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Veganism and skin health

By Denise Elliot

Eating a true vegan diet is becoming increasingly popular, and possibly more than a fad and here to stay. Substantially more artificial ‘meat’ products are appearing on our shelves, however this is not the only way to address it.

I believe it can be a positive diet for some, but does not suit everyone. We are different biochemically so we do not all have the same nutritional needs. It may even be that some people need meat for their wellness. Whatever the diet you choose, the basics of naturopathy do not change – focus on as much whole and fresh food as possible, with a wide variety in your diet, so that a broad array of nutrients are provided.

So is a vegan diet good for our skin health?

A vegan diet, being high in fruits and vegetables will be high in antioxidants (especially high coloured fresh foods), which are vitally important for our skin and a clear, glowing complexion.

Vitamin C is a ‘must-have’ antioxidant for collagen production, a major protein involved in connective tissue (skin being just one type) and is present in raw foods not cooked foods. Ageing gracefully becomes easier with antioxidants as they are our cellular protectors.

Acne and a vegan diet

For those who suffer from acne, some may find that dairy products flare it up. Removing dairy products from the diet could be an advantage for acne sufferers.

A vegan diet will also be lower in saturated fats, but this benefit is negated if quality fats such as omega 3 are not obtained. Without these oils, acne breakouts could occur, high blood pressure and weight gain could also eventuate.

One reason is because omega 3 always goes down an anti-inflammatory pathway, whereas omega 6 in some bodies has the capacity to move down an inflammatory pathway.

Omega 3 is appropriate for the heart, joints, brain etc., or anywhere we need an anti-inflammatory diet i.e. ageing.

Omega 3 is also a common deficiency because with a vegan diet often the omega 6 level is high (from nuts and seeds) and the omega 3 level is very low.

Flaxseed oil, walnuts and seaweeds have a place in the vegan diet, as they provide ALA (Alpha linolenic acid) which can convert to omega 3 in most bodies.


Fibre and minerals

Dairy and meat do not provide fibre, so removing them from your diet, and increasing your vegetable intake (high in fibre) means the bowels will work more efficiently. If a bowel movement is easy to pass, and well formed it can only be positive for all aspects of wellness.

Both vegans and vegetarians need to closely address their zinc, calcium and iron levels to make sure body stores are adequate.

Protein also needs to be addressed, as to whether it is being provided appropriately with all the necessary amino acids that make up the building blocks of our complete proteins, all vital for life.

Any dietary changes are best introduced slowly and ideally undertaken with professional nutritional advice.