In short, I would say yes. Just as long as you also supplement with iron, calcium, vitamin B12 and vitamin D. All of these can be obtained from Nutracity’s online vegan nutrition store as part of our vegan products UK line. A vegan diet excludes all animal products and any products derived from animals. It can reduce the risk or chronic diseases like chronic heart disease and aids weight loss.
The market for vegan and plant-based products is increasing as more people are turning vegan for health, animal welfare and environmental reasons. A vegan diet normally consists of a lot fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts and seeds which helps vegans to obtain a wide variety of essential vitamins and minerals as well as protein and “good” fats. However, vegans may be lacking in certain vitamins normally consumed in large amounts from meats such as iron, calcium, vitamin D and vitamin B12.
As vegans are not however consuming a large amount of saturated fats from animal products, a lot of health benefits can be observed from a vegan diet. The first is better heart health. There are many factors in a vegan diet that can lead to reduced risk of heart disease.
Meat and by-products of animals such as cheese and butter are high in saturated fats, large consumption of these products can lead to an increase in cholesterol levels and hight cholesterol levels are linked to an increased risk of heart disease and stroke.
Also, good heart health has also been linked to a decent uptake of fibre. Something that animal products contain very little of but something plant-based products have in abundance. Vegan diets also tend to consist of fewer calories than omnivorous diets, therefore contributing to a reduced risk of obesity, which is a major risk factor for heart disease.
Plant based diets are also high in phytochemicals. These help the body to eliminate free radicals which in the long-run could help prevent different types of cancers. According to large 2019 review, a plant-based diet also help reduce the risk of type two diabetes. The review linked this with the consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and legumes. As mentioned earlier it is also important for vegans to supplement with vitamin B12, calcium, vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids as well as zinc and iodine.1
There is currently a huge demand for a vegan diet from those in the athletics and sporting communities. Whether it is some of the general public aiming for athletic figures or athletes who want to perform their best during competition, a plant-based diet is seen a good way to start. It has been reported that the first athletes on strict plant-based diets were gladiators, who consumed large amounts of legumes, pulses and grains and virtually no animal protein. That being said, some scientists are sceptical about the vegan diet.
This is mostly because they feel we do not have enough long term data to really identify long-term consequences of practicing a vegan diet. The other factor is that companies may choose to use carefully selected data in order to make financial gains. It is estimated that the global vegan food market will be worth around $24.3bn by 2026 with vegan cheese alone being worth $4bn.
According to research carried out at Sheffield Hallam University by David Rogerson, “There’s growing evidence that reduced consumption of animal products, coupled with an increase in plant-based foods, seems to be good for our health, this is perhaps due to these foods containing lot of antioxidant phytonutrients and nitrates, while some animal products contain lots of pro-inflammatory fats and lead to the production of a metabolite called TMAO, which has been linked to cardiovascular problems.”2 Another reported benefit is the anti-inflammatory effect of plant-based foods. Venus Williams, a world class tennis player in case you didn’t know, suffers from Sjögren’s syndrome, and has stated that a vegan diet has helped to manage her symptoms, enabling her to continue competing at the highest level.
On the flip side University of Oxford’s Nuffield Department of Population Health has stated that, “Vegans are also at a higher risk of B12-deficiency, since the nutrient is only naturally available from animal foods. Low B12 levels may be linked to raised blood levels of homocysteine, which may be linked to higher risk of stroke.” Plant-based foods such as beetroot contain nitrates that aid blood-flow and oxygen and nutrient transport through the body. This is of interest to athletes as it helps to aid in recovery and rehabilitation from injury.
It is not just athletes however, that are affected by the vegan diet trend. As the general population tend to try a more plant-based diets, positive as well as negative effects can be observed. The long-term implications of a vegan diet can be a cause for concern for some who do not acknowledge the deficiencies of the diet. There have been two population studies that have monitored vegans over time, one following Seventh Day Adventists in the US and Canada, and the EPIC-Oxford study, which tracked the health of nearly 50,000 meat-eaters, vegetarians, and vegans across the UK.
Scientists involved in the EPIC-Oxford study, concluded that whilst some vegan foods are rich in calcium, many vegans to do not meet their calcium requirements and therefore they found that there is a 30% increased risk of fracture in vegans compared to vegetarians and meat eaters. More research however is needed in order to develop a causal link, as it if found that BMI is generally lower in vegans and vegans also tend to have a lower bone-mineral density than vegetarians.
So to sum up, being on a vegan diet is healthy just as long as you also think about the long-term effects. In terms of the modern era we live in, veganism is relatively new and we are still discovering the pros and cons. Just to be on the safe side, if you do follow a strict vegan diet, just be sure to supplement with vitamin B12, vitamin D, calcium and iron in order to be sure that you are obtaining enough of these essential vitamins in your diet. These can all be obtained from Nutracity’s online vegan nutrition store.