Abu Dhabi - Veganism kept more on the positive side of health and wellbeing, than the negative
The word 'vegan' was coined in 1944 by Donald Watson, but the concept can be traced all the way back to the 6th century BCE when a number of Greek philosophers vowed to not consume meat.
Today, the diet still firmly refrains from ingesting any foods that come from animal sources, including red meat, white meat, seafood, dairy products and even honey.
Although many vegans often choose this lifestyle for ethical reasons with an associated philosophy that strongly rejects the commodity status of animals, many are also turning to the diet in hopes of achieving quick weight loss.
The popular diet however, does come with a positive reputation, as it is still ensures adequate intake of vitamin C and E, dietary fibre, folic acid, magnesium and iron, despite consuming no animal product.
Moreover, the diet has a lower intake of saturated fats and cholesterol, which are heavily found in red meat. Thus, a vegan diet can help reduce the risk of chronic illnesses, including cardiovascular disease and colon cancer.
But health experts also suggest that although fruits and vegetables are perhaps the most beneficial out of the food pyramid, meat is still required for a healthy lifestyle.
"The vegan diet's popularity is increasing in the region. It has a lot of health benefits, but these are more for the heart and less for the body," explained Archana Baju, clinical dietician at Burjeel Hospital. "Vitamin B12, which is only found in animal sources such as meat, eggs and milk, is crucial as it plays a major role in the body's functioning," Baju said.
"Without vitamin B12, one will feel chronic headaches, weakness and fatigued."
So those wishing to keep the vegan diet must take supplements to make up for any loss in vitamins that they would otherwise get from animal based sources.
Protein and iron can however be found in vegan-approved foods such as tofu, soy and beans, and green leafy vegetables which are also iron-packed. However, you should also consume vitamin C after every meal in order to help with iron absorption.
The Vegan counterview
Carine Tanios, senior dietitian at Nutri Nutrition Centre, Abu Dhabi, however illustrated that veganism is not a complete diet, as it misses a number of vital nutrients. "A lot of vitamins and minerals are missed out in the vegan diet, so you must be on multi-vitamin and multi-mineral supplements everyday," Tanios said.
"Vitamin B12 is crucial, as it helps with the red blood cells, and it's is not present in any vegan source. In a vegan diet, the food must be varied; iron and protein should be taken with other sources such as vitamin C. One must also not consume calcium because it decreases nutrient absorption."
However, Tanios did point out that veganism kept more on the positive side of health and wellbeing, than the negative.
Many studies reveal that red meat is linked to colon cancer, as well as high cholesterol levels and heart disease. Furthermore, as chicken is often filled with cortisone and hormones, it can be devastating on the human body.
"I would say that it's good to go on a vegan detox for a few days, but not for the long term. Protein from non-animal sources will not be used as well by the body as protein from animal ones. And the body cannot produce the essential protein it requires," Tanios added.