The vegan diet is an inherently nutrient-deficient diet that cuts out the most easily accessible sources of protein and B12. It's also hard to balance out the different types of proteins and get everything you need without a lot of work.
But, there are ways to make things a little bit easier. With the right type of protein supplement, you can help your body get what it needs without a lot of that extra work.
What Your Missing By Being A Vegan
Because you cut meat and animal products out of your diet, you cut out a significant, massive source of protein from your diet. Yes, there are proteins in fruits, vegetables, nuts, and grains, but they are not balanced or in sufficient quantity. They also lack B12, which can only be found in the flesh of animals and in specific yeasts.
Cutting out B12 from your diet means you will have to seek out alternative sources. You have various supplements to choose from, those that are easily purchased in the grocery store (and not great quality) to high-quality supplements from trust sources to injections from your doctor.
You should work with your doctor to monitor your B12 levels. Deficiencies in B12 can cause:
Reduced Sensation Of Touch
Shortness Of Breath
If your levels fall too low, your doctor can monitor the situation and prescribe B12 injections to get you back where you need.
Proteins & Amino Acids
This is the hardest part for most vegans. Protein is the basis of nearly every function in our body, and your body needs a continuous, daily influx of the right type of proteins to keep you healthy. Unfortunately, some of those are very difficult to get eating a vegan diet. Most vegans end up deficient in lysine, methionine, isoleucine, threonine, and tryptophan amino acids because plants do not produce sufficient amounts of these amino acids for people to absorb.
The most common protein supplements, like whey, soy, and pea proteins, do not supply this amino acid sufficiently, either. However, some of the better protein supplements do. You should examine any protein supplement to make sure it has a breakdown of the type of amino acid you are looking for and make sure you have enough of these amino acids to meet your dietary needs.
Other Antioxidants and Nutrients
Several other nutrients that are critical for a strong healthy life can become deficient in a vegan diet. One of these nutrients is creatine. This molecule is only found in animal flesh, particularly muscle and brain tissues. As an easily accessible energy reserved for the muscles, it plays a critical role in muscle building. But, it is not an essential amino acid because the liver can produce it. However, studies have shown that vegans tend to have lower amounts of creatine and their muscles.
Carnosine is another amino acid found only in animal-based foods that helps improve muscle mass. The body can form it from histidine and beta-alanine, but again, studies show vegetarians and vegans have significantly less carnosine in their muscles. A good beta-alanine supplement can offset this problem.
The essential omega-3 fatty acid DHA can become deficient in vegans. It's found mainly in fatty fish, fish oil, and certain types of algae. Although the body can make it from ALA, it is not an efficient process, and levels of DHA can suffer significantly. It's a particular concern of pregnant women, as DHA insufficiently can adversely affect fetal brain development. A good supplement can offset this.
Finally, iron can become deficient without a good supplement. Heme iron is found only in meats and the easiest iron our bodies can absorb. The body is bad at absorbing other iron types without heme iron present (but researchers don't know why). And in a plant-based diet, the anti nutrient phytic acid further limits the absorption of iron. Without an iron supplement, anemia is exceptionally likely, and even with that supplement, your doctor should make sure your iron level remains in the healthy range.
Making Up The Deficiencies Of The Vegan Diet – It's Not As Easy As You Think
The vegan diet takes much more work than any other diet. You're limiting many of the types of meals you can make and significantly cutting out vital nutrients. Ensuring you have an adequate supply of the right nutrients is the only way you're going to remain healthy.
You can't just cut out meat and animal products
It's as simple as that: you cannot just cut out meat and animal products from your diet and replace them with nothing. Your body will become nutrient deficient and begin cannibalizing itself to preserve life.
Imagine slowly starting to feel weak and tired all the time, losing strength and vitality as time passes. Imagine your head not being clear and decision making becoming more and more difficult. Then, when your doctor finally checks you out, discovers serious deficiencies, your liver enzymes out of control signaling liver failure, your kidneys overworked and not filtering your blood… This is what happens to people who let it go too far.
Get Your Supplements!
Fortunately, good supplements can offset this. The right type of protein supplement will give you the amino acids you need, and getting the B12 and iron supplements work to keep you at healthy levels. Be sure to work with your doctor to make you your level do stay at a healthy range.
Making The Choice
Veganism is a choice. Some people choose it because they believe it's a healthier diet and others prefer it because of ethics. Either way, it's a difficult diet to follow, one that requires extreme dedication, lots of research, and diligent planning. In some cases, it's also more expensive. But, choosing the right type of supplement to fill in the missing nutrients of this diet can give you an edge up and keep you healthy.