Oh it is so confusing out there with all these arguments about what is the healthiest diet!
So what is the real story here? How do you make a vegan diet perfectly healthy?
What are the benefits of a vegan diet?
There are claims that the vegan diet is the best as vegans enjoy lower:
- heart disease rates
- lower risk of certain cancers
- have a lower BMI
- less insulin resistance and more
And then there are those who claim a low carb, high fat diet, which tends to be higher in animal produce is best.
However, it is never that simple. We are all individuals and what suits one may not be suitable for another. For instance, there is a lot of confusion around fats. Saturated fats are demonized by some and considered totally fine to eat by the bucket load by others.
So where does the truth lie?
It’s all a matter of balance and it depends on your genetics as well as activity levels, lifestyle and environment. A large percentage of people have DNA snips that mean that they hold onto fat and therefor a high fat diet would be very damaging to their health. Others need meat to avoid becoming anaemic because they simply can’t get sufficient iron from plants to flourish.
If a diet is vegan it doesn’t mean that it is automatically healthy. A well thought out vegan diet can be very healthy if the nutritional shortfalls are accounted for through supplementation. If it is full of highly processed junk food then it is no more healthy than any other poorly thought out diet.
Going vegan for a month can be an excellent way of boosting intake of carotenoids, polyphenols, flavonoides and fiber through a greater intake of fruit, vegetable, and legumes. It can also be a great way of forcing you to rethink your diet and introduce new foods as well as reverse chronic disease.
But should you go vegan long-term?
Studies indicate that 92% of vegans are deficient in vitamin B12, compared to 77% of vegetarians and 11% of omnivores. B12 is from animal sources only and can be synthesized by bacteria found on grass and in the soil. We synthesize B12 in our colon but it is too low in the gut to be bioavailable. Levels of B12 in marmite and nutritional yeast just aren’t high enough! Fortunately, it takes a long time to become deficient in B12. It should be noted that for an accurate test for B12 status, ‘active’ B12 should be measure – not just serum levels, which only reflect the most sever B12 deficiency by which time damage to health may be irreversible.
Iodine is also an area of concern as our main source is from dairy although it can be obtained in very high levels from certain sea vegetables such as kelp.
Essential fatty acids are also difficult to obtain in a bioavailable form on a vegan diet and it is recommended that omega-3 should be supplemented. Vegan forms are available.
Other nutrients that can be below recommended daily levels are zinc, iron, taurine and choline. It should be noted that recommend daily levels are often too low anyway for optimum health. These recommended daily values were set to avoid overt disease symptoms.
Veganism is on the rise and, from an ethical and environmental point of view, that is no bad thing but like all diets it needs thought.
Give me a call to see how I can help you ensure your diet is right for you!