Once the domain of hippies, veganism is now a popular lifestyle choice, with millions of followers worldwide. So if you’re thinking of ‘going vegan’, or just want to learn more about what it involves, grab a chai (with almond milk, of course) and keep reading!
In a nutshell, vegans don’t consume or use animal products or by-products. Like vegetarians, they steer clear from meat, fish, and poultry, but they go one step further, avoiding eggs, dairy and honey. It’s very much a plant-based diet. The most dedicated vegans also won’t wear leather, fur, silk or wool, or use cosmetics and soaps that contain animal products. As you can see, veganism is more than a diet – it’s a lifestyle that demands careful consideration of what you put on and in your body.
It’s a very personal choice, but for the most part, people make the change for health, environmental or ethical reasons.
One of the most common reasons for veganism is to reduce animal exploitation and cruelty. Many vegans believe consuming animal products is unnecessary, when there are other options available. Others disagree with the way animal products (like chicken or eggs) are farmed. As The Vegan Society says, “Preventing the exploitation of animals is not the only reason for becoming vegan, but for many it remains the key factor in their decision to go vegan and stay vegan.“ So, going vegan is a way for these people to take a stand for what they believe in, which we think is admirable!
More and more people are also turning to veganism to boost their health. There are plenty of studies that tout the benefits of a plant-based diet, saying it increases energy and focus, and promotes anti-ageing. The ideal vegan diet is nutritionally balanced, rich in protein, iron, calcium and essential vitamins and minerals – which is possible, even when you’re mostly eating plants! For instance, though meat is off the menu, chickpeas and lentils are fantastic sources of protein.
According to the Harvard Medical School, vegetarians and vegans consume less saturated fat and cholesterol than heavy meat eaters. They also eat more vitamins C and E, dietary fibre, folic acid, potassium, magnesium and phytochemicals. This means they’re likely to have a lower blood pressure, cholesterol and Body Mass Index (BMI) – reducing their risk of some common diseases in the Western world, such as diabetes.
Like with any diet or way of eating, take this information on board, but don’t take it as gospel. Veganism isn’t for everyone. It’s a commitment, sure, and one that can have huge benefits – if it suits your body and lifestyle.
Thanks to the growing vegan community, there’s a huge amount of support available to you, should you choose to go down the vegan route. Here are our top tips:
Ease into it. You don’t need to go vegan overnight. We’d suggest swapping cow’s milk for almond milk, butter for coconut oil, or red meat for lentils, and working your way up from there.
Do your research. It’s really important for new vegans to make sure they’re not missing out on any essential nutrients or vitamins as a result of removing certain foods from their diet. Be aware of the supplements you may need to take, as well of the fact that just because the packaged treats you buy (e.g. chips and desserts) are vegan, doesn’t mean they’re good for you.
Experiment. Look at veganism as an opportunity for you to tickle your tastebuds with food and ingredients you’d never thought about before. Use vegan cook books and blogs to inspire you to use new ingredients, or put a twist on the staple one!
What are your thoughts on veganism?