By Megan Gorman
In the last few years, diets such as vegetarian and vegan have become much more popular. For instance Bord Bia recently estimated that 8% of the Irish population are now vegetarian, while 4% are vegan. Another diet that has become popular is ‘flexitarian’ which means people limit the amount of meat or diary prodcuts in their diet.
There are a lot of questions surronding the hype of these diets. The main question a lot of people ask is Which diet is the best for me? To know the answwe to this questions, you must know what each diet entails. The vegan diet is devoid of all animal products, including meat, eggs and dairy. People choose to follow a vegan diet for various reasons.
These usually range from ethics to environmental concerns, but they can also stem from a desire to improve health. Foods that most vegans eat are tofu, tempeh and seitan; these provide a versatile protein-rich alternative to meat, fish, poultry and eggs in many recipes.
If cutting out dairy products doesn’t sound like something you could do then a verertarian diet is more likey the option rather than veganism. People choose to follow a vegetarian diet for a variety of reasons that are similar to a vegan diet. A vegertarian diet involves eating plenty of fruit and vegetables and starchy foods such as bread, cereals, potatoes, and whole grain where it is possible. There are alternatives to meat and fish, these are foods like quorn meat and kidney beans. And also some dairy foods or alternatives such as fortified soya milk and yoghurts.
Research indicates that vegetarian/vegan diets compared with traditional meat eating diets are typically lower in saturated fat and have higher intakes of fruit, vegetables, wholegrains and fibre. This may be why vegetarian and vegan diets are associated with lower risks of heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and obesity.
Dr. Kevina Cardiff, Dietitian and Nutritonist at Pure Nutrition gave me advice on all things diets “The most beneficial best evidenced based diet for all is the Mediterranean diet. This diet is based on wholegrains, fish including oily fish, nuts, seeds, olive oil. There are many papers and studies on this diet supporting it’s many health benefits.
“This diet is cardioprotective, supports gut health and reduces risks of development of diseases such as diabetes among many other benefits”.
There is a lot of information on the number of different diets but it isn’t as simple as saying all plant based diets are good and the diets that include meat are bad – A bad diet is possible no matter which one you follow. But a lot can be said for taking steps towards a more plant based way of eating.
Dr. Kevina Cardiff had this to say about veretarian diets “My main issue with vegetarian diets is only that people do not follow them correctly, failing to take sufficient protein and overeating on carbohydrate and saturated fats often in place of protein foods. Many young people take up this diet without appropriate dietary advice from a dietitian at a time when they are vulnerable nutritionally due to growth requirements”.
Choose a diet that fulfils your requirements and needs.