Are we being conned into believing that fake meat is good for us? Did you start the New Year with Veganuary, believing that it was the healthy option?
With new vegan brands popping up all the time and all the supermarkets now offering a vegan range, it should be cause for celebration – but the big question remains: are their ranges any better for our health or are they just a cynical marketing ploy?
While offering ready made vegan food will make it easier and more tempting to become vegan, and the new dirty vegan food trend means you don’t have to give up those burgers, pizzas and sausage rolls you love; are we creating more health problems with a high carbohydrate-dominated diet?
Not only are most of these foods processed, stripping many of the original nutrients out, they often consist of refined wheat and gluten. Also, the benefits and risks of genetically modified soya protein are still a controversial subject.
We know that processed meat is bad for us and can cause cancer, but all processed food consumed in large amounts can be bad for us. The more food we cook from scratch the better.
I think the main three reasons for becoming vegan are:
Ethical and moral
The welfare of animals and environmental concerns, health
The belief that a vegan diet is naturally healthier for the body.
However, the current trend has all the hallmarks of a fad diet and the usual culprits have jumped on the bandwagon, including many celebrities we admire; it is the new salvation diet that we can try and will often discard after the novelty has worn off.
Veganism can be a healthy lifestyle that is kind to animals and the environment, but vegans must not underestimate the need to eat enough sources of natural protein and the quantity they need to eat to replace certain proteins, good fats, iron, B12, and vitamin D that is abundant in animal sources because supplements are not as easily absorbed by the body as whole food.
Jackfruit, the latest trendy meat alternative that has a shredded meaty texture and is sold as high in protein, cannot compete with a like sized portion of chicken with 3 grams of protein to 20 grams in chicken. With a jackfruit pizza, for example, although it has nutritional benefits, it is loaded with quick-acting carbs from the fruit and refined carbs in the pizza without the balance of protein you would get from cheese or meat. Many fast food outlets offering vegan food use Seitan, a protein made from wheat gluten, which is an issue for many people.
Vegan alternatives are expensive too; a classic case is the infamous cauliflower steak, for instance, where a restaurant charged the same as they charged for a quality beefsteak, although the cost was less than a quarter of the price!
At the end of the day the solution is the same. The tried and tested diet of cooking from scratch as much as possible, getting a healthy balance of protein, complex carbohydrates, vegetables, good fats, vitamins, and minerals whether you are a meat eater, vegetarian or vegan – a healthy diet is all about variety and balance.