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What is Veganuary?
Do you think you could go vegan for the month of January? Since 2014, ‘Veganuary’ has been encouraging people to try a vegan diet for a month. Last year more than a quarter of a million people took the pledge and over 500 brands, restaurants and supermarkets supported the campaign.
A vegan diet is plant-based and excludes all foods that come from animals (fish, shellfish and insects) including dairy, eggs and even honey. A vegan will also avoid everything that exploits animals for entertainment such as visiting zoos, aquariums, dog and horse racing, as well as vanity including makeup, which may include crushed beetles, clothing such as leather, accessories and toiletries.
What are the health benefits of a vegan diet?
- Ultimately, by following a vegan diet, you’re benefiting yourself, animals and the planet compared to meat and dairy-based diets.
- A vegan diet can significantly lower your cholesterol and blood pressure by avoiding foods that are high in saturated fat such as cheese and red meat.
- Vegans substitute meat and dairy for other nutritional alternatives such as wholegrain, soy and nuts which are all good for the heart.
- A vegan diet includes lots and fruit and vegetables which are high in vitamins, minerals and fibre, all this can help reduce the risk of diseases such as bowel cancer.
- If you’re overweight or obese, going vegan or at least attempting veganuary could be a great way of losing weight. A vegan diet is very low in calories due to the absence of meat and dairy, so reducing the intake of these foods can help you maintain a healthy weight.
Are there health risks?
- As with any diet, you need to be careful and be aware of the pros and cons. A vegan diet should be well-balanced, providing all the vitamins and minerals you need to stay healthy. But there can be a risk of deficiencies due to the lack of calcium and vitamins B12 and D.
- Pregnant women and children need to take extra care when following a vegan diet. It’s very important that mother, baby and children are getting enough nutrients especially calcium and iron.
- Just because a vegan only eats plant-based foods, this doesn’t mean you can drink more alcohol or eat more sugar or greasy chips! Always maintain a balanced diet and aim for five portions of fruit and vegetables a day.
Trying veganuary and worried about how you’ll be able to eat your cereal and drink your tea? What about cheese and biscuits! Have no fear, there’s plenty of dairy-free versions and here are a few dairy swaps for you to try:
- Soy milk (nutritionally similar to dairy milk)
- Coconut milk (a tropical twist to other plant-based milk)
- Oat milk
- Almond milk (how do you milk an almond you’re thinking) this milk is simply made from almonds and water
- Rice milk
We need protein in our diets to help the body repair cells and make new ones. For a meat-eater, this is easy because protein is found in meat, fish, eggs and milk, so how do vegans get their protein? A common misconception about vegans is that they suffer from protein deficiencies, however, there are plenty of plant foods that contain the protein you need to stay healthy!
- Seitan (made from gluten, the main protein in wheat)
- Pulses (lentils, chickpeas and beans)
- Chia seeds
- Nuts (cashews, walnuts, almonds and pistachios)
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