Veganism has definitely been on the rise in the past few years. But is being vegan healthy? The answer is hotly and constantly debated with some people suggesting that veganism is ideal and others arguing that it is harmful.
Eric Edmeades, founder of WILDFIT®, has his own views on this matter. As a pioneer leader in the field of evolutionary biology and nutritional anthropology, he created WILDFIT® to offer a healthy optimal way of life to people who want to live a holistic lifestyle and fuel their bodies with what it needs (rather than what they want).
In an exclusive interview with Mindvalley, Eric discusses the controversial topic and shares some interesting ideas and perspectives on veganism, meat-eating, and why the WILDFIT community has members from both camps.
Is Being Vegan Healthy?
The choice to become vegan is an important one and people have a number of reasons for making it. While humans have a long history of meat-eating, nowadays many people are choosing to avoid animal products for a variety of reasons.
Eric points out that “veganism is about trying to nourish yourself with having the least necessary amount of impact on animals.” He adds, though, that some nutrients are necessary to us and can only be attained through animal products.
This means that people choosing or experimenting with veganism should consciously seek out good sources of nutrients that are difficult or impossible to attain without animal products. These include B12, D3, and essential amino acids and fats.
Why do people decide to go vegan, then? For various motivations, ones that may seem obvious and others that may not.
Reasons for veganism
Generally speaking, when someone decides to cut meat out of their diet, they make their choices on the three pillars of veganism.
- For health. For many, the change from the Standard American Diet (SAD) to healthy veganism will trigger an upgrade in health. Long term, however, there are important considerations and it is important to remember that just because something is labeled “vegan” doesn’t mean that it is good for you.
- To protect the environment. There has been a great deal of attention on the destructive force of feed-lot farming of cattle but it is important to note that all mass-production farming is bad for the environment even the farming of traditionally “vegan” crops.
- For ethics and protesting against animal exploitation. Several documentaries have shown the terrible way that many animals are treated in the food industry. Every vegan is, and every person should be, committed to improved quality of life for all animals on earth, especially those that we are responsible for.
And so, the decision to become vegan is a complicated one. When it comes to how healthy veganism is, it’s not so black and white. There are nuances in every diet, and the first place we should look, according to Eric, is evolutionary biology.
What is good about a vegan diet?
Often, when a person turns to a vegan diet they are also correcting their previously terrible diet and studies have shown that making this change can include a number of benefits, such as:
- Lowering cholesterol levels
- Reducing blood pressure and inflammation
- Improving gut health
- Supporting weight loss
- Increasing the functioning of your kidneys
- Reverting type 2 diabetes
- Reducing arthritis pain
- Supports your immune system
Many of these results have a great deal more to do with the type of foods that vegans give up when they transition from the Standard American Diet to a healthy vegan diet. Over the long term, however, there are other considerations that must be taken into account as we will discuss in the next section.
Why is a vegan diet not healthy?
There are two ways that a vegan diet can create health problems, according to Eric:
- Choosing veganism, but not health, for the wrong reasons. There are plenty of people that choose foods based on their “vegan” status and not on their nutritional needs or healthfulness. This means eating vegan junk foods, ignoring the need for seasonal rotation, and forgetting that humans have specific nutritional needs.
- Choosing healthy veganism but ignoring evolutionary biology. When done incorrectly, a vegan diet can cause a number of nutritional deficiencies because only eliminating foods from your diet isn’t enough to support a thriving system.
Humans have been omnivorous for our entire history and, as such, we have certain requirements that are more challenging (but perhaps not impossible) to achieve as a vegan.
That means that without careful attention, perhaps including supplementation, certain issues may come, including the deficiency of:
- B12, D3, and K2
- Amino acids
- Healthy fats, omega-3, and omega-6
As you can see, it is not as simple as “vegan equals health.”
The decision to eliminate animal products comes with certain responsibilities and possible consequences; it has to be done properly.
