Nutrition is very complex, and despite extensive research that has been carried out on the subject we are quite far from a holistic understanding of the exact dietary requirements that a human needs (and this is partly, if not mostly, due to individual differences). I believe that the healthiest diet (whether you are vegan or not) involves eating ‘wholefoods’ (unprocessed foods such as fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, grains) and eating as little processed ‘junk’ food as possible (convenience foods e.g. as cakes, biscuits, pizzas, deep fried foods such as chips- all of which can be made much healthier if made from scratch!).
I’m writing these series of posts because I think I could personally benefit from a wake up call – I’m certainly not as healthy as I could be. That said though, one of the advantages of being vegan, health-wise, is that you are forced to cook from scratch much of the time, which is a very good thing because you have control over how much sugar/salt/oil that your food has. I can’t buy the vast majority of processed foods (e.g cakes, biscuits, chocolates, pastries, pizzas, microwave meals etc) found at your average supermarket because most of them aren’t vegan. Thus, there is a limit to how much processed foods I can actually eat. Occasionally I will buy VegiDeli’s vegan sausages and faux fish fingers, but these are quite pricey (6 for £2 something), which means that I can’t eat them every day; additionally, they are sold at health shops, not at supermarkets, so I can’t access them that often! Thankfully I’ve never been a cheese fan, so I don’t buy much of the processed vegan cheeses that exist in health shops. These cheeses aren’t healthy, but can be quite nice as a treat, or to impress your non-vegan friends that yes, vegan cheeses do exist and can (sometimes) melt. Vegan cheeses are also more expensive than conventional cheeses.
As such, veganism has allowed me to be far more healthy than I ever was as a non-vegan, and for that I am very thankful. For example I’ve had to replace milk chocolate with dark chocolate (which is healthier for you. I always hated dark chocolate as a child, but as a vegan I knew I couldn’t give up one of my favourite foods, and now I’m quite the fan of dark chocolate now… after all I had no choice! It just goes to show that you can surprise yourself!).
On the other hand though, I’ve still not conquered my dislike of fruits.
Most people rely on processed foods to some extent. I personally have tried to cut down on processed foods such as cereals and pasta, because I was over-reliant on them (i.e. eating them every day). I’m also quite suspicious that I have some sort of wheat allergy, so I’ve tried to cut down on eating wheat. You may notice that many of my recipes are wheat-free.
I would like to be healthier as a vegan, and to be more conscientious with regards to specific nutrients and vitamins in my diet. I’m writing this series of posts in order to better inform myself and others of the foods that deliver the nutrients that are important to vegans.
It is important to be healthy, so that the burden on national healthcare can be reduced. I think that everyone should have the responsibility of respecting our national healthcare, and not take it for granted. After all, we want to ensure that it can support individuals who have serious genetic conditions that haven’t been brought about by poor diet/ lack of exercise, and not for people who have smoked/ overeaten excessively so they require lung cancer treatment/ gastric bypass surgery respectively. The less avoidable burden we place on our health services, the more efficient and effective they will be with treating unavoidable conditions. As such, I believe that preventative ‘medicine’ (i.e. good diet, regulat exercise, low stress levels) is extremely important, and that modern medicine today is over-reliant on treating a condition after it has arisen, rather than preventing it from occurring in the first place. That is not to say that I don’t appreciate and respect modern medicine; I like most people think that its numerous achievements are spectacular. But at the end of the day, there’s not much money in preventative treatment, which is why it’s not given much attention. Doctors will always advice you to ‘eat healthily, exercise regularly, and manage your stress well’ which is good on the one hand, but at the same time, everybody knows that kind of thing, and frankly it is easier said than done (evidenced by the fact that doctors themselves are not perfect and are sometimes found to smoke, eat terribly, never exercise etc). In short, it is not easy to live right for our bodies (and mental health), but I think it should always be a work in progress, and we should always strive to better ourselves and improve our health.
Do you think that your diet is healthy? Are there areas of your diet that you’d like to improve?