According to food website Chef’s Pencil, veganism is at an “all-time high” in South Africa. Did you know that we’re ranked top 30 in the world where plant-based, cruelty-free living is the most popular way of living? Surprising stats for the “carnivore nation,” right?
Veganism … the movement once associated with hippies and flower power, is now appealing to a far wider audience. In fact, once judged as either hipsters or animal rights nuts; this plant-based lifestyle is now widely regarded as one of the fastest growing trends globally with celebrities such Brad Pitt and Gwyneth Paltrow leading the way.
The goal of veganism is to reduce harm as much as possible. A vegan does not eat meat, poultry, fish, shellfish, dairy products, eggs, or honey, and many choose to avoid animal products such as leather and wool. So yes, making the transition to a more compassionate vegan lifestyle is one of the best things you can do for animals and the planet, but can you truly expect health benefits from this way of life?
There are conflicting reports. A study from the University of Florence in Italy found that individuals who follow a vegan diet have significantly lower rates of heart disease, certain types of cancer and diabetes. So, would slashing all animal sourced foods be the way to go? After all, it’s easier than ever with all leading supermarkets offering innovative plant-based products that replicate the taste and texture of meat and dairy.
Some experts have suggested that it’s not as simple as that. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition claims that eliminating animal products from the diet could increase the risk of certain nutritional deficiencies. According to Dr Denise Robertson from the University of Surrey, and a vegan for eight years, veganism is no more, or less healthy than any other kind of diet. There are good vegan diets and really diabolical ones.
The same proportions of food groups as other diets come into play: About 15% protein, 50 -55% carbs, and the rest fat. People generally worry about protein deficiency when living the vegan lifestyle, but the truth is that almost everyone is overconsuming protein. The only difference is that unlike animal protein, plant protein may not be complete.
The reality is that a diet made up only of fruit and vegetables don’t deliver the necessary nutrients. A variety of plant protein sources including pulses, tofu, nuts and seeds, and dairy alternatives such as almond milk, should be included in the diet. The trio of nutrients to keep an eye on when following this lifestyle are vitamin B12, vitamin D, and Iodine.
Also, although many people automatically correlate the word vegan with weight loss, well, that might not always be the case. Turns out that vegans have to watch their calories just as much. Fruit smoothies made with lashings of almond milk and a scoop of protein powder often pack enough calories to make them a full-size meal. So, it’s easy to over indulge and consume far more than the recommended number of calories in one day, especially if you add other calorie heavy foods such as nuts.
Bottom line: When done correctly, a vegan diet can have many health benefits. A good strategy is to check in with an accredited dietician to make sure you’re getting the nutrients you need.
Source: ft.com, health.com, express.co.uk, listland.com, vegansociety.org.za, theflamingvegan.com, theguardian.com, dosomething.org, thefader.com, iol.co.za, brandsouthafrica.ca.com, bigissue.org.za, veganfoodandliving.com, thesun.co.uk, goop.com, voanews.com, livekindly.co, thehumanleague.org, womenshealthmag.com, news24.com
DISCLAIMER: The information on this website is for educational purposes only, and is not intended as medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you are experiencing symptoms or need health advice, please consult a healthcare professional.