The great vegan diet ‘con’

However, meat, the high-welfare kind that Buxton would like to see us all eating, is expensive. “That is because our food system is skewed. If I were designing policies to make it affordable to eat properly, I would tax the hell out of the processed stuff and the empty carbs and the junk and subsidise the regeneratively farmed eggs and meat, and well-raised fish. And I would support farmers with active policies to transition to the best farming practices.”

First off, though, the anti-meat rhetoric has to stop. Encouragingly, diets such as the Keto (high fat and low carb) are growing in popularity for treating an epidemic of obesity and diabetes. In many ways, it and veganism are antithetical.

For Buxton, it’s a sign that as a society we’re rethinking how a healthy diet might be one that is balanced, fresh and unprocessed. “Eventually, I really firmly believe that if we pursue the regenerative path, we will eventually see fully sustainable, healthy meat available for reasonable prices.”

Is a plant-based diet actually healthier?

If you have a lingering feeling that meat, eggs and dairy are bad for you, you might be suffering from a hangover from the demonization of cholesterol in the 1950s. Today, eggs and dairy in moderation are considered part of a healthy diet, yet the reputational damage to red meat remains, despite there being no studies that conclusively prove it is bad for our health.

“Red meat gets lumped in with processed meat, which some studies have proved to be harmful. However, recent studies in the Annals of Internal Medicine [2019]which conducted a meta analysis of the full body of research, concluded that there was insufficient evidence to recommend reduced consumption of red or processed meat,” says Buxton.

There have been several critiques of the WHO report on cancer (2015), which is responsible for the notion that eating processed meat causes cancer, including one from a member of the committee that produced the report, who felt that it was not evidence based.

“The thing about the data for red meat is that, via epidemiological studies, it has been lumped together with other aspects of an unhealthy diet, such as the excess consumption of processed carbohydrates. Is it the meat producing the results or the bun, fries and cola consumed alongside it?” questions Buxton.

When it comes to veganism, she is concerned that a diet requiring additional supplementation (plant-based diets are deficient in nutrients such as preformed vitamin A, B12 and D, iodine, iron, omega-3, several essential amino acids and zinc) can be held up as healthier than a balanced one that doesn’t.

Plant-based milks require fortification with calcium and other vitamins; breastfeeding vegan mothers are encouraged by the Vegan Society to take supplements of B12, iodine, vitamin D and omega-3, and to increase their intake (requirements are 80 per cent higher than for other adults) by eating calcium-fortified foods and calcium- tofu. When we approached the Vegan Society for comment, a spokesperson said: “From a health point of view, a well-planned vegan diet can support healthy living in people of all ages, including during pregnancy and breastfeeding.”

A single egg, however, contains omega-3 essential fatty acids in DHA form, vitamins A, B6, B12, E, D and K, calcium, iron, zinc and many other healthy minerals. Take that, no-egg egg.

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