Is vegan healthy?
Updated: Jan 20
It’s funny how the worse choices of my life have never been judged or questioned but when I decided to stop eating animal products and embrace a healthier lifestyle, many bombarded me with thousands of questions with a lot of disapproval and misbelief.
In the years after being diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis I’ve become much more aware about what foods and fluids I put into my body and I have tried many different approaches in order to see how I was reacting.
There is a lot of confusion around human nutrition, partially justified because exists over hundred dietary theories where each one, seen from the pioneer’s point of view, seems to be the best.
Every day a new nutrition book is in the front window of a book store claiming to make you lose weight, heal diseases, improve energies etc. All these controversial informations, the lack of the right knowledges and fake myths created misconceptions about a lifestyle that can drastically improve your health and life in general.
The concept of veganism is the one of not consuming and using any animal products, which means excluding all form of exploitation and cruelty to animals for food, clothing or any other purpose ( Laboratory testing; sports; entertainment etc.).
The reasons why people decide to embrace the journey as vegan can be different, for instance, ethical reasons when not supporting the violence towards the animals killed and exploited just to fulfil human wants and satisfaction.
Environmental reasons, because the overconsumption of meat and animal products highly contribute to global warming and world pollution even more than cars and airplanes, and last but but not least for health reasons.
Nowadays we live an epidemic of cancers, autoimmune diseases, heart diseases and obesity. More people get sick because of the lifestyle and especially because of the food they eat but you can also hear much more stories of people solving health problem, reach the perfect weight, increase stamina, energies, vitality etc. often cutting off animal products and introducing more plant based foods. I am one of them.
Is being vegan healthy?
Most people when think about the vegan diet the first worry is about the protein intake. Plant based foods of any kind are rich of this macronutrient and also your body require much less protein you may imagine in order to function optimally.
Protein and most of the other nutrients shouldn’t be a trouble for your mind, on the other hand if you decide to follow a vegan lifestyle for health reasons you should be worried about the quality and quantity of your food.
You can base your diet on oreo cookies, french fries, pasta, bread, frizzy drinks, fake meats alternatives and be 100% vegan, you may save animals lives but cause a lot of harm to yours.
Food companies smelled the deal and caught the massive wave of veganism, not eating animal products is also a trend and here is the catch.
The same way that not all the products labelled gluten free are healthy not all the vegan products are healthy either.
Based on what you choose to eat, being vegan can either support optimum health or literally destroy your body and create diseases.
A vegan diet that support your health should be low in fats and based on fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains mostly gluten free, tubers, legumes, nuts, seeds and drastically reduce or completely eliminate oils, refined flours, refined sugars, preservatives, additives and all the foods that are processed.
So to make it easier it should be based on whole plant foods.
Vegan vs whole food plant based
Even if people that follows a vegan lifestyle and a whole food plant based usually share the same ethical principles about not causing any harm to animals, there can still be a big difference regarding the health benefits of these two way of living.
Every minutes every day, the same way millions of animals are getting killed in order to fulfil human requests, millions of dollars are spent to persuade us to consume foods that are not made for human consumption. This is detrimental to our health.
Usually the reason why people drop the vegan diet is because encounter health problems, such as extreme weight loss or weight gain, hair loss, fatigue, anemia, nutritional deficiency etc. but this happens just because they base their diet on mostly refined starches, white flour products, junk vegan foods full of sugars and other nasties, limiting fresh fruits and vegetables.
Lack of knowledges and not having a doctor, nutritionist or a health coach willing to support your lifestyle and dietary choices it is easier to go back on a standard, westernised, meat based, junk food diet with in mind the misconception that a diet based on plant foods is detrimental for humans health.
When a whole food plant based diet, low in fats, is the foundation for a healthy life.
Nature created foods that are right for us as long as we eat them in their whole form or minimally processed.
What to eat on a whole food plant based diet and what to avoid
If occasionally you want to enjoy a pizza topped with vegan cheese or have a burger with fake meats, smokey barbecue sauce and fries don’t get mad with yourself, just make it an occasion and not the staple of your diet.
Even if I believe that knowing that a certain “food” is detrimental for your health and so even occasionally there is no point to eat it, a little cheat once in a while is not a big deal.
The easiest way to succeed on a whole food plant based diet is to consume fresh unprocessed foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, legumes, whole grains etc. and foods that are minimally processed such as whole grains pastas and flours.
Avoid anything that comes in packages such as precooked meals, most of canned foods (unless there is only water), chips, cookies and anything else that contains weird names in the ingredients list because usually are sugars, thickener, preservatives, food colorants, taste enhancer etc. all harmful to human health despite the choice of being vegan or not.
Nuts and seeds are really important to human health but it shouldn’t be the staple of your diet and when you buy nuts make sure to get unsalted nuts without any additives or oils.
If you are used to sauté your vegetables with oil start doing it with water and use spices instead of salt to enhance the flavour of your meals. With time your taste buds it will get used to natural flavours and it will be easier to enjoy foods without adding any salt, oils or taste enhancers.
How do I make my cakes and muffins?
For baking there is many ways to avoid refined sugars, white flours and eggs. Dates are a natural sweetener and you can use flaxseeds meal mixed with water instead of eggs or a really ripe banana. Any of your recipes containing milk, it can be replaced with natural plant based milk, fresh squeezed fruit juice or plain water.
You can check here a fantastic recipe for make a healthy gluten free vegan brownie with a peanut butter frosting.
Day by day we need food to fuel us in order to be able to accomplish everything we want and thrive. The same way we can decide to stop eating animal products we can decide to eat food that sustain our overall health.
It is great that with more people becoming vegan there is also much more vegan options out there, this means less animals suffering but as we love animals we must love and honour ourselves as well making food choices that nourish our body, mind and soul.
When you decide to adopt a whole food plant based lifestyle don’t pretend to be perfect in your choices straight away, mistakes are normal, so don’t give up and take it one step at the time, maybe start eating fruit for breakfast instead of bread.
Swap white pasta and white rice with whole grains options, get some peanut butter that is 100% natural without any oils and sugars or make it your self, it is really easy. The most important thing, if you decide to buy prepackaged foods, is to read the ingredients label.
If you get caught in the trap of superfoods and extremely expensive foods, go with the latter , buy local and in season, buy frozen vegetables, buy in bulk especially whole grains and legumes, you will be surprised by how inexpensive can be, the trick is to stay simple.
I personally love following a whole food plant based diet because it is sustainable at 360° ,it supports animals rights, limits the waste so support the environment and is great for your health because is based on simple natural foods.
There is many ways to get started, as long as you do it at your own pace and regardless the fact that you are already vegan or not. I highly recommend to read the book forks over knives and/or watching the documentary in order to have a better understanding and tips for the transition to a whole food plant based diet.
If you are sure about making this change that will guide you towards superior health, but you need a guide I am offering a “Natural Transition Program” at a discounted price studied and designed for the people that want to take a step towards a natural plant based diet but don’t know where to start.
Click here to know more about it
Thanks for reading , much love and health.
Integrative Nutrition Health Coach
The china study- Colin Campbell