A recent study conducted by the Center for Public Health at MedUni Vienna found that not all vegans have a healthy diet.
Although many vegans exercise more than the average person, the consumption of industrially processed foods in this group cannot be classified as beneficial to health.
The study, published in the journal Nutrients, surveyed 516 people with an average age of 28 who had been vegan for at least three months.
The research team arrived at the distinction between a “health-conscious” and a “convenience” dietary pattern in the vegan lifestyle.
Vegans with a convenience-based diet quality were characterized by a higher consumption of processed fish and meat alternatives, vegan savory snacks, sauces, cakes and other sweets, convenience foods, fruit juices, and refined types of grains.
“The negative effects of industrially processed foods on health have now been clearly proven in studies,” says study director Maria Wakolbinger.
“For people who primarily consume convenience foods, a 29% higher risk of overall mortality, up to 51% higher risk of overweight or obesity, 29% higher risk of cardiovascular diseases, and 74% higher risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus have been scientifically proven.”
In contrast, vegans classified as health-conscious consumed more vegetables, fruit, protein and milk alternatives, potatoes, whole-meal products, vegetable oils and fats, and cooked more often with fresh ingredients.
The studied vegan population also proved to be heterogeneous with regard to physical activity behavior. The physical activity level of vegans was higher overall than that of the average population in Austria.
However, the health-conscious group was significantly more active than those who belonged to the convenience food pattern.
It is important to note that veganism is a form of plant-based nutrition in which not only meat but all food and by-products of animal origin are dispensed with.
In Austria, approximately 2% of people follow a vegan diet.
The researchers hope that their study will raise awareness about the difference between a health-conscious and a convenience-based vegan diet, which they refer to as “pudding veganism.”
They want to contribute to raising awareness, especially in light of the booming market for ultra-processed meat and dairy substitutes.
Today, vegan meat and milk alternatives generate an annual turnover of 1.7 billion Euros in Europe.
How to be a healthy vegan
Being a healthy vegan involves more than just avoiding animal products. Here are some tips to help maintain a healthy vegan lifestyle:
Eat a variety of whole foods: Focus on eating a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds.
Include sources of protein: Incorporate plant-based sources of protein, such as beans, lentils, tofu, tempeh, and seitan, into your meals.
Avoid processed and junk foods: Minimize your intake of processed and junk foods, which are typically high in sugar, salt, and unhealthy fats.
Be mindful of nutrient deficiencies: Some nutrients that are typically abundant in animal products, such as vitamin B12, iron, calcium, and omega-3 fatty acids, may be lacking in a vegan diet. Consider taking supplements or eating fortified foods to meet your nutrient needs.
Stay active: Regular physical activity is essential for maintaining overall health and well-being. Find an exercise routine that you enjoy and stick to it.
Connect with other vegans: Joining vegan groups or connecting with other vegans can provide support and encouragement for maintaining a healthy vegan lifestyle.
Remember, being a healthy vegan involves making conscious and informed choices about what you eat and how you live your life.
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