• Kate

Should I go vegan??!!

From international athletes to whole companies, such as Google, and even countries including China are backing the movement to consume more plant-based foods. Plant-based eating may not be completely mainstream yet, but it is becoming adopted more and more every day. I have been asked a lot recently, about my thoughts on veganism, especially since it has been suggested by the media, that the newborn son of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, may be brought up as a vegan!

If you are thinking of going vegan yourself, have a look at some of those most FAQs, which I get asked surrounding veganism.

What are the main benefits of going vegan?

Research has shown that vegans, as well as vegetarians, are at a decreased risk of various health conditions, including obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and certain types of cancer. A diet high in plant-based foods is believed to reduce type 2 diabetes risk due to their high levels of antioxidants, fibre, micronutrients, such as magnesium nd unsaturated fatty acids. The lower levels of saturated fats in plant-based foods may also play a role. Additionally, plant foods are rich in vitamin A, vitamin C, antioxidants, water, chlorophyll, and vitamin E, which all do fantastic things for your skin. A well-planned vegan diet can also improve your sleep and result in more energy!

What are the pitfalls of veganism?

A well-planned vegan diet can meet the nutrition needs of any individual, but not all plant-based diets are adequate. In the case of veganism, it is well-recognised that appropriate dietary plans must be put in place to ensure adequate intake of vitamin D and vitamin B12, omega-3 fatty acids, iron, zinc, and calcium. A 2014 study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, demonstrated that vegans have low blood levels of vitamins B12 and D, calcium and essential fatty acids. These vitamins and minerals play important roles in bone health and low fatty acids levels are associated with a number of cardiovascular risk factors. So, if you are planning to go vegan, do be mindful that you make sure you don’t become deficient in these micronutrients.

Can veganism really help rheumatoid arthritis as well?

In a 2015 study, 600 participants followed a vegan diet for three weeks which significantly reduced c-reactive protein, a key marker for acute and chronic inflammation. In two small studies published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association in 2010, researchers observed 79 patients with rheumatoid arthritis who did a vegetable fast for seven to 10 days, followed by a vegan diet or lacto-vegetarian diet (includes dairy and egg). In the smaller study (26 participants), the patients followed a lacto-vegetarian diet for nine weeks. Researchers found no significant difference in pain or morning stiffness when compared with the control group. However, in the larger study (53 participants), the patients followed a vegan diet for three and a half months and experienced significant improvement in tender and swollen joints, pain, duration of morning stiffness and grip strength than the people in a control group who consumed an ordinary diet. In another study published in Arthritis Research and Care, 30 patients with rheumatoid arthritis who followed a vegan diet for three months experienced reduced inflammation.

Are vegan foods much more healthy?

It is important not to fall into the trap of eating lots of processed vegan food. It is also important to note that just because a food product is labelled as “vegan”, it doesn’t mean it’s healthier. For example, almond milk is a popular, plant-based milk that’s often a staple in vegan diets. However, while almond milk is low in calories and enriched with several important vitamins and minerals, it is not necessarily healthier than cow’s milk. 250 ml of low-fat cow’s milk contains 8 grams of protein, while the same amount of unsweetened almond milk contains only 1 gram. Also, sweetened almond milk can be high in added sugar, with 16 grams of sugar in 250ml. Other vegan products, such as soy-based veggie burgers, nuggets and meat alternatives, are often highly processed, with a long list of artificial ingredients. Despite being vegan, these products are also often high in calories, yet low in protein, fibre and other nutrients necessary for a balanced meal.

How can go I vegan?

1. Going vegetarian or vegan doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing. You can begin with a “meatless Monday”, and gradually build up to more meat-free meals. Or you can go vegan overnight, although doing it gradually often makes it easier both mentally and physically since suddenly cutting out meat can lead to headaches, mood swings and digestive discomfort.

2. With veganism, it’s not just about what you’re not eating (animal products, eggs and dairy), but about what you are eating. People who switch to a vegan diet should focus on eating more vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds, and whole grains such as brown rice and barley instead of refined, processed carbs like white pasta, bread or rice. The healthy alternatives are packed with phytochemicals (plant-based compounds) that include antioxidants, flavonoids and carotenoids, all of which help reduce inflammation and protect the tissues from oxidation, which can damage them. The vegan diet can also reap the anti-inflammatory benefits of adding certain oils. Most vegans don’t use enough extra virgin olive oil, and extra virgin olive oil helps reduce inflammation. However, use it at low temperatures because high heat destroys its beneficial compounds, called polyphenols – so use it in salad dressings or for tossing pasta, for example (not for frying and baking).

3. If you take the step to go vegan, you may need to take some supplements, if your doctor advises. These include omega-3 fatty acids to protect against inflammation, iron to protect against anaemia, zinc for the immune system, vitamin D and calcium for strong bones, vitamin B-12 for energy and selenium for a healthy thyroid.

4. Drinking enough water is important for everyone, but may be especially important for vegans who eat a lot of fibre. Drinking water with fibre is important because it can help fibre move through the digestive tract and prevent issues like gas, bloating and constipation.

5. If you’re a vegetarian or vegan, make sure to consume plenty of good sources of iron, including lentils, beans, fortified cereals, nuts, seeds, oats and leafy greens. Additionally, pairing iron-rich foods with foods high in vitamin C can enhance the absorption of non-haem iron. Vitamin C is found in most fruits and vegetables, so including a vegetable side dish, salad or piece of fruit with your meals can help increase iron absorption.

Do vegans live longer?

In one of the largest surveys of data on global dietary habits and longevity, researchers found that consuming vegetables, fruit, fish and whole grains was strongly associated with a longer life. The study, which was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, covered global eating habits from 1990 to 2017. Additionally, it found that people who limited these healthy foods were more likely to die before their time. The study, which was published in the journal, The Lancet, highlighted that 1/5 of deaths around the world were associated with poor diets. This was defined as diets, which were limited on vegetables, seeds and nuts, but excessive in sugar, salt and trans-fats!

It is advisable that if you are thinking of going vegan, speak to a qualified nutritionist or dietician first. They will be able to make sure a vegan diet is right for you, and help to plan your means, so that they are well-balanced.

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