You probably know of one or two celebrities who are vegan and advocate against animal cruelty. Even President Bill Clinton follows a vegan diet (although he does have a piece of fish and one omelette a week). His decision to go vegan happened back in February 2010 when he underwent emergency heart surgery for the second time (previously in 2004). Soon after, Dean Ornish, M.D., who wrote the Program for Reversing Heart Disease and promotes a plant-based diet (and going vegan), prodded Clinton into action to change his dietary habits for long-term health benefits. He’s now 66years of age, has lost 30lbs and travels and works at a cracking pace. Whatever your reason is for choosing a vegan diet, let’s take a look at the benefits and things to be aware of, if you choose to go vegan. Obtaining all the right nutrients from a daily diet has to be at the top of anyone’s list. Three key nutrients often considered to be lacking in a vegan diet are, calcium, iodine and B12. However, an omnivore’s diet is often lacking in the same three, plus four more: folate, vitamin C, vitamin E and magnesium, many of these found in green leafy vegetables. I see many clients in my clinic who regularly eat meat but are seriously deficient in B12. Why? The issue often comes down to a dysfunctional gut. This is where fibre comes into play, and being vegan has obvious benefits. Fibre is food for our friendly gut bacteria and helps build the immune system. Adequate dietary fibre is essential for a healthy bowel function, which helps to prevent chronic diseases, such as colon cancer. Gut Health There are two types of fibre; soluble, made-up of, barley, nuts, seeds, fruit and many vegetables and insoluble fibre, which is a mix of, whole grains, vegetables and wheat bran. Both types are a big part of a vegan’s daily diet. Lot’s of people don’t eat grains anymore, however, it is the insoluble fibre of grains that speeds up the passage of food through the stomach and intestines, making us much more efficient in getting rid of toxins. This can help with weight loss, a big problem in today’s rising obesity epidemic, not to mention the chronic diseases that follow. Fibre can also assist in lowering serum cholesterol, reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease. Fight heart disease Plant based diets may reverse heart disease, dissolve plaque and open up the arteries. Not dissimilar to exercise; as plant based diets improve the endothelial function of the arteries. This improvement is essentially caused by the reduction in cholesterol. After lowering cholesterol, the blood flow to the heart is increased. Aside from all the ‘green veggies’, a vegan diet includes, quality fats; from plants, such as; avocado, olive oil and tahini. These fats are all mono-unsaturated which again are beneficial in lowering cholesterol. Menopause support Plant proteins in a vegan diet are primarily made up of tofu, tempeh, lentils, beans, seeds and nuts. Many of these proteins have a phyto-estrogenic effect and can help to reduce unwanted symptoms (hot flushes) experienced by females during menopause. Calcium is a nutrient often in short supply during this phase of life, and needed more than ever to fortify bone density. It is interesting to note that the calcium in kale and broccoli is absorbed nearly twice as well as the calcium in milk. A final word of advice if you are thinking of turning vegan: Being a healthy vegan, means more than just lovingly staring at your favourite vegetables growing in the garden or in the produce aisle of the supermarket. You actually need to eat them fresh, (not leave them rotting in the fridge to become deplete of all nutrients) alongside adequate plant protein and healthy fats, in order to nourish your body with the essential nutrients and minerals required for optimal health. Your body, heart and soul will thank you for it. Live and Let Live! Curious, why not try the 30 day vegan challenge and see how your body responds