Vegan /ˈviːɡ(ə)n/ Noun
A person who does not eat or use animal products. Example: ‘I’m a strict vegan’
Veganism is a dietary movement that is rapidly increasing in popularity. According to ‘The Vegan Society’, “interest in veganism increased seven-fold in the five years between 2014 and 2019”. With a record number of people signing up to take part in the Veganuary initiative (a whopping 500,000+ people in 178 countries at the last estimate) and the number rising every year – it’s clear to see that this is more than a passing fad. In the UK, we are currently seeing huge shifts in the dietary habits of our nation. Veganism is a million-pound industry worldwide and, according to the BBC, ‘The UK market for meat-free foods was reportedly worth £740m in 2018,’ this is up from £539m just 3 years before. With retailers like Greggs, KFC, Dominos, Papa John’s and all the big-name supermarkets offering vegan alternatives, the world is currently coming around to understand that vegans eat more than just kale and hummus, and that you don’t have to give up those guilty pleasures to adopt a more environmentally conscious diet.
So, what are the benefits of trying vegan?
There are many benefits of a vegan, or plant-based, lifestyle. There are many to list, so I will just give you the highlight reel here, but these should be enough to spark your interest, and maybe give you pause for thought when doing that next meal plan.
Environmental issues are the topic of our generation, and rightly so. More and more the consequences of our modern day lives are coming to the forefront of our consciousness, but it can be easy to become overwhelmed with so many terms and ideas being thrown around. The Curious Environmentalist was created to make environmental and conservation topics more accessible. My name is Rebecca, the founder of TCE, and as I am learning about the world around me and the problems it faces, I am sharing that knowledge in the hope that, together, we can make significant, long-term change.
This post was originally written by Rebecca Hansell for Small World, Big Cause in June 2020. It has been refreshed and edited for The Curious Environmentalist, December 2021. Enjoy!
Obviously being vegan you need to be aware of keeping a nutritional balance, but it is possible to get everything you need.
According to the Veganuary Instagram account (@weareveganuary), the impact of the estimated 350,000 people who are taking trying vegan this January includes:
- 41,200 tonnes of CO2EQ saved – the same as 450,000 flights from London to Berlin.
- 160 tonnes of PO43-EQ (Eutrophication) saved from our waterways – the same impact as preventing 650 tonnes of sewage in our waterways.
- 5 million litres of water saved – which is enough water to fill an Olympic sized swimming pool.
- 1 million+ animal lives saved – which is a pretty special achievement in itself.
It’s easy to get caught up in facts and figures – especially when they are this impressive – but, from a personal point of view, as someone who has taken part in Veganuary for the past few years – these are the real, everyday life benefits that I have found:
- Zero food guilt. You can load up that plate as tall as you like! It’s all goodness.
- Reduced bloating – this is a big thing for me, I have IBS and sometimes I look like I’m carrying twins?! Being bloat free is a breath of fresh air.
- Thinking more about flavour. You can’t make that mid-week pasta tasty just by adding a tonne of cheddar on top, so you end up trying new ways and new ingredients to add flavour – which can be a joy when you discover something new that becomes a go-to staple.
- Money in your pocket. If you think about what you are buying and you meal plan effectively then being vegan is CHEAP! Stash away the cash that you save and treat yourself, or those you love, to something a little bit special!
However, there are also a variety of health benefits for you, if you choose to try a vegan diet. According to ‘Healthline’ there are 6 major health benefits to note:
- An increase in your intake of nutrients, including fibre, antioxidants and a number of key vitamins. (Obviously being vegan you need to be aware of keeping a nutritional balance, but it is possible to get everything you need.)
- It can help you shed those extra pounds – a big reason for me why Veganuary is a yearly activity. I definitely have a bit of extra Christmas weight that I wouldn’t mind seeing the back of!
- It appears to lower both your blood sugar levels and improve kidney function. This is great news for those who suffer from type 2 diabetes and/or declining kidney function. In studies it has been estimated that a vegan diet can lower your risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 50-78% which is nothing to be sniffed at.
- It could protect you against certain cancers. Reportedly, one-third of cancers can be prevented, or the risk reduced through dietary factors. A study found that those who followed a vegan diet had a 15% lower chance of developing or dying from cancer. Research is ongoing but signs are promising that making more vegan choices is good all-round!
- It can lower your risk of heart disease. It has been estimated that a vegan diet can lower your chance of developing high blood pressure by up to 75% and lower your chance of dying from heart disease by 42%. The numbers speak for themselves.
- Changing to a vegan diet can help ease the pain felt from arthritis. It can also increase energy levels and the function of the affected areas. Participants in a study reported a greater improvement in areas such as pain, joint swelling and stiffness.
Where can I find vegan recipes and meal inspiration?
The internet is a wonderful place, full of communities for all sorts of weird and wonderful pastimes – it is not surprising that you will find a wealth of information online to help you with your Vegan journey of discovery.
Have a search and find your vibe, but here are a few good places to start:
Veganuary – www.veganuary.com
Cookie & Kate – www.cookieandkate.com
Connoisseurus Veg – www.connoisseurusveg.com
BOSH! – www.bosh.tv
Want to learn more about Veganism?
Again, the internet is great but can sometimes be a bit overwhelming. I find that reading a book or watching a film can be a much easier way to start off a new topic that I have chosen to learn about. Here are a few that I think might be a good starting point:
- BOSH! How to live vegan by Henry Firth & Ian Theasby.
- How To Go Vegan: The why, the how and everything you need to make going vegan easy by Veganuary.
- The Game Changers (2019) Available on Netflix.
- Forks Over Knives (2011) Available on Netflix.
Are you a vegan?
No, I am not a vegan. I am a vegetarian, but I do not judge anyone who chooses to eat meat, my live-in boyfriend eats meat and it really doesn’t bother me.
I believe that it’s a choice. I also believe that it’s about moderation and achievable goals. I try to make vegan choices where possible.
As a household, we buy nut milks and dairy-free butter on the regular and when we are out and about, we choose the vegan option where possible. Living a plant-based lifestyle isn’t for everyone, and I don’t believe in judging those who enjoy a roast dinner, a bacon butty or a pepperoni pizza – I would only ever judge those who are too closed minded to try something new, to expand their horizons and try an initiative like Meat-Free Monday or Veganuary.
Thinking about the food that we eat, where it comes from and the impact that it has, is going to be the norm – no matter what your dietary preference. Why not step out of your culinary comfort zone and take the chance to learn some new, delicious recipes to add to your repertoire?
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