The vegan diet is becoming increasingly popular – a record breaking 168,542 signed up to go vegan this January!
But is this a diet we should all be following? What are the benefits and the risks?
What is Veganism?
- ‘True veganism’ attempts to exclude all form of animal exploitation and cruelty. This can be food, clothing or anything else.
- One that excludes all animal products (meat, fish, diary, eggs).
Why do people go vegan?
There are 3 main reasons why people go vegan:
Going vegan is the most effective way to help our planet and has many health benefits. People are becoming increasingly conscious of how animals and the earth’s resources are exploited to feed our huge consumption of animal products.
What’s in the diet?
These products are all vegan:
Oreos, Ketchup, pasta, baked beans, Pringles, pasta, rice noodles, jam, hummus, bagels, Doritos, oatmeal, most fresh bread and ciabatta, french fries and many more!
What are the health benefits?
- WEIGHT LOSS: vegans tend to have a lower body mass index (BMI) than non-vegans. Why? The high fibre intake in a vegan diet can make you feel fuller, so people tend to eat less calories.
- BLOOD SUGAR CONTROL: Several studies show that vegans have lower blood sugar levels, higher insulin sensitivity and a lower risk of type 2 diabetes.
- A HEALTHY HEART: vegan diets tend to cause lower blood sugar and cholesterol, lowering the risk of high blood pressure and heart disease.
A vegan diet also might be linked to a reduced risk of cancer, arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, and improved kidney function, but more research is needed in these areas.
What are the risks?
Vegan diets tend to lack a few key nutrients:
These nutrients are important for different functionings in your body, and a lack of them can cause health problems in time.
FACT: Your genetics and gut bacteria can influence the nutrients you absorb from a vegan diet.
TIP: eat lots of nutrient-rich plant based foods and limit the processed vegan foods.
Worried about protein intake?
Don’t be. Plants contain protein so a vegan diet can still be plentiful.
The issue is that plant’s provide some, but not all, of the 9 essential amino acids (building blocks for making protein that you can’t make yourself). But eating a MIXTURE of plant sources will get you all the amino acids your body needs.
Protein rich plant-based sources:
Pulses (beans, lentils, chickpeas), tofu and soya products, nuts, seeds, and nut butters, whole grains, and vegan protein blends (e.g.hemp/pea/brown rice).
The recommend daily intake for protein is 0.75g of protein per kg bodyweight per day in adults (roughly 56g/day and 45g/day for men and women aged 19-50 years respectively) – so check those labels and see how much protein you’re eating a day!
Of all the diets out there, the vegan diet can be a great way to lose weight and improve your health. It’s no secret that animal exploitation and overconsumption of animal products exists today, so working towards a vegan lifestyle and diet is definitely a step in the right direction.
But for some people, a vegan a diet is not practical for health, financial or lifestyle reasons, and that’s ok! No one diet or lifestyle is best for everyone. What’s important, is working towards consuming products that are more sustainable and ethical, whether this involves animal products or not.
by Rebekah Jade, BSc (Hons)