Going Vegan? Avoid These Unhealthy Mistakes

If you want to be a healthy vegan, you've gotta do more than just give up dairy and meat.


OK so, there is this Nigerian woman who goes by the name EfikZara. She's got an Afro that is absolutely mind-blowing—like for real, for real. She's gorgeous and kind-of puts me in the mindset of the actor DeWanda Wise with a vibe that is sorta like another YouTuber, nappyheadedjojoba (who I featured last year in the article "Single Minded: So, What If You Like Dating But DON'T Desire Marriage?"). Anyway, as I was checking out EfikZara's video "Why The Natural Hair CULT (Community) is TRASH...? WILL I QUIT?", I noticed a comment that was made by a viewer who goes by Daytime Vegan:

"I feel this way about the vegan community. It has become a cult that spews hate to anyone who isn't a purist vegan eating salads and smoothie bowls every day. Don't dare eat a vegan frozen pizza or cook with oil or even THINK about leaving veganism. Many vegans will come for your blood. It really is exhausting."

(I know, right? She's also got some pretty counter-cultural thoughts on hair grease, too. You can check those out here.)

I'm not a vegan or vegetarian, but with headlines like "Hundreds of thousands ditching meat as part of January vegan resolutions that will continue through the year, campaigners say," I think that it's super-important to not only acknowledge the ever-growing vegan community, but to provide it the support it needs. Part of what comes with that is offering knowledge. So today, let's dive into some common mistakes that many vegans make.

The first one would be what Daytime Vegan said. If you want to be a vegan, cool. But just like I'm sure you don't want anyone cramming their philosophies or way of life down your throat (see "How To Respect Someone's Path When It's Nothing Like Your Own"), it's important to extend that same courtesy to others---even when it comes to diet.

That said, as far as your health goes, it's not enough to just think that if you totally abstain from animal products, you're all good. Believe it or not, there is such a thing as being an "unhealthy vegan", and here are some of the main ways that people end up becoming one, sometimes without having a clue.

1. Not Getting All The B12 You Need


I'm someone who is borderline anemic. Something that totally turned that around for me is taking a B12 supplement. Not only is B12 something that helps to prevent megaloblastic anemia, it also maintains your nerve and blood cells, supports bone health, and can help to keep depression-related symptoms at bay.

The reason why this tops the list of vegan-related mistakes is because there are more and more articles coming out like "A doctor is warning vegans not to believe internet rumors that vitamin B12 is unnecessary" due to the fact that many vegans are not intentional about getting enough of this vitamin into their system. You can avoid being one of them by taking a daily supplement. Or, you can eat more foods rich in B12. It's true that it's easiest to find B12 in fish and dairy, but fortified cereals and some plant-based milk alternatives including hemp, cashew and coconut milk are good vegan sources too.

2. Not Getting Enough Calcium, Either

Photo by Giphy

A lot of us grew up hearing that dairy was the best way to get the calcium that we need. Personally, I never got why humans seem to be the only mammals who not only drink another mammal's milk but continue to do it well into adulthood. As if that ain't enough of a reason to reconsider consuming it, dairy also gets major side-eye because it can cause body inflammation, raise insulin levels, increase mucus production, and it comes with a certain amount of cancer risks. I mean, it's not like you can't get all of the calcium that you need without milking a cow.

Almonds, kale, broccoli, oranges, chia and sesame seeds, amaranth grain and spinach are just some of the non-dairy options that are calcium-rich.

And, of course, this is a mineral that also comes in supplement form if you'd rather go the "pill a day keeps the doctor away" route.

3. “Overdosing” on Protein


One of the biggest concerns that a lot of newbie vegans have when they are transitioning over to a vegan lifestyle is if they'll be getting enough protein. While protein is certainly essential in order to build and repair body tissue, grow hair and nails, and make pretty much all of the body chemicals within our system, you don't need as much as you probably think that you do. If a man gets around 56 grams on a daily basis and a woman takes in 46 grams (which is around 10-15 percent of your daily caloric intake), everything should be all good.

