One often hears people refusing certain food like meat poultry, etc, saying that they are Vegan. And when they say it, it comes with an underlying assumption that it has a lesser environmental impact and more health benefits. Today Dietician Vidhi Chawla is here to address that elephant in the room, and assess if Vegan food is really equivalent to a healthier option. Let us first understand what is a Vegan Diet and how is it different from other diets.
The in vogue Vegan Diet is a dietary palette that consists of food that is primarily planted. They are either made up of plants or plants which are edible are consumed directly as part of the diet. What is a strict no-no in this dietary pattern is the inclusion of any edible that is derived out of animals. Hence this includes meat from certain animals, milk, eggs, dairy products, honey, fish and seafood. So then now how is it different from a Vegetarian Diet? The answer is already explained. Vegetarians still consume dairy products, honey, sometimes even eggs, but a Vegan Diet strictly sticks to only those things that are either derivative of plants or plants themselves.
People in western countries are often seen adopting this lifestyle, although even in India, especially in the last ten years, we see rising curiosity and adoption of the same, in a rapid fashion. As mentioned earlier, the reason behind it is that people are becoming aware of the carbon footprint that the production of meat and other animal products are creating. Some studies also support that our human bodies do not really require meat intake, but this is highly contested among dieticians and medical practitioners. Here we discuss the pros and cons of the vegan diet and see if they are indeed healthier.
- Lesser risk of excess calories, which lead to lifestyle disorders such as obesity, high cholesterol levels.
- Higher fibre and antioxidants intake, thus ensuring regular bowel movements, and protection against heart diseases and nutrient deficiencies.
- Vegans have been seen to have a better Body Mass Index, which is a good indicator f overall well-being.
- A vegan diet is said to be a fuller and satiable one, as it makes one feel fuller and gives a sustained energy output, and so there doesn’t exist a need to eat at regular intervals repeatedly.
- For people trying to shed weight or balance their weight, switching to a Vegan palette will aid the process.
- It helps control blood pressure, as well as blood sugar levels as it controls unhealthy fats, thus improving kidney functions as well.
- A vegan diet has been seen to prevent kinds of cancer such as ovarian cancer, breast cancer since the sources of these are said to be in the overconsumption of red meat.
- Dieticians are often worried about people following this diet, as the required amounts of proteins are not given to the body, in a typical Vegan diet. Proteins are essential for repairing the body cells which have been damaged in the process of protecting us from foreign antibodies. Proteins are also needed in the manufacturing of muscle cells and hence aids in making the body strong from within.
- Iron deficiencies, especially, in women are a rising concern in the medical dietary field. Problems such as anaemia, are present in more than 40% of Indian women. Meat, dairy products, poultry products, are rich in iron and help in combatting iron deficiencies and related diseases.
- Other nutrients such as calcium, B-12, Vitamins, are not present in required amounts in even leafy vegetables, and supplements have to be taken to reach the required amounts for the body. A good example would be Omega-3 fatty acids which are only present naturally in fish and other seafood. Omega-3 is useful for building body cells and protecting the heart from heart attacks.
- Lack of required nutrients and consumption of supplements also cause hormonal imbalances and result in side effects such as hair fall, depression, skin diseases, etc.
- Apart from the risk of depression, there is also an increased risk of people who choose a vegan diet, may develop eating disorders.
Hence, we can see opting for a Vegan Diet has both its advantages and disadvantages. It has more severe disadvantages than advantages. More importantly, a vegan diet does not meet the body’s nutritional needs, and thus supplements are needed that are not necessarily healthy. Hence, it is not right to say that the vegan diet is more healthy than any other diet. Like other diets, it too has its advantages and disadvantages.
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