Vegan and carnivore are both diets, or ways of eating, that are gaining a lot of popularity. Vegan involves consuming no animal products (and eating only fruits, vegetables, grains etc) while carnivore involves consuming only animal products (and eating meat, fish, eggs, cheese, honey etc). I said they are gaining popularity because so many people are having some type of auto-immune disorder and are looking for a solution to that rather than just losing weight. Of course many people who choose a carnivore diet do so especially with the goal of losing fat. But which of the two is the better option for someone who wants to maximize their health?
You can find vegan products such as cheese, meatless meat, and even fish-less fish in almost every supermarket now. November 1st is World Vegan Day! People who strictly follow this diet do not consume any animal products at all, including no eggs, milk or meat. Instead they consume mainly plant proteins and grains.
The term vegan appeared first in around 1944 when Donald Watson and a group of like-minded vegetarians formed The Vegan Society in the UK. They chose to abstain not only from fish but also from dairy and other animal by-products. Vegetarianism actually dates back much further, with people choosing a mainly plant based diet but including fish and eggs. The Vegan Society’s aim is to help individuals who want to follow a vegan diet, with support material including recipes and information about the diet. Unfortunately some people now are taking it very seriously and treating it almost like a club, becoming very much attached to their way of eating and trying to influence others to do the same. On the other hand many people who follow a vegan diet are seeing huge and very real health benefits, especially if they pay attention with supplementing the nutrients that their body needs. Some individuals follow the diet too for animal care and religious reasons. But is a vegan diet really giving the body all of the nutrients that it needs?
There are certainly a couple of things that you may need to pay attention to if you choose to follow a vegan diet. Unfortunately some of the nutrients that the body needs can not easily be found in sufficient quality and quantity in vegan foods. These include:
Vitamin B12 which if found naturally almost entirely in animal products. B12 is crucial for nerve function and for the production of red blood cells so it is critical that it is supplemented so that your body gets the correct amount.
Iron is contained in plant foods but in a form called non-heme iron, which is less bioavailable than the heme iron found in animal products.
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for health, and found in food sources like fish and eggs. It is important for vegans to consume Alpha-Linolenic Acid (ALA) from sources like flaxseeds, chia seeds, and walnuts. Some vegans also might benefit from algae-based supplements for eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
Vitamin D can be concerning for vegans who can have a lower bone mineral density, although the evidence is mixed. Vitamin D also plays a crucial role for immune health. It found in fish and fortified dairy, and through exposure to the sun.
Calcium can also be missing in sufficient quantity in a vegan diet.
Zinc is a mineral that is very important for immune support and that can also be harder to get in sufficient amounts from plant foods.
Iodine is also harder to get when not consuming dairy or fish, so you might need to consume iodized salt or seaweed to get sufficient amounts.
A combination of consuming whole food sources, avoiding vegan substitutes and ultra-processed foods, and taking the correct supplements when needed will certainly make a vegan diet much healthier. Of course nobody can tell you which diet you should be following, we all have our own very unique structure and yet our bodies do need pretty much the same in the way of nutrients. So whatever diet you choose you have to make sure that you are getting complete nutrients so that your body functions well for a healthy lifespan while minimizing any health problems on the way. In my personal opinion I don’t think that can thrive on a vegan diet but that does not mean that it is not a healthy diet for anyone. Your way of eating is something that only your own body will know and decide what is best for you!
So what about the complete opposite of the vegan diet — the approach called “carnivore”? We will look at that in part 2.
Time. A Brief History of Veganism. https://time.com/3958070/history-of-veganism/
The Vegan Society. https://www.vegansociety.com/
National Library of Medicine. Vitamin and Mineral Status in a Vegan Diet. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7779846/
NHS. The vegan diet. https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/how-to-eat-a-balanced-diet/the-vegan-diet/