There is so much information out there on what to eat, what not to eat and if you throw veganism into the mix it can makes things even trickier for the consumer. So, we caught up with nutrition expert Jenny Tschiesche to ask her to clear up a few things when it comes to being a healthy vegan.
Are calories in and out all that count in weight loss on a plant-based diet?
Absolutely not! Whilst a vegan diet can be extremely healthy and certainly many vegans will combine food groups well and as a result consume a diet rich in nutrients, some will lean towards what I call ‘fake meat’ products and ‘fake dairy’ products, especially those relatively new to veganism, to make up for what they miss from their old diets. The problem with these products is these products are made with large amounts of salt. That in its own right can cause water retention. More than that though, these products can also contain a variety of vegan ingredients that are not easy to recognise as far as our bodies are concerned which may also slow metabolism. The message is clear - if you choose to go vegan for health reasons and especially for weight loss stick to real, recognisable ingredients.
Is low carb worth doing if you want to lose weight when you’re vegan?
Low carb diets work best when combined with higher fat and protein. On a vegan diet that means focussing on plant-based fats i.e. from nuts, fruits and seeds many of these are also a source of protein too, as well as legumes and some of the pseudo-grains such as quinoa and buckwheat. These are also a filling source of fibre. So yes, a low carb vegan diet could aid weight loss.
Are carbs the devil on a plant-based eating plan?
Carbs are part of a balanced diet. What many don’t realise is that carbohydrate doesn’t necessarily equal grains. On any kind of diet nutrient-rich carbs can be obtained from a variety of plant-based foods such as root veg and legumes.
Should we omit all sugar form our diet- even if it’s in vegan food?
Refined sugar is not a necessary part of a balanced diet. However, as a society we are so used to sweetness (as well as more saltiness than we were ever originally designed to eat) that it seems hard to go without. The good news is that there are many better forms of natural sugar such as yacon syrup, coconut sugar and maple syrup that are available from plant-based sources and that our body knows how to metabolise.
Should we avoid using salt in all of our plant-based dishes?
We need salt in our diet, just not as much as we are now used to. Salt has been added to foods for centuries and is even used in fermenting foods such as sauerkraut which we now know is very much part of a healthy balanced diet, and helps contribute to a healthier balance of gut bacteria.
Is fruit bad for vegans because it contains sugar?
Fruit is the best and most natural form of sugar anybody can consume. Vegans are no different. Fruit is designed by nature to metabolise slowly. However, we now have such an abundance of fruit from all over the world, including the tropics where fruit is typically sweeter and more sugary, as well as dried fruit. Too much of a good thing can become a bad thing. A tendency to bake using lots of dates is now more commonplace and too many vegan baked goods of this nature may ultimately contribute to weight gain.
Does any vegan related diet actually work?
A balanced vegan diet is one where the person carrying out the diet is well informed and eating in balance with their own requirements. As a result they should feel full of health, and full of vitality. If it works for the person then it works!
Is it healthy to live on vegan convenience food if you always eat it with fresh veggies?
Convenience foods are often made up of ingredients that do not necessarily occur in nature. This means the human body may find it harder to metabolise and ultimately break down into waste products to be eliminated from the body. A real food diet is far healthier than one incorporating ‘fake meat’ or ‘fake dairy’ products.
Soya has had some bad press lately- what are your thought on this?
I do not recommend unfermented soya. Fermented soya is a different story. Fermented miso for example can provide a really good source of probiotic bacteria to the vegan gut.
Is the vegan diet healthy or is omitting so many food groups a problem?
An informed vegan will combine food groups well and ensure they are well nourished. However, all vegans need to be aware that a vegan diet is devoid of Vitamin B12 (good vegan sources include nutritional yeast flakes and algae). A vegan diet may contain low levels of calcium (good sources include dark green leafy veg and seed butters/tahini) and often iron too (ensure you eat lots of fresh veg and fruit to raise vitamin c levels which improves absorption of iron).
About Jenny Jenny Tschiesche BSc(Hons) Dip(ION) FdSc BANT is one of the UK’s leading nutrition experts. She has developed a reputation for creating and presenting delicious and nutritious new recipes for audiences globally via the media, TV, radio, in person and through workshops and seminars. Jenny Tschiesche is the nutritionist for www.indigo-herbs.co.uk
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