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Going Vegan: the Pros and Cons

In the town where I live, vegan cafes and restaurants are popping up everywhere. ‘Going vegan’ is suddenly a hot topic for all sorts of reasons, including ethical and environmental considerations. But is it a healthy option for someone with MS?

Most of the popular MS diets are low in saturated fat. A vegan diet includes only food from plant-based sources, and as only a few plants (such as coconut) contain saturated fat, this is a naturally low-fat diet. You will also be eating a lot more fruit and vegetables, making it much easier to reach the recommended target of five portions of fruit and veg per day As fruit and vegetables are packed with vitamins and minerals, this makes them extremely therapeutic for anyone with MS.

An adequate supply of protein is essential if you have MS, As a vegan diet eliminates meat, poultry, fish and dairy produce, you may wonder where your protein will come from.  Plant sources of protein include pulses (peas, beans, lentils, chickpeas); soya products; nuts and seeds; mushrooms and quinoa – a type of grain which is a complete low-fat protein. If you include a variety of these foods in your meals every day, you shouldn’t go short of protein.

You will almost certainly need to take supplements to replace some of the vitamins and minerals normally found in animal produce. These include vitamin B12, vitamin D, and Omega 3 fatty acids, all of which are extremely important for people with MS, who are often deficient in them even when eating a normal diet. Current research suggests that people with MS need a much higher daily intake of vitamin D than the average healthy person, and I will be covering vitamin D in a future blog. In the meantime, you can ask your GP to test your levels of vitamin D and B12, and your doctor or MS nurse can advise on dosages. Omega 3, which you would normally get from eating fish, can be replaced with one tablespoon per day of either chia seeds, or ground flaxseed.

If you decide to change your diet, it’s much easier to do it gradually. Start with just vegan breakfasts or lunches, or have an all-vegan day once a week. My own diet has been largely vegan for some time now, although I still eat fish. One thing I’ve noticed is that I have a much better night’s sleep after eating a vegan supper; less toilet trips and leg spasms leads to deeper sleep and more energy the next day.

You can find lots of helpful information on a vegan diet at the Vegan Society website, (www.vegansociety.com), and they have a selection of recipes to get you started. You can also find some delicious recipes in the cookbooks by Ella Woodward, who used a vegan diet to help her recover from a chronic medical condition.

BLOG - February, 2019