Vegans tend to get some negative press. But what is it about choosing to substitute animal and dairy products with plant based foods that offends some of those around them?
Why should a vegan be treated any differently to a vegetarian, pescetarian or any other person for that matter? Perhaps it is down to those around them feeling sensitive to the fact that they aren’t as considerate to their planet as non meat eaters? Or do they find that those seeking plant based diets and promoting an end to animal cruelty are just attention-seeking?
Being a vegan during the last decade can’t have been easy in a country that is typically quite mixed when it comes to cooked food, known for its fish and chips, English breakfasts, Sunday roasts, pies, pasties and high tea. But why have so many people chosen this lifestyle? And what exactly is vegan food?
As a vegan, this dish might well be your food hell. But when will other’s come to realise the positives of meat-free eating? Photo credit: Rum Bucolic Ape on VisualHunt.com
It would have limited where you ate, where you shopped and, to some extent, how you lived your daily life and performed chores around the house. Nowadays, however, most people are accepting of vegans as a common western diet and conclude that these individuals have simply chosen a healthier way of life.
If you are a mixed eater and are drawn to vegan foods because of what you might have heard about animal cruelty and the numerous benefits to your health, then keep reading for more reasons to replace your ordinary meals with vegan recipes. If you are already a fan of fruits and vegetables, then you will probably thrive as a vegan.
It’s important to note that vegan-friendly products like tofu, soy, walnuts and spinach aren’t as foul as they are reputed to be! What’s more, when combined with other ingredients, they can be made into great sources of protein, good sources of calcium and much more, which the human body needs to survive.
While your ethical approach to eating may not be able enough to save the planet, you could wind up saving yourself a number of serious health problems. Not only is obesity a big problem among children and adults in this country, many more diet-related illnesses could easily be avoided by being more aware of nutrition and dietetics.
If you are a Telegraph reader, you may have come across the 2015 article by Anna Magee whereby she insists that going vegan, even for only two months, changed her life for the good.
Veteran meat eater Anna embarked on a 60-day meatless and dairy-free food challenge, making a transition to a completely vegan diet to find out just why some of the biggest celebrities of the world are turning to this craze. But is it really just a high-profile trend? Anna found out the hard way (or the easy way, as it happens!).
With the likes of Beyoncé and Jared Leto following vegan diets, perhaps two of the most admired celebrities for their looks, it just goes to show that there must be more to the vegan diet than just hearsay. And if they put their glowing skin and shiny hair down to avoiding meats and animal-derived products, I want what they are having please!
Although sceptical to begin with, Anna noticed a huge change in her body and her self esteem six weeks into the no meat programme, having lost 2kg of body mass and rid herself of muscle pains. Replacing animal protein with healthy carbohydrates, fortified foods and green vegetables, she felt more energetic, lighter, agile and no longer suffered from PMS (premenstrual syndrome).
By the end of her month and a half-long journey of becoming vegan, she had lost 6kg, her cholesterol had dropped to a healthy number, and the triglycerides in her blood had also been reduced, meaning she had managed, in just that short time, to cut down her risk of heart disease.
By the end of her healthy diet experiment, she had even started to enjoy the adequate variety of green leafy vegetables she had been exposed to, no longer craving the meat products she used to love! In fact, even though she can now eat meat, and allows herself to do so, she freely admits to not wanting to eat as much meat based protein and now feels drawn to the benefits of vegan cooking.
It is important to know that, while a life of veganism is optimal for some people, others can wind up with problems in their iron, protein and vitamin B levels if they follow the low fat vegan diet for an extended period of time, meaning that they need a range of additional supplements to get their nutritional requirements.
It us not recommended to go vegan during pregnancy, or while breastfeeding as your body may not be used to the changes in nutritional intake. If you want to adopt a healthier lifestyle when expecting, why not go semi vegetarian (introducing more leafy greens to your diet, eating fewer dishes with meat in them or simply try to eat more plants and less processed meat with all of your meals).
If you don’t want to base your decision on others’ experiences alone, then listen to the science.
A broad collection of evidence suggests that following a vegan diet could improve blood pressure, lower the risk of type 2 diabetes and result in healthy weight loss, when teamed with a suitable exercise plan.
By reducing our consumption of meat and increasing the amount of fibre and plant matter we eat, we could be faced with better health prospects like a much smaller risk of life threatening or life altering conditions such as diseases, diabetes, high blood pressure, hypothyroidism and cancer risk.
As previously mentioned, you don’t have to commit to a lifetime of eating salad, soups, quinoa, soybeans, seeds and nuts (not that you can’t find some super tasty veggie burgers on the market these days!). In fact, many classic desserts can be recreated in a vegan friendly manner and there are thousands of vegan baking recipes online.
