There is no doubt that eating a more plant-based diet is not only excellent for our health but also for the environment. Research is now showing that a well-balanced vegetarian diet is associated with lower body weight and reduced risk of chronic diseases like heart disease, some cancers and type 2 diabetes.
Switching to a vegetarian diet however also means cutting out many nutrient-rich animal foods, which can be tricky to get elsewhere in a vegetarian diet. By starting with a great base diet and including every day vegetarian foods that can be a nutrient alternative to those missing animal food, it is possible to follow a very balanced and healthy vegetarian diet.
It's got the lot! A well-balanced vegan diet contains all the protein, fat, carbohydrate, vitamins and minerals you need. It is low in saturated fat and free from animal protein, cholesterol and hormones – all linked to disease. A vegan diet can provide all the nutrients required for all stages of life, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, adolescence and for athletes too!
Compared to meat-eaters, vegans weigh less, have lower cholesterol, blood pressure and rates of type 2 diabetes. They have a 30 per cent lower risk of heart disease and lower cancer rates. Most cases of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and a third of cancers can be avoided by changing to a healthier diet, increasing physical activity and stopping smoking.
We don't need saturated fat, animal protein or cholesterol. We don’t need trans fatty acids in processed foods or salt and sugar in their current quantities. We do need to move towards a plant-based, whole food diet containing a wide range of fruits, vegetables, grains, pulses, nuts and seeds for the nutrients that promote a long and healthy life and protect against disease. The same diet that is good for preventing cancer is also good for preventing heart disease, obesity, diabetes and so on. Changing your diet can have an enormous impact on health – for better or worse!
Why animal foods harm?
The saturated fat in red meat, poultry and meat products can lead to heart disease. Red and processed meats (such as smoked meat, sausages and tinned meat,etc) also increase the risk of some cancers, especially bowel cancer.
Why is this?
It may be the type of iron (haem iron) found in meat but not plant foods, or chemicals found in red and processed meats such as N-nitroso compounds, heterocyclic amines and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Grilled, barbequed and smoked meats contain even higher levels of these dangerous chemicals. Women who eat lots meat cooked this way have a much higher risk of breast cancer.
The unhealthy saturated fat, some proteins and the cocktail of hormones and growth factors found in dairy products are linked to a wide range of illnesses and diseases. including acne, allergies, arthritis, cancers of the breast, bowel, ovaries and prostate, colic, constipation, coronary heart disease, Crohn’s disease, diabetes, dementia, ear infection, food poisoning, gallstones, kidney disease, migraine, autoimmune conditions (including multiple sclerosis), overweight, obesity and osteoporosis. Cow's milk is designed to help a calf grow into a cow in a year so it is packed full of growth hormones. Milk is not a natural drink for humans – especially adult humans! The health implications of being the only mammal to consume milk as adults (and not just that, milk from another species too) are becoming clear as levels of the so-called diseases of affluence soar.
There has been a lot of nonsense written about fish oils and intelligence – sure enough we need omega-3s in the diet, but not from fish. The toxins and pollutants found in fish (including PCBs, dioxins and mercury) outweigh the beneficial heart-health effects of fish oils; in fact some studies show that people who eat the most fish have more heart attacks. The government warns people to limit their intake because of the toxins – no other food carries a government health warning! You don’t have to eat neurotoxins and carcinogens to get your omega-3 fats; there are perfectly safe plant sources that can benefit heart health (such as flaxseed oil, hempseed oil and walnuts) not laced with toxic pollutants, and sustainable.
Eggs contain high levels of cholesterol, for which we have no nutritional need. A strong body of scientific evidence shows that high cholesterol levels in our blood increases our risk of heart disease. People who eat a lot of eggs have a higher risk of dying earlier than those who don’t – especially if they have diabetes – and those who eat lots of eggs are more likely to develop diabetes.
The vast majority of cases of food poisoning are caused by animal foods (meat, poultry, eggs, fish and dairy) as plants tend not to harbour the types of bacteria capable of causing food poisoning in humans. Over 90 per cent of retail chickens are contaminated with faecal matter and the Food Standards Agency say that seven in ten supermarket chickens are infected with the food poisoning bug Campylobacter.
Whether you are currently following a plant based diet, or are considering adopting this way of eating, you may benefit from advice and support from a nutritionist or your dietician who has a special intrest in this area and can guide you properly through your whole journey and can work with you to make sure you meet and fulfill your individual nutritional needs required by your body.
Weekly followup systems available