Extreme Vegan Is Risky for You

Noah YoungFebruary 23, 2023
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Additionally, while some nutrients are indeed more available in their raw form, cooking can also increase the bioavailability of other nutrients, such as lycopene in tomatoes and beta-carotene in carrots. Cooking can also make some foods easier to digest and may help to release nutrients that are bound up in the plant cell walls.

Therefore, it's important to have a balanced approach to a vegan diet and include a variety of cooked and raw plant foods to ensure adequate nutrient intake and to minimize the risk of foodborne illnesses. Consulting a registered dietitian can be helpful in creating a balanced and healthy plant-based diet that meets your nutritional needs.

In fact, research has shown that consuming raw vegan diets for prolonged periods may have potential negative consequences on one's health.

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One of the primary reasons is that these diets may not provide all the essential nutrients that the body needs to function optimally. Although some raw foods may contain higher nutrient levels than their cooked counterparts, this is not always the case. Cooking certain vegetables, such as spinach and tomatoes, enhances their nutritional value by making the nutrients more bioavailable to the body. For instance, cooking spinach helps the body to absorb calcium more efficiently, and cooking tomatoes increases their lycopene content, which is associated with a reduced risk of chronic diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, and heart disease.

Moreover, some vegetables are more nutrient-dense when cooked because cooking helps to break down the cell walls of the plants, releasing the nutrients that are otherwise locked up. For instance, asparagus, mushrooms, carrots, broccoli, kale, and cauliflower are all examples of vegetables that offer higher nutrient-density when cooked.

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Another advantage of consuming cooked vegetables is that they provide the body with more antioxidants, which can help fight against free radicals that can cause cell damage and lead to diseases over time. Some vegetables, including asparagus, mushrooms, spinach, tomatoes, and broccoli, contain higher levels of beta-carotene, lutein, and lycopene when cooked than they do when eaten raw.

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Additionally, a lack of vitamin D is also a concern for those following a raw vegan diet. Vitamin D is essential for bone health, as well as supporting the immune system, and it is primarily obtained through exposure to sunlight or through dietary sources like fish and dairy products. Since a raw vegan diet excludes these sources, individuals may need to rely on supplements or fortified foods to meet their vitamin D needs.

Selenium and zinc are important minerals that play a role in immune function and wound healing, among other functions. These minerals are often found in animal products, so individuals on a raw vegan diet may need to consume alternative sources such as nuts, seeds, and whole grains to ensure they are meeting their requirements.

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Iron is another essential mineral that is important for the production of red blood cells and the transport of oxygen throughout the body. While iron can be found in plant-based sources like spinach and legumes, the form of iron in these foods is not as easily absorbed by the body as the iron found in animal products. Therefore, individuals on a raw vegan diet may need to consume more iron-rich plant-based foods or consider supplementation to meet their needs.

Finally, two types of omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA, are primarily found in fish and other seafood. While plant-based sources like flaxseeds and chia seeds contain a type of omega-3 called ALA, the conversion of ALA to EPA and DHA in the body is limited. Therefore, those following a raw vegan diet may need to consider supplementation or the consumption of algae-based sources of EPA and DHA to ensure adequate intake.

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Unintentional weight loss can be a serious concern for anyone, but it's particularly problematic for young women. Weight loss caused by a raw vegan diet can lead to partial or complete amenorrhea, a condition in which a woman's menstrual cycle stops. Researchers have found that as many as 30 percent of women under 45 who followed a raw food diet for more than three years experienced this condition.

Amenorrhea can have serious health implications, including reduced bone mineral density and an increased risk of osteoporosis, a condition in which bones become weak and brittle. Infertility is also a potential concern for women who experience amenorrhea for an extended period of time.

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In addition to the risk of amenorrhea, young women who consume 22-42 percent fewer calories than required may also experience suppressed reproductive function. This can lead to a range of health problems, including irregular periods, difficulty getting pregnant, and hormonal imbalances.

While a plant-based diet can offer many health benefits, including improved heart health and a lower risk of certain cancers, the raw vegan diet may be taking things too far. It's important to plan carefully and make sure you are consuming all the necessary nutrients, including protein, calcium, and iron, in the required amounts.

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If you are considering a raw vegan diet, it's important to consult with a registered dietitian or healthcare provider to ensure you are meeting your nutritional needs. It's also advisable to limit the duration of the diet to avoid any potential long-term health risks.