According to the review, vegans have lower body mass index and cholesterol levels than vegetarians, which may account for the additional health benefits. Although health is not everyone’s motivation for becoming vegan, it’s essential to understand if plant-based eating provides the nutrients someone needs when following the diet. Seitan contains no fat or fibre, and a fair amount of protein (about 20g per 100g, compared with chicken’s 30g), but unlike meat and dairy it isn’t a complete protein. A typical, firm tofu has 1.2g saturated fat per 100g, much less than a rump steak but more than a skinless chicken breast (0.5g).
Potatoes with the skins on are a great source of fibre and vitamins. For example, when having boiled potatoes or a jacket potato, eat the skin too. They contain more fibre, and usually more vitamins and minerals, than white varieties.
We’ll come back to all the great things that should be included in a vegan diet shortly, but for now, let us consider some things that vegans don’t eat. The World Health Organization has specifically looked at the role of red and processed meat in causing cancer and this is certainly not something for vegans to be concerned about. People adopt a vegan lifestyle for any number of reasons but for those that choose to follow a vegan diet, health is often a part of their choice.
Although scientists need to do more studies, it seems that Prevotella bacterial abundance in vegans may be beneficial for regulating blood sugar and weight. In the UK, it is estimated that well-planned, completely plant-based, or vegan, diets need just one third of the fertile land, fresh water and energy of the typical British ‘meat-and-dairy’ based diet. Good plant choices include wheat germ, beans, nuts, seeds, mushrooms and some fortified breakfast cereals. How these are made remains a mystery to most consumers, with the vegan “meat” manufacturers like Beyond Meat and the Mighty Mushrooms Co tight-lipped on the subject. Most qualify as Ultra Processed Food, although Prof Kuhnle insists that this is “a red herring” and we should focus on nutrition levels instead. “The processes don’t sound appetising, but then neither are slaughterhouses,” he says.
Used to fuel the increasing global demand for meat and animal-based foods, soya has now become one of the world’s biggest crops. Some fat in the diet is essential, but on average people in the UK eat too much saturated fat. These foods are all good sources of protein, which is essential for the body to grow and repair itself. If you’re having foods and drinks that are high in fat, salt and sugar, have these less often and in small amounts.
Increasing numbers of us are opting for a plant-based diet, for reasons ranging from health issues to concerns about animal welfare and climate change. But the evidence on the long-term health impacts of vegetarian and vegan diets can at times seem conflicting. The internet is awash with news stories on the subject, with some claiming that plant-based diets bring manifold benefits, whilst others state that they increase the risk of certain conditions. Becoming vegan is not quite as simple as removing meat, fish, eggs and dairy from your diet. Although there are a range of foods you automatically think of as vegan – fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds – there are a surprising number of foods that aren’t actually free of animal products. Several studies have reported that vegan diets, when followed correctly, tend to contain more fibre, antioxidants, potassium, magnesium and vitamins A, C and E.
On our colourful and informative pages, you will find out what you need to be healthy and which foods you need to eat to get all the nutrients you need to thrive. Regularly consuming foods and drinks high in sugar increases your risk of obesity and tooth decay. But they do still contain high levels of fat, so eat them in moderation.
This is a UK cohort of 65,000 men and women living in the UK, many of whom are vegetarian, with most recruited between 1993 and 1999. EPIC-Oxford is part of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition study, which is one of the largest cohort studies in the world, and is coordinated by the World Health Organization. The aim of EPIC is to understand how diet, nutritional status, lifestyle and environmental factors influence the incidence of cancer and other chronic diseases. It involves more than half a million participants recruited across 10 European countries between 1992 and 1999 and followed for about 20 years. That said, be aware that some nutrients are harder to come by on a vegan diet, such as vitamin B12. It isn’t produced by plants, so the Vegan Society recommends taking a 10mcg supplement daily.