The WILDFIT Take on Veganism
Eric affirms that WILDFIT can work for vegans as well. In fact, there are practicing vegans and vegetarians who follow the program’s principles and live a thriving lifestyle with exceptional health.
“I am a vegan. WILDFIT is definitely not designed for vegans. I was easily able to blow past my ‘reasonable’ goal and then easily reach my dream goal. There are vegan diet programs out there but what I appreciate about WILDFIT is that it gets deep into the why, not just the what of making food choices.
That understanding of the emotional connection to food makes it much easier to make rational choices about eating instead of being driven by emotional history.
Even as a crazy vegan, I recommend WILDFITas a very effective, deliberate, educational, and successful program even for vegans.”
— Don Berlyn, vegan WILDFIT member, Flagstaff, United States
People usually compare a health-conscious plant-based vegan with someone eating a standard diet and decide that veganism is healthier. This is what Eric sees as a mistake when it comes to turning vegan.
Speaking from his own experience, Eric shares how he had been a convinced vegan for several years. Did it help him overcome health problems and cure symptoms he dealt with for years? Yes.
However, coming from a diet full of dairy, sugar, and processed foods, of course, veganism was way healthier. But was it the most optimal way of living?
After years of not eating meat, he noticed himself one night dreaming about meat and literally salivating. Then he realized it was not about addiction but rather his body asking for it.
This is why WILDFIT focuses more on having a balanced whole-food diet with all the nutrients you need with as little impact on animals as possible.
Eric makes a few interesting points when talking about how different diets can impact the environment and its animals.
- Meat is not bad for the environment; some types of farming are. Monocrop farming and factory farming are disastrous for the environment and they definitely shouldn’t be encouraged. However, some good alternatives are natural ecosystem farming and full-lifecycle farming. Both of them mirror the natural ecosystem which, of course, includes animals.
Then why isn’t veganism the answer? Because mass-producing some plant-based foods actually harm the environment way more than people think. For example, 25% of the forests in Mexico are used up for growing avocados, which involves cutting down acres of natural rainforests, killing thousands of animals, and then killing thousands more animals each year to keep the crop safe.
- You can make sure that the animals are raised and treated incredibly well. Going for organic local produce will support your body’s nutritional needs as well as the care of animals and the environment.
This way, you can ensure that you don’t support animal exploitation, but you’re also meeting your body’s needs. “At its extreme, veganism is like a cult that wants to prevent animals from being born in the first place,” says Eric.
What if you can take care of the planet, the animals, and your health as well? Wouldn’t you choose that instead?
Is veganism a religion?
At its core, of course, it is not. But it’s true that it can go to the extreme with some very ideological vegans out there.
This is where the WILDFIT view comes into play. Because having a healthy lifestyle, it’s about the psychology of food as well in order to attain that food freedom. And when you get obsessed about anything regarding food choices, no matter if it’s good or bad objectively, it could still harm your health.
And sometimes, the fixed ideologies people hold on to may prevent them from making the right lifestyle choices, which will, in turn, only create more anxiety surrounding one’s diet.
If you allow yourself to become ideological about your food, then you might allow yourself to let your health suffer at the feet of your ideology. And that’s a problem.— Eric Edmeades, founder of WILDFIT® and trainer of Mindvalley’s WILDFIT Quest
Your Health Is the Real Wealth
So is being vegan healthy? Depends on how you do it.
What is not healthy, though, is letting go of your body’s needs because of ideologies and a fixed mentality. However, you can find the best modalities to have the least amount of impact on animals if that’s what you desire to do.
And if you need a little guidance on your journey to become the happiest version of yourself, here’s where Mindvalley comes into play. You can unlock the FREE WILDFIT Masterclass and learn more about Eric’s approach to a wholesome lifestyle after years of research.
One of the best things about it is being part of a community that shares the same values, goals, and visions as you do. Maybe the same struggles and confusion as well. And this is where you don’t have to do it all alone.
You can now step into your greatness and reveal the best, most healthy version of yourself.