We’re coming for you Dmitry!
There are many reasons why people choose to go vegetarian or vegan. Some are compelled by the environmental impact of confinement animal feeding operations (CAFO). Others are guided by ethical concerns or religious reasons. I respect these reasons and appreciate anyone who thinks deeply about the social and spiritual impact of their food choices—even if my own exploration of these questions has led me to a different answer.
But many choose a vegetarian diet is because they’re under the impression that it’s a healthier choice from a nutritional perspective. It is this last reason that I’d like to address in this article. For the last fifty years, we’ve been told that meat, eggs and animal fats are bad for us, and that we’ll live longer and enjoy superior health if we minimize or avoid them. This idea has been so thoroughly drilled into our head that few people even question it anymore. In fact, if you asked the average person on the street whether a vegetarian or vegan diet is healthier than an omnivorous diet, they’d probably say yes. But is this really true?
Plant-based diets emphasize vegetables, which are quite nutrient dense, and fruits, which are somewhat nutrient dense. However, they also typically include large amounts of cereal grains (refined and unrefined) and legumes, both of which are low in bioavailable nutrients and high in anti-nutrients such as phytate, and they eschew organ meats, meats, fish and shellfish, which are among the most nutrient-dense foods you can eat. (1)
Vegan diets, in particular, are almost completely devoid of certain nutrients that are crucial for physiological function. Several studies have shown that both vegetarians and vegans are prone to deficiencies in B12, calcium, iron, zinc, the long-chain fatty acids EPA & DHA, and fat-soluble vitamins like A & D.
Let’s take a closer look at each of these nutrients on a vegetarian or vegan diet.
On the :30 for as long as possible… 5 pulls on the ERG under 1:30/1:45