Did you know? Researchers from a 2018 study have found that adopting a vegan diet is the “single biggest way to reduce your impact on Earth.” Yes, simply by cutting out meat and animal products from your diet, you reduce your individual carbon footprint by a whopping 73%! Furthermore, global farmland use could be reduced by 75%, which would bring greenhouse gas emissions down and free up wild land lost to agriculture.
Before you cut out all meat products from your diet and go vegan, here some things you need to know, like foods you can still eat (and the foods to eat more of). In celebration of World Vegan Day (1 November), here’s everything you need to know about veganism.
What is World Vegan Day?
World Vegan Day was started by the Vegan Society, a group co-founded by English animal rights advocate Donald Watson. In November 1944, Donald came up with the word “vegan,” which was intended to replace “non-dairy vegetarian.”
In honour of Donald’s work, World Vegan Day is celebrated on 1 November each year. This day is not only dedicated to vegans but for people to raise awareness of the many issues that the world is facing regarding our food supply and its impact on the environment, such as the treatment of animals and the environmental effects of keeping livestock.
World Vegan Day encourages people to understand why veganism is important and it’s an opportunity for people to try out a vegan restaurant or dish.
The Rise of Veganism
Once considered a crazy idea, cutting out all animal products from one’s diet is quickly becoming mainstream, as people realise its health and environmental benefits.
We don’t know exactly how many vegans there are in the world, but we do have some numbers from different countries around the world. In the US, a survey found a 300% increase in vegans between 2004 and 2019, meaning that vegans now represent about 3% of the country’s total population, or nearly 10 million people.
In Germany, there are an estimated 1.3 million vegans, and a further 8 million vegetarians and in the UK, a 2016 survey found that the number of vegans rose 360% from the previous decade, and it is likely that this number is higher now.
With COVID-19, we learnt more about the connections between disease and meat consumption, which is hopefully encouraging more and more people to look at how much meat they eat and work to cut back on it.
*add fact about going vegan and reducing your impact on the environment here again*
Thankfully, this is becoming easier and easier, with the rise of plant-based meat alternatives like Beyond and Impossible Foods, as well as better education around eating a plant-based diet.
Benefits of Living On The Veg
We’ve long been told of the health benefits of going vegan. Here are just a few:
- A vegan diet is richer in certain nutrients, like fibre, antioxidants, as well as potassium, magnesium, folate and vitamins A, C and E.
- It can help you lose excess weight.
- It can lower blood sugar levels, lowering your risk of developing type 2 diabetes and improve kidney function
- Veganism may protect against certain cancers, like colon and breast cancer, since red and processed meats may promote certain types of cancer. In fact, eating at least seven portions of fresh fruits and vegetables per day may lower your risk of dying from cancer by up to 15%.
- Eating fresh fruits and vegetables, legumes and fibre is linked to a lower risk of heart disease – it may lower your risk by up to 42%. Vegans also tend to consume more whole grains and nuts, both of which are good for your heart.
Foods To Include On A Vegan Diet
Despite all these benefits, they can only come from a well-planned vegan diet! The most common nutrient deficiencies for vegans are iron, omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, vitamin D and vitamin B12. Those looking to make the switch to veganism need to choose whole plant foods and fortified foods, and they may also consider supplements for these potentially missing nutrients.
These are some foods you can eat to make sure you don’t have nutritional deficiencies:
- Calcium – spinach, kale, nuts, seeds, soya milk, raisins and prunes.
- Vitamin D – Besides the sun, certain spreads and many breakfast cereals.
- Iron – broccoli, watercress, spinach, lentils, quinoa and seeds.
- Vitamin B12 – fortified breakfast cereals, soya milk and yeast extract.
- Omega-3 – flaxseeds, chia, walnuts, hummus and tahini.
As we’ve mentioned before, if you are looking to become vegan, but don’t want to go into it “cold turkey,” ease into it by taking part in Meatless Monday, or substituting one meal a day with a vegan option, and then two meals, and then three. And most importantly, go easy on yourself. We’re aiming for progress, not perfection. By just cutting back on your meat consumption from four meals a week to one, that adds up to a whole lot of good! Being a vegan is an opportunity to discover so many different flavours and textures – keep it fun and interesting and you won’t feel intimidated by the change.
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