From truck drivers to Lewis Hamilton, everyone is giving in to veganism - does that mean you should too?
There is no average vegan - they come from all walks of life and three of the reasons why people go vegan is - to benefit animals from cruelty, to be environmentally friendly, and to be in better health.
Veganism is a growing trend with lots of people wanting to know where their food comes from and what impact it has on the environment. If you haven't already considered taking up a vegan diet, it might interest you to know that going vegan has a tonne of benefits. It is the easiest way to help the animals around you and take up the life of a healthier, happier you!
It might not be an easy or a necessary switch but one may find that it is a much better alternative. If you prefer convenience food, simply replace the animal products with the many available vegan alternatives. There are literally a handful of appetizing vegan products like vegan sausages, burgers, mince, and bacon. Vegan cheese is also a thing. So why not?
When veganism started out, people who followed the trend were viewed to be pale hippies who roamed around in their sandals but now that the trend has picked up and surged into popularity, many people have been seen giving up their average western diet involving meat, dairy, and eggs to accept a lentil-heavy lifestyle. And they couldn't be more happy about it!
HGV driver Neil McGill, 30, since going vegan last year has proved that veganism isn't all about hippies clothed in hemp and following a nature-friendly lifestyle.
“I’ve had my fair share of teasing at work and from my rugby teammates, but I’m fitter, leaner and stronger than I was when I ate meat,” says Neil to The Sun, who was shortlisted for the UK’s Hottest Vegan competition.
If we were to go by statistics, by the end of 2018, there could very well be a million vegan converts in the UK, according to the Vegan Society.
“I’ve pretty much replaced all my favorite foods like pizza, lasagne and cheese toasties with vegan alternatives. It’s so easy now,” says Neil.
“And this is coming from someone who was a big meat eater. I didn’t think a meal was a meal unless it had meat in it.
"I’d have a bacon, egg and cheese roll every day for breakfast and when I’d get to the depot at the end of a job, I’d have a burger, pizza or chicken and chips in the cafeteria.
"But as soon as I watched the documentary Earthlings, I knew I couldn’t eat meat anymore.
"The dairy industry is even crueler than the meat industry, so after researching it for a few weeks I went vegan.
Now that our man has given up a life of fast food, he is likely to ask for potatoes and beans when he wants to snack up in the cafeteria after his shift. Some of his favorite meals include - lentil or soya lasagne, pizza, and cheesy pasta, made out of vegan cheese obviously.
Just like Neil, many have taken to the trend, inspired and motivated by pro-vegan Netflix documentaries like What the Health and Joaquin Phoenix’s Cowspiracy. These documentaries expose the cruel ways animals are dealt with and the environmental pollution that is caused by meat and dairy industries.
Others inspired to take on veganism have been motivated by the endless parade of food bloggers and celebrities who have made this practice all the more trendy. These celebrities include Ariana Grande, Liam Hemsworth, Miley Cyrus, Jessica Chastain and Natalie Portman.
There is a new year's resolution fad called the Veganuary where people take up the oath to lay off meat and poultry products and indulge in a strict vegan diet. A record of 167,000 signed up for this year’s Veganuary, pledging themselves to a vegan diet.
“Our research shows that 67 percent of people who try it intends to stay vegan,” says co-founder Jane Land.
“Will.i.am, Lewis Hamilton and Jermain Defoe all recently came out as a vegan, which just goes to show how mainstream it is now.
"It’s no longer that clichéd image of the sandal-wearing, dreadlocked hippy.”
It is now easier than ever to go vegan and one doesn't feel like they are giving up on mouth-watering dishes because the huge rise in veganism has seen a variety of product options at supermarkets and restaurants. Now you can buy everything from vegan wheat-based steaks to eggs made from plants and algae and green milk and cheese.
If you are a lover of junk food and are having a second thought about going vegan, worry not. For now, there is also a list of vegan junk food that one can stuff their faces with. Stuff like vegan sausages, 'bleeding' potato and pea burgers with beetroot juice.
And what's the best part about this? You don't have to think twice before eating them because they are all healthy options which are good for you.
It's a cheaper alternative too, says a newbie in the vegan community, Danielle Saunders, 27, from Birmingham, who used to love meat and worked in a well-known fast food chain.
“I thought veganism was for middle-class hippies who had lots of money and could indulge in faddy foods, not people like me,” she says.
“But my food bill has pretty much halved because grains, pulses, and beans are really cheap and you can buy them in bulk.”
So, how easy is it to be a healthy vegan?
“Most people are surprised how easy it is to hit their nutritional targets by doing a little bit of research and making some smart swaps,” says dietitian Heather Russell at the Vegan Society.
All it requires is for one to do their homework
If you are planning to stay off meat, you must find a way to replace all the protein and nutrients meat contains. This means choosing beans and lentils which are rich in fiber and protein. Choosing lots of vegetables, seeds, and nuts are also preferable, Russell says.
Despite the cliche that vegans are pale and puny humans, research has proven that people who practice veganism are much healthier than meat eaters. An Italian study in November 2017 found vegans was 15 percent less likely to get cancer - and also 25 percent less likely to get heart disease.
They also tend to be much slimmer even though their calorie intake is the same as that of meat eaters. This is probably because their diet is pretty low in saturated fat, which mostly comes from animal products. This is true because it is backed up with facts. Almost nine in ten people who went vegan lost much of their weight.
Keep a watch out for your nutrients
There are some pitfalls one must keep a lookout for. To remain healthy and receive the nutrition your body requires, you must make sure you receive four of the key nutrients present in meat and diary says Heather: selenium, iodine, the ‘sunshine vitamin’ D (she recommends a supplement, especially in winter) and vitamin B12, which is only present in animal products (and seaweed).
It may all sound like a lot to keep track of but the vegan society has introduced a VNutrition app that allows vegans to keep track of their nutrient intake.
You also need to watch your omega-3 intake, says nutritionist Fiona Hunter. This is the
essential fatty acid in oily fish that’s good for brain function and mood.
She also says: “On the whole, vegan diets are healthy but it’s not necessarily a given. Once you add a lot of sugar, salt, and fat and start processing the ingredients, that’s junk food. Even if it is vegan."
Just a couple of years ago, one may not have had the privilege of eating vegan junk food and it was a concept that was pretty unheard off which is why many took to believe that vegans mostly consisted of scrawny hippies who are in love with nature and their products.
But today, the vegan cuisine sports a variety of options that can make your mouth water and your stomach grumble with hunger. With a spread that spans out from burgers and mock-chicken to milkshakes and chocolates. There is literally everything! And pizza-loving drivers and fashionable celebrities all swear by it!
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