You must have been dead not to have noticed recent propaganda surrounding veganism. On social media, pavements chalkings and even popping up on supermarket shelves, vegans are eager to highlight and educate others on the damaging environmental effects of eating animal produce. Promising increased energy levels, combating illness and helping reduce global warming, why wouldn’t you want make the change to a vegan diet? With an increasing number of celebrities and athletes endorsing the lifestyle it would seem that veganism has suddenly become the new vegetarianism! Before I jump on the band wagon I spoke to recent vegan convert Claire Dupoy and top sports nutritionist Kit Chamier to fully understand what the change would entail.
What triggered your switch to veganism?
Eating meat has never sat well with me, I recall being served pheasant at a young age only to discover some shot remaining in the bird and recoiling in horror that it had been killed just for my dinner. After watching the documentary “Cowspiracy" myself and my husband made the decision to go fully vegan as it opened our eyes to the fact that maintaining a meat supply for the world’s growing population isn’t sustainable and how detrimental animal agriculture is to the environment. We wanted to play our part in making a change.
Was making the change challenging?
We had to research it well. Cowspiracy offered links to information and how to sign up to a supported 30 day trial which guided you through the changes to make, which was really helpful. It’s been important to source all the right food and wherever possible we look to buy local.
How has the change made you feel?
Physically there has been little change; I may be slightly lighter, have a little more spring in my step and sleep better now, but the main benefit is that emotionally and morally we feel a lot happier being vegan. Adjusting my cups of coffee took a lot of getting used to and I also found my taste has altered in that I don’t crave as much sweet produce as I used to.
Do you feel veganism is a healthy diet to adopt?
Not necessarily! I’ve come across websites that tell you what food is “accidentally” vegan including Frazzles crisps, Oreos and chocolate Hobnobs so it’s still possible to eat junk food and be vegan. Sugar is still on the menu as it’s not an animal by-product.
Have there been any downsides of becoming vegan?
Social occasions are still a bit difficult if you are going somewhere that doesn't offer vegan alternatives; always be prepared to bring a packed lunch. But it is encouraging that a lot of restaurants are starting to adapt their menus to accommodate vegans. You can find vegan dishes at Flavour, Unawatuna, Cafe Jac and Portlet. We also decided not to make our two young children adopt a vegan diet since it would be difficult for them going through school and they should be free to make their own informed decisions as they grow up. So there is double the shopping!
Why do you think everyone is suddenly taking about veganism?
It has gained a lot of popularity in sport from elite athletes achieving great results on a vegan diet; five times Iron Man winner Dave Scott and Venus Williams for example. Then there are a lot of celebrities endorsing veganism, some for environmental reasons like Leonardo Di Caprio, but many promoting it as a magical weight loss tool - which it isn’t.
Research tells me the benefits of vegan diet can include increased energy, improved skin, reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer….the list goes on. How can it really help?
There is no conclusive research to support that a vegan diet can produce all these results, more likely it is through adopting a vegan diet, which naturally lends itself to being lower fat and including less processed junk food and more healthy alternatives, that people are seeing these positive results. But this can be achieved with a more balanced diet without the need to cut out meat totally.
Would you ever recommend a vegan diet?
I would assist anyone looking to take this path for moral reasons, but it is hard work to achieve a balanced diet being a vegan. You cant just decide to have toast for breakfast everyday! Your diet needs to be varied and encompass all the vitamins that you may be missing out on through cutting out meat, fish and dairy, so supplements like vitamin B12 (which is only found in animal products) would be essential. The western palette can also become very bored with this type of diet, we tend to like high salt and high sugar items, so it requires a lot of commitment.
What could you do to help the environment if veganism doesn’t sit well with you?
Rather than cutting out whole food groups you could start to look at where your produce comes from as there are a lot more processes that go on behind the scenes than you would think. Where possible, buy locally as it will be fresher and nutritionally better for you. You could also look at cutting out just red meat from your diet; which by itself requires 28 times more land to farm than chicken and produces 5 times more climate warming emissions.
Words of advice for those looking to go vegan?
Apply caution. Veganism is not a fad diet and it requires a complete change of lifestyle and prior planning for your meals. If you’re looking to make a switch don't do it on a whim, or because your mate is doing it, research it thoroughly and get individual guidance from a registered nutritionist.
There are certainly a lot of myths surrounding veganism that need to be dispelled, but they key to making any form of adjustment is most definitely education. Learn about the effects of animal agriculture on the earth and investigate the effects an altered diet could have on your individual body type. Only then will you have the tools to make the decision that is right for you.
Contact Kit Chamier here.
Educate yourself about veganism at Cowspiracy here.