Over the past few years, the concept of ‘plant-based eating’ has become increasingly popular. More and more people are also choosing to adopt vegetarian and vegan lifestyles, perhaps inspired by a whole host of celebrities and wellness influencers – from Beyoncé to Deliciously Ella – who have championed the diet choice.
Taking up a vegan diet can be risky – it basically means cutting out major food groups which, if not substituted properly, can leave devotees lacking vital vitamins, minerals and macronutrients. For anyone deciding to adopt a vegan lifestyle, it’s best to talk to a health professional such as a registered nutritionist or dietitian before you start, so you know you’re still meeting all your nutritional requirements (you may also be advised to take a supplement containing vitamin B12, as this vitamin is notoriously hard to get on a vegan diet). However, once you’re properly informed, you’ll be pleased to know that there are some major benefits to going vegan.
1. Experiencing new foods
Being vegan means you have to keep a watchful eye on what you’re eating and be mindful to replace nutrients you’ve eliminated, which often means introducing new and exciting fare. Protein-rich foods such as amaranth, black-eyed peas, hemp seeds and tempeh are great replacements to try, and can expand a meat-and-two-veg-style diet.
2. Boosting fibre
For many in the UK, one of our biggest dietary mistakes is not eating enough fibre. Last year, Public Health England upped the recommendation for how much fibre we should be eating every day. Luckily for vegans, fruits, vegetables and other plant-based foods like lentils, beans and pulses are packed full of it, as well as being generally low in calories and saturated fats.
3. Getting your five a day
If you’re doing it right, you’re guaranteed to get your five a day. A wealth of research tells us that fruits and vegetables are good for us, from reducing the risk of certain cancers to improving heart health and even helping maintain a healthy weight. Switching to a plant-based, vegan diet means you’ll need to top up regularly on fruits and veggies – including dark-green leafy vegetables, which are rich in iron and calcium; and lentils and beans, for protein and iron – to make sure you are getting the variety of nutrients your body needs.
4. Reducing your risk of cancers
Last year, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) labelled processed meat a ‘definite cause’ of cancer and red meat a ‘probable cause’. Although this doesn’t mean that anyone who eats red and processed meats will get cancer, it suggests that there is a link between meat and a person’s cancer risk. Therefore, as long as a person adopting a vegan diet does so sensibly, they may also be reducing their risk of certain types of cancer.
5. Reducing your intake of processed foods
Being vegan isn’t easy – it means reading food labels and, more often than not, you’ll probably find that most ready meals, processed foods and junk foods are on the ‘banned’ list. This means that anyone taking up a vegan diet will need to cook from scratch more and prep meals at home. As many processed foods are high in sugar, fat and salt, as well as being large in portion size, this could have a benefit on your long-term health as well as your waistline.
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From Harper’s Bazaar UK