A whopping 63.5 per cent of us Brits bought vegan food last year, with the increasingly popular diet showing no signs of slowing down.
Many high-profile celebrities have sung its praises, from Billie Eilish and Benedict Cumberbatch to … Bear Grylls?
While the outdoor adventurer, renowned for his hunting expeditions and living off the land, may not be your first idea of a vegan – he very much used to shout it from the rooftops.
He told GQ magazine: “I was a massive advocate of the vegan lifestyle for years, and wrote a book on it, but my health tanked on it,” he said.
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“When I got Covid a couple of years ago, I doubled down on what I thought was healthy — raw juice, vegetables — and got mega-sore kidneys, almost kidney stones.
“The more research I’ve done, I’ve noticed raw vegetables are really not good for you.
“I’ve started incorporating quality grass-fed steak and liver. My lunch is meat, eggs and dairy, a lot of butter, and fruit.”
The 48-year-old, interviewed by Louis Theroux this week on the BBC, added he was very much “against nuts… against grains, wheat, and vegetables … they affected my health negatively”.
Are raw vegetables actually bad for you?
According to health website back2health, many people who eat raw food can suffer from gas, constipation, bloating, insomnia, dry skin, decreased vitality, feeling cold and low libido.
“Raw foods are primarily cold, dry, light and rough – so eating too much of these puts extra pressure on how well our digestion works. This leads to poor absorption of nutrients, lack of nourishment to our tissues and imbalances in our body”, it says.
Yet eating your fruit and vegetables raw is sometimes the healthier option.
For example, cooking tomatoes for a mere two minutes slashes their vitamin C content by 10 per cent.
However there are some vegetables which offer useful health benefits when they’re cooked – such as carrots and asparagus.
Heating them up makes it easier for our bodies to benefit from the food’s antioxidants.
The same can be said for cooking tomatoes: cooking them helps to break down the plant cell walls, allowing us to more easily absorb the antioxidant lycopene.
The benefits to keeping it raw
There are definitely some vegetables which are better for you when eaten raw.
For example, heating broccoli and watercress damages an important enzyme, which weakens the potency of beneficial compounds called glucosinolates.
Therefore it’s best to add the herb just before you finish cooking rather than at the start.
If you’re aiming to lose weight, chomping down on some raw fruit and veg can help fill you up because such uncooked produce tends to be bulkier and contain more water.
What does a vegan diet actually involve?
The NHS explains a vegan diet is based on plant foods, such as vegetables, grains, nuts and fruits.
“You can get the nutrients you need from eating a varied and balanced vegan diet including fortified foods and supplements,” it states.
A healthy vegan diet will still need to contain at least five portions of fruit and vegetables every day.
It’s important to note that main vegan meals should be based around wholegrain varieties of potatoes, rice, bread, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates.
It is beneficial to add fortified dairy alternatives, such as yoghurts and soya drinks.
The NHS recommends to eat nuts and seeds rich in omega-3 fatty acids – such as walnuts – every day.
And it advises to choose unsaturated oils and spreads, and eat these in small amounts.
A vegan diet needs to be packed with fortified foods or supplements as they contain nutrients that are otherwise more tricky to get hold of. Examples include: vitamin D, vitamin B12, iodine, selenium, calcium, and iron.
“If you do not plan your [vegan] diet properly, you could miss out on essential nutrients, such as calcium, iron, vitamin B12, iodine and selenium,” the NHS cautions.
Can being a vegan cause kidney stones?
Austin-based urologist Dr Shaw says that most kidney stones are made from calcium oxalate.
“Certain foods that are staples of vegan or plant-based diets are high in oxalates that can cause kidney stones to develop,” he told the Austin Urology Institute.
“Leafy greens and veggies are common in a vegan diet, but unfortunately they’re also high in oxalates. If you’re looking to prevent kidney stones while on a vegan diet (or any diet, really) try to avoid or limit the following foods: Rhubarb, spinach, strawberries, wheat bran, nuts, beets, dark chocolate and tea.”
What causes kidney pain?
The American Kidney Fund says there are many different causes behind kidney pain.
It could be anything from dehydration and kidney stones to a urinary tract infection or actual injury to the kidney.
Anyone suffering kidney pain is advised to see their GP.
Kidney stones are fairly common, with more than 1 in 10 people affected. They happen when waste builds up in your blood and sticks together in your kidneys to form clumps.
Larger stones can be troublesome to pass, so surgery might be required to get rid of them.
What do YOU think? Are you a vegan? How has the diet affected you? Let us know
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