How Healthy is Veganism Really?

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The vegan diet has gained immense popularity. A dietary lifestyle that once seemed extreme, picky and difficult to cater for has become one of the hottest topics in heath and nutrition right now.  There is an onslaught of persuasive vegan media, vegan critics have gained more of a louder voice, and with tenacity the campaign is really quite intense.

Let’s be clear. I’m not anti-vegan. I am an omnivore and I’m not a passionate meat eater either. I don’t eat much meat and vegan cook books make up the majority of my collection. I am however concerned with some of the veganism claims floating around that are based on pseudo-science, skewed claims and the judgements that scoff at anyone who isn’t following a vegan diet because we’re so unenlightened and stupid for not seeing the light.

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Instagram: @noraspiration

A lot of the momentum for veganism was gained on social media; social media influencers have a massive power over our health and well-being choices (Byrne et al, 2017). This is important in relation to influencing public health amongst the general population with influencers often having more impact than traditional advertising campaigns. It seems that fruit and veg finally have some momentum to compete with food manufacturers. One study found that 41% of participants agreed that social media influencers motivated them to make healthier food choices sometimes, and for 32% of participants the motivation to eat healthier overall (Byrne et al, 2017). This news could only be bloody brilliant right? Finally, we have an effective way of influencing the nation’s diet for the better?

Uhhhmmm, not always. There is a downside to the influence of social media trendsetters. A big proportion of influencers are not qualified dietitians or nutritionists (Byrne et al, 2017), which is important when misleading nutritional information is being shared (Byrne et al, 2017). This makes the dietary choices they’re recommending potentially health damaging as they advocate choices such as gluten-free as a healthier choice for those without coeliac disease, and diets that can include eliminating whole food groups and lead to nutritional deficiency (Byrne et al, 2017).

I’m not saying you can’t have a complete diet whilst being vegan, but you do need to spend effort covering all of your bases to prevent malnourishment (Cramer et al, 2017). A main and legitimate concern for those following a vegan diet is bone health over time. Insufficient intakes of calcium, vitamin D, Vitamin B12, zinc and n-3 fatty acids can lead to a higher chance of developing osteoporosis and  fractures (mangano and tucker, 2017).

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Instagram: @naturally.jo

I have many burning questions about veganism which I will be exploring in a series of posts including topics such as:

  • The role of supplements
  • Maintaining bone health in the long run
  • Whether vegan really is the healthiest option
  • Where pseudo-claims are coming from
  • Whether the reason for being motivated to follow a vegan diet affects compliance over time
  • Endurance training
  • Environmental impact of diet and lifestyle choices
  • Eating disorders and veganism
  • Mood and veganism

Let’s go on a journey of discovery and see what science says about veganism. If you have any specific topics you’d like to read about you can comment or email me at ninjaontherunblog@gmail.com

Ciao for now.

References:

Byrne, E., Kearney, J. & MacEvilly, C. (2017) The role of influencer marketing and social influencers in public health. Proceedings of Nutrition Society. 76(OCE3) .

Cramer, H., Kessler, C.S., Sundberg, T., Leach, M.J., Schumann, D., Adams, J. & Lauche, R. (2017) Characteristics of americans choosing vegetarian and vegan diets for health reasons. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behaviour. 49(7) pp.561-567.

Mangano, K.M. & Tucker, K.L. (2017) Bone health and vegan diets. In: Mariotti, F. (ed.) Vegetarian and Plant-Based Diets in Health and Disease Prevention. (1st) London: Academic Press. pp.315-327.

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New Year, Same Person

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We are fast approaching 2018. We currently reside in the week between Christmas and New Year, a period of time that I call “limbo week”, when you’re not quite sure what day it is; some people are back in work, some aren’t and there seems to be no real logic as to who is and who isn’t. It’s a time for recovering from the family antics, the overeating and the forced fun. For myself, it’s a time for squeezing in those books on my ever-growing reading list, binge watching a series I’ve wanted to and spend some time resettling myself for the new term at uni.

Culturally we put a lot of emphasis on the 1st of January, as if this one day is the most important first day of the month each year. As if the 1st of January holds the power of being a life changing 24 hours. It’s not really though is it? If we take a step back and look at the bigger picture it is just the first of another month, just like the 1st of November was, and the 1st of June, and the 1st of March.

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This isn’t to say I’m against goal setting and lifestyle changes for better health and contentment. I am a massive advocate of goal setting and a massive advocate of continuous goal setting. I believe in aiming for what we want in life regardless of which particular month it is. The world never stops and the universe puts no extra speciality on any other months. It is just another 24 hours that the Earth continues orbiting and spinning.

With any goal setting though, swearing you’ll stick to a massive overnight change of lifestyle is never going to be effective. You will not suddenly eat a restricted diet any better than the previously failed diets just because it’s January. You won’t miraculously start going to the gym 5 times a week and get a six-pack just like that last gym membership you swore would change everything didn’t. Even if you do lose weight, say if it’s medically viable for you to need to in the first place, life won’t be any less stressful or more care free at a certain size. If you don’t need to lose weight, medically speaking, then being a size 10 won’t change your life in the ways that diet culture promises.

If your lifestyle isn’t particularly healthy then small steps may be beneficial and you might notice being able to run for the bus with ease after some commitment. Maybe you have smashing a goal like running or swimming a specific distance in mind. That’s cool. Go for it. I’m all for healthy endeavours and challenging yourself.

Shrinking to a size 8 or “the perfect 10” however, won’t make life any better than it is now, not really. People might tell you that you look better but for those putting extra emphasis on your looks, on you being slim and meeting beauty ideals well, fuck ’em. You don’t need that shit any more than you need a detox diet, or a juice cleanse or a faeces face mask. (I made that up. I don’t if they exist but wouldn’t be surprised).

Make some goals that are realistic and be weary of the new year resolution trap that will only set you up for failure and perpetuate an annual system of Monday morning mentality if you don’t meet your transformation goals overnight.

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If you want to make changes it doesn’t matter which day you start. Plan ahead, be realistic and practice self compassionate. So here’s the cliché cocktail: Rome wasn’t built in a day, lives don’t change overnight (except for lottery winners), and as a heads up healthy sustainable lifestyle isn’t associated with any of the following words, phrases or promises:

  • Fad
  • Fasting
  • Cleanse
  • Detox
  • Toxins
  • Colonic irrigation
  • Weight loss surgery
  • Liposuction
  • Plastic surgery
  • Fillers
  • Botox
  • Diet
  • Restriction
  • Challenge
  • Blitz
  • Transform
  • Lose 3 st. in a month
  • Breathing fire when you reach a size 8 because you’ll be so smoking hot
  • Everyone you hated will suddenly love you
  • The universe will totally change
  • The world is gonna flip on its axis
  • Prince Harry will ditch Meghan Markle for you

What will I be changing in the new year? What am I aiming for? All the same things I’ve been working towards for a while now. I got a climbing pass for Christmas, so that’s more climbing on the agenda. I want to keep trying my best to fuel my body well. I want to keep working on my degree. I want to keep training for the London marathon and raise some dollar for my cause – link at the top of the page *wink nudge wink nudge*

I want to keep reaching goals. I want to practice consistency because that seems to be the on.

Keep writing.
Keep reading.
Keep on keeping on.

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So here’s to the same shit, different year, for growth and progress, just like yesterday. I’m starting to quite like consistency. I think it’s pretty neat.