Opinion: ‘I did Veganuary – here’s why I’m keeping it up’
Our own Beth shares why, for her, a plant-based diet is for keeps.
I used to eat a couple of veggie meals a week; I’ve tried Quorn and have had oat milk in my tea and coffee for the past few years now. I’ve always toyed with the idea of going full veggie or even vegan but, for whatever reason – be it laziness or my love of cheese – I’ve never taken the plunge. Until now.
This year, I’m trying to make better choices generally to do my bit to help the environment. Be it using my tote bag instead of buying a plastic bag or making sure I’m recycling everything I can. And what better way to do my bit to help out the environment than to give Veganuary a go?
Well, I’m here – 10 full days into February – and I’m still eating a fully vegan diet. Here’s why…
Gone are the days of feeling bloated and lethargic after a meal.
Post-lunch in the office, I always used to feel ready for an afternoon nap. But my vegan lunches feel more like fuel for my afternoon’s work. Despite not really eating more or less in terms of calories, I notice I have digested all my food within the hour, with a total lack of bloating.
Research points at plant-based foods as very beneficial for digestive health, whilst it consistently shows that animal-based diets are detrimental. It also suggests a vegan diet ‘can significantly reduce intestinal inflammation in the general population’, which can help prevent or treat many conditions.
On the odd occasion where I do eat too much (Quorn fillets are my biggest weakness), it doesn’t take anywhere near as long to recover.
Find out more about how a plant-based diet can help digestion here.
Studies have also found that being vegan can increase your energy, because your body doesn’t have to use as much energy for digesting food. This has been my first winter working full-time and coming home from work at 5 o’clock, in the dark, has left me feeling really low in energy. Most nights, I’ve forgone reading (usually my favourite pastime) and chosen to slob out in front of TV I’m not really interested in instead. But since giving up meat, I find myself having more energy in the evenings to get all my jobs done around the house and my favourite hobbies in, too.
Getting up in the morning is still a struggle, but I think it is my fate to never be a morning person!
I have very temperamental, acne-prone skin and over the past month I have noticed any lingering spots have cleared up and stayed away. All the tiny bumps under my skin are no more and, not only that, but my skin looks brighter too.
I have also always struggled with eczema, which has got much worse over the past few years. Another shock of Veganuary was noticing my permanent patches were finally clearing up. The redness went down first, which was quickly followed by a loss of itchiness and now, five weeks later, I can barely see it. Don’t get me wrong, I still have the occasional flare up, but it has noticeably improved.
Having looked into this, there isn’t much conclusive evidence to show a strong connection between a plant-based diet and an eczema cure. But some pilot studies have shown that ‘a diet without animal products can be hugely beneficial’. There are also some who vouch ‘that a raw, vegan diet is the solution to eczema.’ So, it may not exactly cure your eczema, but swapping in a few plant-based meals may be worth a try!
I was inspired by Susan Marque, whose eczema nearly killed her. She found a plant-based diet dramatically improved her skin and, therefore, her general health. Read her story here.
TRYING NEW THINGS
I was a bit nervous about my first restaurant outing with friends – I didn’t want to experience food envy or feel like I was missing out. But little did I know, going vegan doesn’t have to mean missing out on delicious food.
We chose Dabbawal and I opted for their vegan small plates, which were amazing. I tried combos I would never have chosen had meat been an option, but I loved everything. Next time you’re eating out, make sure to consider the vegan options on the menu; if you were like me, who ignored them in favour of the meat option, you could be missing out on seriously tasty food.
One of my favourite things to do is to eat at one of the many amazing independent restaurants, cafés and pubs here in the North East and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed getting to know the different vegan options my favourite spots have on offer.
Since Dabbawal, I’ve gone a bit wild on trying new things. I’ve sampled seitan and sauerkraut in The New Deli toastie from InBread Toasties, vegan fried chicken in the Notorious VFC burger from Fat Hippo and – now bear with me on this one – a cheese-less pizza in the Marinara and Kevin Vegan from Scream for Pizza. Don’t knock it ‘til you try it!
Veganism is often viewed as an expensive lifestyle – it was an opinion I certainly held prior to this year. So, you can imagine my surprise when I did my first food shop of the month and found I’d actually saved money.
I’m sure if you are buying all the meat substitutes on offer in the supermarket then it would end up costing more. But by substituting meat with more veggies, I’ve cut the cost of my weekly shop while also hitting my five fruit and veg a day.
New research suggests that vegans spend on average 40% less on food than omnivores and a vegan dinner was also 32% quicker to prepare than a meat-based dish. Saving you time and money – what more could you want?