As of January 2021, the total number of vegans in the world is approximately 79 million (this number is growing as more information about veganism filters into mainstream media). For years, people abstained from animal products for both cultural and religious reasons. However, modern “veganism” began with a 13-year-old English boy named Donald Watson.
In 1923, he was so horrified at seeing a pig slaughtered on his uncle’s farm that he vowed to never consume meat or fish. Eventually, he expanded his personal guidelines to avoid dairy and included not wearing leather // wool // silk, etc. In the 1940s, he co-founded the Vegan Society to spread awareness. Today the society claims that there are 600,00 vegans in the UK alone!
So, will being vegan make me healthier?
Many argue that eating meat helped our ancestors survive the rat race of evolution; however, that doesn’t mean it was the healthiest answer.
In some countries where meat-eating was the common diet, there has been a 5x - 6x growth in veganism over the last few years! Recent times have produced a “triple threat” of ethical, environmental, and health concerns which is leading to increased awareness and conversion rates. Even though many environmental studies are making it clear that eating meat significantly contributes to the storm cloud of climate change, surveys show that most people are making the switch not to "save the planet", but instead for the promise of “better health” long-term.
Plant-based diets have been linked to lower rates of obesity and longer lifespans. The more meat we eat (particularly red or processed meat) will yield higher risk of heart disease, bowel cancer, and Type 2 diabetes. Note – simply cutting out meat, fish, and dairy without swapping them for sensible alternatives is a recipe for malnourishment.
For example – your body struggles to absorb some nutrients (i.e., iron or calcium) from plants because they are tightly wrapped in molecular parcels that your gut simply cannot digest and convert alone. Eating foods rich in vitamin C help release iron from leafy groups, but vegans (especially if pregnant) need to be aware of their iron intake along with other nutrients. Taking vitamin supplements can be a good substitute for some cases, but do your research to ensure best results.
What if I want to give being vegan a try? What do I need to make sure I check all the boxes?
Great question, if you’re moving toward a vegan lifestyle // diet, it’s important to know where your nutrients are coming from. Below are some great references, but it’s always good to consult a nutritionist when you have questions.
- Vital to repair DNA and enable cells to burn energy
- Found sparsely in dried shiitake mushrooms, some algae, seaweed, and nutritional yeast
- Used by your blood cells to absorb oxygen from the lungs into your bloodstream
- Found in nuts, leafy greens, and whole grain bread
- Promotes strong teeth and bones, keeps your nerves firing, and your heart beating
- Can be obtained from calcium-set tofu, fortified soy, rice, oat drinks, dried fruit, and leafy veggies like broccoli // cabbage
- Essential for the production of thyroid hormones (these help regulate your metabolism)
- Plentiful in seaweed and iodized salt
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
- These keep your arteries clear and reduce risk of heart disease
- Found in flaxseed oils, soy-based foods, and walnuts.