5 mistakes vegans make and how to avoid them

The food we eat every day can be risky, especially if you decide to switch to a new diet without knowing it first.

How risky can food be, you ask. Well, when you think about how a lack of nutrients can cause a bunch of side effects, from weight gain to decreased mental function and others, the answer is “very risky.” If you’re like many Americans, your new “trend” might be to go meat-free.

The health benefits of a healthy and balanced vegetarian (vegan) diet are undeniable. Numerous studies have shown that a well-planned, nutritious, plant-based diet is associated with a lower incidence of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and stroke, as well as a longer lifespan.

The key phrase here is “a well-planned, nutritious, plant-based diet.” People automatically associate a vegetarian or vegan diet with health, but in fact, eliminating meat from the diet does not guarantee good health. In fact, being a sick vegetarian is as easy as being a sick meat-eater. The real benefit comes when meat and/or dairy products are replaced with more fruits, vegetables, legumes, soy, and nutritious foods.

You may be getting diet information from an unreliable source.  

If you decide to become a vegetarian after reading a magazine article about your favorite celebrity touting vegetarianism, you should read more. Although they look slim and healthy, this does not mean that they receive all the necessary substances needed for the normal functioning of the body. Vitamin deficiencies are common in poorly planned vegetarian diets, especially vitamin B12 deficiency. A recent study showed that B12 deficiency is prevalent among vegetarians. Prolonged vitamin deficiency can lead to permanent nerve damage. Avoiding such a shortage is very easy: find a reliable source of information or consult a therapist or nutritionist.

Are you addicted to snacks?

I often run into vegan “drugs”—those who have given up meat and fill the void with chips, pretzels, and biscuits because they don’t know what else to eat. The problem is that snacks have no nutritional value. It’s just useless fuel that gets stored in fat (because you can’t eat it) and increases the risk of heart disease. If you’re a snacker, try skipping the gravy chips and opt for more nutritious foods like carrots, peanut butter, popcorn, whole grain crackers, or almonds with raisins.  

Your diet is the same

Imagine: you wake up every morning and put on the same clothes. While your clothes look great at a party, they are not suitable for a job interview. Bottom line: one suit cannot fit all personal and professional needs. You probably get what I’m getting at: in this scenario, your suit is your diet. If you eat the same thing all the time, you will be deficient in many important vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats, risking nutrient deficiencies or reverting to meat.

Diet variety is key when it comes to health. Focus on getting enough protein (nuts, seeds, legumes, tofu), calcium (dark and green vegetables, kale, broccoli), iron (dry beans and lentils, soybeans), vitamin B12 (flavored breakfast cereals, soy milk, oily fish), vitamin D (midday sunlight and supplements), and generally eat more fruits and vegetables.

You live in a protein bubble  

When it comes to protein, there are two prejudices. One is that you can only get “real” protein from steak and chicken, and the second is that you need a lot of protein to be healthy. If you’re living in a protein bubble, I’m about to burst it. While your diet no longer contains protein that bellowed and clucked, protein from sources that didn’t make any sound at all is fine too.

Good sources of plant-based protein include lentils, whole soybeans, peanut butter, quinoa, black and red beans, chickpeas, and peas. Further, you need much less than you think. Most people need about 0,8 g per 1 kg of weight.

You can calculate this in a few simple steps:

  • Divide the weight in pounds by 2,2 to get the weight in kilograms
  • Multiply the resulting number by 0,8-1
  • For example, if you weigh 125 pounds, you need approximately 45-57 grams of protein per day.

You think you’re immune to foodborne illness

While many are switching to a vegetarian diet for health reasons, others are embarking on this path after spending too many nights next to the toilet. Unfortunately, a plant-based diet will not completely protect you from harmful bacteria in your food. In fact, a CDC report shows that plants cause just as many foodborne illnesses as meat. Although outbreaks of foodborne illness occur almost every week, only the most common ones make it into the news.

For example, an outbreak of listeriosis due to cantaloupe, which killed 33 and made nearly 150 people sick in 2011. The bottom line is that food safety should come first for anyone (especially children and people with weakened immune systems) who wants to focus on “clean” eating.

Plants are amazing, but they don’t always get the attention they deserve. By avoiding these mistakes and putting plants at the top of your diet, you can add years to your life and, more importantly, add life to your years!  


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