It’s become the question of the decade.
Who is healthier, meat eaters or vegans?
Apparently the meat and dairy industry funds most of the data on the positives of meat and dairy!
More than 75% of the world’s meat comes from factory farms.
Not only are there ethical issues for the animals in these circumstances.
But the impact on consumers is grave.
Luckily we have the choice.
We can empower ourselves with the responsibility for our health.
We can choose to be vegane for our health, the planet, and the animals.
This article will look at ways veganism is healthy.
We will also discuss the 4 essential nutrients every vegan needs to know about.
Is veganism healthy is a broad question.
Provided we eat sensibly, then yes, veganism is very healthy.
We must be mindful of getting all the nutrients our bodies need.
Getting the proper nutrients can be more of a challenge as a vegane, but it is doable.
It is all about building healthy habits.
It’s fair to say, executed appropriately, that the vegane lifestyle has the potential to be exceptionally healthy.
In general, the vegane diet is rich in:
- Nuts and seeds
Conversely, vegans avoid the associated health risks of meat, particularly factory-farmed meat, which includes obesity, heart disease, and cancer.
As a vegan, my health has improved significantly.
My health improvement isn’t just from what I am consuming.
But from what I am not consuming.
The strict abstaining from certain foods is a beneficial side effect of veganism.
In times gone by, I used to reach for a packet of chips or a chocolate bar.
Nowadays, I may have a handful of nuts, carrot sticks with hummus, fruit, or a homemade protein ball.
The nutrient differences between these foods are stark.
My protein balls have:
- 19.9g carbohydrate
- 9.2g protein
- 22.8g fat
- 333 calories
A packet of Doritos provides:
- 16.4g carbohydrate
- 2.1g protein
- 7.9g fat
- 149 calories
A Mars bar provides:
- 31g carbohydrate
- 4.1g protein
- 11.5g fat
- 244 calories
Not all calories are made equal.
And fat is not necessarily bad, depending on the source.
The figures above don’t compare vitamin and mineral content.
But I don’t think you need to be a genius to comprehend that the protein balls healthier than chips and chocolate are not.
The long and short of it snacking on nuts instead of chocolate and chips is only ever going to be a good thing.
Being vegane has encouraged me to ditch the sugar rush snacks in favor of more satiating and nutritious foods.
Some people have reported that they have been unable to adopt a vegan lifestyle for personal health reasons.
But, most people can lead a happy and healthy vegan lifestyle.
The problems arise when we aren’t mindful of our food.
As vegans, we must be aware of our nutrient needs.
We must know what we require to consume daily to ensure we obtain adequate levels of vitamins, minerals, and of course, the ever-talked-about protein.
When I first adopted a vegane lifestyle – over 10 years ago – I removed dairy products from my diet (I was already vegetarian).
But here’s the thing – I didn’t supplement my diet with anything else.
I was not mindful of my protein needs.
I ate what my partner ate, minus the chunk of meat or cheese topping.
I did not substitute a vegan protein source.
This lack of meat substitutes is where veganism can be unhealthy!
To benefit from the better health that veganism brings us, we need to maximize our nutrient intake through the variety of foods available.
So no living on vegane burgers and fries!
The healthiest vegans are those who have the most colorful plates.
They consume many foods and are mindful of their body’s needs.
Most importantly, they are aware of the nutrient needs of their body.
Let’s talk about some essential nutrients that vegans may struggle to get enough of.
Being aware of this allows us to specially select foods rich in these nutrients or take a supplement if needed.
The key nutrients are:
Let’s look into each one in a little more detail.
Iron is essential for our health.
Would it surprise you to learn that iron deficiency is the most common nutrient deficiency worldwide?
Iron is vital for:
- Blood production.
- Respiratory health, heart health, and immune function.
- Collagen production, which is vital for our skin, hair, and nails. It is also essential for transporting and storing oxygen in our muscles.
- Maintaining focus.
This article suggests that the average adult’s daily iron intake is 8.7 milligrams, rising to 14.8 milligrams if you are menstruating.
However, some scientists suggest that vegans require 1.8 times the amount of iron as the standard.