And just how can you know if you are low-key overdosing on protein? Headaches, digestive issues, nausea, dehydration and fatigue are some of the signs. So, if you've been eating a ton of oats, corn, potatoes, cauliflower, Chinese cabbage, sundried tomatoes and/or artichokes and you've been experiencing any of these symptoms lately, scale back a bit. If you start to feel better, chances are, you did take it a little too far on the vegan protein tip.

4. Eating Way Too Much “Vegan” Junk Food

Photo by Giphy

I remember watching an episode of Beverly Hills, 90210 back in the day where Brenda declared that she was a vegetarian and shamed her family for eating beef, only for her brother Brandon to call her out for wearing a leather jacket. That's what I think of whenever a vegan friend of mine is piling up on junk food. Not eating meat doesn't mean you can't still overdo it when it comes to sugar, sodium and Lord knows what else.

If you're not sure if you are someone who falls into the "junkie vegan" category, you might want to read "Are You a Junk Food Vegan?" in its entirety. A simple way to know is based on something that was referenced in the article: "A junk food vegan is a vegan who regularly consumes highly processed foods which are primarily made in science labs." Yep, that's about it in a nutshell. Another article that breaks down some vegan junk food that needs to be replaced with some healthier alternatives is "10 Vegan Foods That AREN'T Healthy—And What to Eat Instead".

Remember, just because you might not eat steak or chicken wings, that doesn't mean those veggie chips and dairy-free cookies can't raise your blood pressure too.

5. Or Eating Way Too Many Meat Substitutes


I guess if you're a vegan, strictly for environmental reasons, I get why you would constantly be on the lookout for foods that have a taste and texture similar to meat. But other than that, I would like to hear in the comment section why someone would give up meat and then want something that's as close to it as possible. I mean, it's not like a lot of these meat substitutes out here ain't loaded with sodium, processed chemicals, and a high price tag. It's also not like there aren't plenty of articles out in cyberspace suggesting that you avoid "fake meat" as much as possible (see "The trouble with fake meat", "The Foods You Should & Shouldn't Be Eating On A Plant-Based Diet" and "Are Meat Substitutes Bad For You Or What?"). Does this mean that you can never have an Impossible Whopper for lunch? I don't think that's the conclusion. Just make sure that you do all things in moderation. Fresh fruits and veggies are always gonna be better for you than a burger—no matter what form it comes in.

6. Not Taking in Enough Calories

Photo by Giphy

Something that a lot of people overlook is, when you decide to go without meat and dairy, that means you are also going without fat in your diet. This means less calories which means you actually need to eat more. When you take into account that veggies and fruits consist of a lot of water and fiber, you're probably not getting nearly as many calories as meat-eaters do; especially if you're eating the way you always have.

Here's the deal. If you want to maintain your current weight, as a woman, you need somewhere around 2,000 calories a day (1,500 if you wish to lose about a pound a week). Men need about 2,500. Apples, carrots, cucumbers, garlic, grapefruit and peppers are extremely low in calories. So, until you get used to what foods can give you the daily caloric intake that your body requires, you might want to refer to a calorie chart (like this one), just so you can get used to your new calorie intake normal.

7. Becoming Iron Deficient


Something else that meat does is provide a good source of iron. You can actually eat a 4 oz steak and get about 20 percent of the iron that your body needs for the day. So, as a vegan, just make sure that you've got some 100 percent grape juice, dark leafy greens, lentils, asparagus, sweet potatoes, raisins or dried apricots around. Otherwise, you could end up with brittle nails, shortness of breath or even a damaged immune system.

8. Forgetting All About Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Photo by Giphy

One of the most important reasons to make sure that you've got some omega-3 fatty acids in your system is so that you can protect your heart. It's proven that these acids help to slow down the development of plaque around your arteries, reduce the chances of you having a heart attack or stroke, and can even lower your blood pressure. I personally take them in supplement form because they're really good at keeping my skin and hair moisturized; studies also say that they can protect us from UV damage too.

I must admit that omega-3 capsules are a little on the large side. So, if you'd prefer to get this nutrient via your diet, since salmon isn't your thing, try the following—walnuts, flaxseeds, hemp seeds, chia seeds, spinach, brussel sprouts and purslane (which is basically a weed that can be treated just like lettuce).

