Why Go Vegan?

Why Go Vegan?

Bev Dunne

This November is World Vegan Month which gives me a great opportunity to write about veganism and exactly what veganism means.  Although veganism has become more popular in recent times, many would be surprised to find The Vegan Society was in fact established in 1944, with the purpose of increasing awareness of, and encouraging a diet and lifestyle which would benefit humans, animals, and our environment.

There are several reasons why someone decides to follow a vegan lifestyle.  For some it is for health reasons, however for many it is for ethical and compassionate reasons.  By not eating animal-derived foods such as fish, meat, dairy, and bee products, it is making a choice to support animals.  This choice also includes choosing to purchase products such as cosmetics, clothing, shoes, bags, belts etc which are not derived from animals.

For some it is about taking a stand to support our planet.  It’s believed farming for meat production, especially if it is factory farmed, is not environmentally friendly. It is thought commercial meat production may contribute majorly to climate change.

A vegan diet is often known for its many health benefits. Because a vegan diet is high in plant-based foods and precludes animal products such as meat, cheese and butter which are the main dietary sources of saturated fats, it’s thought to be beneficial in reducing the risk of heart disease and death in adults. Plant based foods are also obviously higher in fibre which can be beneficial for better heart health plus they are lower in calories which reduces the risk of obesity. Following a plant based vegan diet including fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, and wholegrains is also believed to lower the risk of Type 2 Diabetes.  Because plant-based foods are higher in phytochemicals, vitamins, and fibre, it is also believed a vegan diet may also lower the risk of cancer.

For many of us, undertaking a vegan diet will mean we will maintain a lower body mass (BMI) index which of course will mean better health outcomes. Replacing animal source foods with low calorie plant-based foods is going to be beneficial in losing and managing our weight.

There are so many food options available these days if we are wanting to undertake a plant based vegan diet. Our online store has pages and pages of products. There are dairy alternatives for cheeses, butters, yoghurts, and ice creams. There are many sources of plant-based proteins and so many yummy recipes available to try. Undertaking a vegan diet doesn’t mean you are going to be living on carrot and celery sticks!!

There are however certain nutrients which may not be as prevalent in a vegan diet. It is therefore important to be mindful of how we ensure we don’t miss out on these nutrients. Some of these nutrients are –

Iron. The first nutrient which comes to mind when precluding meat from our diet, is iron. There are however many vegetables which contain iron. Spinach, dried apricots, amaranth, dried legumes all contain considerable amounts of iron. Blackstrap molasses is a good source of iron. We can also assist our absorption of iron by eating foods which are high in Vitamin C such as kiwi fruit, citrus fruits, strawberries, tomatoes, and leafy green vegetables. Often it can be helpful to take an iron supplement. It is important to ensure an iron tablet contains other co-factors such as Vitamins C and B to ensure absorption.

Vitamin B12. This B vitamin is primarily available through animal products and protects our nervous system and red blood cells. Nutritional yeast which I have written about previously and is often used in vegetarian and vegan recipes, contains Vit B12. I would however suggest taking a B12 supplement if you are following vegan diet. Methyl B12 is the most active form of B12 and is believed to be more readily absorbed and retained in our tissues. It is utilised more efficiently by our brain, nervous system, and liver.

Calcium.  We know calcium is important for our bone health however precluding dairy products is not going to be a problem as including leafy greens, tahini and tofu are all calcium rich vegan foods. Chia seeds, sunflower seeds, almonds, dried figs, and dried white beans all contain calcium.  If you wish to take a calcium supplement, I would suggest a plant-based calcium capsule derived from red algae.

Zinc.  We need zinc for skin, tissue repair and wound healing as well as support for our immune system.  Zinc can be found in nutritional yeast, seeds, nuts, dried beans, oats and wheatgerm.

Omega 3 Fatty Acids.  When we think of Omega 3, we usually think of fish oil, however Omega 3 Fatty acids can we found in seeds such as chia, hemp, and flax. Walnuts are another great source. It is also possible to supplement with vegan omega 3 capsules containing organic marine microalgae.

To learn more about your vegan options, call in to see Bev and the team at Go Vita in North St in Batemans Bay or call on 0244729737. Don’t forget to tune into Bev on 2EC every Wednesday at 12.30pm on Go Get Healthy.