‘I can’t afford to be vegan!’ It’s one of the arguments you hear far too often. I can see why people say it when they’re new to veganism because it’s so easy to be tempted by all the fancy products in attractive packaging with clever slogans that make you feel like you ‘need’ those foods.
Essentials at the ready
Basic foods we rely on for sustenance and nutrition – fruit and vegetables, pulses, nuts and seeds, wholegrains – can be dirt cheap and if you’re clever, you can get them at half the going price. Here’s how to do it:
Growing mountain of evidence is in agreement that soya is safe and nutritious
A new review of all scientific studies and data on the safety of soya has been conducted to settle the debate about whether soya has positive or negative health effects. The authors focused particularly on the health of different population groups, such as vegetarians and vegans, children and cancer patients.
A study shows a plant-based diet offers protection whilst a meat-based one can contribute to damage
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) occurs when fat is deposited in the liver due to causes other than excessive alcohol use. It’s considered to be one of the symptoms of metabolic syndrome, which also includes obesity, insulin resistance (pre-diabetic stage), elevated fat levels in the blood and high blood pressure. It comes as no surprise that it’s been linked to unhealthy diets and increasingly younger people develop this condition.
Plant-based diets can be potent in preventing prostate cancer
Genetic factors can play an important role in prostate cancer but lifestyle and diet choices are crucial – they can significantly increase or reduce the risk. Obesity poses a particular risk because it raises the levels of sex hormones which, in turn, increase the risk of this hormone-sensitive cancer. Some sexually transmitted diseases have been linked to a higher risk too, as well as physical inactivity, smoking and alcohol consumption.
As more and more plant milks are popping up, you may be wondering about their health benefits and how they compare to cow's milk. Veronika Powell explores the milky landscape
Firstly, let's have a proper look at what any milk actually is - a very watery liquid, around 90 per cent is always water. Therefore, any amount of nutrients it contains is more or less diluted and any health effects depend on how much of it you drink.
New study shows how a healthy vegan diet can cut your risk of type 2 diabetes in half
This was the first study to distinguish not just between animal and plant-based diets but also between healthy and unhealthy plant-based diets. Healthy foods included wholegrains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, pulses, vegetable oils, tea and coffee; whilst unhealthy foods included animal products, fruit juices, sweetened beverages, refined grains (white bread, cornflakes etc.), potatoes, sweets and desserts.
A large analysis of hundreds of studies set out to look at the health effects of many food groups and has confirmed that plant foods are more protective than animal foods against chronic diseases that are related to diet.
According to the study, fruit and vegetables are extremely protective, showing the ability to significantly reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer and obesity. The only negative effect – a higher risk of digestive cancers – possibly stems from increased consumption of pickled vegetables.
An extensive analysis of studies that looked at pulse consumption (beans, lentils, soya, chickpeas, peas) and the risk of colorectal cancer showed interesting results. People who eat more pulses have a lower risk of this type of cancer. In particular, both the intake of fibre from pulses and the intake of soya were associated with a lower colorectal cancer risk.
Early onset of menarche (the first period) may negatively influence the future health of women – in particular, it has been linked to an increased risk of hormone-related cancers such as ovarian and breast. Some types of food have been implicated (meat, milk, animal protein and fats in general) and to clarify whether soya can play a role, a team of scientists examined this in a high soya-consuming population.
The results of a long-term (over 13 years) study of nearly 50,000 women of all ethnicities revealed that regular intake of plant substances called isoflavones can significantly reduce the risk of endometrial cancer. Endometrial cancer usually means cancer of the inner lining of the uterus but it can spread or affect surrounding tissues. Isoflavones are plant substances (most commonly found in soya foods but also in other pulses such as beans and lentils), which can act as very mild oestrogens in the body.
To establish whether soya is definitely safe for women with breast cancer, almost 10,000 women were followed for several years and their diets analysed. To examine the possibility of cultural and lifestyle influences, the study included North American and Chinese women. The results of this largest study to date on soya and breast cancer showed that for all women alike, soya consumption after the breast cancer diagnosis slightly decreased the risk of death and significantly decreased the risk of developing a new tumour.
A refreshingly original long-term study of several hundred elderly women found that a daily intake of pulses and soya products was associated with a significantly reduced risk of functional disability in later life. People with functional disabilities have problems, for example, with going outside the home, keeping track of money and bills, preparing meals, doing light housework, taking prescription medicines in the right amount at the right time, and using the telephone.
There have been a number of studies investigating the effects of soya isolates (eg extracted soya protein) on human health but not so many using soya foods as they are normally eaten. A recent study did just that as it was aimed at investigating the effect of soya milk consumption on cholesterol levels in blood. High cholesterol is responsible for furred up arteries so it’s important to keep your cholesterol in check in order to stay healthy. Healthy young to middle-aged volunteers consumed soya milk daily for a period of 21 days.