Research has shown that choosing a vegan diet can have significant health benefits when weighed against eating meat.
The “veg analysis” was carried out on 10,000 people by the British health check Medichecks.
The study found that vegans had lower blood sugar (HbA1c) levels than those who eat meat, lowering the risk of type 2 diabetes.
They also showed reduced non-HDL (unhealthy) cholesterol and total cholesterol than meat eaters, resulting in a reduced risk of stroke and heart disease.
In addition, it has been found that vegans have a 30 percent higher blood folate level compared to non-vegans. Folic acid is a B vitamin that your body needs to make red and white blood cells. It also converts carbohydrates into energy.
The liver health (GGT) market was also affected – it was 25 to 30 percent lower for vegans.
Dr. Natasha Fernando, General Practitioner and Head of Clinical Excellence at Medichecks, explains: “A key finding from this 2020 study is the effect of a plant-based diet on supporting the body’s ability to control blood sugar levels as it is a determinant of the type is 2 diabetes.
“As recently published in The Lancet, diabetics are 40 percent more likely to have fatal or critically treated COVID. The evidence that switching to plant-based foods can manage or reverse this condition is extremely valuable, especially as we peak at these Pandemic. ”
Dr. Fernando added: “While the biomarkers we examined showed that a plant-based diet improves health, based on the averages, we found no deficiencies for meat eaters.
“Meat diet should therefore not necessarily be viewed as unhealthy. A balanced diet and nutritious foods are key.
“In this phase of our fight against COVID everyone can continue to do their part by not only following the instructions of the government, but also taking personal responsibility for the protection of their health.
“This means that a healthy, balanced and nutritious diet is a priority – for both vegans and meat eaters. Almost all underlying diseases that increase the risk factors for coronaviruses are preventable and in many cases reversible.”
The experts at Medichecks have given some top tips for a healthy vegan diet:
- A vegan diet is not automatically healthy – you need to plan your meals to get the essential nutrients
- Think iron quantity over quality by eating foods like wheat, rye, brown rice, and dried fruits. These are all full of fiber and healthy fats, so your body will thank you for eating more
- Stock up on your iron with bread while Britain fortifies wheat flour with iron. Whole wheat flour is not fortified because it naturally contains iron. So choose whole wheat flour for a natural boost. Remember that gluten-free flours are not legally fortified. So check to see if your flours are on the ingredient list
- Some plant foods can bind to iron and affect absorption. There are ways to mitigate this, however. This includes incorporating vitamin C by squeezing lemon juice on salads, steaming vegetables instead of boiling, and waiting an hour or two after eating to enjoy a cup of tea, as tannins in tea can affect iron absorption
- Most high sources of calcium are dairy, so this is an area vegans should focus on. Some plant-based dairy products are fortified. So check the packages. Sprinkle chia seeds over your foods or mix them with your smoothies – just three tablespoons will get you more calcium than a glass of milk. Other good natural sources of the Recommended Adult Intake (700 mg per day) include dark green leafy vegetables, steamed broccoli, watercress, dried figs, baked beans, fortified cereals, and tofu
- Vitamin B12 is only found in animal foods, so opting for fortified foods is a good idea. Common items include breakfast cereals and dairy products. Nutritional yeast is also an excellent source
- While vegan diets are often lower in saturated fats, watch out for palm and coconut oils as many processed vegan foods contain them
- Some essential fatty acids – DHA and EPA – are not common in plant foods, so vegans looking to increase their omega-3 fat levels can buy supplements that contain EPA and DHA produced by algae. (450 mg EPA and DHA are recommended per daily dose for adults)
For more information on optimizing a plant-based diet, see Medichecks’ Veganuary Nutrient Guide.
The full Medichecks Veganalysis is also available online.