Is the vegan diet healthier?

Nov 14, 2022 | Emily's Blog

My professional aim is to help everyone I work with make an informed decision about the food they choose to eat, and which foods suit them best. In my experience, there are three main reasons why someone may choose to become vegan:

  • To prevent animal cruelty.
  • To be more environmentally friendly.
  • A belief that veganism is healthier.

Whilst I could share my opinions on animal cruelty & the environmental impact of a diet containing animal products, I am not an expert in either, so I choose not to comment here. In terms of health though, here is what you need to know.

Veganism is a belief system, not a health system.

There is no scientific proof that a vegan diet will give you better health outcomes than an omnivore diet. There is a lot of propaganda out there that will try to tell you otherwise, but please make sure you understand truth from bias.

The Netflix documentary Game Changers caused quite a stir when it was first released, but there are plenty of research papers that dispel the “facts”. In summary: the makers want you to turn vegan; they are not trying to educate you; they are trying to sway you.

Why do some consider a vegan diet healthier?

In general, the vegan diet is lower in saturated fat than a diet that includes animal-based products. Saturated fat should be limited ibn our diets to no more than 20g a day to reduce the risk of negative health effects. Diets too high in saturated fat are linked to an increased risk of high blood pressure and heart disease. Familiar sources of saturated fat are animal products, e.g., the fat on red meat or bacon, and butter.

There are plant sources of saturated fat too – in chocolate, the milk is the minor contributor of saturated fat, and in fact it is cocoa butter that contributes the majority. Cocoa butter is used in dairy-free chocolate. Coconut oil – the once “hailed saviour” of oils – has a high saturated fat content. Saturated fat is a common ingredient used in food manufacturing for flavour and texture whether vegan or not – if it’s manufactured, packaged food it probably contains saturated fat.

While there is evidence to suggest that high saturated fat consumption increases the risk of disease, this link is skewed by other lifestyle factors. Excess consumption of anything will increase the risk of disease, a poor diet overall, low vegetable and fibre consumption, lack of physical activity, are all contributors to the risk of ill-health.

What do vegans miss out?

Any way of eating that eliminates full food groups, increases the chance the diet will be lacking in certain nutrients.

Protein:

Protein consists of amino acids, the building blocks of life! There are two groups of amino acids: non-essential and essential. Non-essential amino acids can be produced by the body if dietary sources are lacking, but essential amino acids MUST be consumed through diet. Animal sources of protein contain all the essential amino acids. Most plant sources of protein do not. Therefore, to get all the essential amino acids, you need to blend your plant protein sources effectively.

Micronutrients:

There are a number of micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) that are deficient/poorly absorbed from a vegan diet. These include:

  1. Vitamin B12 is only found naturally in animal products. B12 deficiency can cause anaemia, muscle weakness and numbness, and in severe cases, blindness. Some cereals are fortified with B12, so it’s worth looking out for them, and you can also take B12 supplements, or (more effectively) get a B12 injection.
  2. Calcium helps to maintain bones and teeth, plays a role in blood clotting, heart rhythm and the transmission of nerve signals. Calcium is also needed to reduce the risk of osteoporosis later in life. Dairy is considered a “good source” of calcium as it has the highest concentration of absorbable calcium per serving. Green leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds and pulses all contain calcium but with varying amounts of absorbable calcium. It is worth topping up calcium using a supplement if following a vegan diet.
  3. Iron is required by the body to make oxygen-carrying red blood cells. Insufficient iron in the diet leads to iron-deficiency anaemia. Iron comes in 2 forms; haem iron, and non-haem iron. Haem iron, found in meat and fish, is much more easily absorbed, and used by the body than non-haem iron found in plant foods. Vitamin C can help your body use the non-haem iron found in foods, so it’s a good idea to combine iron-rich plant sources with vitamin C sources.
  4. Omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA) play a structural role in the brain and eyes; adequate dietary levels are important for brain development, reduced risk of inflammation, depression, and breast cancer. EPA and DHA are present in fatty fish and fish oils. A different type of omega three is present in plant sources such as flax seeds, chia seeds, walnuts, hemp and soybeans. However, for the body to use it, it requires conversion into EPA and DHA. Research has shown that conversation rates can be as low as 5-10%. It is widely recommended that vegans supplement with algae oil.
  5. Zinc levels can be low in vegans – zinc is crucial for metabolism, immune function and repair of cells. Low zinc levels can lead to developmental problems, hair loss, diarrhoea and a delay in wound healing. Meat, dairy, eggs and shellfish are good sources of zinc. Vegan sources include legumes, seeds and nuts. Supplements are also available if needed.

