Something I've been studying recently are various approaches to nutrition - of which, there are hundreds (if not thousands!). One of the more popular approaches is 'Veganism'. A Vegan diets exclude all foods of animal origin – i.e. dairy, meat, eggs and sometimes honey.
Many people extol the benefits of veganism for the health of their bodies and the environment. However, just because something is vegan doesn’t mean it’s healthy. Foods such as processed wheat goods, white flour and potato fries with ketchup will not promote peak health...
For some, a vegan diet can be a very nourishing way to eat, rich in whole foods such as - vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, lentils, nuts, and seeds. Eating this way limits calories, salt, sugar, and harmful fats and ensures an abundant supply of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fibre, and healthy fats.
Those following a vegan diet should note that historically there are no cultures that have thrived by subsisting off an animal free diet; as such humans are built to digest both animal proteins as wells as plants. We are essentially omnivores. Not that I'm advocating we all become instant carnivores, but there are some issues associated with a vegan diet, so I've listed a few of these below, and some remedies for managing them:
- Protein stimulates the production of HCL in our stomach to break down proteins. Without regular stimulation of digestive juices, digestion weakens and fewer nutrients are able to be absorbed. Digestive enzyme supplementation may be necessary to correct this imbalance.
- Nuts are often eaten for dietary protein. These in excess are difficult to digest, and are high in PUFA fats, as well as containing enzyme inhibitors and phytic acid that block absorption of minerals. Nuts should therefore be soaked before eating, and only eaten in moderation.
- Vitamin B12 is not found in plant foods in significant amounts, and vegans are often deficient in this vitamin. Ensuring adequate B12 is critical for normal neurological development and maintenance; with shortages resulting in permanent damage, therefore all vegans should take a B12 supplement.
Michael Pollan says in ‘In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto’, "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants."
A modern western diet may be far too reliant on meat, salt, sugar, saturated fats and white flour, and a move towards a more plant-based diet is to be applauded. However balance is necessary for optimum health. I advocate a diet which includes as many vegetables as possible, a little fruit and moderate animal protein intake from sustainable and organic sources. Throughout my own nutrition journey I have found this to be most beneficial for myself, but, in saying that - we are all totally individual. Blood type, body type, your environment and stress levels as well as your personal motivation will all play a role in whether or not you're able to thrive with a vegan lifestyle.