Our current generation seems to be more geared towards health issues than other previous generations. It is a common stereotype of millennials that many strive to eat organic or vegan mystery foods, but how does restricting our diet in such ways affect our overall health? I would evaluate this question by focusing on dietary restriction, specifically veganism, as there is a lot of controversy as to whether or not that is a healthy life choice.
For those who don’t know, adopting a vegan diet means cutting out all food that contain any type of animal byproduct. Where vegetarians can have foods that contain milk or eggs, being vegan means that anything that came from an animal is off the table. There are many different mentalities behind adopting this lifestyle: health reasons, a moral disparity with how animals are treated, or even social reasons (for example, being raised vegan from birth or choosing veganism to fit in with a social group).
First things first, while being vegetarian more various different ways of introducing protein into the diet, those who are vegan quite frequently need vitamin substitutes to make sure they are getting the proper nutrients (health.com). There are reasons why, from the beginning of time, meat and animal byproducts have been incorporated into the human diet: without the presence of proper vitamins and a steady source of protein, it would be impossible for a group to flourish, according to Empowered Sustenance.
Those who follow a vegan diet like to combat the aforementioned issue of protein by bringing up soy, of which a large portion of their diet is reliant on. This isn’t a safe choice in terms of health, specifically hormones, though. According to Paleo Leap, ingesting too much soy can wildly affect hormone regulation, specifically those that work with energy levels and appetite in an unideal way. Additionally, the compounds found in grains (the family soy is a part of) can severely impact insulin regulation. What does that mean, you ask? People who ingest too many lectins, which cause insulin resistance, are more susceptible to metabolic problems. Basically, vegans are at more of a risk for illnesses. The dangers of soy, added to the limited intake of vitamins, poses many potential health risks.
This information might make vegans clutch their tofu with rage, but there are great examples of veganism’s general unhealthiness. Let’s take a gander at what happens when infants and young children are forced into a vegan lifestyle by their parents. Vegan diets quite commonly cause lower energy, in addition to a limited presence such as vitamin B, B12, D as well as iron and amino acids, according to The Guardian. These components of a balanced diet are greatly restricted, especially in a child’s diet. Infants and young children are growing at a very fast rate and need all sources of energy and nutrients that they can get so they can sustain this growth. According to the Mayo Clinic, iron deficiencies can also occur, which can spark anemia as well as inhibit growth. Unless the parents are incredibly well informed, are in conference with a nutrition specialist, and vigilant with administering the proper diet, it is very risky to force a young child into a vegan diet. In fact, there are some instances where infants who are being raised vegan have been removed from the parents due to health issues that arise, such as malnutrition (The Guardian).
Based on all the current research, it seems counterintuitive to adopt a diet with the intention to increase overall health but is instead notorious for endangering your immune system. It seems even more questionable to inflict these choices on others. While it is possible to remain stable in terms of health while adhering to a vegan diet, the constant need for vigilance, not only in regards to if what you are eating is “vegan” but also in terms of moderating low nutrient levels, seems to create many more problems than it solves. There are a bountiful number of vegetarians who live happy, healthy lives through their dietary choices, but the restrictions placed on a diet by veganism are borderline dangerous to an individual.