Hey there beautiful people ❤️ I hope you’re all doing well 🙃
As many of you may know, I have studied holistic nutrition for quite a while now. I finished my first two courses, Holistic Nutrition and Advanced Holistic Nutrition a while back and I recently read, and completed, another nutrition related diploma, this time, vegetarian and vegan nutrition specifically.
I decided to study vegan and vegetarian nutrition specifically because veganism is gaining popularity, however, I realised that although there are huge health benefits related to eating more plant based food, omitting entire food groups may pose a challenge – both practically speaking and for one’s health.
Seeing as Malta Meat Free Week, which I think is a great initiative, has come to an end, I thought I’d share some thoughts with you all regarding a vegan diet and other alternatives to consuming less meat and finding balance.
First and foremost, I am not here to tell you what to do and what not to do – what you eat, the way you choose to live your life and why and how you do that is completely and totally up to you! I am writing this to shed some light on the subject and to let you know the pros and the cons that you may encounter if you change your diet totally without enough thought and research regarding what the body actually needs to sustain good health.
I am honestly conflicted – part of me is really happy that veganism is gaining popularity. I strongly believe that we need to increase our plant food intake, cut down on animal foods for so many reasons and the fact that it’s becoming popular and being made accessible is brilliant.
What worries me, from a nutrition perspective, is that if people go vegan, without much knowledge of what their bodies actually require, this can be harmful.
Please keep in mind that I am writing this solely from a health and nutrition perspective. If you choose a certain lifestyle based on factors outside of this consideration, I very much respect that. This is just a bit of information for those who are considering a lifestyle change and who may be confused / conflicted on the matter.
I feel as though a vegan diet is marketed and seen by most as being healthy and that people may choose to go vegan solely for health reasons without enough knowledge to have a balanced diet. While a vegan diet can be balanced and healthy and prove to be a good fit for many individuals, being vegan does not automatically equate to being healthy.
You could eat potato chips covered in sugar all day long and be completely and totally vegan. I realize that this is an over exaggeration but I’m just trying to emphasize that there is in fact no real evidence to prove that a vegan diet is in fact better for overall health.
There is however a lot of evidence that eating a diet which is high in plant foods is beneficial. For example, the Mediterranean diet which emphasises the consumption of very little meat, a lot of whole grains, vegetables, fresh fruit and fish is one way to eat a healthy balanced diet which is still heavily plant based.
Fact: too much meat and animal foods are proven to cause disease – that’s not up for discussion and it’s not an opinion. This is scientific fact.
Fact: eating a large variety of fruit, veg, whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts and seeds in proper proportions is beneficial for overall health – again, this is not a matter of opinion
So, what’s the solution? Should we all just go vegan?
If you would like to, sure! Just make sure you do your research and consult a nutritionist or dietitian if you can. But the true answer is, not necessarily. What I suggest is, if you don’t want to go vegan, but you still want to improve your health and that of the planet, the introduction of many more plant based foods, meals and snacks into our eating regime.
There is a way to enjoy your favorite foods – be that a steak or cake or anything in between – and still enjoy the vast benefits of a healthy balanced, heavily plant based diet. Just make sure you eat those greens! Eat your five portions of vegetables and fruit daily, if you can, make it ten. Go for whole grains, beans, lentils, nuts and seeds for a plant based protein and incorporate some vegetarian and vegan dinners in your week night supper rota.
Ensure you’re eating a lot of plant based foods – reducing the amount of animal foods we eat, even if just by say 30% – 50%, will have a very significant effect on both your personal health and the health of the planet.
I realise that there are several factors that are considered when deciding to go vegan – namely moral, ethical and health reasons. So, if you’re keen on going vegan, or even opting for a felxetarian diet (this is where you eat a lot of vegan meals with the addition of non – vegan foods in moderation – this is pretty much how I eat most of the time) – here’s what you need to watch out for.
Vitamin D – important and can be easily lacking for vegans and non vegans alike. Considering supplementation might not be a bad idea for us all.
Vitamin B12 – not present in any vegan foods *unless fortified and added by manufacturers*. Supplementation is very important.
Iodine – found in large amounts in dairy and also in seaweed and some other seafood. Very important especially for women who are want to get pregnant.
Zinc – very few vegan foods, namely nuts and seeds, contain zinc. Zinc is vital in maintaining a healthy immune system.
Calcium – present in dairy; also present in leafy green veg. Not an issue provided diet is properly balanced.
Protein – most non-animal protein sources are INCOMPLETE protein sources; meaning they are lacking in one or more amino acids. Combining different high protein foods in one meal is imperative. For example, consume a dish containing beans and lentils – the amino acids missing in one will likely be present in the other.
Finally, just as with anything in life, do not make a decision about your diet because it is trendy or you feel pressured to do so. Yes, there are huge very important ethical, environmental and wellness issues associated with our diet. Yes there are many benefits to going vegan. There is also a downside and I feel that the extremism and often preachy attitude of some following this lifestyle, puts more people off than it does encourage them. You don’t need to subscribe to the whole lifestyle to make a difference in your health and the environment! Just be more mindful of what you put on your plate and try to do your own research in terms of what you need and how to help the planet in the meantime!
Before I finish off this post, I’d like to point out that being able to go vegan (not vegetarian) and manage to do so with a healthy and balanced diet including all the necessary supplementation and so on, is a privilege, that many on a smaller budget might not be able to afford. Mind you, vegetarianism is far different – there is not supplementation required and it is a much cheaper way to eat.
That’s if from me for today 🙂 If you like this, don’t forget to ‘like’ it – it helps let me know what you guys want to see more of!
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HNN by Sarah – @holisticnutritionninja
Thank you for taking the time to be here and read this ❤
Until my next post, be well xXx