Surely, there is no field of study as rife with controversy and vociferous opinion as the field of diet and nutrition. The pattern of vilification or deification of different food groups is nothing new and the food industry has done what all industries do… catered to increased demand. Therefore whenever one high profile study said that fat was bad, the market became flooded with low fat, high carb alternatives. When Dr Atkins said that fats were fine, and protein was paramount it was carbs that were the problem, the industry shifted again and everything was suddenly low in carbs and big on protein. The emphasis now, however, appears to be on the dichotomy of vegan diets (which eschew all animal products) and paleo diets (which promote the eating of both animal and plant products at the expense of all processed foods).
As many people try Veganuary this month, the tide is turning towards plant based diets, but for every article online extolling the virtues of a plant based diet, there’s another article primed to label it as hogwash. The facts, however, speak for themselves and while no diet is inherently perfect, there’s evidence to suggest that plant based diets can facilitate a long, healthy and independent life.
First a warning: a vegan diet isn’t always a healthy diet
It may sound obvious, but a healthy vegan diet should be rich in fresh (and organic if possible) vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds and pulses rather than relying on breads, processed snacks and soy or gluten based meat substitutes. A diet of bread, instant noodles and crisps may be vegan, but nobody would argue that it’s a healthy diet.
Veganism can help prevent cancer
In 2012 it was estimated that cancer kills 8.2 million people worldwide. Of these, 53% of people were of retirement age (75 or over). Thus, to live to a ripe old age, it makes sense to mitigate the factors that cause cancer. Processed meats like salami, pepperoni and bacon have been found to be type 1 carcinogens. That’s the same group as cigarettes!
Veganism can help reduce the risk of Alzheimer's
For most of us, it’s not enough to live. We want to live well. While a live in care company might make the end of our lives more comfortable without encroaching on our freedom, we don’t want to come to rely on them before our time. We want to be as independent and self reliant as possible. Fortunately a vegan diet can give you everything you need for good brain health including omega 3s found in nuts and seeds and vitamin A found in greens, sweet potatoes and squashes. These are proven to aid cognitive function and memory and impede the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.
Veganism can help heart health
Heart health is a major factor in determining a person’s lifespan, and a diet that is rich in processed and red meat can have an adverse effect on heart health. Processed and red meat consumption is also a high risk factor for diabetes. If a person is diabetic, they are also at greater risk of conditions related to poor cardiovascular health.