Have you ever wondered if what’s on your plate can influence your brain power? Switching to a vegan diet comes with numerous physical health benefits, and it’s a growing trend.
However, it’s important to delve into how eliminating animal products can actually positively affect your brain health and intelligence. With an intricately linked relationship between diet and cognitive function, understanding the impacts of this plant-based journey is crucial.
How being on a vegan diet improves brain health
A well-balanced diet is associated with better brain health, which correlates with intelligence. For this reason, becoming vegan or opting for a veggie meal delivery service is a good move.
While we’ll discuss why more in depth in our later sections, the main reasons for this include low cholesterol levels, lower rates of oxidative stress due to higher intake of antioxidants, low c-reactive protein (which causes brain inflammation), and adequate nutrition levels, including iron (including heme iron), B12, calcium, and protein, and non-essential nutrients like taurine.
While more evidence is needed, we know that a person with higher cholesterol levels (primarily brought on by a meat-eating diet) was 2.2 times more likely to get Alzheimer’s disease.
Why do we see contradictory evidence on the vegan diet?
The scientific community agrees that the vegan diet is associated with a reduced risk of negative health outcomes when compared to vegetarian and omnivore diets. If that’s the case, then why do we routinely see articles like this that state that the vegan diet negatively affects intelligence?
There are many reasons, including bias (in the non-scientific and scientific communities), a general misunderstanding of how food interacts with the body, misinformation, and so on.
For example, it’s widely believed that meat was the primary reason why humans developed the highest degree of intelligence in the animal kingdom. In reality, carbohydrates, a macronutrient that’s rare in meat and abundant in plant foods, are to blame for our growing brains. We know this because the brain primarily runs on glucose, a carb found in fruits and vegetables.
What concerns are present for vegan diets and brain health?
As stated, there are some concerns that vegan diets can negatively affect your brain health. In this section, we’re going to look at these concerns and explain why they aren’t a problem.
Here are the most common concerns repeated online about vegan diets and brain health:
- Vegan diets don’t stunt brain growth in children. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the largest group of nutrition specialists in the world, agrees that vegan diets are suitable for all life stages. As long as your diet is adequately planned, you should get all the nutrients you need for a healthy brain, no matter if you’re 1 or 100.
- Vegan diets make you more empathetic. One of the cornerstones of high intelligence in animals is the ability to feel empathy. According to studies, vegans are more empathetic than their omnivore or vegetarian counterparts.
- Vegans don’t need dietary creatine, carnosine, cholesterol, or taurine. The vegan diet is devoid of these nutrients. While these nutrients are necessary for our brain to function, our body already makes enough and doesn’t require dietary versions of these nutrients. In fact, an excess of these nutrients can lead to health problems.
- Vegans need to supplement B-12 (but so do omnivores). B-12 is a bacteria that forms on unwashed vegetables. Due to sanitation practices, all B-12 is supplemented by putting it in foods, including milk, meat, and yoghurt. We can’t get it “naturally”, as any source of B-12 is supplemented in our food or drinks. But even so, the vast majority of people, regardless of their diet, get adequate amounts of B12 in their diets.
- Vegans are less likely to be nutrient-deficient. If adequate nutrition is a sign of brain health, then we shouldn’t be omnivores. Omnivores are more likely to be deficient in more vitamins than vegans, making supplementation crucial for most Americans.
While there is some evidence that the vegan diet can prevent Alzheimer’s disease, more evidence is needed. But, in the end, vegans tend to have healthier brains than omnivores.
Embarking on a vegan journey is an adventure that goes beyond just ethical eating. It’s about nurturing your entire being, including your brain. Remember, with the right balance of nutrients, you could potentially enhance your cognitive abilities and enjoy a vibrant spectrum of benefits.
David Radar, a psychology graduate from the University of Hertfordshire, has a keen interest in the fields of mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.