No longer the hip­pie-dippy butt of jokes, ve­g­an­ism is trend­ing. Is it time to get on board the green train?

Cosmopolitan (South Africa) - - CONTENTS - BY MOR­GAN REAR­DON

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.’ ■

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