They go as far as to recommend that 32 milligrams per day is the optimum amount for women and 14 milligrams is best for men.
Historically we hailed meat as the primary source of iron.
But don’t be fooled.
There are many vegane-friendly foods we can use to get iron.
Protein-rich vegane foods include:
- dried apricots
- dried figs
- cashew nuts
- pumpkin seeds
- chia seeds
Key take away – don’t scrimp on iron. It is essential for your health.
B12 is an essential nutrient.
Our bodies need it to thrive.
It is involved in several body functions, including:
- DNA synthesis
- Energy production
- The normal function of the central nervous system
There’s a catch with vegans and B12.
It is the only vitamin humans can not obtain from a vegane diet.
B12 is in meat, fish, eggs, and other dairy products.
Animals can produce B12 in their digestive system, but human digestive systems have not mastered this skill.
Since we can’t make our B12, it is an essential supplement.
Alternatively, we can make sure we consume foods that are B12 fortified.
The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for B12, for people over 14 years old, is 2.4 micrograms.
This list of foods can be fortified with B12:
- Non-dairy milk
- Non-dairy yogurts
- Fruit juice
- Nutritional yeast
- Margarine spread
Let’s discuss what happens if we don’t get enough B12. It can be challenging to detect a B12 deficiency; interestingly, it can take up to 5 years for symptoms of a B12 deficiency to show.
Our ability to absorb B12 diminishes with age.
This diminishing is to such an extent that 20% of the over 60s in the UK and America are deficient in B12.
B12 deficiency has several symptoms, including:
- Pale or yellow skin
- Mental impairment
- Pain and inflammation of the tongue
For your long-term health, please keep an eye on your B12 levels.
If you are in any doubt, it may be worth asking your doctor to test your blood.
Protein is the subject that vegans get questioned about the most by non-vegans.
Our body mass is 17% protein.
Protein is essential for our hair, skin, internal organs, and, of course, our muscles.
There are mixed reports of how much protein we need.
This article suggests that .75g of protein per 1kg of body weight is required by the average person daily.
However, this does not take our activity levels into account. Dr. Stacy Sim suggests female athletes need 2.2g of protein per 1kg of body weight!
Protein is comprised of 22 amino acids.
We consider 9 “essential,” as our bodies can not make them.
If our bodies can’t make these amino acids, we must obtain them from our food.
Top vegane sources of protein.
- Pulses (beans, chickpeas, garden peas)
- Chia seeds and other seeds
- Some Vegetables (broccoli is surprisingly rich in protein)
Think of your health and make sure you consume adequate protein throughout the day.
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fats.
According to this article, they have several health benefits.
For instance, they reduce inflammation in the body as well as blood triglycerides.
Fascinatingly, adequate omega-3 is also associated with reducing the risk of dementia.
There are 3 types of omega-3
- ALA — alpha-linolenic acid
- DHA — docosahexaenoic acid
- EPA — eicosapentaenoic acid
Plant foods with omega-3 contain ALA, which must be converted into DHA and EPA.
This conversion rate is meager (as low as 5%).
The moral of the story is simple.
If you aren’t using any omega supplements, you must eat plenty of omega-rich foods.
The current daily recommended intake of ALA for adults is 1,100 milligrams for women and 1,600 milligrams for men.
Non-vegans get omega-3 from oily fish.
There are still several options for vegans.
Here are the top 5 foods for omega-3
- Chia seeds
- Brussel sprouts
Do your body a favor and make sure you take in enough omega-3.
These days we have all the resources necessary to make the best choices for our health.
The vegan lifestyle lends itself to being the healthiest lifestyle available.
We need to remember to substitute the nutrients of anything we remove from our diet with a vegane alternative.
There are a couple of nutrients that can cause issues with vegans.
In this article, we outlined some essential information about these 4 essential nutrients:
On reflection, do you get enough of these nutrients?
Or could you do better?
If you want to dive deeper into your consumption, I recommend keeping a weekly food diary.
Yn life.ou could also consider booking a consultation with a dietician.
Here’s to a healthy, happy, vega