Veganism is on the rise… Could it be because of 2020 events, leading many people to realise the effects of climate change and/or the importance of being healthy? I don’t know about you but that was definitely the trigger for me. I started doing more research about our impact on the environment and how we could save the planet. David Attenborough contributed a lot in people’s awareness with his movie “A life on our planet” where he advised everyone to adopt a more sustainable diet based on plants. Veganuary (Vegan + January) aims at educating non-vegans about veganism by creating a community of people who will share their feedback, tips and recipes throughout the month. Veganism is actually way more than just a diet but I’m going to focus only on food & nutrition in this post.
Why is it a good idea to take part in Veganuary?
It gives you the opportunity to try something new
If you eat a lot of meat and dairy (like I used to), it seems daunting to stop consuming any products derived from animals. You’re probably thinking: “It includes too many foods I love, how can I be happy eating lettuce every day? I want to keep enjoying food and have a normal social life! It’s not worth such a huge sacrifice”. Veganuary is here to give you the opportunity to be open-minded and try a vegan diet just for a month, with the help of people who have done it before. How many times have you had a strong opinion on something before even trying, then changed your mind after you finally tried?
It’s the right time to do it
There are 3 possible reasons why someone would decide to become vegan (even for a month): for the environment, for the animals, and/or for their own health. I think it’s extremely important to know and remember why you’re doing it. To me, it would be all of these reasons. Not everyone would find this diet suitable (and that’s fair enough), but at the very least everyone should open their eyes on what it’s really about. Switching to a diet powered only by plants is like re-learning everything you thought you knew about food & nutrition. It’s quite difficult in a non-vegan and extremely industrialised world where meat and dairy are everywhere. My main concern is how it will impact my social life when eating out. But we are being locked down anyway (at least in England…) so it’s actually the perfect time to do it!
There is a huge community online here to help
This month, more than 500,000 people committed online to do Veganuary and we can expect even more people doing it by themselves without signing up. It breaks the record of 400,000 people who registered in January 2020, across 192 countries. It means the food industry has to follow the trend and offer more interesting no-meat options, more restaurants will offer additional vegan meals, etc. There are tonnes of vegan recipes online and advice on where to start, but what’s better than a community of open-minded non-vegans who share their own tips & feedback on their findings? It’s not always that obvious what’s vegan or not, so there are also some mobile apps and tools online to help you check if you have any doubts: isitvegan.net, doublecheckvegan.com or barnivore.com (for alcoholic drinks).
The impact it had over the past 7 years is powerful
Since Veganuary was created in 2014, this is the impact the previous one million participants had on the planet:
- 103,840 tonnes of CO2eq saved – which is equivalent to driving around the world almost 15,000 times
- 405 tonnes of PO43-eq (eutrophication) saved – which is the same as 1,645 tonnes of sewage
- 6.2 million litres of water saved – which is the same as flushing the toilet almost half a million times
- more than 3.4 million animals were saved
Even if you’re not prepared to make such a drastic change in your life, think about how much positive impact it would already have to do it just for a month! And who knows, you might feel healthier too.
Becoming aware takes a lot of intellectual humility
There are many preconceived ideas when it comes to veganism. I would know because I was among the ones who thought they would never be converted… ever. And yet today I’m writing about veganuary and why you should do it too. Everything changed in my head after I did my own research and found out I was wrong. Until then, I made the mistake to automatically discount any information that was conflicting my own beliefs, even if it was objectively more credible. So I wanted to share 3 important facts:
You don’t need to eat meat to get enough proteins
“Where do you find your proteins?” is a very common question, because we’ve been told our whole life that proteins only come from animal products. Now I know it upsets vegetarians & vegans and I finally understand why. Plants do have all the essential amino acids we need in our daily protein requirements. Think about it this way: if all creatures need protein to live, then where are the plant-eating animals (such as cows, bulls or oxen to name just a few) getting their protein from? The answer is simple: plants.
You don’t need to drink dairy milk to get enough calcium
Most of us were encouraged to drink milk to get strong bones, because it’s a great source of calcium. It was definitely a big part of my childhood, until I realised I didn’t digest it very well. Not surprising, given the fact that 70% of the global population is indeed lactose intolerant. It strikes the question: do we really need dairy milk? I don’t think so, especially if we look at the many alternatives we have available that are way healthier and at least as rich in calcium than dairy. I compared 4 vegan milks in this post if you’re wondering which one you should go for.
Vegan food is actually very varied
The main reason I always discarded a vegetarian, or even worse, vegan diet, is that I’ve always been a fussy eater. I dislike most vegetables like mushrooms, broccolis or any sort of green leaves, which I don’t think I’ll ever like. But by going through all ingredients that could be part of a very healthy vegan meal, I have to admit I haven’t tried half of them yet. For the ones I’ve never been forced to eat when I was a kid, there is a chance I will actually learn how to appreciate them as an adult. I’m actually excited to learn many new recipes and find new flavours I like! So far, I have loved every vegan meal I’ve had!
Somehow it seems to make me feel fuller without the heavy, sluggish feeling I used to have after eating meat. I also feel happier and proud to make a positive contribution to all living beings, as well as my own health. But doing it at home is easy. I will use the extra time in lockdown to become knowledgeable enough to keep doing it in social life (the hardest part), among meat lover friends, colleagues and family. I even considered opting for a flexitarian diet for that reason, but making exceptions whenever suits me is probably not the right way to fully commit to it. Plus I don’t really have any excuse, I live in London, the most vegan-friendly city in the world. If others can do it, I also can!
Educate yourself before making your mind up
Doing your research is the only way to understand why some people would give up on all animal products. Are they crazy? I will let you be the judge of that. Below are some useful resources so you can make up your own mind with a much better knowledge.
- Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret
- What the Health
- The Game Changers
- Forks over Knives
- Simply Vegan, the complete stress-free guide to navigating a new vegan lifestyle, by Vanessa Gardener
- How not to die: Discover the foods scientifically proven to prevent and reverse disease, by Michael Greger
- Meathooked: The history and science of our 2.5-million-year obsession with meat, by Marta Zaraska
- Some we love, some we hate, some we eat: Why it’s so hard to think straight about animals, by Hal Herzog
- Eating animals, by Jonathan Safran Foer
- Why we love dogs, eat pigs and wear cows: An introduction to carnism, by Melanie Joy
- Hot for food
- Pick up limes
- They have a very useful and free downloadable grocery list (and much more) here
- Cheap lazy vegan
- Mic the vegan
- The little London vegan
Hopefully this is useful to the curious minds among you! But if you’ve adopted a plant-based / vegan diet already and have any more advice or recommendations to give from personal experience, please feel free to do so in the comments below!
Big Girl x