This week an Express newspaper headline said: Health warning: Vegan diet could be BAD for you. At best this is irresponsible journalism, at worst, sensationalism that pays no regard to facts. The truth is, a vegan diet could help you lose weight, avoid or reverse heart disease and diabetes and vegans have a much lower risk of cancer. Oh yes, and they live longer, healthier lives.
The article describes how vegans are missing out on… wait for it… protein, B12 and omega-3 fats. Nutritionist, Shona Wilkinson, told the Express: There are a few nutrients that may fall short in even the healthiest vegan diet. Shona is the Head Nutritionist at the Nutri Centre and specialises in supplements.
Shona believes that getting an adult’s recommended daily amount of protein is very, very difficult on a vegan diet. Hasn’t she seen the Facebook group What Fat Vegans Eat!? It’s a tired old chestnut; people thinking meat, fish, eggs and dairy are the only proper sources of protein. Where do they think gorillas, elephants, horses and rhinos get theirs? People have been thriving on plant-based protein for thousands of years and if you eat enough calories in a varied, vegan diet, it is very difficult to go short. Most people eat around 50 per cent more than they need, which is not necessarily a good thing as too much (animal) protein is linked to disease.
The article compares the protein content of extra-large servings of chicken breast, cod fillet and eggs with that of extra small servings of brown rice, lentils and broccoli. A fairer comparison would be proper-sized portions of tofu or kidney beans! These foods don’t contain saturated animal fat, hormones and animal protein – all linked to disease. For a fair comparison of protein foods see the table below.
So we move on to vitamin B12, an important vitamin involved in a number of vital processes in the body. Shona says: Non-animal products have to be specifically fortified to make sure vegans get enough. Well, vegans should take B12 supplements or choose fortified foods but so should everyone over 50 according to the US government and I’m guessing Shona may not realise that meat and dairy foods from factory-farmed animals only contain B12 because they are given a supplement too! Cut out the middleman and take your own. More info on B12 here.
The article also says omega-3 fats EPA and DHA are missing in a vegan diet. However, you can make both from the omega-3 fat ALA which is present in walnuts, flaxseeds and lots of other foods or you can buy vegan supplements containing EPA and DHA from algae – which is where fish get it – but in taking these and avoiding oily fish you bypass all the nasty pollutants and toxins found in fish. Find out why plant foods are the best source of omega-3s here.
They mention the sad case of 34-year-old Maria Strydom from Australia who died climbing Mount Everest. The article says: A doctor told Women’s Health that her vegan diet may have contributed to her death. How many meat-eating 34-year-olds could heave themselves up Everest? And how many deaths is the typical meaty, fatty, sugary Western diet responsible for? A poor diet kills more people than smoking now. To say the vegan diet may have contributed to the death of one person who died undertaking an extreme endeavor is ridiculous and irresponsible. If everyone went vegan in 2017, the NHS bill would take a nose-dive!
There are so many positive articles on veganism out there! Why not try our 30 Day Vegan free program? You can start anytime and we're here to help www.viva.org.uk/30dayvegan.