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Vegan Food Dubai

Let’s Address the Reality of Going Vegan

As Veganuary returns, a nutrition educator weighs in.

One glance at mainstream media, and you’ll see that interest in veganism has skyrocketed over the past few years – in fact, according to Google Trends, it is now almost twice as popular as it was five years ago! So, what is a vegan diet? A vegan diet contains absolutely no animal products – from the obvious (such as meat and fish) to the not-so-obvious (like dairy and honey). 

Veganism has definitely come a long way from when it was once considered to be in the realm of hippies – we now have vegan athletes, celebrities, and bodybuilders. And of course, with the rise of the conscious consumer, interest in the lifestyle has even spilled over to the average person and seems to be here to stay.  However, like any movement with a cultural and ethical agenda, veganism has also given rise to a great amount of misinformation (both for and against the diet), especially when it comes to nutrition and health.

Conspiracy soundbites like ‘eating two eggs a day is equivalent to smoking five cigarettes’ is becoming popular thanks to heavily biased documentaries like What the Health or The Game Changers. This is why it’s important to think critically when encountering bold and scary statements. Here, as people worldwide take on the Veganuary challenge, we explore who the vegan diet is suited to and how to do it right.

Vegan Food Options

Let’s Talk Health 

Is health your priority? If yes, then you don’t have to go down the vegan route to be healthy, especially if you think you will struggle without meat. Yes, a well-planned vegan diet can be a really healthy diet (especially when you stay on top of your iron, B12, and Omega-3 levels), but it’s definitely not the only healthy diet out there. Improved health markers including cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and blood glucose control are not unique to vegan diets. In fact, you’ll see the same benefits from dietary patterns that heavily feature plants, like the Mediterranean diet.  

2 Must-Haves to Get the Vegan Diet Right

1. Microbes that have the necessary enzymes to digest plants 

Since plants are mostly digested by our gut microbes (unlike meat, which is digested by human enzymes), quickly going from a low fibre to a high fibre diet may cause bloating or passing gas. This is because your gut needs time to adapt to the change and produce enough of the right plant-digesting enzymes. If you do get some gut symptoms, rest assured, they are not damaging your body. The key is to introduce plants slowly, say, ¼ cup of beans (double-rinsed) each day or ¼ of a fruit that you feel makes you bloated.

2. A relaxed gut

An uptight gut can be caused by mental stress (yes, the gut-brain connection is real!) or irritation caused by something, such as a tummy bug or COVID-19. When this happens, your gut tends not to be efficient at absorbing gas made by your gut microbes while digesting fibre and, in turn, it may get ‘trapped’ in the gut – thereby triggering bloating and other symptoms. What you can do then, other than introducing fibre slowly, is to de-stress your gut with gut-directed yoga or belly breathing as it can help in digestion. 

So unless you have a diagnosed allergy, the key takeaway is that you can continue to eat greens, even if you have some gut symptoms right now. Beware of ‘gut resetting gurus’ promoting gut-healing protocols, which may include plenty of exotic-sounding supplements and concoctions that you really don’t need. You just need to be patient and work gently with your gut to create the right environment.     

Best Vegan Food

‘Fake’ or ‘Mock’ Meat – Yay or Nay?

A new study has begun to untangle this seemingly simple, yet scientifically complex question. Researchers compared the nutritional profiles of a popular plant-based meat alternative with grass-fed ground beef. What they found was that despite both food’s Nutrition Facts Panels being similar in terms of protein, fat, and calories, research showed that 90% of the chemicals that made up the food were different. In terms of the ‘beneficial’ chemicals, some were only present in the meat (e.g. DHA omega 3), and some were only in the mock meats (e.g. specific tocopherols, which are the major forms of vitamin E).

So, basically, we shouldn’t be determining whether meat or alternative meat is better by looking at nutrition labels – i.e. fat, protein, calories, and so on – as they do not give us a full picture of a food’s true composition. We need human intervention studies to fully understand it and, so far, they suggest that it’s more about your holistic diet i.e. what % of meat or % ultra processed foods you are feeding your microbes.    

Why a Vegan Diet May Not Work for You     

While this may not apply to the vast majority of us as current research is insufficient, there may be certain individuals who will not do well on a vegan diet because of their genes and microbes. Certain genetic mutations mean that some of us won’t be able to convert plant sources of vitamin A into its active form very well, and certain gut bacteria profiles may make it harder for some vegans to obtain enough vitamin K. 

