Dr. Fuhrman Dr. Fuhrman

Nine reasons why vegan diets fail

There is lots of buzz about the health and other benefits of a vegan diet. So, why do you keep meeting people who tell I tried a vegan diet, but...? Here are nine common reasons why people don't feel well on a vegan diet and switch back to a vegetarian or omnivore diet.

  1. Not eating enough: I sometimes read on vegan message boards what people eat, and wonder if they are describing someone with an eating disorder. You cannot just leave 500 calories of animal products out of your diet and expect to feel great.
  2. Not eating enough vegetables: People who eat meat can sometimes get away with eating few vegetables because they get their minerals from meat. For vegans, vegetables -- especially greens -- are essential sources of minerals.
  3. Eating too much grains: Whole grains can be a part of a healthy diet, but do not eat bread for lunch and breakfast and pasta for dinner. Variety is important.
  4. Eating too much junk/not enough protein: A healthy vegan diet that is made up primarily of whole foods, contains plenty of protein. However, if you consume considerable amounts of potato chips, cookies, french fries, soda's etc. you do risk getting not enough protein.
  5. Not taking a B12 supplement or fortified foods: There are still vegans who refuse to believe that a vegan diet is deficient in any nutrient. They are wrong. Even a minor deficiency can lead to feelings of general unwellbeing.
  6. Not getting omega 3 fatty acids: Omega 3 fatty acids are important for the brain. They are plentiful in green vegetables, but of course you can only eat so much salad. Flax seeds, Chia seeds, hemp seeds and walnuts are other good sources. For people who are depressed a DHA supplement may be necessary.
  7. Having strict rules about food: Some vegans have theories about foods for optimum health that are difficult to adhere to in our society. It involves strict food combining, or eating only raw foods, for example. This limits your options considerably, and can make you feel like an outcast.
  8. Not knowing how to cook vegan: Eating is more than just getting enough nutrients. If you do not enjoy your meals, you are unlikely to feel well in the long run. There are many great vegan cookbooks with healthy recipes that taste great.
  9. Feeling alone: It can be irritating to always be different than other people. Some people find it useful to participate in internet forums with like minded people.

Does this mean it is difficult to be vegan? Not at all. But in our society veganism is a weird choice. It is not necessary to meticulously plan your meals, but it is good to be aware of potential pitfalls. If you start to feel unwell, do not blame veganism: see what you can change within your vegan diet and consider if you want to run some blood tests to check if you have any vitamin deficiencies.

See also:

Nine basics of a healthy vegan diet

April 22, 2006