The United States saw an all-time high interest in plant-based diets in 2020. As per The Economist, 25 percent of the younger adults have turned vegan or vegetarian. It was hard to shun animal products for some people, but they cared about vegetarian health benefits. Others shifted to a vegan diet for the love of animals. But, whatever be the reason, it boils down to one question. What are the health factors of being vegan? Or is it good for your health at all? Let’s find out.
Vegan Diet: How Healthy Is It?
When healthy vegan foods are taken rightly, they promote weight loss and reduce your cholesterol levels. It lowers the risk of cancer (colon) and heart diseases. Also, since plant-based food lowers A1C levels, blood sugar levels stay managed. Regardless of whether you face malnutrition or are overweight, you can eliminate dairy products and animal foods from the diet. However, the key element is planning. Here’s how to incorporate nutrients into a vegan diet.
Without the consumption of Vitamin B12, you may feel tired. Since plants do not possess it, vegans and vegetarians seek another source.
A study was recently conducted on 48000 people. They were all above 18 and had pescatarians, meat-eaters, and vegetarians (with some vegans). Pescatarians are those who eat dairy and fish but no red meat. The study found that those who consumed vegan meals or on a vegetarian diet had a lower heart disease risk. However, the risk of stroke in vegans and vegetarians is higher because of a lack of Vitamin B12. So, here are some healthy vegan substitutes. Fortified rice, fortified cereals, and soy drinks make amazing dairy alternatives for this vitamin. 2.4 mg is the recommended daily amount for adults. But, do consult your doctor if you’re on treatment.
Most people think that animal products are the only source of protein. However, it isn’t true. Soy products and lentils have more of this nutrient. Dairy alternatives like almond and soy milk are enriched with proteins too. In fact, the latter is the equivalent of dairy milk. In addition, you may eat edamame, tofu, chickpeas, nutritional yeast, and seitan as plant-based foods rich in protein. Just note that if you want something gluten-free, avoid seitan.
Marco Springmann, a researcher at Oxford, talks about protein in vegan foods. Those tempted to shift to plant foods wonder if there’s enough protein in here. But, while there are more vitamins and minerals than protein in veggies, the concern isn’t huge, says Springmann. Experts haven’t seen an issue with protein deficiencies in vegans and vegetarians. Only people who don’t consume enough calories (found in dairy products) may face issues. “All vegan meals contain some essential proteins.”
Egg yolks and red meat have always reigned as the best sources of iron. However, few people are aware that these are also rich in cholesterol. So, if you’re planning to stay healthy at heart through a vegetarian diet, switch to dried fruits. Tofu, black-eyed peas, and fresh fruits are good iron sources as well. As long as veggies and fruits are a part of your plate, your body gets the red meat alternative it needs. If you move to plant-based diets, your body gradually accepts this low quantity of iron. So even if you don’t consume animal products, the body will efficiently use the little iron it gets.
Essential Fatty Acids
Depression and cognitive impairment are common among those who lack essential fatty acids. So, leafy vegetables and whole grains are amazing alternatives. Collards, spinach, and kale are dairy-free products rich in healthy fats. A handful of walnuts, almonds, or pistachios (unsalted nuts) would do well. However, note that nuts and seeds may raise cholesterol. So, consume within limits.
As for this vitamin, your vegan soy and orange juice are fantastic. With that, around ten to fifteen minutes of mild sunlight gives you a Vitamin D boost. Mushrooms, fortified rice milk, and cereals also provide sufficient nutrition to your body. So, you may not have dairy products but still build strong bones.
According to researchers by The Vegan Society, the number of people crashing down to veganism is huge. A common motivation that led to this tremendous shift since the previous decade is the promised vegan diet benefits.
Faidon Magkos says that vegans drink less alcohol and exercise more. They even smoke less, owing to their vegetarian diet, indulge in sports, and stay fit. So, apart from the plant-based food itself, an improved lifestyle hugely contributes to health. So, even herbs and spices, nuts, and seeds added to a balanced routine reduce the risk of mortality. A vegan diet alone has so many perks attached to it.
Even if the mysteries of how effective a vegan diet is yet to be solved, nobody can deny it’s beneficial. So, both at the psychological and physical level, there are perks of eating veggies and soy over meat and cow’s milk. The important takeaway is to ensure that you get the proper micronutrients your body needs out of any given diet, not just a vegan one.