NEW RESEARCH: The benefits of going vegan: new insights



Qualified Nutritionist (BSc, MSc, RNutr)
@EmmaThornton
Ask Emma


28 August 2019

Is going vegan more than ‘just a diet?’

Vegan diets and, even more so, lifestyles are gradually increasing in popularity. People may have many different reasons for embarking on vegan regimes; with health issues and environmental considerations amongst some of the top reported reasons for taking on this way of life.

However, as with anything, there has been a little criticism in terms of some possible negative effects, socially, or mentally, for example, of turning vegan. However, now some brand new research has once more turned these ideas on their head and sheds some new found positive light once more, as to why embarking on a vegan regime may be beneficial. Some of these proposed benefits include the fact that veganism could:

1. Decreases the risk of disordered eating
2. Allows for a healthier lifestyle
3. Gives people more control over their diets
4. Feeling part of a community

Here I tease apart the research, explore these themes in more detail and explore some of the possible, additional benefits of embarking on a vegan diet.

1. Decreases the risk of disordered eating

As with any diet, getting used to a new regime could mean we risk getting a little obsessed, or very set in our ways, and in the past, vegetarianism and veganism has had some links with disordered eating.1 However, perhaps as veganism has become more accessible and socially acceptable, this new research has suggested that instead, as the vegan approach is generally being promoted in a more positive light, perhaps this has helped instil 'healthier' psychosocial relationships with food for those undertaking this style of eating.

Although following a vegan regime, especially if it's all very new to you, may be daunting at first, the hope is that once people are more in the way of cooking and eating in certain ways, they can gradually become less reliant on scouring over labels or even recipes. As they then get more in the habit eating and cooking with fresh ingredients, this can become more like second nature to them. This can eventually lead to a more relaxed way of eating and cooking and, with any luck; we can really focus on enjoying our new found lifestyle changes!

2. Allows for healthier lifestyle

Interestingly, as well as getting in the way of combining healthy fats, protein and complex carbohydrates to create a variety of healthy, meat-free meals, it seems that trends such as social media may have helped to drive some other positive habits associated with a vegan lifestyle; so it may be more than just the food that's having positive effects!

Vegan health food and bloggers have upped in popularity whereby eating tasty vegan options is often relayed alongside other healthy lifestyle habits including enjoying sensible exercise, getting outside more, as well as incorporating relaxation techniques into our daily regimes and taking our mental health more seriously.

3. Gives people more control over their diets

This new research probing into the possible benefits of following a vegan diet has touted that veganism may be 'more than just a diet.'1

Another proposed benefit of following a vegan lifestyle is that it could help to make us feel more knowledgeable, and therefore in control, which can ultimately be very empowering for those involved. Of the women interviewed for the sake of the trial, engaging in both a vegan lifestyle, as well as just the dietary habits, allowed them to score highly in many of the emotional (empathetic), cognitive (knowledge of animal cruelty and healthy eating) and behavioural (diet and consumption habits) scores.1

4. Feeling part of a community

For those having gone vegan, there were also thought to be some benefits in terms of some of the social aspects that come with it. Again, perhaps this has increased in recent times as veganism has become more popular than ever, but it seems that being part of a 'vegan sub-culture' allows those involved to feel more connected, which ultimately helps to solidify feelings of control and agency.1

What can we take from this: possible limitations?

Whilst there are certainly a number of proposed advantages to following a vegan diet and lifestyle as this new research has highlighted1, there are still some limitations from the study that I'd like to touch on:

1. The study was small scale with no control group

Whilst the study suggests lots of proposed benefits for following a vegan lifestyle, it's important to note the study was on a small scale (10 participants) and there was no control group (people who aren't vegan) to compare to.

Therefore, my thoughts are that more research is required to help understand how following a vegan regime may affect a number of aspects of our physical and mental health, and also how this may be developing over time as our eating and lifestyle habits change on a larger scale.

2. The environmental debate still exists

Those following a vegan regime may do so for a number of reasons, for example, to improve health outcomes or out of environmental concerns. Now, whilst reducing our meat consumption is thought to have some positive effects on the environment, there are also some concerns that the drastic uptake in certain ingredients such as almond milk or avocados may bring their own set of concerns for the environment.

Therefore, unfortunately, the best way forward is still very much up for debate but, as we often come back to, it seems that dietary extremes may not always be the best approach.

3. Nutrition: the other side of the story

One concern with the rise in the popularity of veganism is that food manufactures are also jumping on this and producing more vegan junk food. Just like regular junk food, these items are often highly processed and may offer little nutritional benefits.

This is on top of the fact that we may already be at risk of becoming deficient in certain nutrients by following a vegan lifestyle, including iodine, vitamin D, vitamin B12 and iron. Therefore, whilst following a vegan lifestyle, taking nutritional supplements may also be an important consideration. Our Balance Mineral Drink, for one, is vegan and offers Vitamin D in a nice balance along with other nutrients including magnesium, zinc and calcium.

My Top Tip:

Balance Mineral drink provides magnesium, zinc, calcium, potassium and vitamin D. The balance on nutrients it contains can help to support normal muscle and bone function, but may also help to reduce symptoms of tiredness and fatigue.

Pour one sachet of Balance Mineral Drink into a glass containing 150ml of water or dairy-free milk and stir. It has a natural strawberry flavour so is both refreshing and tasty!


“Tastes lovely. Fantastic at night when you fancy a coffee.”

 

Read what other people are saying about Balance Mineral Drink.

 

1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31449884

 

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