Is the vegan diet healthy?
Many of us are becoming more aware of what we are putting into our body and how certain food affects our health. With meat consumption continually in the headlines, it is no surprise that we are looking to what we believe are healthier diets.
But unlike being vegetarian, being vegan means cutting out any produce that comes from an animal. This includes meat, fish, dairy products, eggs, honey and no processed or packaged foods containing those ingredients.
What can you eat on a vegan diet?
You may be wondering what is left if you cut out animal products, but actually there are a large variety of foods out there. Stir-fry, rice, beans, pasta, pizza, curries and soups are just a number of dishes that can be eaten vegan.
What needs to be cut out?
Many foods are obviously non-vegan, such as meat, dairy, eggs or fish. But some foods contain animal products that you wouldn’t expect. For example, certain breads contain L-cysteine, which is an animal product.
Some beers and wines utilise animal products in the brewing process and even crisps contain animal products in the flavouring. It’s all about checking labels.
What supplements do I need?
The nutrients most vegans need to focus on are protein, iron, calcium, vitamin C, D and B12. While it’s not difficult to get the recommended daily intake of protein if you’re a vegan, it is likely you will have to increase your intake of lentils, tofu, beans and pulses and protein-rich vegetables, such as sun-dried tomatoes.
Chickpeas, lentils and beans will give you your source of iron and calcium can be found in dark, leafy greens such as kale or spinach.
If your cholesterol levels are high, it is likely a vegan diet will bring your levels back down to a healthy level. This might be due to paying more attention to what you are eating when on a vegan diet, but it may also be a result of a lower intake of saturated fat. There have also been several studies suggesting that both vegetarian and vegan diets help lower blood pressure.
If you are on medication, it is important to check with your GP before making any drastic changes to your diet.