There are numerous reasons to embrace a Vegan diet and lifestyle. For healthy adolescents and adults, a vegan diet can be much more than a healthy lifestyle choice. The vegan diet is rich in foods proven to promote good health in practically every area of nutrition, whereas the average college student's diet is often conducive to various health issues including obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes.
The Western diet is clearly in peril, which is why more people are opting to go vegan every day. It is a good choice for your body, but is it also a good choice for your brain? Can going vegan help you get better grades? Let's explore those questions in a little greater depth. The answers might surprise you.
Bioavailability of Nutrients
There have been numerous studies done on people who embrace a vegan lifestyle to determine if a vegan diet contributes to or inhibits brain health. One consistent finding centres around bioavailability of nutrients in a vegan diet. Our species is not genetically predisposed to a vegan diet, so our food choices in that arena can, and do, have a significant impact on how our bodies process the nutrients we put in.
Since most people embrace (and have subsequently become genetically predisposed to) an omnivorous diet, the human body tends to function optimally when both plant and animal-based nutrients like proteins, carbohydrates, and fats are consumed. Remove any part of that diet and the way our bodies process nutrients changes. Poor bioavailability of nutrients plays a significant role in the development of certain vitamin deficiencies, particularly Vitamin A. Vegans retain fewer of the nutrients in their food than people who regularly take in at least some animal-based nutrients making less of the food they eat actually beneficial to the body. Moreover, the Vegan diet almost completely excludes DHA and EPA from the equation. This is not an optimal situation for the body for several reasons.
What Are DHA and EPA?
One of the key concerns of any plant-based diet is the exclusion of even small amounts of DHA and EPA (docosahexaenoic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid, respectively). DHA and EPA are vital for maintaining healthy brain function. Lack of these nutrients also has an adverse effect on your vision, which could make it harder to see whiteboard or powerpoint presentations or even read your textbooks without straining your eyes. DHA, in particular, helps form neural transmitters, like phosphatidylserine, which is very important for healthy brain function.
Is There A Solution?
If you are vegan, you might not be too pleased with us right now, but wait. There is some good news here that can help you help your brain function optimally without abandoning your healthy eating lifestyle. One of the best tips for successful studying we can give you that doesn't require hitting the books involves doing right by your brain all the time. That includes your diet. Here is a brief list of nutrients to both bulk up in your diet and consume in supplement form:
Vitamin A – great for preserving or even improving vision. Many vegans have observable Vitamin A deficiencies whereas the general public tends to not.
Vitamin D3 – important for healthy brain development. It regulates calcium levels in the brain and protects brain cells from oxidation. Vitamin D3 also supports the hippocampus (aka the memory centre of the brain).
Vitamin K2 (MK4) – required to build sphingolipids (cell membrane components), and for healthy brain function. It is available in supplement form but is also found in abundance in fermented soy.
Vitamin B12 – necessary for synthesizing RNA, DNA, red blood cells, and myelin. A B12 deficiency can also cause a host of psychiatric issues, including memory issues, depression, and, in certain extreme cases, psychosis. The vegan diet typically contains no B12, making it necessary to take it in supplement form for long-term healthy brain function.
Making Healthy Choices
No one is telling you that being vegan is bad or that you should abandon your vegan lifestyle. If you want to maintain good brain health and stay vegan, the answer to this conundrum is simple: supplement your diet with the nutrients your body is having trouble processing.
To answer the question of whether a vegan diet impacts academic performance, it can. It can have either a positive or negative effect given how you manage your diet and whether or not you supplement with the nutrients your diet lacks.
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