VEGANISM – YAY or NAY?

August 21, 2017

veganism daily dietitian

Vegansim seems to be gaining a lot of popularity these days and although we understand and admire the reasons some people choose to become vegan (highlighted in this TED talk https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o0VrZPBskpg&feature=youtu.be), we felt it necessary to address this topic for those consumers that assume a product is healthy just because the word “vegan” is printed on it. Think about it, Oreos and potato chips are vegan…

Before we go further, let’s first clarify what vegan means according to good old Wikipedia: “Veganism is both the practice of abstaining from the use of animal products, particularly in diet and an associated philosophy that rejects the commodity status of animals. A follower of either the diet or the philosophy is known as a vegan. Distinctions are sometimes made between several categories of veganism. Dietary vegans refrain from consuming animal products, not only meat but also eggs, dairy products and other animal-derived substances. The term ethical vegan is often applied to those who not only follow a vegan diet but extend the philosophy into other areas of their lives, and oppose the use of animals for any purpose.”

Now that we’re on the same page, we want to highlight what we like most about veganism.

  1. It follows a “plant-based approach”, meaning it focuses on the consumption of a mainly plant-based, minimally-processed foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts and seeds.
  2. It can make you more conscious of what you are consuming on a daily basis.
  3. It is environmentally friendly.
    • According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the livestock sector is “one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global”
    • The FAO estimates that livestock production is responsible for 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions, while other organisations have estimated it could be as much as 51 %.
    • About 25 kilocalories of fossil fuel energy is used to produce 1 kilocalorie of all meat based protein, as compared with 2.2 kilocalories of fossil fuel input per 1 kilocalorie of grain based protein produced. The meat industry uses so much energy to produce grain for livestock that if instead, we used the grain to feed people following a vegan/vegetarian diet, it would be enough to feed about 840 million people.
    • The water needs of livestock are much greater than those of vegetables and grains; approximately 1,850 gallons of water are needed to produce a single pound of beef and approximately 39 gallons of water are needed to produce a pound of vegetables. When compared with current food intake in the US, a vegan/vegetarian diet could reduce water consumption by up to 58% per person.

What don’t we like about veganism:

  1. Consumers who do not fully understand their unique nutritional needs can find themselves with deficiencies when cutting out key nutrient groups.
  2. Unhealthy, highly processed products that are labelled “vegan” and sold in health shops with the misconception of being good for you.
  3. Staunch vegans who judge you for your animal product preferences. We’ve tried going vegan, we failed dismally (the deliciously creamy caprese salad was too strong a force for us to deny).

What message do we think everyone can take home from this blog?

  • A plant-based, whole food diet IS healthy. As Michael Pollan, American author, journalist, activist, and professor says “eat real food, mostly plants, not too much”
  • Try adopting Jamie Oliver’s “meat free Monday” approach, and help the environment by cutting out meat at least once a week.
  • Eating plants protein can help you save money – lentils, chickpeas and beans are much cheaper than meat.
  • Lowering your saturated fat intake from animal products can lead to a decrease in your cholesterol levels and, in the long-term, lead to a decrease in your risk of heart disease.
  • Eating more legumes instead of meat increases your fiber intake, which can also lead to a decreased risk of heart disease and an improvement in gut health

Need some ideas on what to eat? Here are some great plant-based protein sources to include in your meat-free meals:

  • Lentils: 1 cup = 18 grams protein
  • Chia seeds: 2 TBS= 4 grams protein
  • Beans: 1 cup = 15 grams protein
  • Chickpeas: 1 cup = 12 grams protein
  • Brown rice: 1 cup= 5 grams protein
  • Quinoa: 1 cup = 14-18 grams protein
  • Nuts/seeds: ¼ cup = 7-9 grams protein
  • Oats: 1/3 cup raw = 4 grams protein
  • Tofu: 100 grams= 8 grams protein
  • Peas: 1 cup = 5 grams protein
  • Nut butter: 1 TBS = 4 grams protein

Now that you are armed with some plant power knowledge, get into your kitchen and start experimenting. If cooking is not your thing, however, don’t worry, Daily Dietitian is always here to help you follow a healthy diet, tailored to your unique needs. Oh and always remember, in order to keep your body healthy and functioning optimally, variety is key!

X DD