Strong evidence is missing for these theories, but it helps to provide ideas for mechanisms that might explain why some people find it harder to thrive on a vegan diet. Observe how you are feeling while on a vegan diet and get some blood work done if you are not feeling your best so you can make an informed decision.    

So What Does All of This Mean for You? 

Nutrition isn’t black and white. Neither is it about ‘good’ or ‘bad’ – it’s way more complex than that. I often find that an inclusive mindset geared towards diversity works best. Every time you make a meal at home, stop and think, ‘What could I add?’ Chop a fruit, top your porridge with chopped nuts, add some puréed veggies to your pasta sauce, sprinkle some sesame seeds as garnish, add some kimchi to your sandwich etc. According to Dr. Megan Rossi, aiming to eat 30 different plant foods each week is a good reference point to kickstart your vegan diet.

In the grand scheme of things, it’s important to acknowledge that vegan diets can greatly vary and a ‘vegan’ label doesn’t necessarily mean it’s healthier. A vegan diet that focuses on whole plant foods full of fibre can be beneficial, though it requires appropriate supplementation to make sure you’re getting enough of other nutrients, such as Omega-3. In turn, a vegan diet that’s mostly made up of highly processed ‘vegan’ alternatives isn’t going to do your gut microbes much good.

Healthy Food

My advice is to do what feels right for you personally. The body of evidence suggests that we could all benefit from eating ‘more’ plants – but that doesn’t necessarily have to mean ‘only’ plants. It’s also extremely important to remember that dietary choices are deeply personal, so if you are in a position of privilege (where food is abundant enough for you to be picky about what you eat and where it comes from), the odds of you being ‘healthy’ are already heavily stacked in your favour. Be kind to people and refrain from judging other people’s dietary choices – you don’t walk in their shoes.

It is also important to acknowledge that there is more than one factor at play when it comes to risk of diseases, and vegans are not immune, so if you choose to be vegan, be careful not to spread misinformation about health and nutrition. Interestingly, most vegans who choose the diet for ethical reasons are more likely to stick with it than those who go vegan purely for health reasons. 

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Revitalise After Feasting: A Post-Thanksgiving Workout Regimen to Recharge Your Body

Revive, Recharge, Thrive

As the Thanksgiving feast fades into fond memories, it’s time to give your body the attention it deserves. In this post-feasting recovery guide, we’ll explore a tailored workout regimen designed to revitalise your body, recharge your energy, and counterbalance the indulgences of the holiday season.

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1. Wake Up the Body with Cardio Bursts:

Kickstart your post-Thanksgiving regimen with invigorating cardio bursts. Whether it’s a brisk morning walk, a jog, or a dance session, get your heart pumping and awaken your body from its food-induced slumber.

2. Core-Strengthening Pilates:

Engage your core muscles with a Pilates session to restore balance and stability. These low-impact exercises are perfect for toning and strengthening, providing a gentle yet effective workout for your post-feast body.

3. Yoga for Digestive Ease:

Explore a sequence of yoga poses designed to aid digestion and promote relaxation. Gentle twists and stretches will help soothe your stomach and release tension, leaving you feeling rejuvenated.

4. High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT):

Inject a burst of energy with HIIT exercises to elevate your heart rate and boost your metabolism. Short, intense intervals followed by rest periods are an efficient way to burn off excess calories and jumpstart your fitness routine.

5. Mindful Cool Down with Stretching:

Wind down your workout with mindful stretching. Focus on areas that may have tightened during the holiday festivities, allowing your body to recover and preventing post-feast stiffness.

As you embrace this post-Thanksgiving workout regimen, remember that it’s not about punishment but restoring balance. This curated routine aims to invigorate your body, clear your mind, and set the tone for a healthy and active holiday season. So, lace up those sneakers, roll out the yoga mat, and let’s embark on a journey to revitalise and recharge after the Thanksgiving feast.

Frequently Asked Questions

How soon after Thanksgiving should I start this workout regimen?

The post-Thanksgiving workout regimen can be started as early as the day after the feast. However, listen to your body, and if needed, allow a day or two for digestion before engaging in more intense exercises.

Can I customize the workout routine based on my fitness level?

Absolutely! Tailor the regimen to suit your fitness level and preferences. Modify intensity, duration, or choose alternative exercises to ensure a comfortable and effective workout experience.

Is it necessary to follow the entire workout routine, or can I focus on specific exercises?

Feel free to adapt the regimen to your needs. While the full routine provides a well-rounded approach, you can choose specific exercises based on your preferences or focus on areas that feel particularly tight or in need of attention.

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