With more people every year choosing to cut out or cut down their meat consumption, Veganism is quickly becoming a hot trend in health and well-being. As we’ll find out in this article, however, veganism is so much more than just a diet.
The Heart of Veganism
A vegan is an individual who is entirely-plant-based. Their diet excludes all animal protein and products, including eggs and dairy, gelatin, and even honey, alongside meat and fish.
At its heart, however, Veganism is not just a dietary choice. According to The Abolitionist Approach to Animal Rights, Veganism is a “moral and political commitment to abolition” extending to “clothing, other products....(and) personal actions and choices”.
Vegans are passionate about reversing the damage that global meat, dairy, and egg production is causing to the environment and are committed to making sustainable choices that prioritize planet earth's well-being.
Reasons for going Vegan
There are numerous reasons why people choose to adopt a vegan lifestyle, which are rooted in ethical, personal, and environmental concerns. The values of veganism extend to the clothes they wear, the cosmetics and beauty products they use, and their medicines.
Misrepresentation in popular culture aside, vegans celebrate life, all forms of life. The welfare of animals is the driving force behind veganism, as a diet and lifestyle free of animal products and by-products will minimize exploitation of and cruelty to animals.
Instead of using animals for the benefit of humans, vegans seek to find cruelty-free ways of living that benefit humans, animals, and the planet alike.
Concern for the ongoing environmental devastation generated by the animal agriculture and fishing industries is another crucial reason why vegans make the lifestyle choices they do. These industries take vast amounts of resources to sustain, which, in turn, places a strain on the environment, contributing to the destruction of natural habitats and the extinction of species.
As food production increases to meet the ongoing global demand for animal products, industry emissions continue to rise. Vegans believe that changing the way we, as a species, eats will stop this from happening.
Personal health and well-being are also high on the list of priorities for vegans.
Nutritionists and scientists agree that we don’t need to rely on animal proteins to survive and thrive. Instead, a balanced vegan diet can provide us with the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, proteins, carbohydrates, fiber, and fats that we need in a much healthier way.
The Vegan Diet
We’ve talked about what vegans don’t eat, so you’re probably wondering what they can and do actually eat.
Some common misconceptions about the vegan diet are that it’s too restrictive or requires expensive supplements to be effective. However, there are all sorts of delicious plant-based foods that are rich in flavor and essential nutrients.
Here are some of the key staples of a balanced vegan diet:
1. Legumes: Lentils, beans, peas, chickpeas, and peanuts are some of the primary sources of iron and protein on a vegan diet. They’re also packed with other key nutrients, including fiber, zinc, folate, and manganese, meaning they’re proud bearers of the ‘Superfood’ badge.
There are several different ways to eat and cook with legumes, but it’s important to first rinse or re-hydrate them to get the most from their nutrients.
2. Fruit and Veg: An obvious staple of a vegan diet, fruits and vegetables are jam-packed with vitamins and minerals.
The list of fruits and vegetables that can be eaten on a vegan diet is endless, but key varieties include leafy greens, starchy veggies, berries, citrus fruits, and good ol’ apples.
3. Tofu: Made from soybean curd, tofu is one of the most healthful foods on the vegan diet, thanks to its high protein content. It’s also a wonderfully versatile ingredient, making it suitable for everything from mains to desserts.
When cooked in a certain way, block tofu has a texture that’s similar to meat, so it’s an obvious substitute for chicken or beef in stir fry dishes. Silken tofu, meanwhile, is smooth and creamy, so it can easily replace dairy products or cheese in desserts or salads.
As with legumes, the trick to cooking with tofu is to prepare it beforehand. Block tofu can be made firmer with a tofu press from vegan-friendly brands like Tofubud (it’s much more convenient than the traditional way!), while silken tofu can be whipped or boiled.
4. Grains: Vegans, like most people, love their carbs! So you can expect to see a wide array in a vegan diet, including sourdough bread, whole grain or veggie pasta, noodles, rice, and quinoa.
Making the Choice
As we’ve discovered, there are so many positives to adopting a vegan lifestyle. It’s a healthier way of living, it’s sustainably-focused, and with the sheer variety of delicious foods that are available, a vegan diet will never be boring.
If you’re inspired to switch to veganism, take it slow and do your research. By easing into it gradually, making changes as and when you can, you'll be much more likely to commit long-term and enjoy your new lifestyle as you do.