How to be a healthy vegan

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Climate change is spawning a mass vegan movement in a way that concern for animal welfare never did. Animal Liberation was written in 1975 and until the last few years, veganism was a fringe movement with a bad reputation. Its impact has been small and slow. But this has changed with rising concern for the climate, the environment, and perhaps also for health. Veganism is becoming mainstream.

Sometimes I wonder what impact a massive shift to a plant-based diet will have on the health of the population. I think it will be a positive one overall, with less diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and cancer, but what about nutrient deficiencies? Fortunately many vegan foods are fortified with B12, a vitamin that vegans need to source from supplements or fortified foods. I have always bought a plant-based milk that is fortified with B12 but recently I discovered a delicious oat milk that doesn’t contain B12 so I’ve started taking tablets.

The Vegan Society produce a supplement especially for vegans that contains B12, iodine, vitamin D, and selenium. If you’re new to veganism and still figuring out how to cook vegan food and what to eat then I think it makes sense to take a supplement. A vitamin B12 deficiency is very dangerous and can cause severe neurological problems. This is easily avoided with a supplement.

Some people think it’s unnatural to take a supplement but if the choice is between a B12 supplement and statins to treat heart disease, I know which tablet I’d rather take. There’s also very little natural about the food system today and in particular, factory farming. Proponents of the natural argument would have a stronger case if they killed an animal in the wild then skinned and cooked it themselves.

A few weeks ago I tried to take a DIY blood test using one of those testing kits you can buy online. It was a bit of a disaster and the lab emailed me to say it was not viable but didn’t say why. I’ll never to do that again. Instead I found another company – Medichecks – who you can pay £39 to have a nurse come to your house to take the blood intravenously. I did that and my iron and B12 levels are perfect.