Updated: Dec 9, 2019
What is a plant-based, vegan diet? A vegan diet has gained increasing popularity over the last few years with thousands of people taking part in Veganuary, where people eat vegan for the month of January. The vegan trend has quadrupled in the last 5 years with more people adopting the diet for environmental, health and sustainable reasons. According to the vegan society if the world went vegan, we would reduce greenhouse gasses by two thirds, reduce healthcare related costs and reduce climate change damages of up to $1.5 trillion.
A vegan diet is focused on whole , plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and legumes, eliminating animal products such as meat, fish, dairy and eggs. A plant-based diet reduces animal- based products and focuses the core part of their diet on wholefoods, rich in fruits and vegetables. A vegan diet is incredibly restrictive and may not be suited to everyone, whereas a plant-based diet encourages a more balanced approach, reducing meat and dairy intake and increasing a variety of plants alongside organic lean proteins.
What are the health implications of a plant-based, vegan diet?
A vegan diet in comparison to a flexitarian, wholefood, plant-based diets in terms of health outcomes has mixed reviews. Th research tends to focus more on the health benefits of a vegetarian diet. A vegetarian/vegan diet has been associated with the following health benefits:
• A Vegetarian diet has been linked to a reduced risk of type two diabetes due to potential lower BMI’s (Body Mass Index’s) in those following a plant-based diet
• Obesity risks are also lower on a vegetarian/vegan diets due to lower overall BMI
• A reduction in Cardiovascular related diseases such as heart disease and strokes have been recorded amongst vegan’s and vegetarians
• Vegans have a lowered risk of metabolic syndrome compared to omnivores
How can we adopt a plant-based, vegan diet?
A plant-based diet is a simple diet to incorporate into your lifestyle. Simple swaps such as focusing on two of your daily meals as plant-based with a small amount of animal protein to begin your transition. Fruits and vegetables in abundance can create delicious alternatives, try filling your plate with dark green leafy vegetables, legumes such as lentils, sweet potatoes, hummus and essential fatty acids such as walnuts, chia seeds and nuts. Dairy free alternatives have increased in popularity with a huge variety to choose from, such as coconut, almond, oat, hemp and pea-based milk alternatives. Plant-based proteins have also gained popularity with the rise in veganism and vegan eating trends. Tofu, tempeh, chickpeas, beans are great to add to your meals and assist with meeting protein requirements and creating a balanced plate.
Nutritional Analysis of a Vegan Diet
Not all nutrients are easy to obtain on a vegan diet, including protein, essential omega-3 fatty acids, B12, iron, zinc and calcium. This does not mean you can’t have a balanced diet; it just means you need to make sure you are supplementing with B12 and focusing on a variety of plant-based foods to include. The following nutrients should be monitored on a plant-based and vegan diet:
Essential Omega-3 Fatty Acids: The richest sources come from omega-3 fatty fish such as salmon, sardines, mackerel, anchovies and herring, however plant-based sources such as chia seeds, walnuts and flaxseeds are great vegan alternatives.
Protein: is an essential macro nutrient which can be difficult to include within a plant-based, vegan diet. Grass- fed organic meat is a great protein source as it contains all 9 essential amino acids, however try including some plant-based options such as chickpeas, tofu, tempeh, nuts, nut butters and seeds.
B12: can’t be obtained through a vegan diet as dietary sources are milk, eggs, beef, oily fish and cheese. Supplementation is therefore essential to reduce the risk of deficiency.
A plant-based, vegan diet is a great way of improving health, reducing the risk of certain disease and creating a more sustainable approach to the environment. A plant-based diet and lifestyle has a number of beneficial aspects and has beneficial long-term effects for both the individual and the environment. It is important, however to ensure that all nutritional aspects of a plant-based diet are met in order to achieve an overall balanced diet and lifestyle.
When considering adopting a vegan diet, consult a health care professional such as your GP or nutritionist to ensure that it is the right diet for you and to help guide you through the initial stages.
Visit the recipe section on my website to find some plant-based, delicious recipes to inspire you and get you started in the kitchen!