How being vegan is good for you

By Contributing author, 06 April 2018 617

What do celebrities like Natalie Portman, Ellen DeGeneres, Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth have in common? They all follow a vegan diet. Some went vegan for health reasons, while others changed their lifestyle out of compassion for the animals. A few go vegan for the environment.

It's undeniable. Veganism is on the rise. There are 350% more vegans in the UK in the last 10 years, while the US saw a dramatic 500% increase in its vegan population from 2014 to 2017. Perhaps you're wondering why more and more people or going vegan. Or maybe you're contemplating going vegan yourself but are not sure how to do it.

What is a vegan diet?

Food that is plant-based or vegan excludes the use of animal flesh and its extracts (fish sauce, beef bouillon, gelatin etc.), dairy, eggs, and insect by-products (honey, bee pollen etc.) in its ingredients.

Not everything vegan is healthy. French fries are vegan. So are Oreos. That said, you don't have to deprive yourself of not-so-healthy vegan items. Follow the 80-20 principle when eating. Having a 20% wiggle room is enough allowance for you to enjoy vegan food that may be sub-optimal nutrition-wise.

What constitutes a healthy vegan diet?

A sound, plant-based diet is one that is wholefoods-based and is high in raw foods.

Whole food
A whole food is a food ingredient in its unrefined, minimally processed form. Whole plant foods have all the fibre content intact. Most or all of the nutrients are also intact, depending on how the food is stored and processed. Whole foods are not necessarily organic, but are free from preservatives, food colour, MSG, trans fats, and other harmful synthetic additives. They are also not cooked at very high temperatures.

Whole food contains plenty of fiber, a calorie-free type of carbohydrate that is found in whole plant foods. It has the ability to bind to mucus, carcinogenic compounds, and noxious debris sticking to the inner lining of the large intestine or colon, helping our body get rid of these as part of the digestive process. 

Fibre also feeds good bacteria. Did you know that we have more stomach bugs than all of our cells combined together? Having more friendly bacteria helps us prevent:

·         infections
·         depression
·         brain fog
·         mental and physical fatigue
·         inflammation
·         weight gain
·         degenerative diseases
·         chronic pain

Unlike whole food, processed food has less fibre and is harder to digest, depleting the body of nutrients in the process. Overly processed food also diminishes and damages the phytochemicals present in plant foods, which have been shown in studies to possess antioxidant properties. These phytochemicals help prevent and treat oxidative stress-induced conditions such as inflammation, poor immunity, accelerated ageing, and various chronic degenerative diseases such as cancer and heart disease.

Raw food

Raw food refers to uncooked food, or food that is minimally heated to preserve its life force called "enzymes", which are destroyed when food is heated beyond 41 degrees Celsius.

Food enzymes that are preserved in raw food markedly improve digestive efficiency. They break down the food's macronutrients into smaller particles, lessening the amount of energy normally expended in the digestive process. You suffer from a post-meal slump when your body gets too busy digesting your food, which can be eliminated by consuming enzymatically active foods such as raw food.

Enzymes are not the only heat-sensitive nutrients. Certain phytochemicals and vitamins such as anthocyanins (found in berries), vitamin B-complex, and vitamin C are also easily degraded and destroyed by heat. For example, high-heat pasteurisation destroys all the amylase (carb-digesting) enzymes and vitamin C present in raw orange juice. This is why all brands of pasteurised orange juice on the market have added vitamin C to replace the natural vitamin C that was lost. If you consume foods in their raw forms, you won't have to worry about any significant nutritional loss!

Whole vs. raw food
Certain raw foods are not considered whole foods. Cold-pressed virgin coconut oil is refined, but the lipase or fat-digesting enzymes are preserved, making raw VCO easier to metabolise than regular coconut oil. The raw oil is also not oxidised or damaged since it did not undergo high-heat processing.

A vegan diet, as well as other health variables such as emotional well-being/stress management and exercise put you on the right track towards being healthy and happy. But they don't make you invulnerable, and it's too late for regrets when disease finally strikes and bills start to mount.

Being vegan to me doesn't mean being complacent or self-assured. A nutrient-rich vegan diet is just one part of the health puzzle. I understand that I’m subject to health risks even as a vegan, and so I covered myself with health insurance. I see it as a good investment, whether I get to use it in the future or not.  It helps with peace of mind, too. And happiness comes more easily when you're emotionally secure about the future.