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MercurySunrise's avatar

Are Vegetarian and Vegan Diets Bad for You?

Asked by MercurySunrise (134points) July 19th, 2010

I have a good friend who is fanatic about good health and she says not only is the vegan diet somewhat unhealthy because of lack of meat (I know, I hate the things they do to animals also) but that it can also cause severe psychological problems, sickness, lowered immune systems, and unless you are taking 500 nutritional pills a day you will probably die of malnutrition if nothing else gets you first. Are you vegan for the diet or for the animals? If its only for the diet, do you really get the best results on that one? Have you tried any other diets? Also, my mom, and 3 of my friends went vegetarian and they started really gaining weight. Why is that? Are you not supposed to lose weight on a vegetarian diet? I was just wondering what benefits there are to these two diets? And on either of these diets do you take or have to take vitamins?

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22 Answers

DrasticDreamer's avatar

They aren’t any worse for you than a regular diet. The thing that most people tend to forget is that absolutely any diet can be good or bad for you – it all depends on how balanced your meals are. The reason your friend probably said a vegetarian/vegan diet is somewhat unhealthy is because he or she was (most likely) automatically assuming that protein (which people do need) only comes from meat. It’s a common misconception, as protein can be found in a wide variety of foods. Even those who aren’t vegetarian or vegan should be taking some kind of multi-vitamin, because it’s hard for anyone to guarantee that they get the recommended amount of daily vitamins.

A reason that your mom and friends may have gained weight after becoming vegetarian is that they weren’t well enough prepared. They probably ate the foods available to them, even though a lot of them are high in fat, instead of learning how and what to cook, which would have provided them with a nutritionally balanced meal.

One big benefit to being vegetarian or vegan is that people tend to eat too much meat, which can also be very bad for you. Everything in life is about balance, period. There are right and wrong ways to do everything. That said, my sister has been vegan for years and years now, and she’s doing just fine.

Zaku's avatar

What DrasticDreamer said. Being vegetarian or vegan is not a specific diet. You can malnourish yourself, or over or under-eat, with or without meat. The idea that humans need meat to be well-nourished is simply incorrect, however.

Kraigmo's avatar

The odds are, a vegetarian diet is healthier.
Some people seem to need meat, though. Most don’t.

Vegan diets can be low in B-12, but that is offset if they take vitamins or occasionally cheat with cheese.

Seaofclouds's avatar

@DrasticDreamer said it best. If it’s something you are really interested in, see if you could talk to a registered dietician about it so they can help you understand what foods will give you the nutrients you need. Your doctor could probably get you set up with a registered dietician.

tragiclikebowie's avatar

Vegetarian/vegan diets have been proven to have many health benefits if they are not junkitarian diets, which is easy to fall into.

The only vitamin that is really can be of concern on a veg diet, like @Kraigmo said, is B12. But the body only uses B12 a little at a time and it takes a while to become deficient. Ironically, B12 is found in dirt and on the surface of plants but pesticides and washing destroy it. So take a supplement or eat dirty, organic vegetables!

rts486's avatar

Humans need meat to be well nourished. That’s why we have canine and incisor teeth and our eyes in the front of our head. Don’t deny evolution or screw with mother nature.

Cruiser's avatar

There is one aspect of plant based diets or diets in general that IMO may be a factor is we have over farmed our land to exhaustion and a few important minerals and elements vital to our health and well being are all but non existent in the plants that naturally should be there but aren’t because they have been stripped out of the soil but over farming. It is well established there is a Selenium deficiency in farm soil around the world.

So your friend is on the right track to supplement her diet to add in nutrients that may be lacking from a plant based diet.

lifeflame's avatar

I’m vegetarian (not vegan).
I don’t take any vitamin supplements.
I rare get sick; and I would say that I’m probably healthier and stronger than average.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@MercurySunrise Your body needs certain things to survive. It needs energy, amino acids, fats, etc. It really doesn’t care where these come from, as long as they are in balance with your bodies needs. Overdoing on any one element is bad for the body, and that can be unhealthy. It’s all in the balance that leads to a healthy lifestyle.

