How adopting the UK’s Eatwell Guide recommendations could make you a healthier vegan

Read Time:   |  9th July 2021

Jasmijn de Boo, Vice President of ProVeg International, looks at the UK's Eatwell guide to examine whether Brits are getting the right nutrition they need to live longer lives

We all wish to live a long and happy life, and prevent our loved ones from falling ill or dying prematurely.

One thing that we can do to live well and extend our longevity is to switch to a plant-based diet. However, that by itself is no guarantee of good health.

Regardless of whether we live purely on plants or not, we need to make sure that we’re getting enough goodness from the food we eat.

But are Britons receiving enough nutrients and calories from fruits, vegetables, grains, pulses, nuts and seeds?

Recommended healthy diet from Eatwell

The following information is based on a recent article by Sara Patience about public implementation of the UK’s Eatwell Guide.

The guide emphasises drinking 6-8 glasses of water daily, with at least a third of calories coming from a large range of fresh fruit and vegetables.

As well as nearly a third of calories derived from starchy carbohydrates, around one seventh of calories from dairy or alternative proteins such as soya, one sixth of calories from fish, eggs and meat as well as legumes and nuts and seeds, a tiny bit of vegetable oils and fats, and the occasional snack or sugary drink.

Bearing these prescriptions in mind, the National Diet and Nutrition Survey measured trends over the nine year period from 2008-2017, and demonstrated that given the levels of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and obesity in the British population – that the Eatwell dietary guidelines are not being adhered to.

On the strength of the epidemiological evidence for the prevention of cardiovascular disease (CVD), a fruit and vegetable-rich diet should be consumed.

UK's Eatwell nutrition guide to live longer and healthier lives

UK's Eatwell nutrition guide to live longer and healthier lives

Is the UK getting the right nutrition?

However, the UK population is not meeting the recommended five-a-day portion of fruit and vegetables. All age and gender groups had fruit and vegetable intake below the recommended five-a-day guideline, while average intake of fibre also remained below recommended levels.

Researchers found that if everyone followed the Eatwell Guidelines, nearly 18 million Disability Adjusted Life Years (DALYs) would be saved.

Meeting the recommendations would lead to significant reductions of new cases of diabetes (by 440,000 cases in men and 340,000 in women), coronary heart disease (by 170,000 and 94,000 cases), strokes (80,000 and 84,000), and colorectal cancer (110,000 and 60,000), as well as 40,000 cases of breast cancer in women.

The article also included reference to an Australian study of ageing, which found that only 15.5% of the participants had aged successfully (defined as high physical, psychological and social functioning in old age without major diseases).

Those who followed the dietary guidelines most closely had a 58% increased likelihood of ageing successfully, with fruit consumption making the most difference.

Pandemic consequences

Another recent study across Europe found that people in the UK, in line with the rest of Europe, increased their consumption of fresh fruit and vegetables during the pandemic – up 33% and 31% respectively, compared with before the outbreak.

But, being housebound also meant that the British were snacking more and drinking more alcohol than people in other European countries. The largest rises were in the consumption of convenience foods (29%), alcohol (29%), and ‘tasty treats’ (34%).

The article also included reference to an Australian study of ageing, which found that only 15.5% of the participants had aged successfully (defined as high physical, psychological and social functioning in old age without major diseases).

Those who followed the dietary guidelines most closely had a 58% increased likelihood of ageing successfully, with fruit consumption making the most difference.

Moving forward

We need to support people with the tools to make healthier food choices, including appetising and nourishing recipes, as well as information on where to buy good food in bulk and how to cook healthily. And we need the food sector to take responsibility for healthier products, including in marketing and promotion activities.

We are starting to see promising examples of such behaviour, such as retailers and large companies setting ambitious sales targets for plant-based products.

However, we also need regulations, including a levelling of the playing field for plant-based products, and the ending of subsidies and other incentives for unhealthy (and frequently environmentally damaging) animal products.

While we don’t have to eat or play by the rules all the time, by paying attention to healthy eating guidelines such as the Eatwell Guide, we can all live better and help others to live longer, healthier, and happier lives.

Ready to start your vegan journey? Try these 11 steps to become a happy, healthy vegan

Written by

Jasmijn de Boo

proveg.com/

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