Is being a vegan a healthy way to go?

So I thought  I would do a little piece on the vegan diet since it is has had so much press of late.

Is being a vegan a healthy way to go?
A few years ago the paleo diet was the buzz diet to be on. Then came the coconut craze and it looks like veganism is the next big thing.
One only needs to look at the number of shops and restaurants promoting vegan options to attract customers, I mean even McDonalds is promoting their healthy vegan burgers.
The interesting thing I find when a diet becomes popular, it seems to attract followers of religious-like ferocity. People tend to lose their ability to think critically and will go on an all-out attack mode if challenged.
But the vegan diet looks like a big one, so much that in certain areas in the UK have dedicated a whole month to promote it. People who are not even particular health-conscious are adopting this new lifestyle.
So let’s break it down and look at it. (For simplicity sake we will look at the Vegan diet and not vegetarian one)
A vegan diet abstains from anything meat or animal related, including fish, eggs, dairy.
People tend to follow a vegan diet for a few reasons,
They believe it is healthy, ethical reasons to animals or because it is trendy and everyone is doing it.
So what are the promises of a vegan diet?
Some of them are:

Better weight loss, more vitamins, and minerals reducing cholesterol minimizing oxidative stress, reduced CVD risk, reduced cancer risk…. And so it continues.
But how much of this is actually true?
Well, I won’t bore you with loads of research papers but not a lot of it when we compare a calorie balanced vegan diet to a calorie balanced more traditional diet such as a Mediterranean one.
Both diets tend to lead to similar weight loss, less oxidative stress. There is mixed data when looking at cholesterol, but both diets in a calorie deficit improve it and the Mediterranean diet tends to favour healthier triglyceride levels.
So in terms of pure science and what we can get from the data is that vegans do not tend to be healthier than those that follow are more traditional omnivorous calorie controlled diet.
So why is it when people start a vegan diet do they feel better and perhaps lose weight?
Well, the reasons are that they start to participate in health-seeking behaviour. They pay more attention to what they eat, they eat more whole fruits and vegetables and foods that contain high vitamins and minerals. And some stop a lot of the junk food since they are on a health kick.
But the big point is if you take that same health-seeking behavior and apply them to an omnivorous diet the outcomes are similar.
So if you find the vegan diet is the best of you, fantastic stick to that.
I would, however, advise you supplement with a few things:
B12, Zinc and Iron are very difficult to get from a vegan diet so supplementing is a good way to go.
As well as essential fatty acids. Some vegetables do contain certain compounds but the absorption/ conversion rate is only a few percent so it might look good on the package but your body might not be getting a whole lot.
The take home point is this.
Choose the diet for you that you enjoy and can stick to.
If you enjoy the vegan diet, that’s great- just look at improving it with a few simple supplements but realize the diet itself is no better for your health than an omnivorous one.
If you follow an omnivorous one, try to make fruits and vegetables a priority, the more the better.
No one size fits all and ultimately adherence to diet and exercise trumps everything.
Any thoughts/comments or questions please drop me a message.

Grant Koch