If there’s one lifestyle trend that has really taken off in the past few years, it’s veganism. In fact, it’s now estimated that as many as 600,000 people in the UK are following the vegan diet.[i]
One way that many people get into veganism is by starting with a monthly challenge, such as the increasingly popular Veganuary. First conceived in 2014, this challenge encourages people to become vegan for the month of January, eschewing all meat and animal products in order to lead a healthier lifestyle and cut down their individual impact on the environment and animal life. Since its inception, this movement has inspired more than half a million people to adopt a vegan lifestyle and helped campaign for better vegan options in restaurants and shops to cater for this lifestyle change.[ii]
In many ways this change makes perfect sense. From an animal cruelty perspective, a meat and animal product inclusive diet is pretty damning, and there are plenty of UK farming practices that don’t put the welfare of the animals first.[iii] The global farming industry is also decidedly detrimental to our environment in some ways (although in the UK it is much better than many other countries), and that’s not even to mention the carbon footprint left by transporting goods and shipping them overseas. There are also some proven health benefits of becoming vegan, namely that those who adopt this style of diet tend to cut out unhealthier food high in fat and sugar and concentrate instead on eating healthy foods such as fresh vegetables and grains. This means they are less likely to be overweight, and therefore escape the increased chances of developing diseases such as cardiovascular disorders and diabetes.[iv]
However, for all of these benefits, a vegan diet can also cause issues. Research states that in some instances vegan diets could actually encourage higher rates of tooth decay.[v] This is primarily because people following these diets are likely to not consume as much calcium as people who drink milk or eat cheese, and this can quickly lead to teeth having lower defence against plaque acids. Furthermore, a number of prominent foods in the vegan diet are starchy or acidic (grains, fresh fruit) and these can also encourage decay when eaten too regularly.
As such, it’s important to consider all aspects of your health if you are looking to change your diet in the New Year. There are vegan foods which are high in calcium, including calcium-set tofu, green leafy vegetables and certain seeds – these should be incorporated into the diet to make up any potential calcium deficiency. It’s also a good idea to continue to watch sugar intake –it’s worth noting that some vegan alternative foods and drink for meat and dairy products can have high sugar content or even more calories, such as the sweetened almond milk used by many coffee shops.
In the end, going vegan is
a big choice to make, and you need to ensure that you are making the decision
forearmed with knowledge. By exploring healthy ways to incorporate essential
nutrients into your diet, there’s no reason that cutting meat and animal
products will have a detrimental effect, especially on your dental health.
However, it’s something that needs to be considered before making the change.
[i] The Vegan Society. Statistics. Link: https://www.vegansociety.com/news/media/statistics [Last accessed January 2020].
[iii] The Vegan Society. Statistics. Link: https://www.vegansociety.com/news/media/statistics [Last accessed January 2020].
[iv] Bupa. Is Going Vegan Good For You? Link: https://www.bupa.co.uk/newsroom/ourviews/veganism-health-fad [Last accessed January 2020].
[v] The Daily Mail. How A Vegan Diet Can Lead to Tooth Decay. Link: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-7541013/Vegan-diet-lead-tooth-decay-warns-leading-dentist.html [Last accessed January 2020].