Veganuary takes place every January. It is a month-long campaign to inspire and educate people to try veganism.
The Veganuary Campaign 2021 inspired and supported more than 580,000 people to try being vegan, with participants from 209 countries and territories.
What is Veganism?
Veganism is often defined by what we don’t eat: meat, fish, eggs and dairy, plus some of the animal ingredients that are hidden away in products, such as whey (from milk) and gelatine (from animal bones).
But really, we should focus on all the great stuff that vegans do eat. In reality, the difference isn’t all that huge. Instead of meaty burgers, sausage and steaks, we eat plant-based versions. Instead of dairy cheese on a pizza or cows’ milk in our coffee, we choose the plant-based versions. For almost every animal-derived ingredient and product, there is now a vegan alternative, and this means that a vegan’s meal may look and taste exactly like a non-vegan’s meal, it just doesn’t come with the animal suffering or the same environmental impact.
What are the benefits of Veganism?
Vegan diets are known to help people lose weight. However, they offer an array of additional health benefits. For example, a vegan diet may help you maintain a healthy heart.
What’s more, this diet may offer some protection against type 2 diabetes and certain cancers.
Here are 6 science-based benefits of vegan diets.
1. A vegan diet is richer in certain nutrients
If you switch to a vegan diet from a typical Western diet, you’ll eliminate meat and animal products.
This will inevitably lead you to rely more heavily on other foods. In the case of a whole-foods vegan diet, replacements take the form of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, peas, nuts, and seeds.
Since these foods make up a larger proportion of a vegan diet than a typical Western diet, they can contribute to a higher daily intake of certain beneficial nutrients.
Several studies have reported that vegan diets tend to provide more fibre, antioxidants, and beneficial plant compounds. They also appear to be richer in potassium, magnesium, folate, and vitamins A, C, and E.
An increasing number of people are turning to plant-based diets in hopes of shedding excess weight. This may be for good reason.
Many observational studies suggest that vegans tend to be thinner and have lower body mass indexes (BMIs) than nonvegans.
3. It appears to lower blood sugar levels and improve kidney function
Going vegan may also provide benefits for type 2 diabetes and declining kidney function.
Indeed, vegans tend to have lower blood sugar levels and higher insulin sensitivity and may have a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
According to the World Health Organisation, about one-third of all cancers can be prevented by factors within your control, including diet.
For instance, eating legumes regularly may reduce your risk of colorectal cancer by 9–18%.
Research also suggests that eating at least 7 portions of fresh fruits and vegetables per day may lower your risk of dying from cancer by up to 15%.
Vegans generally eat considerably more legumes, fruits, and vegetables than nonvegans. This may explain why a review of 96 studies found that vegans may benefit from a 15% lower risk of developing or dying from cancer.
Avoiding certain animal products may also help reduce the risk of prostate, breast, and colon cancers.
It’s important to note that these studies are observational. They make it impossible to pinpoint the exact reason vegans have a lower risk of cancer.
However, until researchers know more, it seems wise to focus on increasing the amounts of fresh fruits, vegetables, and legumes you eat each day while limiting your consumption of processed, smoked, and overcooked meats.
5. It’s linked to a lower risk of heart disease
Eating fresh fruits and vegetables, legumes, and fibre is also linked to a lower risk of heart disease.
Well-planned vegan diets generally include all these foods in large amounts.
Observational studies comparing vegans with vegetarians and the general population report that vegans may benefit from up to a 75% lower risk of developing high blood pressure.
Vegans may also have up to a 42% lower risk of dying from heart disease.
What’s more, several randomised controlled studies report that vegan diets are much more effective at reducing blood sugar, LDL (bad) cholesterol, and total cholesterol levels than the diets they are compared with.
A few studies have reported that a vegan diet has positive effects in people with different types of arthritis.
One study randomly assigned 40 people with arthritis to either continue eating their omnivorous diet or switch to a whole-food, plant-based vegan diet for 6 weeks.
Those on the vegan diet reported higher energy levels and better general functioning than those who didn’t change their diet.
Several other studies suggest a vegan diet can help improve symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, including pain, joint swelling, and morning stiffness.
The vegan diet’s higher antioxidant, probiotic, and fibre content, as well as its lack of certain trigger foods, may be responsible for these benefits.
OUR TOP TEN TIPS TO GET YOU STARTED from veganuary.com
1. It’s all in the planning!
Don’t wake up on the first day of your vegan adventure without having thought about what you might eat! That is the absolute quickest way to fall off the wagon. Ahead of time, have a think about your first day’s meals and buy plant milk for your breakfast and coffee or tea, some dairy-free butter for toast or sandwiches, and something tasty for your dinner.
