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How a vegan diet could affect your intelligence

https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20200127-how-a-vegan-diet-could-affect-your-intelligence

bbc.com

How a vegan diet could affect your intelligence
It was the late 1880s in the city of Rajkot, India. The meeting was to take place on the banks of the local river - and discretion was essential. Mahatma Gandhi, who was just a teenager at the time, hadn't told his parents where he was going; if they had found out, they would have been shocked to death.

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Veganism

Veganism is one of the fastest-growing millennial trends. In the United States, it grew by 600% between 2014 and 2017.

Recent concern about the nutritional gaps in plant-based diets has led to warnings, such as restricted brain development and irreversible damage to a person's nervous system.

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Testing the impact of the vegan diet

One study supplemented Kenyan schoolchildren with three different types of soup (meat, milk and oil) as a snack over seven school terms. 

The children who ate the soup containing meat each day had a significant edge: they outperformed all the other children on a test for non-verbal reasoning. The children who received meat soup or soup with added oil did the best on arithmetic ability.

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Important brain nutrients

Several essential nutrients are not available from plants or fungi. Creatine, carnosine, taurine, EPA and DHA omega-3, haem iron and vitamins B12 and D3 generally only occur naturally in foods from animal products.

The nutrients found in vegan foods are minimal. To get the minimum amount of vitamin B6 each day from the richest plant sources, you'd have to eat about five cups worth of potatoes.

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The Vitamin B12 deficiency

Vitamin B12 is only found in animal products like eggs and meat.

Low B12 is widespread in vegans. There are some cases of children whose brains failed to develop because of their vegan parents.

Later in life, the IQ is directly correlated with the amount of B12 in a person's blood. the brains of those with lower B12 is six times more likely to be shrinking.

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Iron deficiency

Iron plays a prominent role in brain development and is essential throughout our lives. One study found that giving women iron supplements led to intellectual gains. In those whose blood iron levels improved, their cognitive performance increased between five- and seven-fold.

Those adopting a vegan diet are particularly prone to iron deficiency. The form most readily absorbed by the body is only found in animal proteins.

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Supplements

Some of the essential nutrients can be acquired from supplements. However, nutrients such as taurine are easily overlooked. Others are so obscure that vegans are unlikely to have even heard of them.

  • There are small amounts of taurine in some dairy products, but the primary dietary sources are meat and seafood. Vegetables do not contain taurine.
  • Choline is found in eggs, beef and seafood. People who consume eggs tend to have almost double the choline levels and enjoy a lasting cognitive edge.
  • Creatine supplies our cells with energy. Vegans and vegetarians have deficient levels in their bodies.

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Vegan fast food

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Plant-based protein menus

Plant-based protein sources are not the same as animal protein sources. Proteins are made up of amino acids which are the building blocks of every cell and hormone in our body. Meat protein contains all nine essential amino acids, whereas plant-based protein usually lacks at least one of the nine essential amino acids our body needs.

Unripe jackfruit makes a convincing choice for pulled pork alternatives, curries and burgers. But it is almost valueless if you needed protein since jackfruit consists of carbohydrates. Vegan burgers are made up of beans, but this is not a complete protein source.

Iron content

One study found that 25% of vegans (mainly women) had very low blood iron levels, compared to 0% of omnivores.

Plants like whole grains, legumes and spinach are high in iron but is not always the best type. Animal sources contain haem iron. Non-haem iron, found in plants, is not as well absorbed by the body.

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Meanings of “protein”

Protein is a macronutrient, a family of molecules made of amino acids. It is found in many different food items like meat and legumes. Even grains and leafy vegetables have some. Plant-b...

Protein-rich foods from animals

  • They may have more saturated fatty acids (beef and dairy especially)
  • They may have more omega-3 fatty acids (fish especially)
  • They don’t contain any fiber or carbohydrates.
  • They tend to be very high in protein.

If you need a lot of protein in your diet, meat is a great way to satisfy that need.

“Plant protein”

Plant-based protein sources don't have as much protein. You can get enough protein through a plant-based diet, as long as it is well balanced. Plant-based protein sources:

  • They often contain fiber (especially legumes and whole grains).
  • If they contain fat, they are often rich in “good” fats (for example, the omega-3’s in nuts).
  • They contain plenty of starch as well, so it’s impossible to follow a low-carb diet if that’s a priority for you.

The so-called plant-based movement

The plant-based movement defines a diet based on low fats, high fibers and vegetables. 

The purpose is to avoid consuming animals for health reasons, different from veganism, accordi...

Differences between 'plant-based' and 'vegan'

While the vegans adopt a lifestyle that must not harm the life of animals for any reason whatsoever, people who choose the 'plant-based diet' have more flexibility when it comes to both their food and their lifestyle. 

Plant-based and vegan at the same time

When thinking about a healthier lifestyle, which includes a healthier diet too, one can choose to be both 'plant-based' and vegan, as the two go hand-in-hand perfectly. 

Moreover, once you have chosen one of them, you have all the chances to end up choosing also the second one, as they are well connected. The good news is that being 'plant-based', 'vegan' or both at the same time can only provide you with benefits.