With World Vegan Day at the start of this month (1st November) and COP26, in Glasgow, going on, there is no better time than the present to investigate Veganism and the benefits.
Essentially a vegan diet eliminates all animal products, cutting out not just meat and fish, but also eggs, dairy, and all animal by-products. This inevitably leads Vegans to rely heavily on other foods in the form of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, peas, nuts, and seeds.
In the UK today, there are an estimated 3.9 million vegans which is approximately 3% of the population.
Going vegan does not mean that you must eat alone, as the diet’s popularity has increased, so has its accessibility. This is reflected by delivery courier ‘Deliveroo’ who noticed that the number of vegan restaurants on its app has more than doubled in a year with over 12,000 restaurants offering vegan friendly meals.
According to the NHS, vegan and vegetarian diets are associated with lower risks of certain health problems, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol and obesity. They are less likely to become obese as cutting out meats and cheese means there is less intake of saturated fat. The diet is also linked to lower rates of Type 2 Diabetes and certain cancers.
Although people worry that the lack of calcium and with being a vegan could lead to Osteoporosis, foods like kale and broccoli are in fact just as rich in calcium as dairy. Another common misconception is that vegan diets don’t contain enough protein, foods like beans, lentils, tofu, soya, peanuts are rich in this too. Since these foods make up a larger proportion of a vegan diet than a typical Western diet, they can also contribute to a higher daily intake of certain beneficial nutrients: potassium, magnesium, folate, and vitamins A, C, and E.
Beyond the health and wellbeing of our own bodies, making vegan food choices can also help the health of our environment by lowering their carbon footprint. Conservative estimates show that animal agriculture is responsible for 14.5% of greenhouse gas emissions—more than planes, trains, and motor vehicles combined. Factory farming is responsible for emitting an enormous amount of greenhouse gasses, including potent gasses like methane, that play a pivotal role in global warming.
Despite these benefits, there are limitations. Newly declared vegans are often surprised by how hungry they are and aren’t sure how to make up for the lack of calories. This leads them to eat large amounts of high-sugar or high-fat foods, including packaged vegan snacks that look and sound healthy. There are also nutrients that are hard to get without animal sources including vitamin B-12 which can cause weakness and fatigue, contributing to both bone and muscle loss.
It’s no surprise that Veganism is most popular among younger generations, due to their increased availability of information online. People are saving on their shopping bills; vegan products use grains, nuts and seeds which can be bought in bulk and have much longer use by dates. It’s becoming apparent that Veganism is not just a trend and that in years to come, meat-free food consumption will become even more popular. After all, it does encourage you to eat more fruits, vegetables and healthier foods but most importantly, it is inspiring people to experiment more in the kitchen!