Becoming a vegan – eating only plant-based foods – is a personal choice that is often driven by the desire to feel healthier, as well as showing support for animal welfare. Today more and more celebrities are following the vegan trend, but is this really the way to go? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons.
Pro: Nutritional Health Benefits
Vegan eating has been associated with many health benefits. Vegans tend to consume more plant-based foods that include fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. These foods have been found to enhance nutritional status because they contain high amounts of various nutrients such as Fiber, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Magnesium, Zinc, Selenium and other powerful antioxidants. Diets rich in plant-based foods have been linked to lower cholesterol levels, as well as a reduced risk of developing high blood pressure, diabetes and cancer.
Diets rich in plant-based foods have been linked to lower cholesterol levels, as well as a reduced risk of developing high blood pressure, diabetes and cancer.
Con: Specific Nutritional Deficiencies
Several studies report that the prevalence of Vitamin B12 depletion and deficiency is disturbingly high in those following a strict vegan based diet. Low levels of Vitamin B12 have been associated with conditions such as anaemia, fatigue, early dementia and nervous system damage. Vegans may therefore benefit from supplementing with a good quality Vitamin B12 supplement. Interestingly, other research reports that vegans are also at high risk of Vitamin D deficiency – Again supplementation with a vegan friendly Vitamin D supplement would be advised.
Pro: Healthy Weight Management
Studies suggest that on average vegans have a healthier Body Mass Index (BMI) in contrast to meat eaters, and also tend to be better at maintaining a healthy body weight. With regards to weight loss, a vegan plant-based diet has been found to promote faster weight loss when compared to non-vegetarian diets. In addition, research reveals that those who follow a vegan diet usually feel more satiated despite eating fewer calories. It’s thought that this could be due to the consumption of higher levels of antioxidants and fibre rich foods. Fibre from low calorie plant-based foods quickly leads to feeling fuller, and consequently curbing the appetite.
Con: Feeling Flatulent & Bloated
Non-meat based protein alternatives such as legumes (e.g. beans, peas & lentils) may prove challenging for people who are not used to them, consequently leading to digestive discomfort including bloating and excessive flatulence. In addition, increasing consumption of vegetables such as brussel sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, and other high sulphur vegetables may also result in digestive issues. When introducing more of these foods into the diet, it should be done gradually to allow the body to get used to higher intakes of such foods. Some extra sensitive individuals may benefit by supplementing with digestive enzymes to help support digestion.
Pro: No Antibiotics Or Growth Hormones
Another advantage of going vegan is that by avoiding meat, you avoid a significant amount of antibiotics and artificial growth hormones – Not only found in meat, but also dairy products such as milk, cheese and yogurt. Antibiotics are commonly administered to animals as a preventative precaution to prevent animals from getting ill, and make them gain weight too, which means more money for farmers. However, overuse of antibiotics has been associated with increased strains of resistant bacteria, as well as traces of actual antibodies that may be potentially passed onto meat eaters.
Con: Challenging When Eating Out
Vegans often find it tricky when eating away from home, so have to always be organised with their meals and snacks. Many restaurants don’t cater for vegans, so plant-based eaters may have no choice but to opt for unhealthy vegan options that are lacking in protein. Challenging as it may seem, there are ways around this – Simply check out the restaurant menu online to make sure there is something on the menu that is vegan. If not, then give the restaurant a call to ask if they would be able to accommodate for a vegan.
Pro: Clear Glowing Complexion
A study that observed the population of Kitavan Islanders of Papua New Guinea reported that not even a single individual had acne. Scientists believe that this is due to the specific diet consumed by this population, which consists of predominantly plant-based foods.
Fruits and vegetables are rich in various antioxidants that help to flush out toxins and prevent clogging of pores. In addition, the population of this tropical island consumes virtually nil dairy. Interestingly, much research has found a correlation between the consumption of dairy products and acne prone skin.
BSc (Hons), MSc, PG Cert CC, NT, CNELM Dip NT, MBANT, CNHCreg.
Miss Salma S. Khan, Nutrition Consultant & Health Writer is the Founder and Director of ZingTality Ltd, a Nutrition Consultancy. Salma is a highly qualified Health Practitioner - she advises clients on a broad range of nutritional issues, and specialises in all matters related to nutrition. Salma incorporates Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) techniques within each consultation in order to motivate clients to reach their nutritional goals. Salma offers appointments at a clinic on Harley Street in London, and can be reached directly through her website; www.zingtality.com
Salma is a member of the British Association for Applied Nutrition & Nutritional Therapy (BANT). She is registered with the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC), and is also an associate member of the Royal Society of Medicine (RSM).