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More and more people are interested in the vegan diet. We see it daily in consultation, and there are several reasons why they are driven to follow this type of diet: religious, ethical, environmental, health or a mixture of all of them.
People who follow a vegan diet exclude any animal food from their diet. They do not eat meat or fish, but neither do they consume foods that come from them, such as dairy products, eggs, butter or honey.
Although today we do not know exactly what percentage of the population follows this type of diet, we do know that it is growing exponentially. Have you noticed that there are more and more "vegan" products, "cruelty free" or "vegan restaurants" in the city? This demonstrates such growth. The more demand, the more supply.
If you are thinking about following a vegan diet, or you are just curious about the subject, today I am going to tell you about some of the most common mistakes or myths that revolve around this type of food.
Is the vegan diet healthy?
Yes, the well-planned vegan diet is healthy. It can also provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, obesity, heart disease and some types of cancer. According to the American Dietetic Association , well-planned vegetarian diets, including vegan ones, are appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, as well as for athletes . But as in all diets, whether or not they include animal products, if there is no good planning it can be a disaster.
When we completely eliminate a group of foods, in this case those of animal origin, we must make sure that we cover those nutritional needs with the foods that we are going to consume. Sometimes it is difficult to achieve all the necessary nutrients by eating only vegetables, which is why it is so important that, before starting a vegan diet, you inform yourself very well or go to a professional who can help you to make sure that there is no nutritional deficiency in your plan. To teach you how to get the most out of your dishes through the art of combining and preparing food. There are foods that work better together, "when certain foods are combined, the nutrients from one help you better absorb the nutrients from the other," says holistic nutritionist Joy McCarthy .
- Vitamin C improves the absorption of "non-heme" iron
- Vitamin C enhances the antioxidant effects of green tea polyphenols.
- Vitamin D helps the intestinal absorption of calcium.
- Combining vegetables with healthy fats helps us better absorb protective phytochemicals, such as lycopene from tomatoes or lutein from leafy greens.
Most common mistakes in the vegan diet
1- Thinking that the vegan diet is healthier than the omnivorous diet
Both are equally "healthy" or equally "harmful." Everything will depend on the food or products that we choose to feed ourselves, not on the diet itself.
2- Basing your diet on processed products labeled vegan instead of prioritizing fresh and natural foods
Most of these products are anything but healthy. If you are going to consume processed products, be sure to read the ingredient list carefully and select only those that are really worth it. But remember that food should not be based on products but on food.
3- Not taking into account the antinutrients present in certain foods when preparing or cooking them
Antinutrients are natural compounds that are part of the defense mechanism of the vegetables we eat . It protects them against insects, microbial pests or other external agents that can harm them. Among the anti-nutritive substances in food we find:
- protease inhibitors
We must take them into account because they interfere with the absorption capacity of vitamins and minerals , in addition to hindering digestion. There are techniques such as soaking, fermentation, sprouting or cooking at high temperatures that reduce the amount of these antinutrients. If you are a healthy person you should not worry too much. These substances do not pose any health risk as long as a varied diet is followed and proper storage, preparation and cooking practices are applied. If you have autoimmune problems or digestion difficulties, watch what you eat because you might want to avoid certain foods. Certain antinutrients may be affecting your health.
4- Do not supplement with vitamin B12 or do it from time to time and without control
Vitamin B12, or cobalamin, is found naturally in foods of animal origin: meat, poultry, fish, eggs, milk, and dairy products. It is generally not present in plant foods, although there are certain breakfast cereals, nutritional yeasts, or fortified products that do contain it. It is essential for the formation of red blood cells and the proper functioning of the nervous system. A vitamin B12 deficiency can cause anemia, nervous system deterioration or neurological damage. All vegans, without exception, should incorporate a vitamin B12 supplement into their diet, do not wait until your reserves are exhausted.
5- Thinking that iron of vegetable origin is absorbed the same as that of animal origin
Iron from food can be found in 2 ways: "heme" and "non-heme". The first is present in foods of animal origin and the second in foods of plant origin. Our body easily absorbs "heme" iron but not so much "non-heme" iron. This must be taken into account when planning the meal. Certain foods can enhance or decrease the absorption of plant-based iron . We can improve the absorption of "non-heme" iron at the intestinal level by consuming iron-rich plant foods together with foods rich in vitamin C, thus facilitating its absorption.
6- Thinking that calcium is only in dairy
Thinking that the only source of calcium is dairy is a big mistake. There is a wide variety of plant foods rich in calcium :
- sesame seeds
- The almonds
- the tofu
- the kale
- white beans
To guarantee a calcium intake, we should not focus only on the diet, but on having good levels of vitamin D so that its absorption is possible. Vitamin D deficiency causes low blood calcium levels and can lead to loss of bone density, resulting in fractures and osteoporosis.
7- An insufficient intake of protein (essential amino acids)
A vegan diet varied in legumes, cereals, nuts, seeds and vegetables contains all the essential amino acids we need. We just have to make sure that we eat the recommended daily allowance (RDA). This seems easy, but sometimes it is not, especially if you are a person with special requirements who need a higher protein intake, such as an elite athlete, a pregnant woman or an older adult.
Luckily, today, there is already a vegan protein isolate powder that can help you meet your daily protein requirements if you can't do it with food alone. Plant foods generally contain less protein per serving than animal foods. I will give you an example: 100 grams of red meat contains approximately 23 grams of protein, while a cup of quinoa contains only 8 grams. This can cause the volume of your plate to be increased and it is difficult for you to digest everything, these protein isolates can be the solution.
Vegan Keto Powder
8 - Excess fiber in the diet
Don't go overboard with fiber. A diet rich in fiber will promote intestinal transit and prevent diseases that can result from constipation. But if you go too far, it can have harmful effects on your health and cause digestive discomfort (flatulence, bloating...).
Excess fiber causes food to pass through the digestive tract at full speed , without giving us enough time to absorb minerals such as calcium, iron, magnesium or zinc, nor vitamins. The recommendations are to take between 20-35 grams of fiber a day , more is not always better.
The vegan diet is on the rise , I would say that it is even fashionable. It has been related to some health benefits, in healthy people this diet is just as healthy as an omnivorous diet, as long as both are carried out correctly.
People who decide to eat this way significantly limit their food options. It excludes a large number of foods and without proper planning certain deficiencies may arise, not so much at the level of macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins and lipids), but rather micronutrients, which are vital for the proper functioning of the body (selenium, calcium, iron, iodine, zinc, omega 3, vitamins...)
If you are vegan and you are not sure if you are eating correctly, you should have a blood test to confirm it . If you do it the right way, don't worry, this diet is just as valid as any other!
- "Dietary calcium: adequacy of a vegetarian diet" . CM Weaver, KL Plawecki. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 59, Issue 5, May 1994
- "Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: vegetarian diets" . Vesanto Melina et al. Diet J Acad Nutr. Dec 2016
- "Dietary intake of wheat and other cereals and their role in inflammation" Karin de Punder et al. Nutrients.2013
- "Vitamin B12 among vegetarians: status, evaluation and supplementation" Gianluca Rizzo et al. Nutrients .2016