Vegan and Vegetarian UK are incredibly proud to receive and pass on amazing Vegan Nutritional advice and guidance from Rose Wyles (aka 'TheVeganNutritionist.co.uk')
Hi, I'm Rose Wyles, I'm a qualified Vegan Nutritionist that specializes in plant-based, raw food and child nutrition. I offer nutritional online consulting sessions and meal plans to help guide and support my clients with their diet and lifestyle through the power and simplicity of whole food plant-based nutrition. I'd like to go over some of the basics regarding a vegan diet…
Firstly, you may be wondering, what is a vegan and what exactly is their diet?
So, let's discuss types of Vegetarian diets, as they aren't all equal!
Vegan/Plant-Based – A vegan consumes no animal products or animal by-products this includes meat, fish, dairy, eggs and honey. A vegan also does not buy leather, fur, wool, or down (feathers).
Vegans also do not participate or financially support any form of animal exploitation for entertainment, such as circuses, zoos, bullfighting, horse racing, dog racing or aquariums.
The foods vegans do consume include fruits, vegetables, whole and processed grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, meat replacements, dairy replacements, packaged vegan foods, herbs, and spices.
Vegan/ Wholefood Plant-Based – A wholefood follows the same principles as a vegan however, does not consume processed foods or oil. Instead opts for foods still in its whole natural and minimally processed state.
These include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, spices, and herbs.
Vegetarian/Plant-Based– A vegetarian consumes a meat-free diet that includes dairy and eggs, with products that contain both dairy and egg.
Raw Vegan/Vegetarian – A raw diet contains whole foods that are consumed in their raw natural state.
A raw diet can be either be vegan or vegetarian depending on the ethics of the person. If vegetarian, raw animal foods such as honey or raw milk may be consumed and if vegan, no animal products will be consumed or supported.
A raw diet consists of uncooked or dehydrated fruits, vegetables, soaked or sprouted grains/legumes, nuts, seeds, herbs and spices.
Next, let us shed focus onto some of the benefits associated with a Vegan diet
The most beneficial aspect of adopting a vegan diet is an increase of vital nutrients (vitamins & minerals) which keep our bodies functioning healthily. In recent years thousands of phytochemical nutrients have been discovered, these are only present in plant foods. The benefits of these phytonutrients are extremely important for human health, as they can block substances we eat, drink and breathe from becoming carcinogens. They can reduce the kind of inflammation that makes cancer growth more likely. Also, they can help to prevent DNA damage and help with DNA repair.
A vegan diet is rich in fibre, which is found mainly in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes. Fibre is unavailable in animal products. Fibre is probably best known for its ability to prevent or relieve constipation. Foods containing fibre can provide other health benefits as well. Such as helping to maintain a healthy weight, feeding good gut bacteria and lowering your risk of diabetes, heart disease and some types of cancer. All whole plant foods that are readily available in a vegan diet are naturally rich in fibre, so all the associated benefits can be acquired.
By consuming a vegan diet, you will intake a larger variety of foods which helps to increase nutrients and promote a healthy gut biome which is essential for the absorption of the nutrients present in the foods we eat. A meat-based diet has been shown to increase the growth of disease-promoting gut bacteria and TMAO: a compound produced by the liver from trimethylamine (TMA), a substance produced by gut bacteria. TMAO is suggested to be a powerful predictor of the risk of heart attacks, strokes, and death, even when cholesterol and blood pressure levels are healthy. In comparison, a plant-based diet has been shown to increase good gut bacteria and promote gut biodiversity, whilst reducing the risk of disease and mortality.
