Why Do Vegans Look Sick? [Is it really their diet?]

  • Author: Alicia Harris
  • Date: March 18, 2022
  • Time to read: 4 min.

Research suggests a vegan diet may promote weight loss, reduce the risk of heart disease, and help those dealing with diabetes lower their A1C levels. However, some who adopt a vegan diet don’t fare well and look sick to the people around them. Is their vegan diet unhealthy? Or, is there another reason why people ask, why do vegans look sick?

In the strictest sense, vegans don’t consume any food made with animal products, which means animal meat, dairy products, and eggs are off the menu.

Some vegans also eliminate other products in their lives that contain animal products. For example, vegans often avoid shoes made of leather and health & beauty products that contain materials harvested from animals.

Why Do Vegans Look Sick? Is Veganism a Bad Diet?

Unfortunately, some vegans may begin to look sick because they’re eating poorly, often referred to as being a junk food vegan.

Problems like vitamin deficiencies threaten vegans who don’t eat correctly and assume that all it takes to get healthy is to give up animal products.

Simply going “all in” with veganism without researching a healthy, balanced vegan diet can become a recipe for disaster.

A poor diet can make anyone look sick. Still, vegans are pretty susceptible to adverse changes in their appearance when they don’t eat correctly and assume that a diet consisting mainly of sugar and simple carbs will make them healthy just because the foods are vegan.

Nutrients Vegans Need and Don’t Get

One of the primary reasons a vegan might not look like they’re eating a healthy diet is the loss of certain nutrients commonly consumed from meat and dairy foods.

Vegans may find they’re low on vitamin B12 and iron because they don’t consume red meat.

Sometimes vegans don’t get enough calcium because they don’t drink calcium-fortified milk. Some vegans are also short on their daily requirement for protein.

When a vegan doesn’t get enough B12, they might feel tired or weak despite getting enough sleep. A vitamin B12 deficiency can also lead to megaloblastic anemia, pale skin, and heart palpitations.

A vegan who looks sick might actually have a B12 deficiency. Options for improving B12 levels for vegans include eating nutritional yeast, drinking fortified soy or almond milk, and eating nori seaweed.

Getting Enough Protein as a Vegan

A lack of protein can also have people asking why do vegans look sick?

In addition to contributing to a lack of B12 in the diet, eliminating meat-based proteins can result in an overall lack of protein in the vegan diet. One of the primary ways the body makes up for lack of protein is to use muscle mass to feed the body.

A loss of muscle mass and low B12 intake may cause a vegan to look less healthy than they once did, even if they don’t really lose any weight.

Trading muscle mass for fat can make just about anyone look unhealthy in the long run. However, there are many options for plant-based proteins that vegans can use to ensure they’re getting their daily allotment.

Just like B12, many options exist for vegans to plump up their daily protein intake. One of the best options is a bowl of lentil soup, which offers 18 grams of protein in one cup of cooked lentils.

Kidney beans and black beans are other excellent options for getting protein in a vegan diet. A cup of beans offers about 15 grams of protein per cooked cup. Other options include nutritional yeast, hemp seeds, and green peas.

Vegan Diets that Lack Iron and Calcium

In addition to vitamin B12 deficiencies and low protein intake, vegan diets may also result in iron deficiencies.

An iron deficiency can cause a vegan to have paler skin than usual, which can have people asking them if they’re sick. Conveniently, vegans can also pick up some extra iron that their diet might lack by eating lentils, beans, and hemp seeds, which are also super for getting enough protein

For vegans who don’t get enough calcium, they might not suffer from pale skin or a sickly pallor, but a calcium deficiency can cause extreme fatigue, which may contribute to an unwell appearance. Brain fog, forgetfulness, and confusion may result for vegans who don’t get enough calcium, and those symptoms may have their friends wondering if they’re unwell.

Eating soy-based foods is a great way to get calcium, and other great options include beans, peas, and lentils, which also happen to offer valuable protein and B12. Other good sources of calcium include nuts, seeds, certain grains, and seaweed.

It’s Not Hard to Be Healthy & Vegan

Despite the dangers of a poorly researched vegan diet, adopting a vegan lifestyle doesn’t necessarily mean one will eventually appear as though they’re at death’s door. Like any dietary change, adopting veganism means paying attention to nutrition and an overall balanced diet. Vegans who make sure to get their B12, calcium, iron, and protein from plant sources shouldn’t have any issues with wondering why do vegans look sick?

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