Coming up vegan

Coming up vegan
Vegan options are seen more and more on everyday menus and new vegan restaurants have opened their doors throughout the city. Defining a vegan diet would be as follows: A type of vegetarian diet that excludes meat, dairy products, eggs and honey, but includes a wide variety of plant foods. Reasons for ‘going vegan’ include avoiding the killing and suffering of animals, and the killing of wildlife for profits. Some people would like to end deforestation for grazing purposes and stop wars for resources. Others adopt veganism for health-related reasons.

The benefits of a vegan diet

When examining the health claims of such a diet, it’s clear to see that numerous benefits exist. Firstly, the gut microbiota appears to have a greater number of protective species, which may be the reason for decreased levels of inflammation. Since more plant-based foods are consumed, the intake of certain nutrients is higher. This includes vitamins A, C and E, folic acid, potassium, and magnesium. It is, however, important to ensure that the vegan diet is well planned, to avoid certain nutrient deficiencies.

Secondly, it has been found that plant-based diets assist individuals wanting to lose weight. A study by the Physicians Committee found that women who were moderately or severely overweight lost approximately 0,5kg per week. They also managed to maintain this weight loss after two years. Fibre is known to play an important role in this process, as it makes one feel full, without adding unnecessary kilojoules. High fibre foods include fruit and vegetables, legumes, such as lentils and beans, and whole grains. Weight-loss is further assisted due to the exclusion of animal and dairy products. This ensures that less saturated fat is taken in through the diet. It is still, however, important to note the cooking methods of the vegan-friendly foods that are consumed. This means less frying and more steaming, grilling, poaching, and boiling.

Thirdly, some studies have looked at the relationship between vegan diets and blood-sugar levels. By eating whole grains, legumes, nuts, fruit, and vegetables, blood sugar can be better controlled and this assists the body’s insulin response. However, one still needs to be cautious of simple carbohydrate intake to avoid a negative effect on blood sugar levels – simple carbohydrates include pasta, potatoes, white bread, and white rice. Additional health benefits of vegan diets extend to a decreased risk of heart disease, protection against certain cancers, and reduced pain from arthritis.

Effective planning for a vegan lifestyle

One should remember that because the vegan diet emphasises plant-based foods, larger volumes of food are necessary to provide the calories your body requires. Due to the lower energy-density of plant-based foods, vegans could under-eat or sometimes feel lethargic, despite consuming increased amounts of fibre. New vegans may find themselves craving certain foods, but with time, these cravings tend to subside, and new substitutes are discovered.

This again comes down to correct planning of your diet. With anyone wanting to follow this type of diet, they should understand that time spent in the kitchen is initially likely to increase. This is so that you can experiment and get creative with new spices, sauces, flavouring, and methods of preparation. New vegans also need to prepare their digestive systems, as the increased intake of cruciferous vegetables may cause discomfort or bloating. It is, therefore, important to transition slowly to avoid these side-effects.

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