Veganuary is a campaign to inspire more people to go vegan for the 31 days of January in the hope that they will continue to eat more plant based meals from then on. The aims of the Veganuary campaign include the creation of a compassionate food system which avoids animal cruelty, protects the environment and improves human health. In 2021 more than half a million people signed up to the Veganuary campaign (1). This was double the number of people who signed up in 2019.
A Growing Trend
7.2 million British adults currently follow a meat-free diet with this projected to increase; by 2025 a quarter of the British population look set to be vegan or vegetarian. Generation Z (aged 18 -23) are currently the most meat-free generation (2).
In addition to this more people are choosing to be flexitarian meaning they include many plant based meals in their diet but occasionally eat animal products.
Reasons for the rise in veganism include the potential health benefits of a plant based diet, as well as environmental and welfare issues. Many people do not want to support industries that inflict pain and suffering on animals while contributing to the destruction of rain forests and rising carbon levels.
People and Planet
The optimal health of humans, animals and the environment collectively is known as the "One Health" perspective. Research backs up the fact that reducing meat intake and eating a largely plant based diet of whole grains, pulses, nuts, seeds, fruit and vegetables improves human health as well as protecting animals and the environment (3,4).
Let’s look at a few of the health benefits of plant based diets:
Vegan Diets and Weight
Research suggests that a vegan diet can lead to significant reductions in body weight, fat mass and insulin resistance. The decrease in fat mass is associated with a decrease in animal protein intake and an increase in plant protein intake (5).
Vegan Diets and Gut Health
The gut microbiota play such a pivotal role in health they can be considered a virtual organ. Dietary habits play a big part in the composition of the gut microbiota. Although research is in its early days and there are many complicating factors evidence suggests that vegan diets may have a beneficial effect on the diverse ecosystem of bacteria in the gut. (6).
Vegan Diets and Cardiovascular Health
Studies consistently show that vegans have a lower body mass index, a smaller waist and lower LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, fasting glucose and blood pressure than meat eaters (7). Switching to a plant based diet could reduce your risk of cardiovascular and metabolic diseases (8).
Vegan Diets and Quality of Life
Plant-based diets are associated with significant improvements in emotional and physical well-being, depression, quality of life and weight compared with other diets and are recommended to aid the management of type 2 diabetes (9).
Vegan Diets and Cancer
Vegetarians and vegans have a reduced risk for all cancers and chronic diseases compared to non-vegetarians (10). For patients with cancer minimizing the intake of animal foods has proved to have positive effects on health outcomes (7)
Vegan Diets for Athletes
Plant-based diets appear to be as good as omniverous diets for strength, anaerobic and aerobic exercise performance in athletes (11). As a bonus plant-based diets typically reduce the risk of developing chronic diseases and require fewer natural resources for production compared to meat-containing diets (12).
Some nutrients to pay attention to on a plant based diet and where to find them:
Vitamin B12 – needs to come from supplements or fortified foods such as marmite and vegan milks.
Vitamin D – sunshine! Supplemental vitamin D is recommended through the winter.
Calcium - green vegetables, almonds, tahini, black strap molasses, carob, dulse, figs, hazelnuts, alfalfa.
Iodine – sea vegetables such as kelp, dulse, kombu and wakame.
Iron – lentils, almonds, figs, sea vegetables, parsley, watercress, broccoli, cavolo nero, amaranth, oats, millet, rye, blackstrap molasses, prunes. Combine iron rich plant foods with vitamin C rich foods to improve the absorption of iron.
Zinc – pumpkin seeds, kelp, brown rice, molasses, wheat germ, pulses, tahini, peas, whole grains.
Omega 3 fats – pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, flax seeds, chia seeds, walnuts, avocados and the cold pressed oils of these foods.
Protein – peas, beans, lentils, tofu, tempeh, nuts, seeds.
Tom Oliver’s Men’s and Women’s Multi – contain a broad range of vitamins and minerals including vitamin B12 and iodine which are often low in vegan diets.
Tom Oliver’s Calcium – vegan diets may be lower in calcium meaning supplementation may be needed to protect the bones.
Tom Oliver’s Magnesium – aids the utilisation of calcium. Also needed for the nervous system.
Tom Oliver’s Iron – contains vitamin C to aid absorption.
Tom Oliver’s Vitamin D + K2 – recommended through the winter months for everyone.
Tom Oliver’s vegan protein powders – delicious and versatile, can be added to smoothies to create a nutritious snack or meal.