9. Not Doing Enough Research on Different (Health-Conscious) Recipes


The folks that I know who flip-flop back and forth when it comes to whether they are a practicing vegan or not, they typically struggle due to sheer boredom. That's why this point also makes the health-related vegan mistakes list. Think about it—if you are vegan in order to detox your system or because you think it would be better for you overall, it's important that you find healthy recipes that will keep you committed to your health plan.

If you're currently seeking some inspiration, our article "15 Vegan Soul Food Dishes That'll Make You Rethink Meat" can help you out. I also recommend that you check out sites like Blacks Going Vegan, Veggie Soul Food and downloading the Black Vegan Tube app; it's an app that is totally free and offers support and info to people within the Black vegan community (their IG handle is @blackvegantube). Some vegan chefs that you might want to start following include Rachel Ama (@rachelama_), Jenné Claiborne (@sweetpotatosoul), Bryant Terry (@bryantterry), Stacy Dougan (@simplypurely) and Shauna (@Blaq.Vegan). The more you learn, the more exciting veganism can become for you.

10. Not Having a Grocery Budget

Yep. I sure did put this on the health list. If you're spending so much money on food that you can't pay your rent, I think that could lead to an anxiety attack, at the very least. Shoot, the last time I went to Whole Foods (which was just a couple of weeks ago), I spent almost $50 on three cartons from the hot bar (one was vegan collards, by the way), so y'all can't convince me that veganism is a cheaper route to go. Still, I will agree with the stance that it can be more affordable than a lot of us think if there is a budget in place, less "brand names" are purchased, and there's a commitment to cook from scratch. For instance, instead of always buying a Beyond Meat Beast Burger, take out a weekend to learn how to make your own black bean burger instead. And, rather than always being up in Whole Foods, take a stroll through your local farmers market.

Hmph. Come to think of it, if budgeting is something that you keep fumbling on, maybe going vegan can change all of that. There is no way that you can be a "good vegan" without preparing a grocery list beforehand and, if you want to come home with more than one shopping bag, you need to set some money aside. Anything that can make you responsible with money has got to be at least worth trying. Yeah…I'll think about it (wink).

Want more stories like this? Sign up for our newsletter here and check out the related reads below:

How I Transitioned My Meat-Loving Family To A Vegan Diet

10 Foods You Should Eliminate From Your Diet If You're Trying to Lose Weight

How To Stan For Your Newly Vegan Homegirl Like She's Beyonce

What To Know Before You Go Vegetarian

Featured image by Giphy

Did you know that xoNecole has a podcast? Subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Spotify to join us for weekly convos over cocktails (without the early morning hangover.)

We all know what it is to love, be loved, or be in love – or at least we think we do. But what would you say if I were to tell you that so much of the love that you thought you’d been in was actually a little thing called limerence? No, it doesn’t sound as romantic – and it’s not – unless you’re into the whole Obsessed-type of love. But one might say at least one side of that dynamic might be…thrilling.

Keep reading...Show less
The daily empowerment fix you need.
Make things inbox official.

Idris Elba and Sabrina Dhowre Elba are gearing up for the second season of their podcast Coupledom where they interview partners in business and/or romance. The stunning couple has been married for three years but they have been together for a total of six years. During that time, they have developed many partnerships but quickly learned that working together isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be.

Keep reading...Show less

Before she was Amira Unplugged, rapper, singer, and a Becoming a Popstar contestant on MTV, she was Amira Daughtery, a twenty-five year-old Georgian, with aspirations of becoming a lawyer. “I thought my career path was going to lead me to law because that’s the way I thought I would help people,” Amira tells xoNecole. “[But] I always came back to music.”

A music lover since childhood, Amira grew up in an artistic household where passion for music was emphasized. “My dad has always been my huge inspiration for music because he’s a musician himself and is so passionate about the history of music.” Amira’s also dealt with deafness in one ear since she was a toddler, a condition which she says only makes her more “intentional” about the music she makes, to ensure that what she hears inside her head can translate the way she wants it to for audiences.

