Veganuary: Nutritionists weigh the pros and cons of a vegan diet | Food-wine News

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From Sonam Kapoor to Shahid Kapoor, many of our beloved celebrities have turned vegan, owing to ethical and health considerations. With Veganuary here, an annual movement challenging individuals worldwide to embrace a plant-based lifestyle for January, there has been substantial momentum in adopting veganism since its inception in 2014. With the month coming to an end, thousands across the globe pledged to forgo animal products throughout this month. However, is embracing a vegan diet a healthy choice? And how does it compare to a non-vegetarian diet? We talked to nutritionists to find out.

The pros

Ritika Samaddar, regional head – South Zone, nutrition and dietetics, Max Super Speciality Hospital, Saket describes a vegan diet as one exclusively composed of plant-based foods, excluding all forms of animal or animal products, including staples like milk, ghee, and honey. “A healthy vegan diet encompasses a variety of food groups such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes,” she said.

She highlighted that a well-balanced vegan diet can be rich in antioxidants, phytonutrients, and fibre. “Various studies have suggested that such a diet can prevent certain forms of cancer, particularly those related to the gastrointestinal tract,” Samaddar explained.

Additionally, the nutritionist noted the positive impact on dyslipidemias (unhealthy levels of lipids in the blood), leading to a reduction in low bad cholesterol levels.

In a similar vein, Manisha Choudhary, consultant – dietitian and nutritionist, Motherhood Hospitals, Noida said that the abundance of plant-based foods contributes to improved digestive health and weight management by imparting a sense of satiety or fullness.

Festive offer

Even for pregnant women, embracing a vegan diet can offer notable benefits for both the mother and the developing baby. “The abundance of folate, vitamins, and minerals supports the prevention of neural tube defects and ensures proper growth. The lower intake of saturated fats in a vegan diet may contribute to a healthier pregnancy, reducing the risk of gestational diabetes and hypertension. Additionally, the fibre content aids in maintaining steady blood sugar levels,” Choudhary advised.

The flip side

Veganuary health benefits,Vegan vs. non-vegetarian diet comparison, Plant-based lifestyle advantages What are the advantages and disadvantages of veganism? (Source: Freepik)

In the pursuit of a vegan diet, it’s imperative to address potential nutritional gaps that may arise due to the exclusion of certain food groups.

“Key nutrients such as vitamin B12, iron, zinc, omega-3 fatty acids, and protein, which are abundant in animal products, require careful attention. Vegans may need to incorporate fortified foods or supplements to ensure optimal intake of these vital nutrients,” explained Choudhary.

Samaddar recommended incorporating necessary supplements like vitamin D and B12, which may be deficient due to the absence of dairy and non-vegetarian foods. “Despite the potential deficiencies, a well-planned vegan diet, including alternative sources of calcium and vitamin D, nuts, seeds, lentils, oats, and millets, can meet protein requirements.”

Which is better: A vegan or non-vegetarian diet?

Citing studies, Samaddar pointed out that a vegan diet can aid in weight loss. “The reduction in total fat consumption and the high fibre content in plant-based diets contribute to this effect, differentiating it from meat-based or non-vegetarian diets, often high in saturated fats.”

Apart from this, the exclusion of red and processed meats further adds to the potential health benefits of a vegan diet, particularly for cardiovascular health, noted Choudhary. “The naturally low levels of saturated fats and cholesterol in a vegan diet, potentially impact cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease.”

However, it’s important to understand that the idea that a vegan diet is categorically superior to a meat-based one oversimplifies the complexities of nutritional science. “Both dietary approaches can be healthy if thoughtfully planned. A well-balanced meat-based diet, focusing on lean proteins, whole grains, and a variety of fruits and vegetables, can also provide a rich array of essential nutrients,” said Choudhary.

Ultimately, the efficacy of a dietary choice lies in its alignment with individual health goals, preferences, and nutritional requirements.


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