The health benefits of a vegan diet.

Fibre! Inevitably, if you choose a vegan diet, plant consumption will increase. Plants – fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, grains, legumes… all contain fibre which is very good for health. Fibre will help with digestion, lowers risk of heart disease and diabetes, supports the immune health, and is satiating so great for weight management. These foods also contain plenty of vitamins and minerals, all essential for health.

Most people in the UK would benefit from increasing fibre consumption!

Final thoughts

You can eat whatever you want to eat. If you do not like meat or other animal products, don’t eat them. We are now lucky enough to have so much choice and variety when it comes to foods, regardless of your preference. But, if you like animal products, you do not need to cut them out completely.

Be balanced. Have a little bit of lean meat – not necessarily every day, but a few times a week. Try some alternative animal-based protein sources such as low-fat dairy, or free-range eggs. Responsibly sourced lean white fish, and occasionally some oily fish if you like it. Then loads of colourful fruit and vegetables, beans, lentils and grains. Variety is key. I don’t like labelling diets, but if I had to, I would say the ‘Mediterranean diet’ comes closest to what we should consider ‘healthy’ (minus any excessive red wine consumption and smoking).

Do not let a “diet” define you

You can just be a person who chooses to eat a lot of plant-based foods, and occasionally likes an ice cream. You are you; you are not a vegan, a flexible dieter, an intermittent faster. What you eat is your choice, but it doesn’t change who you are; it doesn’t make you a better, kinder, more helpful person. Be you.

Stories from Instagram

Sorry this is a lot longer than normal but heres a bit of chocolate/sugar reduction education.

Why we can’t “just take the sugar out” of our favourite foods.

The real question is “do we even need to”?

Foods are meant to be enjoyed. Foods like chocolate are meant to be enjoyed in moderation.

The problem is never the food itself. Chocolate is delicious, as it should be.

Ps. Chocolate labelled as sugar reduced tastes like 💩 It’s not chocolate. 

Need help? DM me.

#nutrition #food #foodie #health #producttechnology #foodindustry #chocolate #sugar #diet

Sorry this is a lot longer than normal but heres a bit of chocolate/sugar reduction education.

Why we can’t “just take the sugar out” of our favourite foods.

The real question is “do we even need to”?

Foods are meant to be enjoyed. Foods like chocolate are meant to be enjoyed in moderation.

The problem is never the food itself. Chocolate is delicious, as it should be.

Ps. Chocolate labelled as sugar reduced tastes like 💩 It’s not chocolate.

Need help? DM me.

#nutrition #food #foodie #health #producttechnology #foodindustry #chocolate #sugar #diet
...

PLEASSSSEEEE stop believing everything you read!

If we keep listening to the next new big thing in dieting, we’re going to run out of things to eat. 

We didn’t get it right with grapefruits.

We didn’t get it right with cabbage soup.

Gluten free faded out. 

If we believe everything we read now, we would currently be dying from…

Carbs 🥖
Meat 🥩
Carbs 🥔
Vegetables 🥦
Processed foods 🍪
Anything cooked 🍝
Carbs 🍐
Solid foods 🍣
Anything Tim Spectre doesn’t like 🧁
Carbs 🥪
Your own gut microbiome because you ate a carb 🦠 

Instead, let’s focus on the tired & tested.

Want to lose weight? Calorie deficit. In whatever way is most sustainable for you.

Eat your fruits & vegetables (please carnivores).

Eat fibre (also, please carnivores).

Eat less saturated fat 🥓 & more polyunsaturated fats 🥑

Eat lean sources of protein 🐓 

❌DELETE anyone with extreme views that preach the removal of entire food groups.

… anyone that works in absolutes “it WILL ruin your health”

… anyone who doesn’t understand inflammation. 

Thanks.

#nutrition #health #dieting #evolution #extremeviews #facts #wellnessindustry #carbs #enjoyfood #foodie #lovelife

PLEASSSSEEEE stop believing everything you read!

If we keep listening to the next new big thing in dieting, we’re going to run out of things to eat.

We didn’t get it right with grapefruits.

We didn’t get it right with cabbage soup.

Gluten free faded out.

