09 Sep 2019

How to Follow a Healthy Vegan Diet

Nutrition Advice

In recent years there has been an increasing amount of the Australian population adopting the Vegan diet and lifestyle.

The reasons vary from animal and environmental consciousness to wanting a healthier diet.

This article is not going into the whys of the diet. Rather, it aims to address those interested in the vegan diet or who already live this lifestyle.

So what is a vegan diet or lifestyle? The diet is simple. Remove all animal food items, whereas the lifestyle is the total removal of animal products for everything from food to clothing, furniture to cleaning products etc.

Is a vegan diet healthy?

In the initial stages, there may be some concerns. For example, is eating vegan healthy? The short answer is absolutely yes. With research showing that people who live by vegan diets have a lowers risk of heart disease, insulin resistance, which can lead to a reduction in type 2 diabetes and cancer.

Vegans have to take great care when selecting the foods they choose to eat to enjoy the health benefits fully. Like any diet, to follow it correctly, one must develop an understanding of each food group. You need good sources of each food group, and knowing how to prepare each food group when cooking to not lose nutrients. Meeting all the vitamin and mineral requirements in a vegan diet requires a little more consideration. We are becoming increasingly aware that there is no one solution that works for all people. Meaning, even in a vegan diet, genetic differences are present, and mixing the ratios of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes and good fats are a must for the individual. Like all things, this is a trial and error process.

Within the vegan diet, there are several subcategories that some people may not be aware of, so if you are considering a vegan diet, you may want to do more research regarding the pros and cons of this new way of eating. Each subcategory arranges the ratios of fruits and vegetable, nuts and seeds, and protein sources differently.

Examples of a vegan diet

  • The Wholefood diet – which focuses on reducing processed foods like juicing or smoothies as an example and eating plant sources in raw form.

  • High-fat raw vegan diet – a strong focus for calories comes from nuts and seeds and fruits for a majority of their calories with the addition of cold-pressed oils and nut-based desserts. This type of diet involves cooking food below 46 degrees as the belief is that nutrients are lost due to overcooking.

  • Junk food Vegan – these are predominately people who became a vegan, not for the health factors rather animal and environmental factors.

Is raw vegan healthy considering the specifics of the cooking temperature? As most of the food is raw, the short answer is yes, it is healthy. The challenge to a small percentage of plant-based food, such as leafy greens, is that eating raw can contain harmful bacteria which cooking eliminates. On the other hand, foods like tomato, when cooked releases up to 164% more lycopene when compared to eating raw. In case you are wondering what lycopene is, it is an antioxidant, which assists in fighting free radicals.

Cons of a vegan diet

There are still some concerns that Vegans need to be aware of regarding nutrient deficiencies.

Calcium: There is research showing Vegans intake less calcium, which has an effect on bone strength, tooth health, and reduced nerve innovation. As vegans do not eat dairy foods, calcium sources come from leafy green vegetables and seeds.

Iron: Heme Iron is the specific source that is found in meat, especially red meat, and is absorbed better than the non-heme iron found in plant sources.

B12:  Is not found in any plant sources and is responsible for developing red blood cells and maintaining nerves and healthy brain function. Vegans must supplement these deficiencies with fortified foods or supplements to get more in their diet.

Vegans need a variety of food so research good healthy vegan recipes making sure you get all the nutrients you need. Mixing up the usual types of vegetables, try dried fruits for ease of access during the day or chia seeds for a good source of omega 3 fatty acids. Foods like black beans in a salad can assist in protein consumption as well as calcium and fibre.

As a personal trainer, it is out of scope and practice to prescribe a vegan diet to clients or give specific recommendations about diets. We are able to assist our clients who choose to become vegans understand the balance required to reduce deficiencies within their food intake. More specific advice or meal plans need to come from a qualified Allied Health Professional.

Get in touch with AIPT today.

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