Tuesday, April 16, 2024
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FAQ: Diet & Health

Q: Can a vegan diet supply all the nutrients you need for a healthy diet?

A well planned vegan diet can supply all the nutrients you need, apart from Vitamin B12 which can be sourced from fortified products or supplements. Numerous clinical studies have shown that a healthy vegan diet can be beneficial and can help reverse or defend against a number of conditions such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, obesity and diabetes. Various statutory bodies, including the NHS, have endorsed the vegan diet. Read more here.

Q: If eating a plant-based diet is natural, why do you need to supplement with Vitamin B12?

Vitamin B12 comes from microorganisms that live in the soil.  These are then ingested by animals.  Eating animal products is only one way of obtaining Vitamin B12.  B12 can also be manufactured by cultivating yeast – this is how vegans obtain it.  People argue that supplements are not natural.  However, many nutrients are already being obtained by supplementation. For example, iodine is added to salt and folic acid is added to bread.  Many non-vegans, especially those over the age of 50, are deficient in Vitamin B12 and are advised to supplement with it, and Irish people are deficient in Vitamin D during the winter months due to the lack of sunshine.

Q: What is a healthy vegan diet?

The Vegan Eatwell Guide from the Vegan Society UK is a useful guide. The Vegan Society’s Meal Planning page is also very useful.

Q: Do vegans get enough protein?

Humans need about 10 percent of calories from protein. This applies to athletes too, who are often thought to require larger amounts of protein to sustain muscle size and optimize performance.

Most meat-eaters already get too much protein. Protein is found in varying amounts in almost every type of food. The following are excellent protein sources: Tempeh, Tofu, Beans, Lentils, Seitan, Chickpeas, Almonds, Cashews and Quinoa.

Q:  Don’t you need milk and dairy products for calcium?

No, you can obtain calcium from a variety of plant-based sources.  Dairy industry advertisements suggest that drinking milk results in stronger bone density.  However, studies have found no association between milk consumption and hip fracture risk, for example. 

“A review of 37 studies on dairy products and bone health published in the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics concluded that there is no solid evidence that the consumption of dairy products improves bone health in children and young adults” (Lanou et al., 2005).

A study at Harvard University found little evidence of the supposed health benefits of dairy, and questioned the methodology by which U.S. dairy guidelines were determined. Read more about the study here.

This article discusses the various harms associated with dairy products such as saturated fats, lactose intolerance, acne, cancer and other issues.

The study linked in this article found that there is ‘no apparent health rationale’ for recommending cow’s milk over plant based milks.

Q: Are vegan diets suitable for pregnant women and children?

Yes. The HSE provides information on vegan diets in pregnancy here. Various statutory health bodies have endorsed the vegan diet as being suitable for everyone, at all stages of life. Read more about vegan diets for babies, children and pregnant women here.

Q: Are processed vegan foods such as faux meats, cheese and milk healthy?

  • It is advised to keep processed foods to a minimum – for all types of diets – not just vegan diets.
  • A study has shown that plant based products are healthier and more sustainable than animal products.

Q: Do soya products create a hormone imbalance?

  • This study concluded that soya products do not interfere with hormones.
  • Read more about soya here.

Q: What about protein supplements for body-building?

  • As an alternative to whey protein there are many other protein powders widely available for bodybuilders. These include: Pea Protein, Hemp Protein and Soya Protein. 
  • Well-known vegan bodybuilders, athletes and sports-people include Carl Lewis (Olympic Gold Medal-Winning Athlete), Serena Williams (Wimbledon Tennis Champion), Billy Simmons (Winner of ‘Mr. Natural Universe 2009’), Peter Ebdon (World Champion Snooker Player) and Patrik Baboumian (Germany’s Strongest Man).

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