Veganism has been getting more and more popular over the years and with the beginning of the new year and January celebrated as Veganuary, it is the perfect time to explore the plant-based diet.
As it has also become a lifestyle, there are a wide range of benefits to the diet as well as some misconceptions debunked.
Numerous studies have shown that adopting a simple, whole food diet is good for the heart, for longevity and helps avoid critical conditions such as cancer and Type II Diabetes.
Vegans might be renowned for having good skin – but a side-effect of its growing popularity is the rise and rise of unhealthy, plant-based fast foods. While not as dire for the health or planet as red meat, some ready-made vegan food has been criticised for being unhealthy.
Even the most common (and beloved) fast-food chains, such as McDonald's, Burger King and KFC, have trialled and launched plant-based menu items. Like many foods, these should be eaten in moderation, but it is certainly worth trying them all – and ask yourself if you can tell the difference!
A whole food, natural diet helps digestion and has been shown to stave off gut issues and brain-related conditions such as Alzheimer's.
A vegan diet also has a remarkable effect on the environment.
Vegan athletes have been shown to perform as well, if not better, than their carnivorous counterparts and research suggests adopting a plant-based diet even extends its benefits to the bedroom!
However, the biggest benefit is simply the knowledge that every day, you are not part of the daily cull of billions of animals. On a personal level, many people switching to veganism feel healthier and happier. A trip to the store to buy only fresh fruit and vegetables is lighter on the wallet and your annual doctor’s bills could well be lower.
With all the benefits, there are many misconceptions surrounding the adoption of a vegan diet.
Many non-vegans automatically want to know how to add protein to the diet.
There are many plant sources that have protein. For example, broccoli contains more protein per calorie than steak and per calorie, spinach is about equal to chicken and fish.
Of course, it would take a lot of spinach to match the weight of a Tomahawk steak, but still, there’s a cornucopia of protein packed foods available to all including beans, tofu, grains, nuts and seeds and chickpeas.
Some people believe a vegan diet to be more expensive. If you subscribe to a meal delivery service or only buy ready-made meals, then it can be as expensive, if not more, than a meat-based diet but if you stick to the fresh fruit and vegetables, your health, your waist and your wallet will thank you.
Another common misconception is that if you go vegan, will you miss out on vital minerals, vitamins and nutrients although a carefully-balanced vegan diet contains everything we need to stay healthy, however everyone should consider topping up your B12, iron and take a regular multi-vitamin.
Many plant milk and other vegan foods including beans, leafy green vegetables, tofu and whole grains now come fortified with minerals and vitamins and cow's milk is not the only source of calcium.
It is worth doing a bit of research, but there is lots of information out there – including social media support groups – for those new to veganism.
Ananda Shakespeare, Founder of Dubai Vegan Days
Dubai Vegan Days were launched and conceived by Ananda Shakespeare, as a way of helping people enjoy and learn more about veganism, ethical living and how to live with more compassion. Each event brings people together to enjoy good food, good company and good products and hopefully encourage fun, learning and friendship. We encourage dialogue and information-sharing around veganism but are not preaching hippies.
For more information, visit the Dubai Vegan Days Instagram and Facebook.
Facts About Veganism