Is the vegan diet beneficial?

According to data provided by the Ministry of Agriculture, meat consumption in our country decreases year after year. Between 2012 and 2019, the purchase of fresh meat, frozen meat, and processed meat has fallen by 14.3%.

At the same time, the consumption of fruits, vegetables, and vegetables is growing steadily. And it is that more and more people choose to follow diets based on these products, without consuming meat, fish or derivatives: vegan or vegetarian diets.

What is a vegan diet? How is it different from vegetarian? According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND), vegetarians have eliminated meat, fish, and poultry from their diet, but not some derivatives of them. Within this group are:
– Lacto-ovo-vegetarians, who consume both dairy products and eggs, but not meat.
– Ovo vegetarians, whose consumption of food of animal origin is restricted to eggs.
– Lacto-vegetarians, which include dairy as the only product of animal origin.

In contrast, vegans do not consume any products derived from animals, including dairy, eggs, and honey. In addition, this group avoids that their food contains colorants, binders, or food additives of animal origin.

The reasons for choosing this type of diet are very varied, from ecological awareness to health reasons. But are these types of diets really healthier?

The answer of Luis Frechoso, president of the Dieticians-Nutritionists Association of the Principality of Asturias, and member of the General Council of Official Associations of Dietitians-Nutritionists, is that it depends. ” It depends on what, in what context it is being applied or to whom it is directed .”

For example, this nutrition expert points out that, if a vegan pattern is compared with a diet or pattern in which ultra-processed products are abused, a large number of processed meat products, low consumption of vegetables, legumes, fruit, and little water will clearly win a vegan diet.

The latter implies improvements in terms of some health markers since it is based on plant products, a priori entails a lower energy intake (if this is what is sought), a greater consumption of vitamins and minerals, fiber….

But the vegan diet is not perfect. Following an eating pattern of this type “could cause a greater risk of deficiency in terms of some micronutrients if it is not done correctly, as occurs with any other eating pattern,” says Frechoso.

Analyzed from the cultural point of view, the nutritionist believes that ” much denial and hatred is being created regarding this type of eating pattern, since the consumption of animal products, especially meat, is deeply rooted.”

If we look at it from the environmental point of view, it is undeniable that a more plant-based eating pattern would have strong positive repercussions on the environment.

What is clear for the president of the College of Dietitians-Nutritionists of the Principality of Asturias is that in this type of vegan diet there may be clear benefits from a commercial point of view. ” The vegan diet or pattern is in fashion and sells, adds value to any brand or product and, of course, that is profit.”

According to Frechoso, this trend has created a large market that tries to imitate meatless products adapted to the vegan pattern. But many of these products are still unhealthy, ultra-processed, and of very low nutritional value.

In short, vegan is not always synonymous with healthy. “Both the vegan and the vegetarian, Mediterranean, low-carb, etc. patterns are not better or worse than others. You always have to take into account the context in which it is applied and to whom it is directed, that is, that these diets are adapted to each person and well planned so that, in this way, there may be benefits ”concludes Frechoso.