If we believe everything we read now, we would currently be dying from…

Carbs 🥖
Meat 🥩
Carbs 🥔
Vegetables 🥦
Processed foods 🍪
Anything cooked 🍝
Carbs 🍐
Solid foods 🍣
Anything Tim Spectre doesn’t like 🧁
Carbs 🥪
Your own gut microbiome because you ate a carb 🦠

Instead, let’s focus on the tired & tested.

Want to lose weight? Calorie deficit. In whatever way is most sustainable for you.

Eat your fruits & vegetables (please carnivores).

Eat fibre (also, please carnivores).

Eat less saturated fat 🥓 & more polyunsaturated fats 🥑

Eat lean sources of protein 🐓

❌DELETE anyone with extreme views that preach the removal of entire food groups.

… anyone that works in absolutes “it WILL ruin your health”

… anyone who doesn’t understand inflammation.

Thanks.

#nutrition #health #dieting #evolution #extremeviews #facts #wellnessindustry #carbs #enjoyfood #foodie #lovelife
...

Let’s talk about chocolate…

For anyone who didn’t know, I used to work in the food industry for product research in confectionery so I know a lot about chocolate.

Hit me with any questions!

Happy Easter 🐣 

#nutrition #health #chocolate #easter #eastereggs #confectionery #fitness #mindful #food #foodie

Let’s talk about chocolate…

For anyone who didn’t know, I used to work in the food industry for product research in confectionery so I know a lot about chocolate.

Hit me with any questions!

Happy Easter 🐣

#nutrition #health #chocolate #easter #eastereggs #confectionery #fitness #mindful #food #foodie
...

Give me strength ☕️ 

The theory is that coffee [caffeine] has been “proven” (it hasn’t) to “encourage fat storage around the mid-section” through the stimulation of adrenaline, in turn stimulating cortisol (stress hormone) release. 

In the body, every action has MULTIPLE reactions. It is the NET of these reactions that matter, i.e., do the positives outweigh the negatives or vice versa?

So yes, caffeine intake does stimulate a small increase in cortisol, but…

Caffeine intake actually promotes weight loss (or at least reduces weight gain) because it ALSO increases metabolic rate, fat oxidation, & energy expenditure, & reduces appetite. 

In addition, moderate caffeine consumption is generally associated with some health benefits e.g., reduced risk of certain diseases, improved physical & cognitive performance. 

https://doi.org/10.1080/10408398.2018.1507996.
https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-nutr-071816-064941.

#nutrition #health #coffee #caffeine #science #bs #weightloss #fitness #exercise #appetite

Give me strength ☕️

The theory is that coffee [caffeine] has been “proven” (it hasn’t) to “encourage fat storage around the mid-section” through the stimulation of adrenaline, in turn stimulating cortisol (stress hormone) release.

In the body, every action has MULTIPLE reactions. It is the NET of these reactions that matter, i.e., do the positives outweigh the negatives or vice versa?

So yes, caffeine intake does stimulate a small increase in cortisol, but…

Caffeine intake actually promotes weight loss (or at least reduces weight gain) because it ALSO increases metabolic rate, fat oxidation, & energy expenditure, & reduces appetite.

In addition, moderate caffeine consumption is generally associated with some health benefits e.g., reduced risk of certain diseases, improved physical & cognitive performance.

https://doi.org/10.1080/10408398.2018.1507996.
https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-nutr-071816-064941.

#nutrition #health #coffee #caffeine #science #bs #weightloss #fitness #exercise #appetite
...

One for the ladies. Just a few practical nutrition tips to help with appetite when going into peri- & menopause. 

Easier said than done so please reach out if you need additional support.

And please be aware that nutrition can be supportive when trying to reduce symptoms, but nutrition is not medicine. It can not be used as a replacement for HRT.

#nutrition #health #menopause #perimenopause #nutritionsupport #nutritioncoaching #appetite #food #foodie #protein

One for the ladies. Just a few practical nutrition tips to help with appetite when going into peri- & menopause.

Easier said than done so please reach out if you need additional support.

And please be aware that nutrition can be supportive when trying to reduce symptoms, but nutrition is not medicine. It can not be used as a replacement for HRT.

#nutrition #health #menopause #perimenopause #nutritionsupport #nutritioncoaching #appetite #food #foodie #protein
...

#girlpower and all that…

Everyone starts somewhere. The key is to start.

