As most of you may know our latest product the Superbites (a Vegan plant protein snack with No Added Sugar and packed with Superfoods) was created to remould the concept of snacking that is often associated with foods high in refined sugar and saturated fat hence our slogan; The Cleanest Snack Ever. Today we’re continuing our journey of enlightenment through exploring the health benefits of adopting a vegan diet, common misconceptions and what veganism means for overall health. Helping us to answer these questions is Kathryn Stewart, Dietitian at Dubai’s premium fitness and wellness center, StudioRepublik.
Tell us a little bit about yourself
I’m the dietitian and sports nutritionist at StudioRepublik, and as stereotypical as it may sound, my passion in life is food – be that cooking, eating or simply talking about it! Whether I’m providing nutrition support to clients with diet-related medical conditions or fueling a team of cyclists, my approach has and always will be, rooted in science yet tailored to suit the needs and lifestyle of the client in front of me.
What are the most common misconceptions people have on vegan-based diets?
There are so many misconceptions when it comes to vegan diets:
- Being vegan equates to being healthy. Again, this is not true, you can still eat certain cookies, crisps, sweets and syrups on a vegan diet. Although vegan diets have been linked to lower BMI (Body Mass Index)total and LDL cholesterol and blood glucose levels, it’s important to remember that in general, vegans tend to be more health-conscious i.e. they smoke less, are more active and eat more whole grains and vegetables all of which can influence and reduce health risks.
- Vegans only eat salad. As veganism grows so too does the variety of vegan options available. If you think vegans only eat salad, you need to try some vegan-friendly restaurants or read a few plant-based blogs for some recipe inspiration. Bean burgers with sweet potato wedges or vegan pancakes with berries and nut butter are just a few of my favorites!
- Vegans do not get enough protein. This is perhaps the biggest concern regarding vegan diets. It is possible to eat enough protein on a vegan diet, provided you know suitable sources and eat a variety of these throughout the day. Tofu, nuts, seeds, tempeh, lentils, chickpeas and soy milk/ yogurts are all great options.
What are the primary health benefits of adopting a vegan diet?
- Adopting a vegan diet has a host of health benefits:
- A recent systematic review found that compared to omnivores, vegan diets are associated with lower BMI total and LDL cholesterol, and blood glucose levels.
- The incidence of heart disease was estimated to be 24% lower in lifelong vegetarians and 57% lower in lifelong vegans compared to meat-eaters
Our new creation the Superbite; is made of plant-based protein with no added sugar. Is there a difference between plant and meat protein and what are the health impacts?
The biggest difference between plant and animal proteins is their amino acid content. Amino acids are the small building blocks that make up proteins. The body can make some amino acids whereas others are called “essential” as they cannot be made in the body and must be obtained from the diet. Animal proteins contain all the essential amino acids however most plant proteins lack one or more of these essential amino acids. Therefore, choosing a variety of plant protein sources throughout the day is important to ensure you meet your protein needs on a plant-based diet.
The pro’s and cons of a vegan diet in your professional opinion.
Vegan diets encourage individuals to make more conscious dietary decisions and as a result, they tend to be lower in saturated fat and cholesterol and have a higher intake of fruit, vegetables, fibre, whole grains, nuts and phytochemicals. While a vegan diet can be a healthier option, reduce the risk of certain diseases and help with weight loss, it does require diligence. When limiting or avoiding animal products, certain nutrients such as calcium, Vitamin D, Vitamin B12, iron, zinc and omega-3 fatty acids require special consideration to reduce risk of nutritional deficiencies. For example, vegans require 1.8 times more iron than omnivores as plant-based iron sources are less readily absorbed.
Is a plant-based diet sustainable long term?
Absolutely! Well-planned plant-based diets can be healthy at every stage of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, childhood, and for athletes also. Limiting and reducing animal products in the diet can also be beneficial for the planet as well as our health.