CAUTION!!! Meat-osauruses, look away!
So here we are. In desperate times to save the animals, the world and our waistlines, we’ve resorted to eating green – (and all the other colours of the rainbow). That’s right, I’m talking about going vegan. Before it became the buzzing trend it is today, it was a legitimate lifestyle for many people in the South Asian continent. But because of how heavily influenced we are by the media and celebrity propaganda, we, in the West, have become victims of this non-stop vegan parade. In fact, the UN stated there was a decline in global meat consumption in 2019. Now if you’re a meat-lover you may be thinking, “what a load of nonsense, MEAT IS DELICIOUS?!” But there are a handful of reasons for the steadily increasing vegan demographic. So let’s get into the meat and potatoes of this post! (No pun intended).
History of Veganism
Becoming vegan is a lifestyle change that many people have resorted to make for many reasons; overall health, animal welfare, reviving biodiversity, or maybe they don’t like the taste of meat or dairy products. With many celebrities like Ariana Grande, Jenna Dewan and Woody Harrelson having adopted this modern trend, its popularity has reached new heights. However, what many people don’t realise is veganism has been around for centuries. And its origins find itself in ancient India and eastern Mediterranean societies.
India is a host of many dharmic religions that follow a meat-free diet and lifestyle. Religions such as Jainism, Hinduism and Buddhism adhere to a meat-free lifestyle due to their belief in Ahimsa – non-violence to all living things. Even though these are the main beliefs of these ancient religions, there are many subcultures in India that allow people to eat meat liberally but there is still a growing demand for meat-free alternatives.
Speaking of meat- substitutes, tofu is a very popular option among many people across the globe. Tofu is a staple in China and other East Asian countries and the people of China have been consuming it for more than 2000 years. Japan also benefits from tofu and other meat-free sources of protein but its archipelago, Okinawa, is renowned for being the home to a number of super-centenarians. It’s hard to say whether this comes down to eating plant-based foods as they also consume fish and seafood.
The staple Mediterranean diet is also widely praised for its health benefits. Think of that colourful Greek salad that’s doused in extra virgin olive oil. And the salty Kalamata olives. And pitta bread that’s as fluffy as a cloud. Yum. In Ancient Greece, there has been a long history of vegetarianism and long ago, it used to be called the Pythagorean Diet. Now they’re not 100% plant-based as the diet is supplemented by dairy such as feta, and fresh fish and seafood. Yet, there is still a percentage of the Greek population who follow a strict plant-based diet and this falls mainly among the millennial generation.
The younger generations certainly seem more motivated by the mainstream vegan movement and Israel has also become one of the leading vegan countries in the world. Yes, vegans make up around 5% of their population with the majority of vegan-friendly restaurants in Tel Aviv. Foods such as falafel, baba ghanoush, couscous, hummus, and stuffed vine leaves make up the bulk of their cuisine and are considered vegetarian staples. There’s even a village in the Neve Shalom area who have been all-vegan for the last 50 years! The group opened a factory to make and sell vegan products and in 2015, they even supplied the cheese for Domino’s very first vegan pizza trial!
What Are The Health Benefits of Veganism?
We all know how good fruit and veg are for our health (as tedious as it may sound). And we know that animal fat is somewhat bad for our health (don’t ignore it, it’s true). S
o I’m here to tell you some fact-based reasons on why going vegan may be good for you. Firstly, a vegan diet is generally more nutrient-rich than a typical Western diet. Due to the fact that animal products are a no-go you’d be forced to rely on other sources of fat and protein. Enter the notorious bean burger. Beans, pulses, wholegrains, fruit and veg provide us with a number of vital vitamins, antioxidants and trace minerals and these can help reduce the risk of many diseases. Animal fats, no matter how good it tastes, are saturated fats and over-consumption of these can lead to high cholesterol and increase your risk for heart disease. A herbivorous diet is generally also lower in calories owing to the lack of meat and dairy, which can help you shed weight. However, due to the lack of certain foods, like dairy, it might be wise to supplement with nutrients like calcium, vitamin D3 and B12.
Can We Really Save Biodiversity?
Okay, so if the health benefits didn’t sway you to turn, this might!! And if it doesn’t well, the force is strong with you. An obvious way that veganism helps biodiversity is simply not eating animals. No meat eating = more animals live = no species extinction. Another simple fact is that a decrease in consumer demand for meat and animal by-products means less need for land used for food production. Thus, protecting natural vegetation and reviving biodiversity. Studies on veganism have shown that there is a strong link between diet and sustainability. Scary.
So there you have it, a fountain of reasons to join the new order. And if you find yourself amused and willing to try this modern craze then here are a few tips for you!
1. Know your why.
Consider what motivates you to make this change. What is the ethical connection? Is it for health purposes or the way your dog looks at you when you take a bite of that burger? Maybe you want to help save the planet from impending doom? Having a personal reason may make things easier.
2. Take it easy.
Humans are creatures of habit, so it won’t be easy to change from the get-go. Consider trying to be vegan with a friend or try meat-free Mondays to ease yourself into it. Remind yourself of the reason you’re doing this and give yourself a break if you crack at the start! It’s not easy being green.
3. Meal prep.
Preparing ingredients and having recipes bookmarked in advance will save you hours of frustration in the kitchen. Find some easy recipes with affordable ingredients and learn to cook without instructions before moving onto more challenging recipes. I know that BBQ vegan meatloaf sounds good but put down the liquid smoke and try out a simple pasta recipe first.
4. Start with dishes you know and love.
Maybe even before you try out new vegan recipes, you can shake up your old ones! Instead of adding beef to your bolognese, try subbing it with marinated soya chunks, or omitting it altogether. There are so many tasty meat-free alternatives these days you don’t have to skimp out on your favourite meat dishes.
5. Don’t stop learning.
Just because you know you like tofu and broccoli doesn’t mean you have to have it every night. Gather more knowledge by reading vegan food blogs and asking community forums about different recipes. Keep digging and keep learning.
6. Prepare to fail.
Not everything you make is going to be a winner! Just because someone else made a vegan pot pie and enjoyed it, doesn’t necessarily mean you will too. Once you’ve learned you’ll never make the same mistake twice and then you may be able to help others avoid the same.
7. Make your own dairy substitutes.
It’s so easy to make oat milk it’ll make you cry. And it’s not just milk – some people resort to making their own vegan cheese because of the lack of choice in their local supermarket. It’s not easy to give up dairy, especially considering most desserts and milky beverages are often non-vegan. But why not make your own dairy alternatives? There’s a mountain of vegan cheese recipes that give you the same tanginess and texture that normal cheese would. Homemade always tastes better anyway.
8. Learn about your protein sources.
Now it’s important that you find out what flavour and texture you like your protein source to be. If you’re a brazen carnivore and you still want that meat texture then opt for soya chunks or seitan. If you don’t mind the texture so much and just want something with a bit of bite, maybe go for tofu or tempeh or even lentils for more fiber. Of course, you will have to learn to cook with these the way you like but this will come with time and practice.
9. Don’t turn your nose up at vegan products.
The next time you’re trolling the supermarket aisles for Beyond Chicken, consider opting for something more organic and not faux meat, and see if you like it. Keep an open mind and it could enrich your vegan palette.
As I mentioned earlier, a vegan diet won’t be able to provide you with certain vitamins, so you’ll have to supplement. The main vitamins are calcium, D3 and B12.
With the growing demand for vegan products it’s becoming increasingly easy to transition into a plant-based lifestyle. I know some of you are die hard meat lovers, but if I’ve managed to sway you then try out these tips and keep us updated on your progress in the comments!