In a recent study, it was found that a low-fat vegan diet induced positive changes in the gut microbiota that are related to altered body composition and insulin sensitivity, and resulted in weight loss. Visceral fat was also be significantly reduced with the vegan eating plan. With this in mind and also including the data we have, suggests that the most amazing benefit of consuming a plant-based diet is a decrease in risk from the world's most prevalent diseases such as heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes. When you adopt a vegan diet, you tend to eat a far greater variety of foods whilst consuming less saturated fat calories…
Science has been providing a positive association between animal foods and the world's leading diseases for many decades. Research has linked meat to a higher risk of certain health conditions, such as diabetes, coronary heart disease, and even some cancers. Previous studies have also examined the effects of eating low-to-high amounts of meat on mortality and found that even a low intake of animal protein increased the risk of mortality by any cause. A vegan diet has been shown to reduce the risks of many diseases, whilst increasing life expectancy. Plus, a plant-based diet is the only diet scientifically proven to reverse heart disease; the world's leading cause of death. It goes without saying that if the only benefit to a vegan diet was effectively preventing and reversing heart disease, the world's leading killer… This in itself should be a valid reason alone for everyone to adopt this diet. However, when you look at all the other health benefits combined it makes sense that there is much more to a vegan diet than just saving animal life's and helping to protect our diminishing wildlife.
Whilst there are many dietary myths and misconceptions about a Vegan diet these are just some of the main talking points
The most commonly asked question about a vegan diet is where do vegans get their protein? First of all, every plant contains varying levels of amino acids. These are nutrients required that make up protein helping to build, maintain, and repair body tissue. Many plant foods are especially high in protein, such as legumes, nuts, seeds and grains. A diet based solely around plant foods can provide all the essential amino acids. If consuming a varied and balanced diet containing plenty of calories coming from whole plant foods, whilst ensuring that most of your meals contain good sources of plant-based protein, you can gain all the protein your body needs. Also, with good planning, you can easily meet your protein requirements for performing at an athletic level.
Although protein is vital to our survival, we don’t actually need as much as is commonly believed. Recommendations have more than halved in the past 20 years to 45-55g per day (COMA, 1991). Plus, with regards to protein, consuming more isn’t better for our health. One study found that people eating large amounts of animal protein have 23 times the risk of death from diabetes and 5 times the risk of death from cancer as those consuming less protein. Foods rich in animal protein are often packed with saturated fat and cholesterol, whereas plant sources of protein are low in saturated fat and cholesterol free.
For the last 70 years, dairy products have been heavily marketed as health foods. However, that is far from the truth. Dairy products brought from stores are not only naturally packed with artery-clogging saturated fat and hormones such as mammalian oestrogens, yet they are also contaminated with carcinogenic environmental dioxins, which build up in the fatty tissues of animals and are secreted via their milk. According to WHO over 90% human exposure to environmental dioxins is via food, mainly meat, dairy and shellfish. Dioxins are highly toxic and can cause reproductive and developmental problems, damage the immune system, interfere with hormones and also cause cancer. Ingesting these dioxins as a breast-feeding mother is a concern as these dioxins become concentrated in breast milk, posing a risk to the infant.
Consuming dairy products has been directly shown to raise IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor) levels. This is the hormone that controls growth and cell division. An increase of IGF-1 in the body has been shown to provoke all stages of tumour growth in the breast and prostate... My conclusion from the research that has been conducted, is that dairy is essentially rocket fuel for cancer.
I'll touch on B12. Most do not know that B12 is made by bacteria in the soil and freshwater, and not by plants or animals. Vitamin B12 is also a bacterium present in faeces. In the meat industry, faeces are often fed back to the animals within their feed. Plus, even more alarmingly, almost all tested samples of meat sold in supermarkets is contaminated with faeces. (Most likely due to slaughter methods and hygiene issues whilst the animals are being "processed"). Animals are also directly supplemented with B12, alongside antibiotics and many other veterinary drugs, which we do not want to be ingesting second hand through the consumption of meat.
