Being a vegan is mostly a good thing. However, some key disadvantages to it shouldn’t be discounted. These should never be allowed to dissuade you from switching or remaining a vegan. Yet ignoring them isn’t a good idea either. Let’s have a look at some of the disadvantages of being a vegan, and how to navigate these.
Typically, these aren’t major negatives per se to a vegan lifestyle. Yet these shouldn’t be glossed over either. By pragmatically approaching the disadvantages of being a vegan, steps can be taken to mitigate or work around them.
Doing so, you get the health and other benefits of being a vegan without the potential downsides. Best of both worlds!
So, let’s dive into everything you need to know about the disadvantages of being a vegan.
Nutritional Disadvantages of Being a Vegan
There are some potentially significant nutritional disadvantages to becoming a vegan and remaining one for long periods.
The majority of these are good to know and may include solutions to remove the health disadvantages or to manage them better.
Common nutritional deficiencies on a vegan diet include:
Lack Of Protein
People often see vegans (and vegetarians) as ones who do not consume enough protein.
Meat and dairy products provide potentially high levels of protein.
Therefore, people who eat from these food sources rarely struggle with protein intake unless they include little meat in each meal.
Protein from non-animal sources is not difficult or necessarily expensive to obtain. With that said, it’s important to balance vegan meals appropriately to get sufficient protein.
Approximately 40-60 grams of protein falls into the recommended daily intake depending on the source.
Check out this article for more on protein and the vegan diet.
For vegans, nuts and beans are the primary sources of protein.
This is why tofu is popular, along with a variety of beans and nuts. Vegans need to meal plan to ensure they consume enough protein in their diet.
Possible Iron Deficiency
Iron anemia is a real issue. Iron is used in the human body to transport oxygen in red blood cells from the lungs to other areas. The muscles are where iron is most beneficial in storing oxygen there.
A lack of iron may lead to a loss of energy, cognitive shortfalls, and related issues.
Women need to consume more iron than men – sometimes double – because of menstruation. Adults also need more iron than children. See our article on the need for iron in a vegan diet for detailed specifics.
Vegans can get more iron in their diet from fortified cereals, spinach, white beans, and soybeans. It is also possible to take an iron supplement, however, the body is limited in how much iron is retained through an iron supplement.
Lack of B12
It’s common to see vegans lacking in vitamin B12. It mostly originates from animal foods with few vegan-approved foods providing a suitable replacement.
For a more in-depth look at B12, check out our article on the importance of B12 on a vegan diet.
Approximately 2.4 micrograms are needed daily of B-12.
That may not sound like a lot, but it’s necessary. Therefore, a solution must be found.
Fortified cereals that specifically add B-12 might be enough. Soy milk, popular with vegans, is also a good source of this vitamin. Also, taking a multi-vitamin or a B-12 supplement might do it.
Calcium is required for healthy bones and teeth. This is particularly so when growing up and as a young adult, but it’s still needed in later years too.
Around 1,000 mg are required daily for good health.
Usually, non-vegans get their calcium from dairy products.
For vegans, including fortified soy and leafy greens in the diet is good.
They’re excellent sources of calcium. If this is not enough, then calcium supplements are available to bridge the gap.
Other Possible Health Disadvantages of Being a Vegan
Other shortfalls in nutrients and minerals are possible when eating vegan. For instance, getting enough omega-3 fatty acids, zinc, or iodine can be problematic.
There are potential side effects when not getting enough of the right vitamins and minerals too.
These can include depression, unstable hormone generation, and anemia.
By choosing fortified grains, tofu, soy, and other nutrient-rich vegan foods, along with leafy greens, it’s possible to cover many of the bases.
Getting the omegas covered is possible by consuming flaxseed or walnuts or using canola oil in some of your cooking.
Also, another negative to health is not feeling sated from an unbalanced vegan meal.
When too used to meat-based processed foods, it’s possible to still feel hungry after a meal and snack. Consuming a mix of proteins, whole grains, and complex carbs helps to feel fuller and stay energized for longer.
Social Disadvantages of Being a Vegan
Many people care about what others think. Eating vegan and possibly avoiding all products with any direct or indirect animal ingredients or materials sets you apart.
Only about two percent of Americans identify as vegan, so it’s still a minority.
Here are some of the social disadvantages of being vegan:
There are still a limited number of restaurants that cater to vegans, especially if you don’t live in a big city.
At best, they may offer a weak, single vegan meal on the menu. These are commonly uninspiring!
There are now some vegan restaurants that flip this on its head, but they’re not in every city and are mainly just the major ones.
Meeting friends or family for a meal is challenging too. The majority of people won’t understand vegan meals or how to prepare them.
They won’t likely be willing to go on a crash course to get up to speed either. It might be necessary to bring vegan food, so you at least have something you can safely eat.
Check out our guide for eating out as a vegan.
Judgment From Others
Instagram and Twitter have inadvertently created an increased level of narcissism and a self-obsessed “look at me… look at me…” culture.
Sometimes, due to this culture, people can feel like vegans are just trying to get attention by standing apart. And take a dislike to veganism and people who identify as vegan.
Avoiding any animal or animal by-products in retail products can seem excessive to others who don’t understand (or care) that their leather loafers caused harm to an animal.
Avoiding Non-Vegan Materials
Going out shopping with friends becomes much harder if everyone isn’t vegan.
Numerous products use animal products and especially animal byproducts in their creation. Some are obvious such as leather or fur, but others are far less so.
When taking a strong stance against purchasing any products that use non-vegan materials or ones that aren’t cruelty-free is difficult for others.
You’re far harder to buy gifts for or friends could avoid shopping trips if they’re having to cater to your specific needs.
Sure, there are disadvantages to veganism. But always remember that there are more positives than negatives.