More and more often we meet with the term- „I am a vegan”. From year to year, more and more restaurants are serving vegan dishes, celebrity TV stars and celebrities are switching to this type of diet. What is it really about veganism? Is it just a fashion and a desire to follow trends or a wise choice of a healthy way of life?
A few words about the vegan diet
World Vegan Day, the world is celebrated on November 1, to commemorate the establishment of the Vegan Society in 1944. In Poland on the same day the Day of the Dead is celebrated, therefore the Vegan feast was combined with the International Day of Vegetarianism and is celebrated on October 1.
The vegan diet is the most restrictive variety of vegetarianism. It consists in eliminating from the daily menu all products of animal origin, even milk, cheese, fish, seafood and eggs, which allow vegetarians. Some vegans also give up honey and gelatine. Thus, the basis of the vegan diet constitute:
- vegetables and fruits
- cereals and cereal products, preferably from full milling (eg cereal, pasta, bread)
- leguminous plants (eg beans, soy, lentils, broad beans)
- nuts, mushrooms, seeds and vegetable oils
Can such a restrictive diet be healthy?
Vegan diet is a lot of controversy. On the one hand, her supporters talk about the many benefits that result from its use, such as a positive impact on health, well-being and lowering the risk of developing many diseases. Her opponents, however, pay attention to the risk of deficiencies in the body and their negative health consequences.
The benefits of a vegan diet
The basis of the vegan diet are dishes prepared on the basis of vegetables, fruits and cereals. These products are rich in dietary fiber, which speeds up the work of the intestines and reduces the level of „bad” LDL cholesterol. Vegan diet is also a rich source of vitamins and minerals, having an antioxidant effect, i.e. wit. E, C and carotenoids. These components affect the prevention of cardiovascular disease and reduce the risk of certain cancers. Due to the high content of vegetables, fruits and low-processed products, the vegan diet is rich in potassium, while it contains low sodium, which raises blood pressure.
The American Dietetic Association believes that a rationally composed vegan diet is able to provide all the necessary nutrients, but on condition of supplementing some of them or consuming fortified foods such as enriched soy milk.
Can a vegan diet harm?
The exclusion of meat and products from its use from the diet can lead to many deficits in the body. The most common is a deficiency of vitamin B12 (occurs only in products of animal origin), therefore it is necessary to supplement this vitamin !. Calcium and vitamin D deficiencies (found in milk and dairy products) and iron, which occurs in plant products in non-heme form, are also common. This means that it is less absorbed in the digestive tract to a lesser extent than from animal products.
The disadvantage of vegan diet is also the fact that it does not provide the body with all building substrates or amino acids (although nowadays I manage to supplement it with artificial preparations). Natural plant products, even those rich in protein, do not provide the right amount of all necessary ingredients. Infants, children and pregnant and nursing women are particularly at risk of nutrient deficiency. During these periods of life, a large amount of protein, vitamins and minerals is needed for proper development. For these age groups, a better solution is to eat protein from animals, because it is wholesome and easier to digest. If you eat too little nutrients, there are deficits in the body, and this results in inhibition of growth and growth. Incorrectly composed vegan diet carries the risk of developing many diseases, such as malnutrition, osteoporosis or rickets.
In practice, correctly composing a vegan diet is very difficult. It is important to combine products from different groups in one meal, eg cereal (grain product) + soya (protein product) + vegetables (minerals and vitamins). Then we will reduce the risk of shortages. You should know how to properly compose meals to increase the absorption of nutrients, e.g.
Vitamin C increases the absorption of iron, which is why products rich in this ingredient (eg pulses) should be eaten with a portion of vegetables (parsley, paprika, broccoli)
Calcium reduces the absorption of iron, so for example meals that are a good source of iron should not drink high-mineralized water.
If a person decides on a vegan diet, then whether through a lot of restrictions, his diet must be boring and distasteful? Of course not!
A properly composed and varied menu does not have to be monotonous at all. It is even recommended that the diet is very varied, and that all meals are available in everyday meals. An example of colorful vegan meals can be, for example, a salad with tofu, raspberries and sesame, zucchini with brown rice and tomatoes or a green vegetable and fruit cocktail.
For veganism as well as for any other elimination diet, one should approach rationally and analyze all strengths and weaknesses. It should be remembered that any extreme solution is not appropriate without first preparing and having nutritional knowledge. With these types of diets, it is advisable to remain under the constant care of a doctor and use of expert advice dietitian.