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Science and the Vegan Diet

Updated: Feb 13, 2021

Apparently, according to some people, eating a vegan diet is dangerous. You can’t eat enough food, you waste away, your skin turns pale, you become weak and you die. Some people really do believe this. I’m sure you know that I don’t agree with any of this. What I’ve found is that it’s the opposite. When you eat a healthy, plant based (no processed food) vegan diet you can eat as much as you want and your weight will be fine, you won’t get fat, you don’t waste away or get weak at all, your body takes all of the good nutrients and uses them and you become stronger. Oh, and you certainly don’t die, that’s just silly. Now, having said that, eating a healthy vegan diet will not cure all diseases, it won’t stop you from getting sick, you won’t be able to get run over by a car and get up and brush the dirt off. But, eating in this way does make your body work better in so many different ways that you’ll just feel amazing. But how can someone prove this? Look at the science.

During a study scientists will check people's blood to see how what they eat changes their health

Scientific studies are used to investigate and observe the natural world and they use the scientific method to do this. This is what Wikipedia says:

“The scientific method is an empirical method of acquiring knowledge… It involves formulating hypotheses, via induction, based on such observations; experimental and measurement-based testing of deductions drawn from the hypotheses; and refinement (or elimination) of the hypotheses based on the experimental findings.”

Basically, you see something interesting, you come up with an idea about what you’ve seen, what happens and why, you then test that idea to see if you were right. If your test doesn't go to plan you know that you were wrong, if it goes as you thought it would, you were right. When testing what people eat studies will often look at what happens to people when they eat a certain food, do they become healthier, do they get sick or does nothing happen? If you made people eat a handful of blueberries every day for a year will they still get a cold in the winter? When the study is finished scientists and doctors will look at the results and decide what it means. With blueberries you could find that most of the people that ate the blueberries didn’t get a cold, but the ones that did become ill got better faster than was expected.

Are blueberries a magical food? No, they are very heathy though and they're really tasty

Scientific studies can be small with only a few people involved, or they could be huge with thousands of people taking part. But this doesn’t mean that you can’t carry out your own experiments. You can try making changes to your diet and seeing how it makes you feel, a great way to do this is to use a food diary. With a food diary to write down what you’ve eaten each day and how you feel, do you have more energy or were you tired, did you sleep well, did you feel uncomfortable? By doing this you will find patterns of how your body responds to the food that you eat so that you can give it more of what it wants and less of what it really doesn’t like. So what does science say about a plant based vegan diet? Well, this is what a recent study, Theoretical Food and Nutrient Composition of Whole-Food Plant-Based and Vegan Diets Compared to Current Dietary Recommendations March 2019 says:

“In comparison to MyPlate, WFPB meal plans provide more total vegetables (180%), green leafy vegetables (238%), legumes (460%), whole fruit (100%), whole grains (132%), and less refined grains (-74%). Fibre level exceeds the adequate intakes (AI) across all age groups…. Individuals who adhere to WFBP meal plans would have higher overall dietary quality as defined by the HEI-2015 score as compared to typical US intakes.”

The study said that the results were the same for vegan diets too. This means that, if you are eating a healthy, varied, vegan diet you are getting more than enough of the good things in food that you need. The study did say that a vegan diet did not have enough vitamin B12 or vitamin D, but most people, vegan or not, don’t get enough vitamin B12 and we get most of our vitamin D from the sun, but, to be safe, it’s a good idea to use a supplement. A lot of plant milks have vitamins and minerals added to them, but sometimes this isn’t enough so supplements are a good idea.

Keeping a food diary for yourself or someone else can be a great experiment

Try keeping a food diary for a week and see how different foods make you feel. Let me know in the comments what you found out.


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