Vegan diets, when planned properly, are healthy and can even lower the risk of certain diseases, according to the American Dietetic Association. They can be appropriate for individuals in all stages of life, including infancy, childhood, pregnancy and lactation. It is important to note, however, that there is a risk of being deficient in certain nutrients if the vegan diet is not carefully planned. People who adhere to strict vegan diets are at risk for less than adequate intakes of protein, omega-3 fatty acids, iron, calcium, zinc, iodine and vitamins D and B-12.
Because animal foods such as meat, dairy, eggs, fish and fowl are among the best sources of protein, vegans can sometimes lack sufficient protein in their diets. The American Dietetic Association, however, believes that protein requirements can be met if a variety of plant proteins are consumed, such as peas, beans, ect.
Though vegan diets can lack sufficient amounts of omega-3 due to the restriction of omega-3-rich foods, including eggs, fish and other seafood. The omega-3 fatty acids found in animal sources can also be found in plant foods rich in omega-3, such as flaxseed. Vegans can purchase soy milk and breakfast bars fortified with DHA, as well as DHA supplements. Sources containing DHA are sufficient for vegan diets.
Vitamin D is important for bone health, and low levels have been linked to reduced bone mass. Sunlight exposure is best source of vitamin D. Many people vegan or not lack vitamin D. People who do not get regular sun exposure need to consume dietary vitamin D through either fortified foods or supplements, since vitamin D occurs naturally in very few foods. Vegan sources of vitamin D that are often fortified include soy milk, rice milk and orange juice.
Lack of vitamin B-12 is one of the biggest concerns with vegan diets, especially because vegan diets do not have it. Severe B-12 deficiencies can result in both anemia and dementia, notes Harvard Medical School. So, if you’re a vegan, be sure to consume B-12 fortified foods such as soy and rice beverages and breakfast cereals, or supplements.
In conclusion, a vegan diet, is like every other diet. It needs to be carefully planned out. We are not free to just eat whatever we please and be healthy. Vegan diets are and can be a successful way to have good lasting health.