Did you know that back in 2013, more than 131,000 tons of antibiotics were used in food animals worldwide; by 2030, it will be more than 200,000 tons?! Although there is little research to confirm that consuming antibiotics second hand by eating meat is directly harmful to humans, most can agree that the over-use of antibiotics in food-producing animals is a problem. It can contribute to the development and spread of drug-resistant bacteria, which is a potential risk to public health. So, with this in mind, we can see that the most efficient, safe and hygienic way to gain our B12 is to supplement directly.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
I'd also like to talk about Fish. Fish contain Omega-3 due to eating omega3 rich microalgae and/or phytoplankton which get it from microalgae. Which means the true source of DHA for fish is via microalgae. What's great is that our bodies are perfectly adapted to convert ALA from the many ALA-rich plant foods available, into EPA & DHA. Not consuming fish is necessary for cleaning up our oceans, preventing the further loss of marine wildlife and reducing plastic pollution which the fishing industries account for up to 70% of all plastic waste in the ocean. As fish also contain harmful levels of saturated fat and toxic contaminants (plastic, dioxins, antibiotics) it is thus more efficient to gain omega-3 directly from plants. By keeping overall fats low in the diet (as a vegan diet provides), this ensures an optimum omega-3 conversion from ALA to DHA. Plant foods rich in ALA are chia, flax, hemp seeds, walnuts, rice, oats, avocado, nori/kelp seaweed, chlorella/spirulina algae, pumpkin, squash, beans and tofu. We can also consume DHA directly through the use of microalgae supplementation, completely skipping the need for consuming fish.
Children can safely follow a Vegan diet and gain their nutritional requirements
By using good planning to create balanced meals, babies and children consuming a vegan diet can get all the needed energy and nutrition. Vegan children need a good variety of protein-rich foods, such as beans, peas, soya beans, lentils, chickpeas, tofu, soy yoghurt, nut and seed butter, as well as cereal foods and grains. Pulses are very good first foods to offer to infants as they are rich in protein and iron. Plus, they can be mashed and incorporated with vegetables easily. Consuming enough calories with a variety of plant foods will easily provide enough protein, which will include all the needed essential amino acids. Children also need calcium which can be found in various plant foods such as leafy greens, beans, chia seeds, almonds, and tofu and fortified foods such as plant-based milk, cereals and yoghurts.
Concerning iron, non-heme iron is available in plants. This can be absorbed easily and more effectively with the addition of vitamin C and beta carotene within the same meal, both of these iron enhancers, fortunately, are rich in many plant foods. So, with a basic understanding of human nutrition and a little conscious planning, a plant-based diet can be suitable for all ages of infancy, childhood and can be introduced from weaning age.
How I work with my clients and support them during transitions to a vegan diet
Education is the key; when I start working with non-vegan clients, I find most are willing to change their diet immediately or over time once the correct information is supplied. The inspiration for this change can be sparked either via a blog post, documentaries, books, social media, word of mouth, or via consultation with me. Firstly, before any diet change, familiarizing ourselves with veganism is the first step. We would discuss the benefits of a vegan lifestyle, and how to nourish our body with plant-based foods. We would also discuss ingredients that they can then buy, such as dairy-free milk and meat alternatives to aid in their transition.
Then, I would suggest introducing more whole plant foods to add to their current diet before subtracting from it. By incorporating more whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds and tofu, whilst trying new recipes that they find appealing, they will get used to the idea that a combination of these plant foods can complete meal entirely without meat.
Transition is important to slowly re-establish the necessary gut bacteria to digest the additional fibre found in plant foods. There is plenty of plant-based alternatives to aid with transitions such as meat-free burgers, sausages, pies etc. Also available are fortified dairy-free milk, yoghurts and cheeses. Many of these processed meat-free foods are not health foods, so should be consumed only as part of the transition. Healthy meat alternatives which I do promote for the long-term consumption include mushrooms, chickpeas, lentils, tofu, tempeh, nuts and seeds. These wholefood protein sources can be used to create a wide variety of homemade, healthy and delicious vegan meals.
Finally, if you're starting a vegan diet, here are my top 8 healthy tips:
Eat at least 5 portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day.
Base your meals on filling foods like potatoes, rice, legumes or other starchy carbohydrates (choose wholegrain where possible)
Include dairy alternatives, such as dairy-free milk and yoghurts (choose lower fat and lower sugar options)
Discover new ways to add plant proteins into your diet.
Don't assume vegan processed foods are health foods.
Focus on adding plant-based omega-3's into your daily diet.
Don't forget about B12 & vitamin D.
Pump up your iron with plenty of iron-rich foods.