Vegan your way with Holland and Barrett

What does ‘going vegan’ really mean?

If you’d like to go vegan but have ever wondered what a vegan is, what do vegans eat, or even what veganism means – we’ve got all the answers

There can’t be a person left in the country who hasn’t heard of veganism, especially when vegans are the butt of so many terrible jokes: How can you tell if someone’s vegan? Don’t worry, they’ll tell you…

But veganism is currently exploding in popularity; the number of vegans in the UK is said to have risen by 400% since 2014. This growing appetite for a vegan diet – which ditches animal foods like meat, eggs and milk for plant alternatives – is driven by concern for animal welfare and the environment, plus the desire to eat more healthily.

Research shows that a plant-based diet is good for your wellbeing in more ways than one, but without proper planning you could miss out on key vitamins and nutrients. So, get the low-down on going vegan with our guide, and you can make the switch without missing out.

What is veganism?

By its true definition, veganism is a lifestyle that cuts out all products and services (where possible) that harm, exploit or use animals.

This doesn’t just mean eating a plant-based diet, but quitting clothes, make-up, and personal products like shower gel that are tested on animals or contain anything that comes from animals.

What does a vegan diet look like?

Vegans don’t eat or drink anything that comes from, or exploits, an animal. This means they cut out:

  • meat
  • fish, including shellfish
  • eggs
  • all dairy including milk, butter and cheese
  • honey
  • gelatine, often found in jelly

Instead, vegans eat a plant-based diet, which is rich in:

  • fruits and vegetables
  • beans
  • legumes, like chickpeas
  • pulses, such as lentils
  • grains
  • soy protein, including tofu
  • plant-based milks – soy, almond, rice, hemp, hazelnut, cashew or oat milks

Don’t panic if you enjoy meals out – eating out as a vegan really isn’t that difficult. Many cuisines have a huge selection of plant-based choices – Indian, Middle Eastern, Mexican, even Italian (think of all that pasta)– so you can choose one of these restaurants next time you go out for dinner.

A lot of chain restaurants now have vegan options on the menu, too. Leon, Yo! Sushi, Gourmet Burger Kitchen and even Toby Carvery all cater for vegans, not forgetting Dominos here at WillowBrook, and soon the infamous Greggs vegan sausage roll.

Why go vegan?

There are several reasons why people become vegan, including their health, the environment, and animal ethics.

Animal welfare

For most vegans, animal welfare is the biggest reason for changing their lifestyle. Statistics show that more than one billion mammals in the UK alone are killed every year for human consumption, while many sheep, pigs, chickens and cows reared for their meat will have spent their lives in cramped and dirty conditions.

Egg-laying chickens and dairy cows may be kept in similar conditions and are often killed well before the end of their natural life expectancy. Going vegan can help put an end to the lifetime of suffering that animals endure just to end up on our plates.

Health and weigh loss

An increasing amount of evidence shows that a vegan diet, rich in wholefoods, has many health benefits, including protecting you against certain illnesses and helping with weight loss.

Animal food products are usually high in calories – a 100-gram beef burger, for example, contains around 250 calories while a 100-gram soya burger contains only around 130 calories. So swapping high-fat, calorie-dense foods for high-fibre low-carb plant alternatives can help you lose weight.

A plant-based diet is also linked to reducing the risk of some cancers, especially colorectal cancer, as it cuts out red and processed meats – the NHS says eating these can increase your risk of developing the condition.

Studies have also linked a vegan diet to a reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure.

Better nutrition

A healthy vegan diet involves eating lots of fruits, vegetables, legumes, plant proteins and nuts, which gives your vitamins and mineral intake a serious boost.

These foods contain large amounts of:

  • antioxidants – to help protect your cells from free-radical damage
  • fibre – found in fruits and vegetables, helps with digestion
  • folic acid – vital for making red blood cells
  • phytochemicals – associated with protecting you from disease

A well-balanced vegan diet also tends to be lower in sugar and saturated fats than a meat-eater’s diet.

There is a risk that vegans may be lacking in vitamin B12, as this vitamin is found naturally in animal products. But a properly balanced vegan can provide all the vitamins and minerals your body needs.

The environment

A 2010 United Nations report found that meat and dairy agriculture accounts for 70% of global fresh water consumption, 38% of total land use and 14% of greenhouse gas emissions,20 which all adds up to a huge strain on our natural resources.

But going vegan has been described as the single biggest way to reduce our environmental impact on the planet. In fact, switching to a plant-based diet could reduce farmland use by 75% and still feed everyone in the world!





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