Veganism is a diet that avoids consumption of all animal products, including eggs, milk and honey. Some people choose to be vegan for health reasons, but the majority of vegans avoid animal products for ethical reasons. Vegans believe that humans should not exploit animals in any way and that all creatures on the planet should live in harmony.
The earliest mention of the vegan lifestyle dates back to the 500 BCE scripts of Greek philosopher and mathematician Pythagoras, who believed in benevolence among all animal species including humans. The Eastern religions of Hinduism and Buddhism have always promoted a vegan lifestyle. While long popular in the Far East, veganism didn’t make its way to the Western World until the late 1840s when Rev. Sylvester Graham taught his followers not to consume any animal products as part of their strict religious lifestyle.
In 1944, a British man named Donald Watson coined the term and started the British Vegan Society. He wanted to show the difference between vegetarians and those that would not consume or use any animal products. By the time he died in 2005, there were 250,000 vegans in Britain and about 2 million in the United States. As people become increasingly worried about the state of the planet, they’re choosing a vegan lifestyle to try and save the earth. Recent reports by the LANCET commission show the dairy and meat industries are some of the biggest contributors to global warming.
There are several scientifically proven benefits to following a vegan diet such as:
- Weight loss – Eating a vegan diet tends to eliminate most of the unhealthy foods that cause weight gain. In general, people following a vegan diet will lose weight and achieve a healthy BMI.
- Health – A vegan diet is rich in basic nutrients in comparison to the standard Western diet. Eliminating meat and animal products from your diet will force you to eat other healthy food items such as fruits, vegetables, peas, nuts and seeds.
- Lower blood sugar – Changing to a vegan diet has been shown to reduce the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes by between 50% and 78%.
- Cancer – Those that follow a vegan diet have a 15% lower chance of dying from cancer compared to those following a standard diet. This may be due to the high number of fresh fruits and vegetables that are consumed by them regularly.
- Lower risk of heart disease – Consuming a diet that’s rich in legumes, fruit, vegetables and healthy fibers has been shown to reduce the risk of developing high blood pressure by 75% and heart disease by up to 42%.
- Arthritis – A diet that involves a probiotic-rich whole food eating system like the vegan lifestyle appears to reduce the symptoms and pain associated with arthritis.
Reasons to Go Vegan
There are numerous reasons aside from your health to make the change to a vegan lifestyle:
- Reduce climate change – By going vegan, you can significantly reduce your carbon footprint.
- Save money – A diet that’s based on fresh fruit and vegetables is cheaper than the standard meat-based Western diet.
- Help feed the world – Over 800 million people don’t have enough to eat regularly. At the same time, over 90 million acres of land are being used to grow feed for farmed animals.
- Save water – It takes about 1,799 gallons of water to produce just one pound of beef. The Stockholm Water Institute believes that we will run out of water on earth by 2050 if we don’t reduce our current rate of meat consumption.
- Save the rain forest – The majority of deforestation across the world has been to clear land for cattle grazing and to grow animal feed.
- Try new foods – The change towards more plant-based food options has resulted in a wide range of vegan alternatives being available in your local grocery store. There has never been a better time to try ditch meat and try a vegan lifestyle.
Importance of a balanced vegan diet
The vegan diet can be very healthy but followers need to make sure that they are getting enough protein and other essential nutrients. Some people go overboard eating carbohydrates and that can lead to obesity and other health-related issues. When eating a vegan diet you should:
- Eat a rainbow of different fruits and vegetables throughout the day to ensure you are getting a wide range of nutrients.
- Choose high fiber versions of starchy foods such as old-fashioned oats, wholemeal bread, sweet potatoes and brown rice.
- Make sure that you include protein in your diet regularly. Protein sources for vegans, include tofu, lentils, soya milk, peanuts, chickpeas and quinoa.
- Eat plenty of nuts and seeds that are rich in Omega 3 oils.
- Try to eat plenty of calcium-fortified foods as you will need calcium to protect your bones as you age.
- Take supplements for Vitamin B12, Vitamin D and iodine to ensure optimal health.
If you’re feeling weak or suddenly lose a large amount of weight, you should see a doctor to make sure that you’re getting all your required nutrients. You may need to make small changes to your diet or take additional supplements.
Vegan Mac n Cheese
Indulge in some yummy comfort food by cooking a pot of healthy mac n cheese that is completely vegan but just as tasty as the original. This may seem like a large number of ingredients but the method is very simple and the result is delicious.