Be inspired. 

Feel empowered.

And one day, you’ll be the inspiration 💚

@danwilliams.takeyourshot 
@awmuscleandfitness 

#nutrition #fitness #health #inspire #girlswholift #womenwholift #bodybuilding #strength #motivation #strongwomen #muscle #workharder

#girlpower and all that…

Everyone starts somewhere. The key is to start.

Be inspired.

Feel empowered.

And one day, you’ll be the inspiration 💚

@danwilliams.takeyourshot
@awmuscleandfitness

#nutrition #fitness #health #inspire #girlswholift #womenwholift #bodybuilding #strength #motivation #strongwomen #muscle #workharder
...

It’s important that we can recognise foods that are nutrient dense and supportive of health. These are the foods you should focus your diet around.

Non-nutrient dense foods are also fine. These are the foods you can enjoy in moderation.

Assuming that one is unprocessed (or minimally processed) and the other is processed (or ultra processed) is incorrect & frankly quite damaging.

There are ultra processed foods out there that are fortified with vitamins & minerals commonly lacking in the diet, and therefore can be important to some people’s health. They shouldn’t be judged for eating them.

It’s also important to consider access and affordability of leading an unprocessed life. It’s quite elitist. It’s not always possible and probably not wanted. It’s just another way of introducing rules around eating and barriers around food enjoyment.

If you supplement your diet, your pills are processed.

Ps. The Zoe probiotic kefir drink is processed. Designed by the man who demonises processed foods. That is the world we live in. 

#nutrition #health #food #foodie #fitness #processed #wellbeing #nutritioncoach #healthcoach #lovelife

It’s important that we can recognise foods that are nutrient dense and supportive of health. These are the foods you should focus your diet around.

Non-nutrient dense foods are also fine. These are the foods you can enjoy in moderation.

Assuming that one is unprocessed (or minimally processed) and the other is processed (or ultra processed) is incorrect & frankly quite damaging.

There are ultra processed foods out there that are fortified with vitamins & minerals commonly lacking in the diet, and therefore can be important to some people’s health. They shouldn’t be judged for eating them.

It’s also important to consider access and affordability of leading an unprocessed life. It’s quite elitist. It’s not always possible and probably not wanted. It’s just another way of introducing rules around eating and barriers around food enjoyment.

If you supplement your diet, your pills are processed.

Ps. The Zoe probiotic kefir drink is processed. Designed by the man who demonises processed foods. That is the world we live in.

#nutrition #health #food #foodie #fitness #processed #wellbeing #nutritioncoach #healthcoach #lovelife
...

If you’re trying to lose fat, don’t over complicate it.

1. Make sure you’re in a calorie deficit

2. Focus on protein & fibre intake for satiation (& protein for lean body mass).

3. Fats & carbs are interchangeable. Eat what you prefer! Enjoy what you eat.

The success of your fat loss journey is underpinned by compliance & sustainability. 

@danwilliams.takeyourshot 
@awmuscleandfitness 
@aw_muscleandfitness_owner 
@full_boar_sports 

#nutrition #health #food #foodie #fatloss #diet #protein #sustainability #compliance #fitness #nutritionfacts

If you’re trying to lose fat, don’t over complicate it.

1. Make sure you’re in a calorie deficit

2. Focus on protein & fibre intake for satiation (& protein for lean body mass).

3. Fats & carbs are interchangeable. Eat what you prefer! Enjoy what you eat.

The success of your fat loss journey is underpinned by compliance & sustainability.

@danwilliams.takeyourshot
@awmuscleandfitness
@aw_muscleandfitness_owner
@full_boar_sports

#nutrition #health #food #foodie #fatloss #diet #protein #sustainability #compliance #fitness #nutritionfacts
...

There is only 1 way to lose weight.

A calorie deficit.

The end.

On another note - I’m really anti- labelling diets. Why do we need to?! 

@danwilliams.takeyourshot 🎥 

#nutrition #health #intermittentfasting #diet #weightloss #fatloss #nutritionfacts #fitness #nutritioncoach #healthcoach

There is only 1 way to lose weight.

A calorie deficit.

The end.

On another note - I’m really anti- labelling diets. Why do we need to?!

@danwilliams.takeyourshot 🎥

#nutrition #health #intermittentfasting #diet #weightloss #fatloss #nutritionfacts #fitness #nutritioncoach #healthcoach
...

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