Top 10 Vegan Health Tips
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Vegan: For Your Health
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A Meat Free Diet with No Vitamin Deficiencies
By Journalist Volunteer Lily Treacher
There is a common misconception that a vegetarian or vegan diet cannot provide an individual with the necessary vitamins that he or she requires in order to remain healthy. However this is a fallacy, as all of the substances that the human body needs are present in meat-free foodstuffs. Certain nutrients are harder to come by but it is still possible to maintain a diet that includes them. Some people believe that vegetarians are iron-deficient. This may be true of some non-carnivores but those who are in the know can make sure that they get enough iron by consuming teff, aramanth, white beans, quinoa, dried fruits and chickpeas, as they are all rich sources of this mineral. Most people have access to two types of iron: heme and non-heme. However only non-heme iron is present in vegan foods and it is more difficult for the body to absorb. This means that vegans should be especially careful to maintain an iron-rich diet and avoid drinking tea with their meals, as doing so decreases the absorption of non-heme iron by sixty-two percent.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids and Calcium
Another way that vegans can ensure they get the necessary nutrients from a vegetarian diet is to opt for foods containing flax seeds. These tasty seeds contain omega 3 fatty acids, which help the body to fight infection and inflammation. You can also avoid omega 3 deficiency by consuming salba, chia and walnuts. It is important to make sure that you consume an adequate amount of calcium as well, as if you don’t get enough of this mineral, you can suffer from poor bone density, which can lead to broken and fractured bones. Broccoli, soya beans, bok choy, tahini, rice milk, okra, almonds, tempeh and mustard greens are all rich in this nutrient.
There is no evidence that vegans run the risk of suffering from zinc deficiency any more than anybody else does but it is needed for over fifty enzymes, meaning that a lot of physiological processes depend on it so it is advisable to ensure that you get enough of it. Plant-based sources of it include tofu, tahini, beans, Swiss chard, lentils, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, wholegrains and nuts. A single serving of these foodstuffs contains between two and five milligrams and the recommended daily intake is thirty milligrams. It is important to make sure that you consume at least fifteen milligrams.
One of the most common fallacies that people believe about vegetarians is that they are all lacking in protein. In reality, protein is found in a wealth of different vegetarian foods. Quinoa is one of the best sources of protein, as it contains all the essential amino acids, which makes it a ‘complete protein’. Beans, lentils, tofu and tempeh are also sources of protein that vegetarians can eat.
Vitamin B12 is one of the most widespread deficiencies that vegetarians and vegans who fail to maintain a proper diet suffer from. The best way for non-meat-eaters to get enough of it is to take supplements. It is also included in products such as milks and breakfast cereals that are fortified with it but large quantities of these foods would be required in order to reach the RDA. Symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency can include memory loss, disorientation, depression, difficulty walking, numbness and tingling in toes and fingers, diarrhoea, bleeding gums, rapid breathing and heartbeat and tiredness, weakness or light-headedness.
A Meat-Free Life Can be a Healthy Life
Although it is more difficult for vegans and vegetarians to maintain healthy levels of some vitamins and minerals, it is still possible if the individuals consume the correct foodstuffs in the right quantities. Non-meat-eaters can remain in the best possible condition without suffering from any deficiencies by paying special attention to the foods that they eat and making sure that they properly structure their meals to cater for their lifestyle choices. The human body is perfectly capable of going without meat; it simply requires a few tweaks in your diet here and there. Ensure that you are familiar with which foods contain which vitamins and minerals and you will be at the peak of health whilst still continuing to live your life in an ethical manner.
