Being a vegan can work great for some people, however, there are signs and symptoms to look out for that will indicate your health is being negatively affected by a vegan diet and show you when it is not working. In today’s blog post, I cover the signs your health might be dipping due to a vegan diet and also ways to rectify this.
Common Signs and Symptoms a Vegan Diet is not Working:
1. Feeling sluggish – this is often a sign that you are not getting enough iron or vitamin B12.
2. Brittle nails and/or dry skin – this can be a sign you are not getting enough protein.
3. Feeling anxious and/or depressed – a 2012 study found that people living a vegetarian diet have a higher chance of developing a mental disorder like anxiety or depression due to not getting enough protein and nutrients. Which is why veganism is especially concerning as it is even more restrictive.
4. Weight gain – if this was not the desired goal, then this can be a concern as it may mean you are not eating a varied healthy diet and instead of one that contains too many processed food.
5. Constant hunger – this might be because you are not getting enough protein in your diet and if you are, it might mean the protein you are choosing is not giving you as much as your body needs.
So, whether you are just starting out on the vegan diet or have been following the vegan diet a while and are noticing some of the above symptoms, here are some top tips to help you thrive as a vegan.
How to Thrive as a Vegan:
1. Enjoy plenty of vegetables – at every meal, ensure to make vegetables a key feature. Instead of succumbing to feeling depressed over what you cannot have, focus on the fact that there are lots of colourful vegetables out there that can be cooked (or uncooked) in many wonderful tasty ways. So get experimenting and you will be sure to quickly learn how to make some very nutritious but convenient vegan meals.
2. Colourful variety – one quick way to do damage to your body on a vegan diet is to not take in enough nutrients. However, this can be achieved by enjoying a variety of foods. This step incorporates the first step but it is a reminder that it can be easy to get stuck in a food rut, often leading a person to choose the same foods over and over. Be sure to avoid this by choosing from all colours of the phytonutrient rainbow food groups each week and you will be reducing the chances of having nutrient deficiencies.
3. Keep fruit to a minimum – whilst a little fruit can be enjoyed as part of a healthy diet, it is still best to choose no more than 1-2 portions per day. This is because fruit is not as nutritious as vegetables and also because of the natural sugar content.
4. Choose whole grains – when it comes to grains, be sure to go for wholegrain varieties (brown rice, brown flour, quinoa) which means they will still have all their nutrients and fibre intact. Fibre can help keep a person fuller for longer, and wholefood is gentler on blood sugar levels helping to keep them steady unlike processed grains (such as white flour, white bread, white pasta).
5. Include plant-based proteins – this is covered in the post below in detail but there is a great variety to choose from such as tofu, tempeh, edamame, lentils chickpeas and beans. Adult male vegans should aim to eat around 63 grams of protein per day and adult female vegans should eat around 52 grams per day.
6. Reduce vegan desserts and snacks – it can be tempting to consume all the delicious vegan desserts and snacks on offer but these are not always very healthy. Many of them are heavily processed and high in sugar. So be sure to enjoy them only occasionally.
7. Consume plant-based omega 3’s – DHA and EPA are found abundantly in fish and are needed for a healthy brain, healthy cardiovascular system and healthy skin. However, these types of Omega 3 essential fatty acids are hard to come by in plant-based foods. So for these nutrients, it is advisable to supplement with one that is made from algae that contain both DHA and EPA.
8. B12, D3 and iron – all of these nutrients are hard to get enough of in plant-based foods so again it is advisable to try to focus on foods containing these nutrients, and also you may want to consider supplementing with a vegan-friendly version for added health support to ensure you do not run the risks of serious nutrient deficiency that a vegan diet can cause.
Is Being a Vegan Right for You?
Being a vegan can bring many benefits to health, especially if a well-balanced diet of fresh foods is eaten. However, it is good to remember that not everyone can live without eating animal protein as we are all individuals. So even if you are doing as described above, it might still not be right for you as a recently published Healthline article showed that the metabolic variation in your gut is what can determine whether some people can handle a meat-free diet or not.