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Guest Blog by Dr Sally Bell

I want to make comment on the food giants marketing drive on Veganuary that is upon us again. I know it’s an emotive subject for some. I fully respect Veganism based on a view of the sacredness of all life, however, I struggle with some of the other reasons.

Let me outline my concerns as my food for thought:

1) The science around meat being ‘bad’ for us is seriously flawed:

Meat and full-fat dairy products are some of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet. The animals have done the work for us, providing food rich in nutrients that are easy for us to absorb.

In my work, I daily see nutritional deficiencies perpetuating diseases and robbing people of good health. It deeply concerns me, that as a nation, we are suggesting that removing such a fabulous source of essential nutrients from our diet is a benefit. Which leads me to my next point:

2) Last year, I picked up too many patients that had become unwell as a result of their switch to Veganism, particularly around the issue of mental health. On analysing their diets and blood tests, they lacked their basic protein requirements with common deficiencies in B12, Omega 3, iron and K2. Nobody seems to be talking about this.

While I believe you can be healthy on a vegan diet, many don’t understand that:

– plants proteins are not complete,

– that plants are less nutrient-dense,

– that the body struggles to convert plant-based omega 3 to essential EPA/DHA fatty acids,

– and that some vitamins are not found in plants.

Given the pressure of life, I witnessed a host of people doing Veganuary by giving up animal products and eating more pasta, bread and processed vegan junk food that is deceptively marketed as a health food.

3) If you have followed my blog, you will know of my love for our farmers and food producers here in the UK. I have written about the devastating impact of farming on our planet BUT the irony is that it is also the solution to recovering planetary health too. Agriculture is not the issue; it is the how we are doing it.

The information around meat being bad for the planet is short-sighted. This reductionist idea that Veganism is good for the earth and meat-eating bad is over-simplistic and misleading. It is a complex issue. Issues such as:

– How we grow our soya beans

– why we are importing 90% of our fruit

– the intense chemical farming of wheat and market vegetables

– the input for factory processed vegan foods

are also problematic.

And the high-intensity chemical farming of meat, with the animal, fed a diet not natural to them and grown in indoors, is also an issue.

If we are seeking to eat for the planet, blindly switching to Veganism isn’t the solution. The solutions lie in how we farm everything, where our food comes from, the processing of it and the packaging of it. Every province will have a different solution that respects the fertility, climate and culture of the land. After many years of working in Africa, I see their answer to healthy food and farming will be different from ours. We cannot keep reducing the solution to a one size fits all.

It is also clear animals are an essential part of the farming cycle. When grazed correctly, they can put carbon back into the soil, fertilise it, increase biodiversity as a result and restore the earth – through nature’s way.

These nutritional wars sadden me. It seems to only add to the confusion and disempower people from making positive changes.

I believe the vegan, free range, organic, regenerative and biodynamic movements are bound by the same desire. An end to industrialised farming and a food system that is cruel to animals, which is damaging to our health and the health of our planet.

Hear more from Dr Sally Bell at the webinar, Health through Real Food, being run by Free Range Dairy Network on 19th January at 7.30pm Register Here

About the author, Dr Bell, the founder of Dr Sally Bell, has 21 years’ experience as a medical doctor.

She is a GP with a speciality in lifestyle medicine. She has extensive international experience in providing healthcare in many different clinical scenarios. Drawing from her experience, Dr Sally Bell has developed the five foundations framework to help people recover their health. This approach focuses on personalised care instead of disease management.

Alongside her NHS work and private health clinic, Dr Sally Bell contributes on the BBC radio, acts as an advisor to the British Army on Wellbeing and campaigns for access to real food for all.

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