Should I be embracing a Vegan Diet? Matt Williams takes a closer look into why, what and when we should embrace the inner vegan.
Everybody from fitness professional to A list celebrities are advocating a Vegan diet. So should you be adapting this into your lifestyle and if yes, why?
First we need to understand what a Vegan diet is and what the benefits to you are. Studies have shown that those who adhere to a vegan diet have a lower body mass index than that of their meat-eating counterparts. In addition, meat-eaters consume more calories and fewer vegetables, on average, than vegans do. Now BMI is not the most useful barometer of overall health, especially for anybody with a substantial amount of muscle mass. However, those are two things that would defiantly benefit the majority or sedentary 21st century adults.
What is a Vegan weight loss Diet?
A vegan diet contains only plants – such as vegetables, grains, nuts and fruits – and foods made from plants. Vegans don’t eat foods that come from animals, including dairy products and eggs.
You should be able to get most of the nutrients you need from eating a varied and balanced vegan diet.
For a healthy vegan diet:
- Eat at least five portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day.
- Base meals on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates. Choose wholegrain where possible.
- Have some dairy alternatives (such as soya drinks and yoghurts). Choose lower-fat and lower-sugar options.
- Eat some beans, pulses and other proteins.
- Choose unsaturated oils and spreads, and eat in small amounts.
- Drink plenty of fluids – the government recommends 6-8 cups/glasses a day.
Why does a Vegan Diet work?
The biggest reason why A Vegan diet works is down to the increase in Fibre. Fibre is an important part of a healthy balanced diet. It can help prevent heart disease, diabetes, weight gain and some cancers, and can also improve digestive health.
However, many people don’t get enough fibre. On average, most people in the UK get about 18g of fibre a day. You should aim for at least 30g a day. Fibre is only found in foods that come from plants. Foods such as meat, fish and dairy products don’t contain any fibre. Eating foods high in fibre will help you feel fuller for longer. This is perfect if you are trying to lose weight.
Another reason it works, is the same reason other diets work is that the participant is more conscious of the food they are eating due to the rules and restrictions the participant has placed themselves under. All diets work in principle at the beginning as people are encouraged to stick to them. The more important question is whether they work in the long term and if they are sustainable. The biggest drawback of a Vegan diet is such. In terms of micronutrients, a vegan diet is actually more susceptible to being nutritionally poor. A vegan diet is naturally low in calcium, vitamin D, iron, vitamin B12, zinc and omega-3 fatty acids. Therefore, if you follow a vegan diet it is essential that you get enough of these nutrients through specific vegan food sources – and may even need to take additional supplements.
Top tips for following a Vegan Diet.
To make a Vegan diet work for you and to support an active lifestyle here are our top tips for getting results and staying satisfied.
1) DON’T be afraid of whole grains. Some “fad diets” eliminate grains and grain-based foods entirely, but whole grains are filled with important nutrients we need such as B vitamins.
There is a big difference between eating foods which contain REFINED grains and eating foods which contain WHOLE grains. They’re not all created equally! Whole grains are healthy complex carbohydrates our bodies use for energy so they digest more slowly, offering your body the important glucose it needs in a more even manner. This helps to keep blood sugar more balanced which, in turn, encourages weight loss. Plus, we need the important nutrients whole grains give us.
Stay aware of the effect eating various grains have on you. Avoid simple carbs (such as white rice or white pasta) and instead reach for whole grains (like brown rice or whole grain pasta) for lasting energy and to encourage Fat loss.
2) DO cut back on your sugar intake. Sugar is bad news and the more you eat the harder it will be to lose weight. (By the way, if you do consume sugar be sure it’s always organic.)
3) DON’T drink fruit juice! This is one source of “sugar” that you need to rid yourself of. Fruits are fantastically good for you, providing you the water-rich fibre your body needs, along with so many important nutrients as well. But if you drink the juice, and eliminate the fibre within (such as OJ, apple juice, pineapple juice, etc.), then you are basically mainlining all the simple sugars naturally contained in the fruit. Much better to eat the fruit as is, or opt for fresh vegetable juice instead;
4) DO eat lots of green leafy veggies. Foods like kale, collard/mustard/turnip greens, broccoli, bok choy — these types of foods provide vital nutrients including CALCIUM which is needed to lose weight. If you are lacking in calcium, your vegan weight loss efforts could be hampered;
5) DO drink a lot of water. All those amazing fibre-rich foods you should eat need water to aid them in the job they need to do. Two-three glasses a day is NOT going to cut it for you. The range of your water intake should be 6-12 (8 ounce) glasses per day. Shoot for the lower range if you eat lots of water-rich fruits and veggies and smoothies, and the higher range if you don’t.
6) DON’T be afraid of nuts. Nuts provide important HEALTHY fats we need, and are high in vegan protein. Raw nuts provide important enzymes we need. Toasted nuts tend to taste a little more interesting and make the protein more available for your body. So I recommend eating some raw nuts and some toasted nuts to get the best of both worlds. Just don’t go crazy with them — 1/4 cup nuts per day if weight loss is your goal.