“The loss of hearing means a person can’t experience music in the conventional way,” she says. “I’ve always responded to bigger, bolder anthemic songs because I can feel them [the vibrations] in my body, and I want to be sure my music does this for deaf/HOH people and everyone.”

A Black woman wearing a black hijab and black and gold dress stands in between two men who are both wearing black pants and colorful jackets and necklaces

Amira Unplugged and other contestants on Becoming a Popstar

Amira Unplugged / MTV

In order to lift people’s spirits at the beginning of the pandemic, Amira began posting videos on TikTok of herself singing and using sign language so her music could reach her deaf fans as well. She was surprised by how quickly she was able to amass a large audience. It was through her videos that she caught the attention of a talent scout for MTV’s new music competition show for rising TikTok singers, Becoming a Popstar. After a three-month process, Amira was one of those picked to be a contestant on the show.

Becoming a Popstar, as Amira describes, is different from other music competition shows we’ve all come to know over the years. “Well, first of all, it’s all original music. There’s not a single cover,” she says. “We have to write these songs in like a day or two and then meet with our producers, meet with our directors. Every week, we are producing a full project for people to vote on and decide if they’d listen to it on the radio.”

To make sure her deaf/HOH audiences can feel her songs, she makes sure to “add more bass, guitar, and violin in unique patterns.” She also incorporates “higher pitch sounds with like chimes, bells, and piccolo,” because, she says, they’re easier to feel. “But it’s less about the kind of instrument and more about how I arrange the pattern of the song. Everything I do is to create an atmosphere, a sensation, to make my music a multi-sensory experience.”

She says that working alongside the judges–pop stars Joe Jonas and Becky G, and choreographer Sean Bankhead – has helped expand her artistry. “Joe was really more about the vocal quality and the timber and Becky was really about the passion of [the song] and being convinced this was something you believed in,” she says. “And what was really great about [our choreographer] Sean is that obviously he’s a choreographer to the stars – Lil Nas X, Normani – but he didn’t only focus on choreo, he focused on stage presence, he focused on the overall message of the song. And I think all those critiques week to week helped us hone in on what we wanted to be saying with our next song.”

As her star rises, it’s been both her Muslim faith and her friends, whom she calls “The Glasses Gang” (“because none of us can see!”), that continue to ground her. “The Muslim and the Muslima community have really gone hard [supporting me] and all these people have come together and I truly appreciate them,” Amira says. “I have just been flooded with DMs and emails and texts from [young muslim kids] people who have just been so inspired,” she says. “People who have said they have never seen anything like this, that I embody a lot of the style that they wanted to see and that the message hit them, which is really the most important thing to me.”

A Black woman wears a long, salmon pink hijab, black outfit and pink boots, smiling down at the camera with her arm outstretched to it.

Amira Unplugged

Amira Unplugged / MTV

Throughout the show’s production, she was able to continue to uphold her faith practices with the help of the crew, such as making sure her food was halal, having time to pray, dressing modestly, and working with female choreographers. “If people can accept this, can learn, and can grow, and bring more people into the fold of this industry, then I’m making a real difference,” she says.

Though she didn’t win the competition, this is only the beginning for Amira. Whether it’s on Becoming a Popstar or her videos online, Amira has made it clear she has no plans on going anywhere but up. “I’m so excited that I’ve gotten this opportunity because this is really, truly what I think I’m meant to do.”

Today is Malcolm X’s birthday. As an icon of Black liberation movements, his words are often rallying cries and guideposts in struggle. In 2020, after the officers who executed Breonna Taylor were not charged with her murder, my timeline was flooded with people reposting Malcolm’s famous quote: “The most disrespected person in America is the Black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the Black woman. The most neglected person in America is the Black woman.”

Keep reading...Show less

As her fame continues to rise, Tiffany Haddish has remained a positive light for her fans with her infectious smile and relatable story. Since Girls Trip, fans have witnessed the comedian become a modern-day Cinderella due to the many opportunities that have come her way and the recognition she began to receive.

Keep reading...Show less
Exclusive Interviews

Exclusive: Jay Ellis Shares ‘Full-Circle’ Moment With His Parents & His Self-Care Ritual

Staying grounded is one of the actor's biggest priorities.

Latest Posts