A Meat Free Diet with No Eating Disorders
By Journalist Volunteer Lily Treacher
Veganism and Eating Disorders - A Symptom, Not A Cause
Veganism is generally associated with a marked improvement in health. Vegetarianism and veganism have been linked to a reduced risk of heart disease, greater chances of fighting off cancer, and generally with getting your body into tip-top condition. It’s also great for the planet, and a must for animal-welfare enthusiasts. Even the UN has advocated a widespread uptaking of vegan principles, for both health and environmental reasons. However, there is one area of health in which veganism is often considered dubious – if not downright destructive. For those suffering from eating disorders, such as bulimia and anorexia nervosa, veganism is often touted as a ‘gateway’, promoting picky, finicky and disordered eating which can, in susceptible individuals, develop into an eating disorder if not nipped in the bud. Others claim that a vegan or vegetarian diet is entirely inappropriate for people with eating disorders, as it only encourages dietary obsessions, and lacks the requisite calories and nutrients besides which are needed to treat the physical ravages of Nervosa eating conditions. While there may be a slight element of truth to some of these claims, in certain cases, it is nonetheless entirely possible for someone to challenge and overcome an eating disorder while sticking to a principled vegan diet.
The Uncomfortable Truth
Unfortunately, the evidence points to a kernel of truth within accusations that veganism and vegetarianism can lead to eating disorders. However, it should be noted from the outset that this has nothing to do with the diet itself, and everything to do with the mindset of the individual consuming it. People may take up a vegan diet for a number of reasons. Many feel that the pressures brought to bear on the environment by animal-based consumables industries are too great, and wish to have no part in it. Others are concerned about the welfare of animals farmed for food. Still others eat a principally vegetable diet for reasons of health, or simply because they do not like animal products. However, a small minority of people do so in an attempt to exert a degree of control over their diets, or to reduce their calorific intake to a frightening degree without awkward questions being raised by family members (many of whom, while willing to accommodate a vegan in the family, understand little about the diet or how it works). In such cases, the correlation between vegetarianism, veganism, and eating disorders is so pronounced that some medical practitioners consider it a ‘marker’ of potential disordered eating in vulnerable women. However, in such cases, veganism is emphatically not the cause of said disorders – it is, rather, a symptom of them. This is an important distinction – all healthy vegans and vegetarians can rest easy in the knowledge that their lifestyle choices are definitely not going to cause them to develop an eating disorder.
The tendency for people with disordered eating to be drawn towards veganism means that many misguided people believe that, in order to recover from conditions like anorexia and bulimia, they should be forced into a ‘normal’ diet – i.e. one containing meat and animal products. This is not the case. The problem is not the diet itself, it is the sufferer’s attitude towards their diet. The condition would exist no matter what the sufferer was consuming. While refusing meat, dairy, eggs and so on may seem to the outside observer to be a perpetuation of the disordered eating, if the sufferer wishes to maintain their vegan diet, they should be encouraged to engage with their recovery within the principles of that diet, rather than have foodstuffs which are anathema to their moral stance as well as their mental health foisted upon them. This can be difficult for carers - who naturally wish to see their loved ones recover - to understand. Believing the disorder to primarily revolve around refusing calories, they lose sight of the specific nature of those calories, and what they may mean to the sufferer outside the context of the disorder. When a recovering anorexic, for example, refuses meat or dairy on ethical or dietary rather than disordered grounds, it is immediately assumed that they are falling back into a pattern of disordered eating. It is tremendously difficult (and frustrating) for a vegan recovering from an eating disorder to maintain their vegan lifestyle and principles.
Acceptance and Understanding
For those whose loved ones are vegan, and are suffering from an eating disorder, the best thing to do for them is not to assume that the veganism is part and parcel of the disorder – it is not. While in some cases veganism may be a symptom of an eating disorder, for many it remains an entirely valid lifestyle choice, despite a pre-existing disorder. As such, try to make sure that their recovery occurs within the parameters of a healthy, nutritious, and fulfilling but nonetheless vegan diet. Perhaps try to help them to engage with and enjoy their diet through exploring some vegan recipes – but, most of all, do not make it all about the food. Address the mental health issues which are causing the disorder, and accept their choice to follow a vegan lifestyle while at the same time encouraging them to approach that lifestyle for the right reasons, not for reasons of dietary and calorie control. If you yourself are a vegan recovering from an eating disorder, it is perhaps a good idea to study your true motives behind going vegan in the first place, and ensure that you continue with the diet for reasons which fit comfortably with a healthy psychological profile. Veganism should be something to enjoy, something which should improve your life. It should never become a restrictive force of personally-applied control.