Updated: Mar 15
It's Veganuary time again and more people than ever are thinking about going vegan, but is it something that everyone should do? Are there some people that shouldn't go vegan? And, if they shouldn't go vegan what can they do instead to reduce animal suffering and limit the negative impact of a non vegan diet on the environment?
Who Shouldn't Go Vegan
There are a few different people that will need to think hard about whether or not they should change to a vegan diet, some of those are:
People with gut problems
People with an eating disorder
People that live in a food desert
Gut problems are horrible, they are painful, they can stop you from going out and they make it hard for you to enjoy food. You may have to give up foods that you love or eat them and have cramps for hours or even days. Fibre can be a big trigger for people with health issues like irritable bowel, crohns disease or ulcerative colitis where intestines will develop ulcers that stop the intestines from working properly. Fibre is a type of carbohydrate that isn't digested by the body, it helps to move food along and is eaten by the bacteria in our guts. Vegan diets are usually very high in fibre because of the amount of plants being eaten which can be impossible for people with gut problems to digest. If you do have gut problems you can go vegan but you will have to manage what you eat very carefully to keep your diet lower in fibre. Processed foods, like white bread and white rice, are lower in fibre, but so are peeled potatoes as almost all of the fibre is in the skin. For fruits and vegetables smooth juices can be used, but peeled fruits such as a peeled apple, mango, peach or banana will be fine. If you need to follow a low fibre diet get advice from your doctor so that you can make sure you're getting all of the nutrients that you need.
Technically there is no reason for people with an eating disorder to not go vegan. You can still eat a vegan diet and be completely healthy. The problem with eating disorders is that it's all about having an unhealthy need to control what you eat. Vegan food has less calories in it than animal products so it can be very easy to not get enough calories to feed your body if you are restricting how much, or which types of foods, you eat. For some people with an eating disorder going vegan helped them, they found that removing animal products from their diet gave them enough control over what they ate and helped their anxieties. For others it can be the opposite, the need to control what they eat gets worse as they restrict themselves more and more. If you do have an eating disorder get help in figuring out why you need to control your eating and heal from the inside out before you change to a vegan diet. Going vegan is a loving thing to do, but love yourself first.
Living in a food desert can make going vegan almost impossible. A food desert is an area that has few shops or markets that sell fresh, healthy, nutritious food. They can mean that people have to drive over an hour to get to a supermarket just to buy vegetables, if they can't do that they are stuck with local shops that only sell processed foods with few options for vegans. These areas will often have a lot of take aways and fast food shops selling high fat, high salt, fried foods, almost always involving meat. Living in a food desert makes it difficult for anyone to be healthy, but, for a vegan, it is even harder as there is so little to eat.
Some people will say that you can't go vegan if you have a vitamin B12 or zinc deficiency, but this isn't true. People that have low levels of zinc or vitamin B12 will be supplementing whether or not they are eating meat. On a vegan diet they will continue to have their levels checked by a doctor and adjust their supplements to keep them healthy. People that follow a flexatarian diet, people that mainly eat in a vegan or vegetarian way but eat some meat, often have low levels of B12. They think that, because they eat some meat, they are getting their vitamins in their food and don't supplement, but they're not eating enough meat to keep their levels up. Anyway, doctors are saying that everyone should supplement with B12 as most people have low levels, so the B12 argument as a reason to not go vegan is a weak.
If you have a soy allergy you may be told that you can't go vegan because vegan eats soy. People that like soy eat soy and those that don't don't; meat eaters are eating soy in a lot of different products, like Pot Noodles and processed meats, soy isn't an exclusively vegan food. Also, many vegans don't like soy and don't eat it, like me, I struggle with tofu, I can only eat it when cooked in certain ways, but generally I don't like the texture. Tofu and other soy products aren't necessary for a healthy vegan diet so, if you have an allergy, don't eat soy. It's the same with a nut allergy, stick to foods that are labelled as being safe for you. There are plenty of other foods to choose from, you'll be fine.
It is important to remember that being vegan isn't simply about what you eat, being vegan is about the way that you live. This means that you can make positive changes to your life like not buying leather and using vegan beauty products that don't have an affect on what you eat but have a positive effect on the world around you. And, even if you can't do it yourself, you can encourage others to go vegan and help them with their journey. To do that would be an amazing thing and the animals would thank you.