarian civilisations still occasionally have meat and animal by-products such as eggs, milk and occasional meat.
Another item found in animal products is the essential amino acids needed for muscle development. But Ellie, you are probably thinking, what about kidney beans and lentils? They are packed full of protein! Yes, you’re right, kidney beans and other legumes do have higher protein content than other plants, but the unique aspect of meat products is the composition of the amino acids. Animal proteins have the essential amino acids in the exact composition for muscle growth, whereas beans and legumes have various amino acid structures that are not necessarily optimal. The strict vegan diet also makes it a lot harder to gain the necessary levels of iron needed. You’d have to eat a tonne of broccoli!
Still not convinced? Well, there is a type of Omega-3 called DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) that is found in fish & other animal products. It is the most active type of Omega-3 and is essential for maintaining a healthy heart. Again, it’s hard to get enough of this in non-animal products.
After finding out all of this, I looked into substitute foods for vegans and stumbled across Earth Balance which is a popular butter substitute. Let us take a look at the ingredients…
Palm fruit oil, canola oil, safflower oil, flax oil, olive oil, salt, natural flavour, pea protein, sunflower lecithin, lactic acid, annatto colour.
Now, let us take a look at the ingredients in butter?
My belief is that the less a food is processed, the healthier it is, yet people are substituting one ingredient with 12. Why is this? I was searching and searching the internet to find data that actually proves the beneficial nature of this vegan diet. This is what I found…
That’s right, I found nothing. There are literally zero studies that have confirmed the scientific benefits of being vegan. There are, however, multiple studies showing a correlation which is very different from causation. Most of the time, vegans are more likely to be healthier because they have healthier habits. The ‘control group’ to compare with vegans is everybody else, including pizza-loving, zero-exercising, beer drinkers. Obviously, vegans are going to look healthier. Statistics show vegans are less likely to smoke, more likely to exercises, and are more health conscious. We can’t really attribute the findings to the fact that they don’t eat meat.
Now that I’ve told you about the nutritional disadvantages of eating vegan, let us look at another big reason why people turn vegan; sustainability and ethics. The supply chain style animal rearing we see in today’s world is worrying, un-ethical, and unsustainable. I completely agree. We have, however, started to see more and more ethically produced, grass-fed, free-range meat, especially here in Vancouver! There are so many ways that we can be ethical omnivores. Animals are not the cause of global warming, it is the way that we produce them that is the problem. Livestock, if managed properly, can be used to do things that would otherwise require a lot of fossil fuels to do. For example, animals can help to cycle nutrients in the soil and aid in land management.
In some instances, such as eating tofu in Canada, vegan options can be more harmful to the environment than eating ethical meat. It is really difficult to produce tofu in our climate, it uses large amounts of land and resources, and then has to be shipped large distances to get to us.
I am not trying to get you to become a carnivore, or eat processed meat-based foods, but some meat in your diet can be budget friendly, healthy, and ethical. It helps our economy and ecosystem go round. I encourage you to not fall into the vegan trend, instead think about food miles, nutrition, and overall sustainability when choosing what and where to eat.
“If we truly believe that no living thing should have to die for our dinner, we shouldn’t eat at all. If we truly believe that all life deserves equal respect, why not equalize ourselves by embracing the elegant fact that we are all, as Nelson writes, “driven by the same hungers that motivate any other creature— the squirrel in the forest, the vole in the meadow, the bear on the mountainside, the deer in the valley”?” – Liz Wolf