World Vegan Month
November is world vegan month. Being vegan means not eating anything that comes from an animal including meat, seafood, dairy products, eggs or honey. This way of eating is also referred to as a plant based diet. There are now more than half a million vegans in Britain, making it one of the countries fastest growing life-style trends. In addition to this more people are choosing to be flexitarians, meaning they include many vegan meals each week but occasionally eat animal products. Here we’ll look at some of the health and environmental reasons for eating a plant based diet.
A plant based diet brings many potential health benefits, as well as addressing environmental and welfare issues. Many people do not want to support industries that inflict pain and suffering on animals, whilst contributing to the destruction of rain forests, loss of biodiversity and rising carbon levels.
Plant Based Diets and Chronic Health Conditions
Eating a poor diet is the leading cause of death worldwide, and the prevalence of obesity is at an all-time high. Under the current medical paradigm chronic conditions are often considered irreversible, implying a slow progression of disease that can be slowed but not stopped. An article in the journal Bio-Ethics suggests that the plant-based movement is attempting to alter this way of thinking with a nutrition-first approach; the ultimate goal is disease remission or reversal by recommending plant-based diets to every patient suffering from chronic conditions, while determining what other socio-ecological factors play a role in their health. The author concludes that not advocating for plant-based nutrition is unethical and harms the planet and patients alike (1).
Plant Based Diets, Weight and Cholesterol
Results from an eight-week program in which participants ate as much as they liked of a whole-food plant-based diet found that the participants had an average weight loss of 5.5kg, with greater weight loss seen in those with a higher BMI to start with. Blood pressure, total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol all decreased. It seems that a whole-food plant-based diet may improve various aspects of health as well as leading to weight loss (2).
Plant Foods and the Microbiome
The American Gut Project found that eating more than 30 different plant foods each week appears to increase the range of bacteria in the gut compared to eating 10 or fewer types of plant foods each week (3). Having a wide diversity of organisms in the gut confers many benefits to mental and physical health.
Health and Sustainability Go Hand in Hand
Meat consumption is a major contributor to global warming. Given the worldwide growing demand for meat, and the severe impact of meat production on the planet, reducing meat consumption is a matter of food security and public health. A review of consumer attitudes towards the environmental impact of the meat industry found that consumers are aware of the impact of meat on the planet and are willing to stop, or significantly reduce meat consumption for environmental reasons (4).
Replacing 25-100% of animal foods with plant-based foods in high income countries has been shown to improve nutrient levels, lower premature mortality, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions (5).
Athletes and Plant Based Diets
With the growth of social media as a platform to share information, veganism is becoming more widely accepted in the health and fitness industry. It’s thought that most athletes can do well on a well planned vegan diet (6).
Vegans and Nutrient Needs
Vegans, or those eating a largely plant-based diet, need to take care to eat enough calories and protein as well as certain nutrients including:
Vitamin B12 – vegans are advised to supplement with this vitamin as it is not widely available in an absorbable form in plant foods.
Calcium- plant sources include green vegetables, almonds, tahini, molasses, carob, dulse, figs, hazelnuts, alfalfa.
Iodine – found in sea vegetables such as kelp and dulse.
Iron – plant sources include almonds, lentils, sea vegetables, watercress, broccoli, quinoa, amaranth, rye, blackstrap molasses, prunes, figs, parsley, nettles.
Zinc – plant sources include wheat germ, whole grains, pulses, pumpkin seeds, tahini, kelp.
Vitamin D3 – the best source is sunshine. Supplements are recommended through the winter or when sun exposure is not possible.
Omega 3 fats – plant sources include flax seeds, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, walnuts and avocados. However, to get the broken down form of the omega 3 fats, DHA and EPA, supplements may be necessary.
Protein – plant sources include lentils, peas, beans, tofu, tempeh, quinoa, amaranth, nuts, seeds and nut butters.
Snacks are often the downfall when it comes to eating a healthy diet. Tom Oliver Vegan bars can help to fill that gap. They are made entirely from plant foods, are high in protein, low in sugar, low in calories and great tasting. They are perfect for weight loss regimes, as post exercise snacks, or to take on journeys or commutes. There are 6 delicious flavours: Chocolate Caramel, Chocolate Mint, Chocolate Orange and Chocolate Raspberry, Chocolate Coconut, Chocolate Coffee