- 8 ounces whole-grain macaroni
- 1.5 teaspoons avocado oil
- 1 head of broccoli ( the broccoli is optional but adds a nutritional boost. Feel free to replace this with your favorite vegetable)
- 1 small onion chopped
- 1 cup of peeled and grated organic potato
- 3 cloves of garlic
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard powder
- sea salt to taste
- red pepper flake (optional but does add a bit of heat)
- 2/3 cup raw cashew nuts
- 1 cup of water
- 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
- 2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar
- Cook pasta according to the package instructions. Add your broccoli or similar vegetable about 2 to 3 minutes before the end of the cooking time. Drain the pasta and vegetables before transferring to a large serving bowl.
- In a separate cooking pot, warm the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and a pinch of salt. Cook until the onion is soft and translucent.
- Add the garlic powder, onion powder, mustard powder, a pinch of salt, grated potato, and red pepper flakes. Stir over heat for about 1 minute.
- Add the cashews and water and stir to combine all ingredients. Let the mixture simmer for about 8 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.
- Pour the mixture into a blender and add the nutritional yeast and apple cider vinegar. Blend until the mixture is completely smooth. You may need to pause the machine and scrape the sides regularly. Add extra water if the mixture doesn’t blend easily or if you prefer a thinner sauce.
- Taste the mixture to check if you need extra salt or apple cider vinegar. This will depend on your taste preferences.
- Serve the sauce with the pasta. The mixture keeps well in the fridge for about 4 days if you have any leftovers.
Kale, Black Bean and Avocado Burrito Bowl
- 1 cup of brown rice
- salt to taste
- 1 bunch of curly kale chopped into small pieces
- 1/4 cup lime juice
- olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin
- 1/2 a jalapeno, seeded and sliced
- 1 avocado pitted and sliced into chunks
- 1/2 cup mild green salsa
- 1/2 cup fresh cilantro
- 2 tablespoons lime juice
- 1 shallot
- 2 tins of black beans (rinsed and drained)
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
- cherry tomatoes to garnish
- Cook the brown rice according to the package instructions with a little salt to taste. Drain and fluff the rice before setting aside.
- Whisk together the lime juice, a splash of olive oil, jalapeno, cumin, and a pinch of salt. Soak the chopped kale in the lime marinade. Set aside.
- In a blender, combine the avocado, salsa, cilantro, and lime juice. Blend until it has become a smooth paste.
- In a saucepan, heat the tablespoon of olive oil and add the shallots and garlic. Saute until fragrant before adding the black beans, cayenne pepper, and chili powder. Cook for about 7 minutes or until the beans are warmed through. Add a splash of water if the beans begin to dry out.
- To serve, spoon a portion of rice into each bowl, add the beans, avocado, and kale. Garnish with chopped cherry tomatoes.
- 1.5 pounds of sweet potatoes
- 1/3 cup uncooked millet
- 1 cup of oats ( choose the gluten-free ones if you are also avoiding gluten)
- 1 can of black beans that have been rinsed and drained
- 1/2 a small red onion
- 1/2 cup cilantro leaves
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 2 teaspoons cumin powder
- 1 teaspoon hot smoked paprika
- cayenne powder to taste
- pinch of salt
- coconut oil for cooking
- 8 wholewheat vegan hamburger buns or large mushrooms to act as buns
- Your favorite burger fixings such as avocado, tomato, vegan cheese, lettuce, mustard, and pickles
- Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Slice the potatoes in half lengthwise. Place the potatoes cut side down on the roasting tray and roast for about 40 minutes. Remove the potatoes from the oven and leave to cool. Once they are cool you should be able to easily remove the skins. Roughly chop the insides before setting aside to cool completely.
- Bring one cup of water to boil in a saucepan. Add the millet and reduce the heat to a simmer. The millet should take about 25 minutes to cook.
- Use a blender to grind the oats into flakes but not a powder.
- In a large bowl combine the cooled sweet potatoes, millet, black beans, onions, cilantro, chili powder, cumin, cayenne, and salt to taste. Use a potato masher or mixer to blend the ingredients well.
- Sprinkle the oat flakes over the mixture and use your hands to combine the mixture until it can hold a shape.
- Portion the mixture into patties and place on a baking tray. Refrigerate for at least four hours but preferably overnight.
- Pan-fry the patties in a skillet with the coconut oil. Cook each patty until brown before flipping. Each side should take about 5 minutes.
- Toast your buns and serve the burgers with all your favorite fixings.
A vegan lifestyle can be a healthy choice for you and it may help to stop the effects of global warming. There are plenty of delicious meat alternatives available now and you should be able to easily find meat-free options for all your favorite meals.