Veganism is a way of living rather than a diet. Vegans exclude all exploitation of and cruelty to animals for food, clothing, or other purposes. This means no meat, fish, dairy, or eggs. Express.co.uk chats to Tea Advisory Panel nutritionist, Dr Emma Derbyshire, to find out whether you should go vegan.
Should I go vegan?
Many people decide to go vegan for environmental benefits, but there are also benefits on the physical side.
Dr Emma Derbyshire said: “Clearly, the benefits of going vegan can be very personal.
“Increasing concerns about animal welfare and the carbon footprint of foods that we eat are now major drivers behind veganism.
“In terms of specific benefits, the potential to help regulate bodyweight is one benefit.
“Vegan and vegetarian diets are also higher in fibre, so they help promote a diverse ecosystem of healthy bacteria, helping to support both human gut microbiome and overall health.”
Being vegan is a personal choice, however, and there is no right or wrong decision.
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Is veganism healthy?
You can be a healthy vegan or an unhealthy vegan, depending on what you consume.
Dr Derbyshire said: “Vegans should follow healthy eating guidelines which include at least five portions of fruit and vegetables every day and keep fully hydrated.
“Meals should be based on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, opting for wholegrain if possible and include some dairy alternatives, such as soya drinks and yoghurts.
“A variety of plant-based protein sources should be eaten and plenty of fluid consumed throughout the day – ideally drinking 6-8 cups or glasses which does not need to be just water.
“Drinking herbal, plant-based teas, like Rooibos, can contribute to fluid intakes and research has found they are just as hydrating.
“A new study on Rooibos also found evidence for cholesterol reduction, blood glucose control, bone health, memory function, sperm viability, immune balance, anti-inflammatory effects plus anti-allergy effects.”
Should vegans take vitamins?
You should try to get as many vitamins as possible from your diet, but you may need a little help from tablets.
Dr Derbyshire said: “Vegans have been reported to have lower intakes of certain nutrients including vitamin B12, calcium and vitamin D.
“Iron and omega-3 fatty acid intakes should also be monitored.
“There are also concerns that shifts away from animal-derived proteins which currently are a main providers of dietary choline could impact on intakes and body status of this nutrient.”
If these nutrients can’t be supplied from food sources, this is when supplements would be warranted that are suitable for vegans.
Standard guidance for vitamin D is that we should consider taking 10 micrograms a day to keep bones and muscles healthy.
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Do you lose weight from going vegan?
While veganism came about as a way of life to protect animals rather than a diet, it has become a diet people stick to when they want to lose weight.
Dr Derbyshire said that opting for a plant-based diet could help you lose weight.
She explained: “There is some evidence that plant-based diets could help to reduce body fat in adults who are obese or overweight, and increasingly, there is interest in using vegan diets to help manage the acceleration of overweight and obesity.
“Also, emerging research recently published looking at the link between adopting plant-based diets and weight loss found three factors that could be the reason behind the relationship of vegan diets and weight loss.
The first is the reduction of caloric density, the second is improved gut microbiota symbiosis and the third is improved insulin sensitivity.
She said that other work has found that vegan diets are linked to significantly greater weight loss when compared with other diets, such as traditional cholesterol diet habits.
Dr Derbyshire added: “It is highly likely that the fibre profile of plant-based foods is responsible for some of these effects.
“That said, you can purchase refined, unhealthful vegans’ foods, high in calories, sugars and saturated fat just as you can if you are not vegan.
“So, it’s very much about making the right choices, monitoring portion sizes and eating a variety of wholesome foods.”
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