To Vegan, Or Not?

To Vegan, Or Not?
09 April 2018
The health benefits of ditching meat are well-known, but can a vegan diet provide your family with all the nutrition they need?

In short, yes, but – as with all matters medical and nutritional – it’s best to chat to your doctor and dietitian, before making the switch.

Vegetarian vs Vegan – What’s the Difference?
Many people confuse vegetarianism with veganism, so let’s clear that up. The Vegetarian Society defines a vegetarian as:

“someone who lives on a diet of grains, pulses, legumes, nuts, seeds, vegetables, fruits, fungi, algae, yeast and/or some other non-animal-based foods (e.g. salt) with, or without, dairy products, honey and/or eggs. A vegetarian does not eat foods that consist of, or have been produced with the aid of, products consisting of or created from, any part of the body of a living or dead animal. This includes meat, poultry, fish, shellfish, insects, by-products of slaughter, or any food made with processing aids created from these."

There are 4 different types of vegetarianism:

  • Lacto-ovo-vegetarian: Eats dairy products (such as cheese and milk), and eggs.
  • Lacto-vegetarian: Eats dairy products, but not eggs.
  • Ovo-Vegetarian: Eats eggs, but not dairy products.
  • Vegan: Does not eat dairy products, eggs, or any other animal product.

To the outsider, the vegan diet may seem restrictive or even lacking in essential elements to make up a healthy diet but – as with any diet -  if correctly managed, it can be quite healthy indeed. Notably too, choosing this lifestyle extends beyond just what you put on your plate – most vegetarians and vegans do not make use of any animal products for their clothing, furniture and toiletries.

Is This the Right Diet for Me?
The health benefits of ditching animal products can be quite profound. The vegan diet is typically colourful, making use of a wide variety of fruit, vegetables, pulses, legumes, and more, to create beautifully balanced meals. A diet free of animal fats can help to prevent cardiovascular disease, the development of diabetes, hypertension, and obesity. Whether or not the vegan diet is right for you, is up to you, your family, dietitian, and doctor. Before changing your family’s diet, it’s imperative that you chat to your doctor, or dietitian, so that a meal plan can be made for your specific requirements. Remember too – your doctor can advise you on any food sensitivities and medical issues, to ensure that your family stays healthy.

Try it Once a Week
Perhaps you’re not ready to switch to a plant-based, or vegan, diet. Simply snipping meat out of your meals once a week can have a big effect though. That’s why the Meat Free Monday movement was born – because one day a week can make a world of difference. By cutting out meat for one day a week, you:

  • Save water;
  • Cut back on carbon emissions and the production of methane - If every South African gave up eating meat for one day a week it would be equivalent to the annual carbon absorbed by 1 000 000 acres of pine forests;
  • Reduce the destruction of topsoil;
  • Reduce animal suffering;
  • Improve your heart health;
  • Get to experiment a little with making delicious meals for your family and,
  • Reduce your family’s likely exposure to meat borne illnesses.

Top Five Favourites
If you’re planning to add Meat Free Mondays to your family’s meal plan, or are looking for great vegetarian recipes, here are our top five:

LifeDoc Can Help
Book that doctor’s appointment to chat about your family’s meal planning and let LifeDoc™ help! Now available for download as a mobile application, LifeDoc™ helps you take charge of your personal health information, making it easier to keep track of appointments, and schedule those important check-ups, while securely storing your personal medical history. Register here or like the LifeDoc™ Facebook page for regular updates. You can also stay on track with LifeDoc™ developments on Twitter.