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The Vegan Brain

"Epidemiological and interventional human studies in the last decades have suggested that plant-based diets exert beneficial health effects"

Veganism is a way of living that has been around for decades, living in a way to minimise harm caused, to keep any exploitation to a minimum. Being plant-based is different, this is more about diet and being healthy than the exploitation of animals and the planet. That does not meant that people that are plant-based don't care about these things, animal abuse, climate change, pollution, they are simply not their main motivation for not eating animals. Eating in a healthy, balanced, plant-based or vegan way is known to have positive affects on a person's health, lowering cholesterol, bloods pressure, it can help to regulate blood sugar levels, skin appears healthier, but what about the things that aren't easily seen or measured, such as the health of our brains?

Our brains need certain nutrients to function and thrive, these include omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, vitamin E and zinc. If we don't have these nutrients in our diets our brains will suffer and deficiencies can lead to permanent damage. Does this make vegan and plant-based diets dangerous for our brains, or is this way of eating actually better?

What Do Our Brains Need?

Our brains account for roughly 3% of our body weight, but they consume nearly 20% of our daily calories. Our brains use a lot of energy, but this in only part of what our brains need for optimal functioning. As well has sleep, rest and exercise, our brains need the correct nutrients in sufficient amounts to make sure that everything works as it should. When our brains do not get everything that they need they start to malfunction, the memory can start to fail, anxiety, depression and headaches can become a problem. Some nutrients that the brain needs are made in the body, such as choline, but there are others that the body cannot make, essential nutrients, these have to be obtained through our diets.

A plant-based or vegan diet provides nutrients that our brains need, folate can be found in beans, vitamin A can be obtained from carrots, spinach, peppers and sweet potatoes. Wholegrain cereals are good sources of vitamins B5, B6 and E, vitamin C is found in many vegetables and fruits. Nuts and seeds are an incredible source of nutrients including manganese, magnesium, copper, phosphorus, iron, vitamin, folate and thiamine.

The Vegan Brain

A healthy, balanced plant-based or vegan diet, one that includes nuts, fruits and vegetables is beneficial for brain health. Not only do these foods make our brains work better, they make us feel better too. Eating animal free foods is a nutrient dense way of eating that feeds our brains with chemicals that make us feel happy. Vegans and those that eat a plant-based diet have been found to have improved cognitive function and a lower risk of degenerative brain disorders and diseases.

"health benefits observed in a plant-based diet stem from higher levels of fruits and vegetables providing phytochemicals or vitamin C that might boost immune function and eventually prevent certain types of cancer."

There are two nutrients that vegans and plant-based eaters cannot get naturally through their diets, vitamins D and B12. Vitamin D is the sunshine vitamin, we synthesis it in our skin when we are exposed to UV light. This means that less sun means less vitamin D and this is a problem for everyone that lives in the northern hemisphere, as it is not possible to consume enough vitamin with any diet, there is not enough of the vitamin in foods to get to optimum levels. Vitamin B12 comes from bacteria and in animals it is bacteria in an animal's gut that makes the vitamin which ends up deposited in the animal's body. Vegans and those that are plant-based can't get B12 this way, the bacteria in our guts cannot make enough B12 for us to absorb healthy levels. Deficiency leads to very serous health problems, but deficiencies in both vitamin B12 and vitamin D can be avoided by using fortified foods and/or supplements. Eating a diet that includes a variety of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans and wholegrain cereals is wholesome and healthful. If you have allergies or sensitivities you will need to remove the foods that you cannot eat, but make sure that anything that is removed is replaced with something else that will give you the nutrients that your body needs.

When is comes to animal free diets the evidence, so far, is showing that vegans have lower levels of cholesterol, well managed blood sugar levels with lower rates of type 2 diabetes, they are not protein deficient and they don't get sick more than meat eaters, it's actually the reverse. This also applies to brain health, vegans can be found to be happier, more peaceful and feel more fulfilled.

"Taken together, it can be concluded that fruits and/or vegetables, and some of their specific subgroups, as well as processed fruits and vegetables, seems to have a positive influence on mental health, as stated in the vast majority of the included studies. Therefore, the general recommendation to consume at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day may be beneficial also for mental health."



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