I remember when grunge became big. Various bands had bubbled under since the mid-eighties, but once Nirvana had a runaway hit with their second album, it was everywhere. Kids that used to wear Champion sweaters and listen to Kylie were now growing their hair long and rocking ripped jeans and flannel shirts. It happens like that sometimes. Trends exist on the periphery until one thing finally makes them explode. Like angst-ridden rock did to the pop charts back in 91, in the health and wellness world, veganism has hit the mainstream.
A lot of different factors have contributed to the rise of a vegan diet. Greater awareness of environmental factors is one, a huge Netflix documentary with some heavyweight celebrity endorsement is another. Since that documentary dropped, my inbox has been dominated by one question; is a vegan diet the healthiest way to eat? The answer, actually, is no, but that’s not going to stop people from doing it, and maybe it shouldn’t. So instead of another expose of the bad science and marketing BS around avoiding animal products, let’s get practical. Choosing to be plant-based but aren’t seeing the health benefits you read about? Here’s how to fix your vegan diet.
Before I get into the nitty-gritty of this article, let’s deal with some facts. You can change your diet any way you like, but if you replace crap with crap, you’re not going to see results. I’m not entirely sure why the woman above hides vegan cookies up her top, but if she thinks eating them is going to do shit for her health, she’s wrong. InItould makes things worse.
- Data by Satija and colleagues show that, generally, eating more plants is associated with a lower risk of heart disease.
- Conversely, eating more animal products is associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease.
- However, eating plant-based junk food results in an even greater risk of heart-related diseases.
This data points to one thing; simply swapping animal-based junk for plant-based junk only makes things worse.
Assuming your diet doesn’t only include seitan chicken wings and vegan pizza, what do you do to make being vegan as healthy as possible? First, fix deficiencies. Second, get slightly more of the stuff that can be helpful to your health and fitness that might be lacking. Here’s how.
If you’re vegan you are likely deficient in this. As most natural sources of B12 are animal-based, there’s no way around it. A vitamin B12 deficiency can result in cognitive impairment, nerve damage, anaemia, and mood disorders. This makes supplementing a no brainer. You will likely benefit from 25 to 100mcg a day. It’ also worth pointing out that as B12 is water-soluble, your body will only absorb what it needs, meaning you can never take a toxic dose. So starting and sticking with the high end might be the best bet.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids
EPA and DHA are essential fats that can’t be made by the body, so need to be obtained through your diet. They are known to have pretty significant health benefits from reducing the likelihood of heart disease, to improving mood, and helping older people avoid muscle loss.
They’re usually pretty easy to get in the diet by eating a moderate amount of fatty fish, but that’s not an option for a vegan, so supplementing becomes important. I recommend getting around 650mg of combined EPA and DHA from algal oil soft gels each day.
Creatine is a molecule that primarily helps with energy production. Your liver, kidneys, and pancreas can make it, but if you’re not eating animal products, you could likely use a top-up if hitting the gym is your thing. However, creatine’s uses go beyond helping you curl dumbbells in front of a mirror, it also helps with brain functioning.
- In a study by Benton et al, 128 women were split into vegetarian and non-vegetarian groups.
- They were then given either a creatine supplement or a placebo over 5 days.
- The vegetarians who took creatine showed improvements in memory.
- There was no change in the meat-eaters.
A study by Rae et al also found that creatine supplementation improved intelligence test scores and working memory in vegetarians.
If you value your brain gains as much as your guns, take 2–5g of creatine monohydrate daily.
To bulletproof your vegan diet, take 25–100mcg vitamin B12, and 650mg omega 3 fatty acids from algal oils a day to avoid deficiencies. For energy production and cognition, take 2–5g of creatine monohydrate.
Despite what you saw on Netflix, a vegan diet isn’t the best diet for your health, but with a few tweaks, it can get really close.