No longer the hippie-dippy butt of jokes, veganism is trending. Is it time to get on board the green train?
I grew up eating meat and three veg, and I loved it. But after seeing a particularly hideous video of a cow in an abattoir (that’s the most detail I will share with you), I’ve sworn off meat and become a vegetarian. Cool?
Every time I meet someone new and they find out that I’m a dreaded ‘veggie’, the conversation usually goes along the lines of, ‘I don’t want to be offensive, but [insert offensive comment here].’ However, lately the script has changed. I’m no longer the most annoying person in the room. Enter the vegan: people have started saying they can handle me being a vegetarian as long as I don’t become one of ‘those vegans’. I should thank them for taking the heat off me … but what’s all the hate about?
Those of you who aren’t yet on the vegan train could be on your way, with Google revealing a 90% increase in ‘vegan’ searches over the past year. ‘Veganism is rising in popularity because it offers benefits for personal health, environmental health, ethical food choices and great-tasting food,’ says nutritionist Lulu Cook, owner of Gut Feeling Holistic Health and Fitness Solutions. ‘After years of it being perceived as “extreme”, the word is out that it’s easy to enjoy a delicious, nutritionally balanced vegan diet.’
What actually is veganism?
According to the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), a vegan does not consume any product that’s derived from an animal. That means cutting out meat (obviously) – but it also means cutting out dairy products, eggs and even honey. Many also refuse to eat (or use) products made with animal ingredients such as gelatine, which can be found in (for example) lollipops.
But a vegan diet can have huge health benefits. ‘All of our macronutrient needs can be met by a vegan diet,’ says Cook, ‘and the research is consistent that plant-based
diets offer long-term health benefits such as a reduced risk of Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and certain types of cancer.’
Quit the hate
Contrary to popular belief, vegans don’t walk around with flowers in their hair; nor do they smell of hemp. In fact, in the past decade, veganism has transformed from a niche diet to a lifestyle that’s backed by everyone from Miley Cyrus to Chloë Grace Moretz. My own sister, Brooke, has been a vegetarian since she was 21, and over the past 18 months she’s converted to veganism. ‘My reasoning behind becoming a vegetarian (and eventually a vegan) was down to my love of animals, pure and simple,’ she says.
And while she admits that it can be tough when eating out, the hardest part is the criticism her nutritional preference attracts. ‘I get loads of nasty comments,’ she says. ‘I don’t preach about being vegan but when people find out that I am one, they always have to comment on my “extreme” eating. Also, people think I’m trying to say I’m better than them because I’m vegan, which is actually the exact opposite of veganism: we think everyone, including animals, is equal. Thankfully, as veganism becomes more popular, there seems to be a wider acceptance of it.’
Want to give veganism a try? Before you throw out the contents of your fridge, slow down. Cook says the key to successfully converting to veganism is to go bit by bit. ‘Start by switching out one meal a week for a vegan meal and exploring various meat alternatives,’ she says. ‘And be gentle with yourself when you don’t get it 100% “right”. Just like you would support a friend who’s trying to quit smoking, be your own cheerleader for the positive steps you’re taking, one bit at a time.’ ■