Are you thinking about trying a vegan diet?
A vegan diet is one where no animal products are consumed. Whereas a vegetarian diet does not include any meat consumption, the vegan diet also restricts animal products such as egg, milk and honey. Following a vegan diet has become increasingly popular in recent years. It is actually quite easy to find alternatives in the grocery or order a vegan meal from a restaurant these days than ever before. Because of an increase in obesity and chronic diseases, diet restriction has become a way that many people have found beneficial to control the symptoms of chronic disease and generally feel better. Many people who follow a vegan diet do it for the health benefits it can offer.
Health Benefits of a Vegan Diet
Protective Against Cancers. Animal fats have been linked to many health problems. Cancers, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, hypertension, and heart disease, just to name a few. Animal fats are high sources of all cholesterol-raising fats, some scientists and health professionals believe. Eliminating this source of fat may have a significant impact on reducing the risk of these health issues. Eating meat has been linked to an increased risk of bowel cancers compared to those who have eliminated meat from their diets. Consuming higher amounts of fibres, legumes, fruits and vegetables, and vitamin C in your diet has been suggested to protect against the risk of bowel, and other cancers.
“In general, a vegan diet contains far more nutrients than the average American diet.” – Megan Ware, Dietician
Lower Risk of Heart Disease. Although the data is small and there is more research to be done to get a definitive conclusion on this benefit, preliminary studies do show a positive impact on heart health. Studies have shown that people who follow a vegan diet have lower levels of LDL cholesterol (the bad type) and lower blood pressure readings. Following a plant-based diet means that you are consuming more healthy foods across your diet. A more healthy diet, consisting of more whole foods, fruits and vegetables over highly-processed and high-sugar foods can only be good for your body. We already know that consuming less calories is good for weight loss, and a vegan diet helps to really reduce those extra calories you don’t need.
Bone Health. Calcium and protein are good for bone health and are easily available in animal products, but bone health is also influenced by nutrients such as vitamin D, K, potassium and magnesium. Whilst calcium can be found in figs, kale, spinach, black-eyed peas, and turnip greens; soy, fruit and vegetables provide these extra nutrients which are consumed in large quantities in the vegan diet.
Slimmer Body. In general vegans are slimmer and healthier than their meat-eating counterparts. They are good at self control and are therefore more disciplined when it comes to exercise and healthy living. Some have found that it makes them perform better in their workouts, helping their bodies to recover quicker.
It’s important to have a really good understanding of your own health needs before making any big dietary changes. Consulting your GP and a dietitian who has a special interest in the vegan diet is a really good place to start, especially if you already have existing health problems. Once you understand which foods contain which nutrients, there are really no reasons to say there are any health risks to switching to a vegan diet. But there are some guidelines to follow.
Vegan doesn’t always equal healthy. Flour and sugar do not contain animal products, so there are lots of vegan snacks you can consume that do not contain any nutrition. You need to be smart about what foods you are eating. You still need to make healthy food choices. If you want to see the health benefits of a vegan diet, you need to stick to whole-foods and plant-based foods.
Iron. The iron that is contained in plant-based foods are not as easily absorbed into the blood. To increase the absorption of iron, it is important to boost your Vitamin C intake in foods such as berries, citrus fruit, kiwi fruit, capsicum, tomatoes or broccoli. Avoid drinking tea with your meals as some antioxidants in tea can negatively affect iron absorption.
B-12. Vitamin B12 is only naturally found in animal products so you will need to make sure you are consuming B-12 fortified products. These are readily available in cereals, soy products, or vegan burgers. Supplements can also be taken, so chat to your GP or dietician about which one you should take.
Calcium. It is important to include a large amount of calcium-rich foods in your diet. Calcium-fortified soy or almond milk can be an easy source of calcium. Plant-based sources of calcium include tofu, tahini, and green, leafy vegetables are also
Omega-3 Fats. Because our bodies can’t produce these Omega-3 fats on their own, we need to consume them. Omega-3 fats are found in lots of seafood, however plant-based sources such as linseeds/flaxseeds, walnuts, chia seeds, soy bean oil and canola oil contain a different type of Omega-3. Our bodies can convert this plant-based type into the type more beneficial to our bodies, but the conversion rate is low. There are vegan Omega-3 supplements you can take, but again it is wise to consult your GP or dietician before taking supplements.
People who follow a vegan diet overall live generally healthier lives. If you are struggling to make healthy changes in your life, then maybe a radical change is what you need. Certainly eating more whole-foods and fruits and vegetables over highly processed foods and large amounts of meat is a healthier start.
AJ’s now offers an onsite dietitian – if you have questions about your diet or are struggling to lose weight, make sure you visit us today! Contact us for your guided tour of our facilities, sign up right now to become a member online, or give our free, 5-day trial a go!