Some people find making a weekly meal planner helpful, so they always know what they need to shop for and what they will be eating. Here are some ideas to get you started.
Toast – with vegan butter, peanut butter, yeast extract, jam, hummus, avocado, sliced tomato, or dairy-free cheese
Oatmeal – with your choice of plant milk. Add seeds, nuts and fruits
Breakfast cereals – with dairy-free milk or yogurt. Add seeds, nuts and fruit
Full – vegan sausages and bacon, scrambled tofu, hash browns, grilled tomatoes, mushrooms and baked beans
Tea, coffee and fruit juice
Soup and roll – homemade or shop-bought
Sandwiches and wraps – homemade (vegan BLT; cheese and pickle; ‘ham’ and mustard; hummus and carrot) or shop-bought
Pasta salad or a hot pasta dish
Jacket potato with salad, dairy-free cheese, baked beans or chilli, or make a delicious vegan tuna salad
Sushi – homemade or shop-bought
Pizza – with vegan cheese, ham and chorizo, sundried tomatoes, basil, sweetcorn, artichoke, olives and capers, pineapple, jalapeños
Spaghetti Bolognese – made with lentils or soya mince, or a combination
Curry – Thai, Indonesian, Indian, Bangladeshi, or ‘veganise’ your old favourite recipe
Burger in a bun with a fresh green salad
Chilli non carne with nachos, refried beans and guacamole
Bangers and mash with fresh vegetables, gravy and mustard
Steak and chips – yes, there are now vegan steaks available
2. Look out for accidentally vegan foods
There are so many everyday foods that just happen to be vegan, so open up your cupboard and take a look. Pasta, rice, peanut butter and Marmite, most breads, tinned tomatoes, chickpeas and kidney beans, jam and marmalade, coconut milk, curry pastes, tomato puree, baked beans, many crisps, crackers and biscuits, herbs and spices, many gravy granules, tea, coffee and fruit juice… There is a good chance that half the foods you already eat are vegan!
3. Ease yourself in
There is no need to reinvent your whole eating habits. If you like a sausage sandwich, have one – just make sure the sausages are vegan. If you want ice cream, go ahead. There are dozens of different delicious flavours out there. You can have almost everything you had before in a vegan version, so just switch like for like.
4. Veganise your favourite dishes
Again, there is no need to adopt a whole new eating regime. If your signature dish is lasagne, make a vegan version with soya mince and plant milk for the béchamel. If you love a morning fry-up, you can make it with vegan bacon and sausages. Whether you cook curries, casseroles, soups, stews, pies and pasties, roast dinners, cakes, desserts or anything else, simply veganise it.
5. When you’re ready, branch out
Many people find that becoming vegan opens up a whole new world of recipes and ingredients, and rekindles their love of great food. Once you’ve got the hang of the basics, why not jump in and try some brand-new recipes (there are thousands online) and see if it ignites your culinary passions.
6. Keep snacks to hand
Don’t get caught out! It’s really easy to pick up vegan snacks in most places but not everywhere, so make sure you keep a bag of nuts, a chocolate bar or some fruit in your bag or car just in case. Many of our food stores now stock vegan and vegetarian ranges to help you on your journey.
7. Persistence pays
Not every vegan product will work for you but just because the first cheese you try or the first latte you make doesn’t hit the spot, don’t rule out all other cheeses and plant milks. There are so many different ones to try – cream cheese, melty cheeses, nut-based, coconut-based, soya-based, all flavours and lots of different brands and styles; and as for milks, you’ll find oat, hemp, almond, coconut, rice and soya. Try them all, and you will soon find your perfect match.
Like eating out? Download the HappyCow app onto your phone and let it guide you to your nearest restaurant, café or shop where you can find vegan food wherever you are in the world.
9. Find your tribe
It’s easy to feel isolated as a new vegan but there are millions of us out there. Find your local vegan meetup group and make like-minded friends in real life or search online for vegan groups that interest you. From vegan runners to bakers to knitters; from vegan weightlifters to fashionistas to activists. They’re all there waiting for you.
10. Be kind to yourself
Everyone makes mistakes. Whether you ate something non-vegan accidentally or simply gave in to temptation, it’s OK. It doesn’t mean you are no longer vegan; it just means you are human! Chalk it up to experience and move forward.