Your_Majesty's avatar

You friend certainly know nothing about vegetarism. Visit a Vegan Nutritionist for more and real information.

christine215's avatar

A) our bodies do not NEED meat to survive
vegetarians and vegans live on average 8 years longer than the average meat eater they have lower incidences of cardiopulmonary problems and their general health is better than meat eating people

B) If you eat organically, the farmer practices crop rotation and uses natural methods to replenish the soil (as nature intended)
Tests have been done on fruits and vegetables grown side by side one organic one conventional to show that the organic version of the produce has more vitamins and minerals than the conventionally grown produce.

JeanPaulSartre's avatar

Let’s just say as a vegan I know I’m getting all my nutrients… which is more than most people can say.

Lots of vegans are healthy and lots are unhealthy, just like meat eaters, and this vegan could kick the crap out of all of us… probably even if we ganged up on him.

Food is fun… but it needs to be fair as well. Like for the Chickens that have to have their beaks trimmed because it’s so hard for us to deal with them acting like chickens. It’s also horrifically unhealthy

The oldest person alive is a Vegetarian

Soy hasn’t been definitely determined or linked, but meat eating has been definitively linked to to heart disease cancer and high cholesterol

Meat has gotten significantly more dangerous as the advent of factory farming has made antibiotics less effective, spread disease, and made animals genetically weaker.

I’m sorry to be a link ranger, but you’ve been misled. If you look at the history of healthy eating, lots of fad diets come and go… but vegetarians have consistently been healthier (and smarter) than meat eaters.

And let’s not even get started on how much toxic dioxin (see chart) you’re ingesting with your meat and milk…

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

Your friend is incorrect. In all ways. I am a vegan because the meat and dairy industries are selling unhealthy products, are cruel to animals, contribue to global warming and don’t give a shit about any regulations. My entire family is vegan and we had a nutritionist take a look at our meals and identify how to best make the switch. We are all healthy and happy and are now 100% more knowledgeable about what our bodies need and don’t need. Supplements are important but not because we’re vegan – they are important to everyone since people do not get enough nutrients if all they eat is the typical bacon/egg/milk bs. You have to obtain good supplements to make sure you get enough of the A complex vitamins (your usual Vitamins A, C, etc.) and of the B complex vitamins (B2, B12, etc.) and of the Calcium/D3/K complex (nobody gets enough Vitamin D and so this is a must) and of the Omega 3, 6, 9 group (I get that through flax/hemp seed oil, seaweed ( I eat a lot of seaweed! ),walnuts and fortified foods) and of the Iron/Fiber group (I use Floradix Iron supplement) and last but not least, consider getting a pro-biotic supplement (if you’re taking out dairy) to maintain a good intestinal environment. Mostly, these days, our diet is about grains, fruits and veggies and less about meat substitutes. I believe more people in the future will come to their senses about what they’re being fed, literally, and switch to vegetarianism.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@J and S: Don’t get your granola in an uproar. I think there was a coupon for McDonalds in Sunday’s paper if you need a good meal. (covers head, kisses butt goodbye)

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Adirondackwannabe I hate granola and you wish you can get my panties up in a twist

JeanPaulSartre's avatar

@Adirondackwannabe I hear their fries actually become sentient and eat you if you wait long enough! Mwa ha ha ha ha ha!

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@JeanPaulSartre Well, we know they certainly don’t decompose!

JeanPaulSartre's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir I assume this is part of their master plan.

christine215's avatar

@JeanPaulSartre factory farming is killing us all (in how harmful it is to the earth, even those of us who have walked away from conventionally grown anything are being harmed by factory farming) thank you for posting those links!

JeanPaulSartre's avatar

@christine215 You speak the truth. You’re welcome!

tragiclikebowie's avatar

@rts486 I’d like to see you tackle a steer and tear it apart with those ferocious incisors.

NaturallyMe's avatar

@DrasticDreamer is right. :)
Also, i’m vegetarian as well and haven’t lost weight (not that i’m overweight or anything), but i still eat breads, pastas, chocolates, chips, crisps and other junk food (ok, not ALL the time), and i also eat a LOT, more than what i should be eating for my size. So just because i’m not eating meat, doesn’t mean that i’m not eating fattening foods, or just plain too much food. Weight control has nothing to do with whether one eats meat or not.

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