Veganism has seen a generous increase of practitioners of its philosophy and diet over the following years, which has seen an increase in the number of vegan-friendly products on supermarkets and restaurants. However, while the philosophy of veganism is undeniably fantastic in its principles of respecting sentient life, there are a number of flaws within this 21st century urban diet.
Difficulty of Obtaining Essential Nutrients – Vitamin B12, Iodine and Selenium
Firstly, as the title suggests, I would like to mention that I did practice veganism for around a year or so for ethical reasons, however, unfortunately stopped due to the seer difficulty of getting essential nutrients without the use of excessive supplementation. I also began to show the signs of iodine deficiency.
This leads onto my first point, you can’t not get all the essential micro-nutrients which the body needs, and ones which can obtained are usually harder to obtain. For instance, there is no plant which contains active vitamin B12, and other essential nutrients such as iodine and selenium are usually only obtained from one or two plant sources. Iodine is usually only found in seaweed such as kelp and typically most people will not be able to easily obtain this from their local supermarkets, and thereby would have to resort to taking supplements. The same applies to selenium, another essential mineral which is only typically obtained from Brazil Nuts. These tend to be expensive and can be unaffordable for low income families; again, we need to resort to supplementation in order to obtain this. The Vegan Society even recommends taking supplements for the aforementioned nutrients above due to their convenience, as well as, being the economical choice.
Many vegans claim that veganism is a natural diet and is the optimal diet for humans, although, how can this be case when most people will be dependent on supplementation to obtain the missing nutrients? Even when I was following a vegan diet, I did not claim veganism to be the best diet for health, in fact, quite the opposite and stated that a pescetarian diet is the healthiest, which can be evidenced from the long life expectancy of Japanese people. There is a reason that no culture has fully adopted a vegan diet.
Are vegans healthier and can omnivores lack vitamin B12 too?
You may have read studies stating vegans typically have better health than vegetarians and omnivores, but this isn’t exactly true, since most vegetarians and vegans are generally more health conscious, and as a result, tend to exercise more regularly and consume less alcohol in comparison to the average omnivore. This leads to better overall health in the individual. Even when I was vegan, I would not state that consuming meat is unhealthy as such, it is the amount of meat which people tend to eat, which is far too much.
Some vegans claim that omnivores lack vitamin B12, and state that vitamin B12 is produced by bacteria typically found in the soil, therefore if we started to consume unwashed vegetables we would be to obtain vitamin B12 without the use of any animal products or supplements. It is true that vitamin B12 is solely produced by bacteria, although, it is important to note that we’re aren’t able to digest most raw vegetables sufficiently in order to gain the full nutritional benefits due to the evolution of our digestive systems. Our digestive systems are in a in-between state, while most of our diet should be plant-based, our digestive systems have evolved slightly to be able to process animal products such as meat. And yes, omnivores can lack vitamin B12, but this is typically due to underlying health problems and not diet.
Ostro-Veganism and Ostro-Vegetarianism
I do not agree with the treatment of animals in the dairy and egg industry, and tend to consume little diary or eggs in my diet. I typically only consume eggs twice a week and natural yogurt once or twice a week. I do drink fortified plant milks and aren’t against fortification of foods. Although, it is important to note that I am not dependent on supplements in order to obtain all the nutrients required for optimal health.
Recently, some people (including myself) have adopted ostro-veganism/vegetarianism which is the inclusion of non-sentient seafood such as mussels and oysters. Both of these foodstuffs contain the three essential nutrients which are difficult to obtain on a vegan diet, while being an excellent ethical and environmental choice. Mussels are typically farmed on long lengths of rope in the ocean and therefore have little impact on existing ecosystems. Most studies have suggested that bivalves actually help to cleanse the oceans and improve the water quality for other sea-life. More importantly, since bivalves have no central nervous system and do not have the ability to escape danger, it has been suggested that these organisms are incapable of feeling pain.