Eating a plant-based diet has become a possible way to accomplish everything from clearing acne to losing weight.
Going vegan sounds simple – just eliminate all animal foods like dairy, eggs, meat, and fish. Making the switch can actually be pretty complicated, however, for people with certain medical problems or particular habits.
Here are a few things that might prevent you from going vegan or make the transition more difficult.
You’re terrible at planning ahead.
Adopting a specialised diet can be really difficult if you don’t have the time or inclination to do a bit of meal planning.
“Vegans who do not plan well are at risk for relying on processed vegan foods such as vegan sausage, vegan butter, and vegan cheese, which are often high in salt with a long list of ingredients and strange additives,” nutritionist Kelsey Conrow MS, RD, LN, told INSIDER.
Planning for success on a vegan diet might include things like packing a few vegan snacks in your bag in case you get stuck in traffic, making a grocery list and sticking to it, or taking a look at a restaurant’s menu online before you go in order to make sure they offer dishes you can eat.
If you struggle with planning, making the switch to veganism could be a struggle.
Seitan is a popular vegan food made from wheat gluten. It offers over 75 grams of protein per 100 grams and has a savoury flavour and texture that many vegans find reminiscent of meat.
Unfortunately for those with celiac disease or a wheat allergy, seitan is basically pure gluten and avoiding it can be surprisingly difficult.
According to Verywell Health, seitan is a common ingredient in everything from vegetarian chillis to legume-based veggie burgers. Vegan fare in restaurants or small shops may include the ingredient without an allergy warning, and many prepackaged vegan meals use seitan as a main source of protein.
It doesn’t mean it’s impossible, but it can severely limit your options.
You have a vitamin B12 deficiency.
If you have a diagnosed B12 deficiency, going vegan could make it even harder to get enough of the essential vitamin.
“B12 is primarily found in animal products, therefore, vegans need to supplement with vitamin B12 and consume vitamin B12 fortified foods to ensure adequate support of the immune system, sustained energy levels, and protection against nerve damage,” Conrow told INSIDER.
People who already struggle to maintain their vitamin B12 levels on a diet that does include meat and dairy might have an even harder time after going vegan.
You’re deficient in zinc.
According to Healthline, signs of a zinc deficiency can include hair loss, a lack of alertness, and a weaker sense of taste and smell. Zinc-deficient people might also have unexplained weight loss, diarrhoea, or wounds that don’t heal.
Medical News Today reported that vegans and vegetarians are at greater risk of zinc deficiency because many plants contain phytates, which bind to zinc and reduce absorption of the mineral. Zinc in animal products is more readily absorbed by the body.
People with chronic alcohol addiction or conditions such as cancer, Crohn’s disease, diabetes, and celiac disease are also more at risk of being deficient in zinc.
If you have been diagnosed with a zinc deficiency, cutting out animal products could negatively impact your health.
You have irritable bowel syndrome.
Plant-based diets often rely on a steady intake of fibre-rich vegetables, fruits, and dairy substitutes that can aggravate the symptoms of IBS in some sufferers, registered dietician Lucy Whigham told Female First.
“If you’re a practicing vegan, maintaining a healthy balanced diet, and a diet that maintains a healthy gut, can feel like an uphill struggle,” Whigham stated.
One study from 2017 also found that vegetarian diets could be associated with irritable bowel syndrome.
Whigham recommends that people with IBS who want to pursue veganism avoid consuming large quantities of fruit juice, eat generous portions of low FODMAP carbohydrates like potatoes and oats, and make sure to get enough calcium.
You have a soy allergy.
Tofu is a staple of many vegan dishes and a good course of plant-based protein at 10 grams per half cup. If you have a soy allergy, however, making the switch to being vegan could be a lot harder.
Soy can be found in a myriad of vegan products such as tofu and tempeh, but it can also appear in nut butters, desserts, and condiments. You’ll also find soy in some packaged vegetable broths, meal replacement bars, and frozen meals, according to Verywell Health.
A soy allergy can make many vegan foods and dairy substitutes off-limits, which can limit your meal options if you’re looking to go vegan.
You have a nut allergy.
Nuts are packed into many popular vegan snacks and meals. Cashew cream, peanut butter, and nut cheeses are just a few tempting options for vegans looking to add the healthy fat and flavour of nuts into their diet. But if you have a nut allergy, going vegan can be hard.
Knowing as much as possible about the ingredients and processing of packaged food is important if you want to be nut-free and vegan. Nuts are often used as protein sources in vegan dishes and desserts, and being vocal about your allergy in restaurant settings is crucial.
“If you’ve got a peanut and/or nut allergy and you’re going vegan, a bit of extra planning will ensure that you get all the nutrients you need whilst managing your allergy,” dietician Heather Russell stated in a piece for The Vegan Society.
You don’t read nutritional information labels.
Reading the nutritional information on food is a good habit for anyone, but it’s even more important for vegans.
People eating a plant-based diet need to be sure they’re getting all their required vitamins and avoiding animal substances, which can be hiding in the most unexpected places. Eluxe magazine reported that consumables like beer, orange juice, Worcestershire sauce, chewing gum, and even figs can contain small amounts of animal products.
If you’re not used to reading the labels on your food, going vegan will mean longer trips to the grocery store and more time spent squinting at ingredient lists.
You need to be on a low-carb diet.
If you need to eat a diet low in carbohydrates for medical reasons, going vegan may present some challenges.
“A vegan diet is … typically high in carbohydrates, which can exacerbate underlying issues such as candida infections and even insulin resistance,” according to Healthspan.
Though these vegan carbs might be coming from sources like whole grains, vegetables, and fruits, eating in a way that doesn’t align with prescribed medical advice might harm your health.
It’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor before making any radical changes to your diet or lifestyle.
You don’t like vegetables.
Not everyone decides to go vegan for health reasons, but you might have a harder time switching to veganism if you don’t enjoy chowing down on something green once in a while. Simply swapping out steak for a feast of pasta and vegan cookies aren’t going to do your body any favours.
“Many vegetarians and vegans make the mistake of eliminating but not correctly replacing,” internal medicine doctor Brandi Jouett-Patrickson told CNN. “Each meal should have an array of fresh colours.”
In order to get the nutrients and nutrition you need out of a vegan diet, you should focus on eating plants rather than processed vegan treats.
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