The Vegan Society itself knows that there would need to be some big world health marketing intervention to convince everybody in the UK to adopt a vegan diet to reduce the physical and environmental impact of a traditional British or American diet, yet it is still adamant that it wants the country to know how beneficial a herbivore diet can be and to eat healthy.
As such, a few years ago it launched Veganuary, a campaign to get as many people as possible eating vegan for January alone, in the hope that they recognise the health benefits of vegan food, feel better in themselves and then choose to stay vegan.
In 2015, the campaign counted 12,800 participants (almost quadruple the amount from the year of the launch) of which more than half decided to continue with the philosophy throughout the remainder of the year.
If you are interested in taking part in Veganuary in 2019, or simply want to know more about the campaign, then take a look at www.veganuary.com which offers interesting facts and exciting recipes to keep your fire for Veganism alight throughout the month of January and beyond!
Veganuary 2018 was said to be a record-breaking year for the charity, so will you be a part of this growing trend and making the numbers for 2019 even more impressive? If you could be reversing heart disease just by making some diet substitutions, wouldn’t you like to try? Your health matters so start with switching your diet before you need to turn to medication.
International athletes like Meagan Duhamel, Zak Covalcik, Kara Lang, Mike Tyson as well as Britain’s own Helen Fines are also champions of veganism, with Tyson famously claiming that his vegan diet helped him to lose 140 pounds and get to his optimum health and fitness level. There are many more sports personalities who put maintaining their healthy body down to having a mixed vegan vegetarian diet, as recommended by professionals in the dietetic industry.
It’s not just celebrities and athletes raising the profile of vegetarianism and veganism, however. The Vegan Society confirms that at least 542,000 UK habitants are now following a vegan diet, an increase of 150,000 people since a decade ago. So, with the rise of veganism very clearly on many people’s minds, have the shops followed suit?
While doctors recognise that a vegan diet plan is not necessarily the right lifestyle choice for all, at least not for an extended period of time, the NHS features guidelines on how to follow a healthy vegan eating plan as part of its Livewell pages.
In this guide, recommendations are made to ensure that you are getting the most from this change in food choices and that you are still eating a healthy and balanced diet.
For instance, they suggest that you eat at least five-a-day (i.e. five portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables each day); that you base your meals on starchy carbohydrates like potatoes, pasta, bread and rice, choosing wholegrain wherever possible; that you do ingest some dairy substitutes like yoghurts or vegan cheeses and milks (ideally opting for low fat and sugar-free options); that you eat beans and pulses to keep your protein levels up; that you eat oils and spreads (however in small amounts); and, finally, that you keep drinking 6-8 cups of water a day.
The key to getting the right nutrients from vegan foods is to understand what makes up a healthy and balanced diet and planning your meals around this knowledge. The biggest risk for vegans is that they might experience a drop in essential nutrients like calcium, iron and vitamin B12.
If you are vegan and pregnant, it is all the more important that you eat well and ensure that you and your baby are getting the right amount of energy, nutrients and vitamins to keep you and the baby healthy, whilst facilitating the growth of your unborn child.
Since a vegan diet consists of mainly plants, or foods made from plants, you will more than likely need to source some vegan alternatives to fulfil your body’s needs.
For a list of places you can buy vegan food to everyday essential food items, You’ll find details on vegan alternatives, like vegan cheese, non-dairy milk, vegan chocolate and nut-based ice cream.
For ideas on which foods to play around with when going vegan, consider recipes containing fruits and veggies, soybeans, quinoa, tofu, spinach, broccoli, flaxseed, soy milk, almonds, walnuts, cereal, ovo, canola, beans, peas and salad, for example.
To reassure you that implementing a vegan diet plan for the first time isn’t as daunting as you might think, here are a few dos and don’ts for you to abide by:
|Eat whole, quality plant-based foods||Overload on vegan junk food - just because it is vegan doesn't mean it is healthy in quantity|
|Drink plenty of fluid - 6-8 glasses is the recommended amount||Forget about protein - there's a number of products you can incorporate into your diet to keep your protein levels up|
|Stick to your favourite recipes - just try to find vegan-friendly alternatives so as not to overwhelm you||Forget to treat yourself and dine out - with Veganism on the rise, there are many eateries that will now cater for vegan diets|
If you are feeling overwhelmed by the idea of changing your entire way of life as a result of following the vegan approach, then remember that it doesn’t have to be a difficult process. You’ll soon learn to adjust, and will most likely never look back once you’ve had a taste of vegan life.