Recently, I’ve had a few friends express concern for my health, especially since I follow a vegan diet. I should note that, over the course of my life, I have experienced a variety of autoimmune issues, particularly digestive issues, and bouts of mental health issues, including depression and anxiety. Since I met a classmate in college who was very open about discussing her physical and mental health issues, I have become more open about discussing them myself. While sharing my struggles more publicly has been somewhat freeing, it has also been burdensome, since many people pin my new vegan lifestyle as the root cause of these problems. What these individuals may not understand is that these health problems aren’t new and that I am trying my best to live the fullest life possible through my dietary choices.
I had these issues when my diet primarily consisted of meat and was gluten-free. More often than not, the two biggest concerns that people have are that I’m not getting enough protein, which could compromise my immunity, and that gluten could be a strong contributor to my digestive issues. First and foremost, I can guarantee that I’m now getting more protein than I got in the past; as a vegan, I have become more aware of the fact that I need to make sure that I’m meeting my dietary needs. Not to say that I am perfect at getting everything I need, but each day, I try my best. On the other hand, as mentioned in previous blogs, I eliminated gluten from my diet for four years, and I saw little improvement in my gut health; in fact, I started feeling a lot better after I cut meat out of my diet. While this may not happen for everyone, it seemed to work for me.
I am always re-evaluating my dietary choices. While I strive to try my best to maintain my health, I am always learning new things and considering that certain changes may need to be made to my diet to maintain, or improve my health. As noted, I was gluten-free for four years, and during that phase of my life, I thought that was the best choice. However, I have since changed my mind and now follow a vegan diet that includes the consumption of some grains, which may or may not contain gluten. Likewise, I enjoy reading the latest research on health, and with this in mind, I am not afraid to read articles that are critical of veganism, as I understand that, as with any diet, there are potential pitfalls eating vegan. For example, many vegans make the mistake of not taking supplements; one essential supplement is B12, a vitamin which allows the body to properly process protein that cannot be consumed through plant-based foods. I became aware of this very quickly and regularly consume B12 supplements to make sure that my body is happy and healthy.
I know that veganism may not be the answer for everyone. Some vegans may criticize me for having this opinion, but I don’t believe that a plant-based diet is for everyone. I personally have a friend who is allergic to many vegetables and nuts, which would make following a plant-based diet extremely difficult. However, I would also hope that my acceptance of her choice to follow a non-vegan diet would encourage her to accept my choice to follow a vegan diet. My decision to eliminate meat and dairy from my diet does not affect her life in any way, just as her choice to keep those products in her diet doesn’t affect mine.
Just like I thought I would be gluten-free forever, at this point in my life, I’d like to think I will follow a plant-based diet for the rest of my days. However, that could always change. Right now though, I am happy with my dietary choice and plan to try consuming what I feel are the most sustainable and ethical foods possible. I will also continue working to learn more about how to live my best life as a vegan by taking the right supplements, ensuring I get enough protein, and much, much more. While I appreciate my family and friend’s concerns for my health, I hope that they can understand that I am trying my best and, that beyond this, it is possible to live a vegan lifestyle and stay healthy at the same time.
If you’re interested in getting a quick comparison between a vegan (plant-based diet) and a non-vegan diet (meat-eaters), check out the quick video below: