World Vegan Day, which is traditionally celebrated in November, has become a means to celebrate and further promote the positive aspects of veganism, but the term “vegan” and the possible health benefits of the diet associated with this lifestyle choice are often misunderstood. I sat down with two of Bermuda’s experts to get the facts.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN VEGAN AND PLANT-BASED?
According to Google, a vegan lifestyle involves avoiding all animal products including meat, dairy, eggs, and other animal-derived ingredients as well as advocating for animal rights; but “planted-based” simply refers to a diet comprised of only plant foods, meaning that if you consume a plant-based diet but wear leather shoes you would not be considered “vegan”.
WHAT ARE THE HEALTH AND WELLNESS BENEFITS OF A PLANT-BASED DIET?
The commonly accepted health benefits of a plant-based diet include lowered risk of heart disease and certain cancers, better weight management, boosted immune system, lower blood pressure and inflammation, improved digestive and kidney function and lower risk of chronic diseases including type2 diabetes.
WHY CONSIDER A PLANT-BASED DIET?
It goes without saying that the potential health and wellness benefits of consuming a plant powered diet are about as varied as the reasons for adopting this regimen. For Trevor Johnstone, the owner of PlantBasedFuelBda.com, the passion for a plant-based diet was inspired by a documentary film that he saw while working in Spain which changed his perception about food itself.
A classically trained chef who has interned at the Versace Mansion in South Beach, as well as working for Mandarin Hotels, Chef Trevor believes that most island residents need to take more time to learn about nutrition.
“Most people think that they need to eat animals and animal products in order to get calcium and protein, but that protein is actually coming from the plants that the animals consumed. When you eat the plants directly you are getting a cleaner source of protein without all the saturated fat and cholesterol,” he says.
“Let’s face it, the easiest way to control your weight is to control what you put in your mouth,” he explains. “But a vegan diet is not just about losing weight. It is about increasing longevity, vitality and avoiding chronic diseases.”
Plant Based Nutritionist and Personal Trainer Shawn Talbot, who owns NourishedBermuda. com, agrees.
Although he grew up eating meat on a regular basis, he too now consumes and promotes a plant-based diet for health reasons. “I never thought I would adopt a plant-based lifestyle,” says Shawn. “But when my father was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, I started researching for ways to help him get better.”
“Nourished Bermuda is definitely a passion project for me”, says Shawn. “My mission is to give people food that tastes good and feels good, and a diet that is high in the right proportions of fiber, protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats will do that for you.”
IS A PLANT-BASED DIET EXPENSIVE?
Although “vegan” food has a reputation for being expensive, both men agree that this not the case.
“Purchasing whole foods is still the most economical way to consume nutrient-dense food,” says Chef Trevor. “You can easily feed a family on a budget with things like brown rice, beans, broccoli and carrots, but trick is to know how to flavour them.”
It’s important to note that, as with any diet, while there are potential benefits to a plant-based diet, it’s essential to consult with a trusted healthcare professional before making changes to your diet, particularly if you are elderly or have underlying health complications to ensure you get all the necessary nutrients