Will a vegan diet on children is safe for your health? Or will that have negative implications? Discover all in our article.
“Diet vegan” or “Veganism” is a term used to describe a dietary pattern that includes exclusively plant foods, whose interest has been extended to layers, more and more young. But what will be the pros and cons of a vegan diet on children and teenagers?
VEGANISM: WHAT IS IT?
Veganism, also known as strict vegetarianism is a type of vegetarianism that excludes all foods of animal origin or produced from animals.
In this context, in addition to meat and fish, a vegan excludes from eating dairy products, eggs, honey, gelatin of animal origin, insects, molluscs, crustaceans, and all products containing them.
Also processed products that contain ingredients and additives of animal origin such as for example, albumin, animal fat, dyes (such as E120), casein and glycerin, are excluded from a vegan diet, although they might be suitable for an ovo-lacto-vegetarian (in which they are allowed eggs and dairy products).
In this sense, the basis of a vegan diet are always whole grains (including brown rice, millet, buckwheat, quinoa, which have not experienced the process of refining), vegetables, legumes, dried fruits and oleaginous, seeds and fruit.
BENEFITS OF A VEGAN DIET IN CHILDREN
The adoption of a vegetarian diet is often related to issues of health, protection of animals, environmental reasons, religious, and ethical reasons, among others.
In respect of health, in recent years, accumulated scientific evidence in favor of increasing the presence of products of plant origin in the feed.
In fact, consistent data suggest that populations with a consumption of unique products of plant origin seem to be less likely to suffer from obesity, diabetes, hypertension and dyslipidemia, problems increasingly prevalent in today’s society and in the age pediatric.
THAT SHOULD BE THE BENEFITS OF A VEGAN DIET?
This is due to the exclusion of animal products, usually rich in saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol, as well as processed products high in salt and sugar, whose negative impact on the level of health is unanimously proven.
On the other hand, the higher intake of foods rich in fiber, complex carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals, antioxidants and phytochemicals (compounds with antioxidant properties and anti-inflammatory, able to protect the cells), promotes a better functioning of the body and increased longevity, these benefits are more relevant than the harms associated with excessive consumption of products of animal origin
However, it is necessary to note that any type of vegetarian diet is, as a rule, associated with a healthier life-style, in the measure in which also excludes alcohol and tobacco use, and promotes greater physical activity.
It is, therefore, noteworthy that both aspects, food and “not food”, provide health benefits and may be confounding factors when comparing the health benefits of dietary patterns of vegetarians with other non vegetarians.
VEGAN DIET ON CHILDREN: RISKS AND POSSIBLE SHORTAGES
However, and in spite of a vegan diet in children can lead to health benefits, it is known that any diet that restricts certain foods or food groups can cause nutritional deficiencies with health consequences, if not planned well.
In fact, certain nutrients, found mainly in foods of animal origin, such as protein, iron, zinc, calcium, vitamin B12 and vitamin D may be in deficit, particularly when it comes to the adoption of a vegan diet in children and adolescents.
Thus, the removal of food of animal origin must always be balanced with plant foods of similar nutritional value.
As such, the main secret of a vegan diet success is to combine the food so get all the essential nutrients.
HOW TO MAKE A VEGAN DIET IS APPROPRIATE FOR CHILDREN AND ADOLESCENTS?
For a vegan diet be appropriate for children, you should take into account the specific nutritional needs of this age group, the degree of physical activity practiced and the bioavailability of the nutrients provided by plant foods.
To design a power vegan appropriate for children and adolescents it is important to take into consideration the following aspects:
- The power should be complete, balanced and varied.
- The energy intake should be appropriate (the inclusion of foods that are energy dense, such as legumes, nuts and creams of nuts (peanut butter, cream, hazelnuts, etc.).
- The fibre intake should be monitored, since in excess it may impair an energy intake suitable and interfere with the bioavailability of some essential nutrients.
Protein is an essential nutrient for the growth and development of a child. She is the pillar of construction of the different tissues, namely, muscle tissue and bone, is a constituent of the hormones that plays a vital role in the body and enzymes necessary to normal metabolism. As such, it is necessary to ensure the contribution of quality protein to replace the protein of meat and fish.
In this sense, soy, tofu, seitan, tempeh, vegetable drinks are protein sources to focus on, there are still several sources of plant proteins incomplete, in particular, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds, which, when combined, can provide all the essential amino acids.
OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS
The needs of omega-3 are increased in children, since this type of fatty acid is essential to visual acuity and brain development, and whose disabilities result in learning difficulties.
Children who practice a vegan diet can obtain the required doses through dried fruits, algae, seeds and seed oils, like flaxseed and olive oil. However, in many cases, it may be necessary to resort to supplementation.
Since our body uses more efficiently the iron of animal origin, these children are at greater risk of developing anemia.
One way to increase the bioavailability and absorption of iron of vegetable origin is to add to the diet foods rich in vitamin C, at the time of ingest sources of this mineral, as is the case of the spinach, beans and citrus fruits.
CALCIUM AND VITAMIN D
Being the calcium and vitamin D, two nutrients essential to bone growth and being at the age pediatric a phase of steep growth, it is necessary to ensure an adequate intake of the same. However, in spite of the green leafy vegetables and dried fruits are a good source of calcium, this mineral is not as well absorbed by the body.
In the case of vitamin D, the inclusion of seeds and nuts, coupled with a good exposure to the sun, can help meet the needs of this vitamin, although, as a rule, are not sufficient to ensure the satisfaction of children’s needs.
In this case, the use of calcium supplements and vitamin D, as well as fortified foods in these nutrients becomes essential.
A higher consumption of whole grains, as happens in this dietary pattern, may interfere with the absorption of zinc by the body, an important mineral for the development of the children.
To meet the needs of this mineral, the intake of legumes, nuts, products derived from soybeans, wheat germ, and cereal full should be encouraged.
Although some fermented products, and some vegetable drinks enriched contain vitamin B12, vegetarians are at serious risk of ingesting insufficient amounts of this nutrient, since this is a vitamin essentially the animal (present in meat, offal and seafood).
In the case of this vitamin is required particular attention, being, in most cases, necessary to resort to supplementation to meet the specific needs of the child.
- A vegan diet on children, just like any other diet, has pros and cons.
- The most important thing is that the diet is well planned and supplemented, if necessary, so as to prevent the occurrence of nutritional deficiencies.
- It is also important to emphasize that the regular surveillance of the nutrition status and health is the best means of early identification of variances nutritional age pediatric that may have negative consequences in the short and long term.