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‘Women’s health at risk due to rise in meatless diets, scientist says’, one warned big title this week. The scientist, whose research is based primarily on animal foods, says poorly planned vegan diets could leave some people lacking in certain nutrients.
And yet poorly planned diets containing meat and dairy have been doing it for years!
But don’t be discouraged. A vegan diet can provide everything you need and protect your health – and there’s a huge body of evidence to back it up.
A healthy vegan diet can provide all the nutrients you need while lowering your risk of all the big killers, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers.
According to the UK’s National Health Service (NHS), “with good planning and an understanding of what constitutes a healthy, balanced vegan diet, you can get all the nutrients your body needs.”
The article warns how half of young women ages 11 to 18 consume less iron and magnesium than the recommended minimum.
A quarter of women in this age group, he says, consume too little calcium, zinc and iodine.
However, the article also claims that only three percent of the UK population are vegan.
So even if all the vegan women were missing, which they are not, 22-47% of women who eat meat and dairy products are also deficient.
Settle the facts
It is a myth that it takes meat to get iron. Iron is found in many plant foods.
Good sources include dark green leafy vegetables and whole grains like quinoa, whole-wheat pasta, and whole-grain bread.
Additionally, it is found in legumes, including lentils, tofu, baked beans, kidney beans, and peas. Seeds such as pumpkin, sesame and tahini, as well as dried fruits also contain iron.
One of the largest studies ever done on vegetarians and vegans, the EPIC-Oxford study, compared the diets of more than 18,000 meat eaters, 4,500 fish eaters, 6,600 vegetarians and 800 vegans.
It revealed that vegans had the highest iron intake, followed by vegetarians and fish eaters.
The meat eaters came out last. But vegans had the highest intake of magnesium, polyunsaturated (healthy) fats, fiber, vitamins C and E, folate, and copper.
Women’s health at risk?
The article suggests that young women are at greater risk of developing nutritional deficiencies than men, as they may be “more susceptible to messages about the harmful effects” of meat and dairy products on the environment.
This condescending view conjures up the image of a Victorian lady having a fume attack!
The idea that sensitive young women suffer from nutritional deficiencies in an effort to save the planet is very misguided.
And the fact that so many young women lack important nutrients reflects the poor diets of many people.
But that’s not a vegan problem.
In fact, many vegans are quite knowledgeable about what constitutes a healthy diet.
The article takes a turn in the right direction towards the end, as it highlights how eating up to 30 different plant foods per week is good for gut health.
This is good advice for everyone, not just vegans. It is also a good tip to avoid eating too much junk food.
Do vegans need supplements?
Vegans don’t need a handful of supplements as the article suggests, but they do need to ensure a regular supply of vitamins. B12.
Don’t let the naysayers convince you that this is a bad thing. Meat and dairy products only contain B12 because farm animals receive supplements.
Why not cut out the middleman and get yours? It is easier to absorb and prepares you for a healthy old age!
- Calcium is found in tofu (made with calcium sulfate), fortified vegan cereals and plant milks. It is also present in dried figs, kale, sesame seeds, tahini, beans, nuts, and green vegetables.
- Vitamin D (the so-called sunshine vitamin, produced in our skin in response to sunlight) supports your immune system and helps your body absorb calcium. The government says everyone in the UK, regardless of diet, should consider taking a vitamin D supplement in the winter.
- Zinc is found in tempeh, whole-wheat pasta, tofu, quinoa, wheat germ, pumpkin seeds, lentils, couscous, brown rice, cashews, sesame seeds, and tahini .
- Iodine is found in many plant foods. But the content varies due to the iodine levels in the soil they are grown in. Good plant sources include sea vegetables (arame, wakame, and nori) and iodized salt. Although iodine is found in cow’s milk, it is only because cows are given supplements and their teats are disinfected with an iodine wash. I prefer to sprinkle seaweed in my soup, thank you.
A healthy vegan diet contains a wide range of nutrients that give you energy, are gentle on your digestive system and support your immune system.
It can also help clear your skin, improve your mood, and reduce your risk of many diseases.
And you will feel good!
the Viva! wall chart, What I need every day to be healthy, tells you the recommended servings for each of the five vegetarian food groups along with all the essential vitamins and nutrients they provide.
Find out why vegan diets are the best, how to eat well and protect your health here.