2019 has been dubbed by many activists and some media outlets as, The Year of the Vegan, and there’s plenty of evidence as to why. Veganism is on the rise. According to a research article in The Guardian, only four years ago it was estimated that there were 150,000 vegans in the UK and that this number has now risen to over 600,000 – according to the Vegan Society. Largely due to information spreading across social media, people are now able to make more informed decisions about the way they eat and the impact that certain foods have on the body.
So, is living a plant-based lifestyle good for your health? Well, it depends from where you source your information. You would do well to be extra vigilant when reading or listening to information from various surveys and stats around the UK. This is because many of them will be paid research funded by industry such as the meat and dairy industries. Surveys like this often omit certain information so that results lean in their favour – so make sure you are sourcing your information from neutral, independent sources.
It’s no secret that most health professionals will now tell you to cut down on your meat consumption. This is because meat, while being a source of protein, also contains moderate to high levels of saturated fats and cholesterol and have been linked to health problems such as diabetes, heart-disease and cancer. In an article by the Independent, according to an extensive research project carried out by Harvard T.H Chan School of Public Health in Massachusetts studying the link between eating meat and health risks such as heart disease, it was discovered that eating red meat three times per week increases the risk of an early death by 10%. So already, health experts are warning us that cutting down on meat consumption can go in our favour when it comes to a healthier lifestyle.
Vegan diets rely solely on plants. This worries some people because it isn’t widely known how plants can offer all of the nutrients that humans need to survive and thrive. However, a plant-based diet can offer everything that meat and dairy offers. Partly due to an increase in vegan options in supermarkets and food chains across the UK and beyond, there is now a huge range of options for plant-based vegans to choose from. Just a little research will show you that you can get protein from legumes, beans, nuts, tofu and meat-replacement products made from seitan, soy and tempeh. Cutting meat, eggs and dairy from your diet may seem like an inconvenience, but some of the cheapest and easily available foods are actually vegan: fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, pasta, rice, etc. And they are better for our health, reducing our intake of saturated fats and cholesterol. Most plant-based milks are also fortified with vitamin D, vitamin B12 (a vitamin which is essential to humans and more readily found in animal products), calcium and many more essential nutrients.
Overall, there is nothing nutritional or otherwise that meat, dairy and eggs can offer that plants and vegan alternatives don’t. In fact, it is likely that most people are nutrient deficient in one way or another, and many health professionals will advise that supplementing occasionally is only a good thing. So, stocking up on your vitamins, omega 3s and so on, should be a consideration for omnivores and vegans alike.
Switching to a vegan lifestyle might not be your first choice but, the research is clear, cutting down on the animal-based products you consume can drastically improve your health. Moving to a plant-based diet could help you lose weight, increase your overall health and actually have a hugely positive impact on the environment.