Vegan Diet Support Guide
Updated: Sep 15
The vegan diet is on the rise as more people around the globe become more conscious of their food, how the food industry works and that not all qualities of animal products are equal. Vegan diets require extended knowledge on how to support your body in a healthy way. Some people are genetically more capable of a healthy vegan diet, others, are not. Finding a healthy dietary intake is dependent on the person, their values and what makes them feel healthy within their mind, body and soul. Everyone is different and I don't advocate one particular diet.
If you are vegan, then this is what you need to know
A vegan diet is defined by “seeking an end to the use of animals by man for food, commodities, work, hunting, vivisection, and by all other uses involving exploitation of animal life by man” (The Vegan Society, 2018).
Veganism is based upon only consuming plant-based foods, excluding; meat, poultry, dairy, honey, seafood and eggs. Modern veganism is relatively new, commencing in 1806 (The Vegan Society, 2018) and is increasing internationally due to a variety of motivations such as; animal ethics, health concerns, social injustices, climate effects, and historical aspects such as religion and culture. The earliest documentation of veganism originates in Europe dating back to the 6th century BC, where the religious group Orphic Mysteries excluded all animal products from their diets. Currently, India is the leading country in veganism. (Leitzmann, 2014)
Interestingly, around the same time, a worldwide paradigm shift commenced and many people including famous Greek philosophers Pythagoras and Plato believed humans were legally accountable for animals, their welfare and that plant-based diets taught us about humanitarianism and was highly beneficial for our body, mind and spirit. The shift continued to our modern era with Einstein stating, “Nothing will increase the chances of survival for life on earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet” (Leitzmann, 2014).
Vegan diets are generally fresh, whole foods including:
Fruit and vegetables
Breads, cereals and grains
Legumes (e.g. lentils, chickpeas, dried beans)
Soy foods (fermented provides maximum benefit) like tofu, tempeh and miso
Nuts and seeds
Vegan diets exclude:
Meat, poultry, fish and seafood
Often honey, plus other animal-derived ingredients or food additives
(Dietitians Association of Australia, 2018)
The vegan diet is commonly high in phytochemicals, antioxidants and fibre, overall being incredibly beneficial if done correctly. However, the absence of animal based products can compromise health without careful planning.
Below are nutrients that are at risk with a vegan diet:
A cross-sectional systemic review and meta-analysis of a vegan vs omnivore diet have shown significant health benefits in favour of a vegan diet, shown to considerably reduce (Dinu, 2016):
Positive Influences of a Vegan Diet:
Reducing Body Mass Index (BMI)
Various research has now concluded that weight-loss and reduced BMI increases with a vegan diet predominantly due to low-fat, high carb diet and a healthier microbiome (Turner-McGrievy, 2017).
Reducing Total, LDL, VLDL, cholesterol & blood pressure & Ischaemic heart/cardiovascular disease
The vegan diet is high in phytonutrients; phytosterols, phenolics, carotenoids, flavonoids, indoles, saponins, and sulfides, fibre, vitamin C, E, magnesium and antioxidants, and low in cholesterol and saturated fats. This reduces endogenous cholesterol production, inhibits vascular oxidation and lower blood lipids decrease cardiovascular rigidity. (Wang, 2015)
Insulin resistance/blood glucose
Increased dietary fibre, increases short-chain fatty acids providing a healthy microbiome, reducing adiposity and glucose tolerance. This is crucially dependent upon the food sources (refined vs non-refined), research is still determining factors, however, decreased fat and animal protein seem to be promising influences optimising the micro/macro-vascular risks and improving glycaemic pathways. (McMacken, 2017)
Improve gut microbiota
Vegan diets show a significant distinction from omnivores; displaying reduced pathobionts and increased protective bacterial species, this is high prebiotic/fibre foods, increased nutrient density and low trans fats change the bacterial composition. (Glick-Bauer, 2014)
Systemic and GIT inflammation
Insulin resistance, leaky gut, dysbiosis, and western lifestyle is highly associated with inflammation. Vegan diets appear to reduce macrophage infiltration, increase T cell production by short-chain FA and are protected from inflammatory compounds found in animal products and a higher intake of trans fatty acids. (Sonnenburg, 2016)
This diet may be difficult to adhere to, it certainly has significant health benefits when done correctly, however, nutrient deficiency is prominent without supplementation or careful planning. It would be beneficial to have charts, a nutrient bible, on-going well-sourced education, becoming part of a vegan community, planning ahead with a vegan diet and food combining to ensure adequate nutrient intake.
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Dinu, M. A. (2016, Feb 06). Vegetarian, vegan diets and multiple health outcomes: A systematic review with meta-analysis of observational studies. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition.
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The Vegan Society. (2018). History. Retrieved from The Vegan Society: https://www.vegansociety.com/about-us/history
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Wang, F. Z. (2015, Oct). Effects of Vegetarian Diets on Blood Lipids: A Systematic Review and Meta‐Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Journal of the American Heart Association.
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