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Archive for the ‘Vegan Health’ Category

The first thing I would like to emphasise about protein, is that too much of it can cause problems. People should eat a moderate amount of protein, and not an excessive amount. A diet that has too much protein can contribute to:

  • osteoporosis
  • certain cancers
  • impaired kidney function
  • heart disease

For more information, please refer to the following link that explains the protein myth.  It is from the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM). Both T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D. and Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr., M.D. are advisers for the committee, who you may recognise from the documentary ‘Forks over Knives’ (which I highly recommend). PCRM advocate preventative medicine, with a focus on nutrition.

Where does a vegan get their protein from?

  • Peas
  • Beans (chickpea, adzuki, mung, black-eyed etc)
  • Lentils (green, brown, red)
  • Soy products (e.g. tofu, tempeh, soy mince, soy milk)
  • Nuts
  • Nut milks (almond milk, hazelnut milk)
  • Seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, sesame)
  • Grains (quinoa, oats, wheat)
  • Even fruit and veg have protein (though not much)

From the average UK diet, cereals (bread, pasta, rice, wholegrain cereals) contribute to 22% of protein requirements. So already, without having eaten any particularly protein rich foods, you have already got 22% of your daily requirements.
Below, a figure to show the amount of protein per 1 serving of vegan foods. What constitutes a serving is defined on the Vegan Society website. I didn’t include it because I thought it was rather boring to write a list of each serving e.g. 1 serving = 40g dry green lentils; 60g of oats; 75g of pasta. After all, I doubt that anyone likes to weigh out their food meticulously. So use it as an approximation. Please click on the image below to enlarge if you can’t see it clearly enough:

As you can see, soy products are very high in protein. However, many people have concerns with soy. This is fine, because soy is not essential for the vegan diet; neither is wheat. I personally try not to rely too heavily on soy and wheat products (in other words, I eat them approximately once or twice a week). Processed soy products, such as faux meats, faux cheeses, faux sausages aren’t very healthy, but they are fine as a treat. On the other hand, minimally processed, traditional soy foods such as tofu, edamame and tempeh have been eaten for centuries in countries such as China, with no obvious ill effects.

Men need approximately 55g of protein per day, whereas women require approximately 45g.

Meal plan:

Breakfast: oats (10g) with sunflower seeds (5g)
Lunch: 2 slices of toast (10g) & baked beans (1og)
Dinner:  lentil soup (10g)

So already I have got my 45g per day- but this is not including any other foods such as veggies and fruit, which also contain protein. I do not think it is important that a potential vegan/vegetarian should get concerned about ensuring they get enough protein, and using my bar chart too seriously. So long as you are eating pulses, beans, seeds, nuts, and grains daily, you will be getting enough protein. Some people are allergic to nuts, but it is still perfectly possible to still be a healthy vegan without them. I personally am not a huge seed fan, and haven’t eaten them for quite some time (apart from sesame seeds which are very tasty).

Dr. T. Colin Campbell stresses that variety is key, and that ‘because protein is found in fairly generous amounts in many plant foods, it’s virtually impossible not to get enough‘.

In short, as a vegan, I do not worry about protein. Which is ironic, because once I tell people I am vegan, the first thing that they ask is if I get enough protein, and what foods do I eat to get it from. One individual I met insisted that eating animals is ‘necessary’ for protein requirements. I asked, how could she say that? Was I not standing there before her, a vegan of almost four years? Are there not millions of vegetarians and vegans in this world?

All nutritional info from this page comes from the Vegan Society.

More links:

http://www.tcolincampbell.org/courses-resources/article/the-protein-puzzle-picking-up-the-pieces/?tx_ttnews%5BbackPid%5D=76&tx_ttnews%5Bswords%5D=oatmeal&cHash=30515dd5f0

http://www.tcolincampbell.org/courses-resources/article/animal-vs-plant-protein/?tx_ttnews%5BbackPid%5D=76&cHash=d5607d1968

Do you think that animal protein is essential for humans? Do you think that dairy or eggs are essential for humans? If you are still unconvinced, I would highly recommend you check out ‘Forks over Knives’

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Vegan Nutrition

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? 

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