A Derby-based nutrition expert spoke to Derbyshire Live about the positives and negatives of a 100% vegan diet.
This means cutting out all animal products such as meat, fish, eggs, milk, and cheese. A strict vegan diet would also mean never eating honey as it is produced by bees.
Animal rights activists often say that plant-based diets are better for the planet and for your health, but a vegan diet can be bad for your health because it can leave you lacking essential nutrients your body needs.
Dr Corinna Chidley, Lecturer in Sport, Outdoor and Exercise Science at the University of Derby, said: âIt is important to recognize first that any diet has the potential to be healthy or unhealthy and that a balanced approach is needed.
“A balanced vegetarian or vegan diet generally lends itself to naturally containing more fiber, reducing saturated fat levels and encouraging the consumption of greater amounts of fruits, vegetables and whole grains which, in addition to the additional fiber, also help to increase essential intake. vitamins and minerals.
“These aspects combined have the potential to help improve gastrointestinal health, lower cholesterol, and reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease.”
In 2020, the Vegan Society found that the number of people in the UK following a vegan diet was estimated at around 600,000, with over 125,000 meat eaters also pledging to participate in the ‘Veganuary’ each year.
Dr Chidley believes the number of people on such diets is increasing for ethical reasons surrounding the treatment of animals.
She said: âSome may switch to a plant-based diet for health reasons, some may change for environmental aspects and some may change due to ethical arguments, and in some cases it may be because of three.
âMore and more evidence has emerged in recent years on some of the risks associated with consuming red and processed meats.
âNot only do we know that these products tend to contain more saturated fat, but evidence has linked regular consumption of these products to an increased risk of diseases such as bowel cancer, which I believe think, has certainly made people wonder how much meat they really need. use.
âIn addition to the growth in scientific research, in many cases the increase in plant-based diets can be attributed to social media.
“The fact that a number of high profile celebrities have openly adopted a plant-based diet also influences the choices people make.”
However, a plant-based diet is not without its flaws.
Many people who try to follow a strict vegan diet must take additional supplements to replace those that have been taken out of their diet.
Dr Chidley adds: âNo matter what the diet, there are always possibilities for problems.
âThe main problem to be alleviated, especially on a vegan diet, is the lack of vitamin B12, which produces red blood cells and helps the nervous system to function, and calcium which usually comes from animal products.
âAs a result, people who follow a vegan diet are encouraged to consume supplements to ensure that their daily requirements for these nutrients are met.
âI’m definitely getting more and more requests from people looking for advice on adopting a plant-based diet.
âAs the evidence base behind both the health and environmental impact of following an omnivorous diet continues to grow, the number of people seeking to adopt a more plant-based diet in one form or another , whether flexitarian, vegetarian or vegan.
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Derbyshire Live readers shared their opinions on vegan and plant-based diets on our Facebook page, with some strongly supporting meat-based diets and others strongly supporting the ethical alternative.
One reader said, âI care about the animals and the planet I want to leave with my child.
“If you eat meat, you are contributing to global warming, damage to ecosystems and the suffering of animals and humans.”
One confirmed meat eater said: “The human stomach is built to digest meat, and human jaws and mouths are designed to chew it.”
Another said, “If God hadn’t wanted us to eat meat, he wouldn’t have made the chickens and beef so tasty.”
One reader said, âIf there was a good alternative to fish and red meat for amino acids and iron.
âMost of the alternatives have to be heavily supplemented, which costs more or takes more prep time to cook.
“I don’t eat meat every day, but I will have steak once a month and fish once or twice a week.”
Many have said that nothing will convince them to sacrifice the meat in their diet.