vegan is back, with thousands of people around the world going animal-free for the month of January. The movement, which encourages people to adopt a vegan lifestyle, started in 2014 and has grown rapidly since, with 629,000 people of 228 participating countries in 2022.
When it comes to internet searches, figures for 2020 show that the UK has the most Google searches for veganism in the world. In 2019 there were 600,000 vegans in the UK. And, according to the Vegan Society, that number is expected to continue to rise with vegans and vegetarians. predicted represent a quarter of the UK population by 2025.
Of course, veganism and vegetarianism emerged long before westernized veganism became popular. Vegetarianism was practiced as early as the 5th century BC in India, and it is strongly linked to a number of religious traditions around the world, such as Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism. And tofu, a well-known meat alternative, originated in China over 2,000 years ago.
With regard to vegetarianism and veganism, the basic principles are similar, both involve eating plant-based foods for environmental, ethical, health or religious reasons. But while vegetarians mainly exclude meat, vegans follow a much more restrictive diet excluding all products of animal origin as well as foods of animal origin such as milk, eggs and honey.
Benefits of veganism
There are several benefits attributed to a vegan diet as long as it is done correctly. It can help people losing weight and as with a vegetarian diet, was associated with a reduced risk of heart disease and certain cancerssuch as colon and breast cancer.
Vegan diets can also be high in iron, although the plant form of iron is not as “bioavailable” as meat iron, which means the body does not absorb it as efficiently as iron found in meat. products of animal origin. However, this intake can be boosted by combining vegetable iron with foods rich in vitamin C – like oranges, tomatoes and peppers – because vitamin C helps the body absorb iron better.
And the disadvantages
On the other hand, going vegan does not automatically guarantee good health. You could, for example, eat French fries with every meal and even if you are considered vegan, you would not necessarily be doing your body a favor. Along with the growth of veganism, came a increase in vegan ready meals – and these have added salt, sugar and fat to enhance their taste. Processed foods typically include trans fats and emulsifiers which can harm beneficial gut bacteria.
Poorly planned vegan diets may not provide enough niacin, riboflavin (vitamin B2), vitamin D, calcium, iodine, selenium, or zinc, all of which are important for maintain good health. Vegans may be at higher risk of becoming anemic due to lack of vitamin B12 and omega-3, which can lead to fatigue and an inability to concentrate, especially in young people. There is also an association between veganism and low bone densitywhich can lead to an increased risk of fractures.
If you wanted to change what you eat but don’t want to go vegan, the mediterranean diet is ranked among the healthiest in the world. Consider lots of vegetables, fruits, beans, lentils, nuts, olive oil, wholemeal bread, brown rice, and fish. This diet does not eliminate meat, but limit consumption.
There are growing evidence that following a Mediterranean diet is associated with general good health and may help protect against cardiovascular disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity. There is also evidence that it has a role in reducing the risk of certain cancers. And it was linked to less risk cognitive decline and depression.
What suits you
So Veganuary or not? While eating less meat, especially processed meat, is good for health, going vegan isn’t the only way to do it. As a nutritionist, I think that instead of focusing on a single way of eating, it is better to focus on a healthy and varied diet.
Indeed, everyone must understand what they eat to ensure a balanced intake, with the right amounts of proteins, carbohydrates, lipids, vitamins and minerals. This is all the more the case given that the health concerns are on the rise around the globe.
Ultimately, veganism is a way of life rather than just a diet, so switching to a vegan diet requires long-term commitment and planning. It should be carefully considered and done in an educated way to ensure that you are getting all the nutrients needed to sustain a healthy life.