WHY A VEGAN DIET IS GOOD FOR YOU AND THE ENVIRONMENT

January 4 , 2023

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Veganism is on the rise. A survey by finder, has shown that 14% of adults in the UK are following a meat-free diet. Around 1.6 million of them are currently vegan.

Veganism is on the rise. A survey by finder, has shown that 14% of adults in the UK are following a meat-free diet. Around 1.6 million of them are currently vegan. The plant-based food market is expected to grow by 11.9% by 2027 reaching a global value of $74.2 billion. The rapid growth of plant-based diets can be attributed to a few factors including greater knowledge on the environmental impact of animal agriculture and increasing concerns over climate change.

People follow plant-based diets for a variety of reasons, including:


  • Plant based foods are better for the environment
  • A plant-based diet can have some great health benefits
  • Veganism doesn’t contribute to the animal agriculture industry which harms animals
  • Cutting out dairy and meat from your shop can save money
  • Becoming plant-based can introduce more variety into their diet

Health Benefits

The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends a predominantly plant-based diet that is low in salt, saturated fats and added sugars for a healthy lifestyle.

Studies have shown that high fruit and vegetable intake can reduce the risk of heart disease and strokes. Vegans, vegetarians and pescatarians have even been found to have a lower risk for cancer compared to non-vegetarians.


As with all diet changes, you need to ensure you are balancing your plate with protein, carbohydrates and healthy fats. Those following a whole plant-based diet need to ensure they’re eating foods with vitamins B2, B12, D, iodine, zinc, calcium and selenium. Vegan diets can be nutritionally complete with a good variety of plant-based foods. If you have any specific nutritional or health concerns you should speak to a GP or a registered nutritionist.


Environment Benefits

The type of food we eat can have a massive impact on the environment. In the EU, a study, by the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, has shown the average citizen has a food footprint of 1070 kg of CO2. That’s equal to 2,656 miles driven by an average gasoline powered vehicle!


Reducing your intake of meat and dairy can have a big impact on your personal CO2 footprint. Research by the University of Oxford has shown that plant-based foods,  such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes and nuts, have among the lowest impact on the environment. Whilst unprocessed and processed red meat had some of the largest negative impacts. Other animal-based products, including dairy and poultry, have a moderate effect.


A study conducted in the United States found that animal agriculture contributes to 80% of air pollution through the use of fertilisers and pesticides and the accumulation of animal waste. In addition, meat and dairy doesn’t just cause direct issues to the environment, but also contributes to deforestation expanding cropland for animal feed.


Powered by plants: Vegan Sports Stars

Showing just how effective a plant-based diet can be for your health, many top athletes follow the diet to perform at their best. Here are a few examples of athletes and sports teams leading the charge!


Venus Williams

Venus Williams is a former No.1 professional tennis player winning seven Grand Slam single titles and three Olympic gold medals in women’s doubles with her sister Serena. She is widely regarded as one of the all-time greats of tennis.

Venus switched to a vegan diet after being diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, Sjogrem’s Syndrome. Sjogrem’s syndrome causes joint pain and fatigue and could have seriously hindered her court performance. Speaking to Health, Venus talks about her switch to a plant-based diet:

“I started for health reasons. I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, and I wanted to maintain my performance on the court. Once I started, I fell in love with the concept of fuelling your body in the best way possible. Not only does it help me on the court, but I feel like I’m doing the right thing for me.”

 

Patrik Baboumian

 Patrik is a 2012 European Powerlifting Champion breaking 3 world records in strong man events. Patrik is proof that you can be vegan and also be the strongest man in the world. In advocating for veganism, he has inspired many other athletes to try diets and dispelled the myth that a vegan diet can’t make you strong.  After winning the 2012 world record in yoke walk, he told the audience:

“This is a message to all those out there who think that you need animal products to be fit and strong. Almost two years after becoming vegan I am stronger than ever before and I am still improving day by day. […] Go vegan and feel the power!”


David Smith, MBE

David is a hugely successful para rower and cyclist. As paralympic gold medalist and GB cycling team member, David credits his plant-based diet to to his quicker recovery from the sport:

“I had been very unwell after the 2012 games and I came across Rich Roll‘s book and it made total sense to me. My main motivation was health, then I started to notice all the benefits from fast recovery between training, better sleep and more energy. I started with adding more plant based foods into my week and before I knew it I was 100% plant based.”


Fiona Oakes

Four-times world record breaking ultramarathon runner, Fiona Oakes proves that a vegan diet can supercharge athleticism. Fiona became a vegan at the age of six in the 1970s and has started a group called vegan runners aimed at showing how a healthy plant-based diet can help improve running performance. Fiona said to the Vegan Society:       

“It’s becoming clearer than ever that many top athletes rely on a diet without animal products, just as I’ve demonstrated the power of veganism by winning four Guinness World Records and running marathons on every continent.”    


Lewis Hamilton

Five-time Formula 1 champion, Lewis Hamilton, changed his diet in 2017 to follow a strictly plant-based diet having previously followed a mostly pescatarian diet.

Hamilton is an advocate for the vegan diet and living a more sustainable lifestyle. He implored his followers on Instagram:

“I urge you to do some research, find the compassion I know you have within you to recognise what you are contributing to in terms of what you eat which keeps the meat and dairy industry flourishing and therefore deforestation, animal cruelty, our seas and climate decaying on a daily basis.”


Forest Green Rovers

It’s not only individual athletes that recognise the benefits of a plant-based diet, some sports teams are using a plant-based diet to fuel their performance.

League 1 team,  Forest Green Rovers, are the only vegan football club in the world. Their stadium’s catering is completely plant-based and most of the players follow a vegan diet. Their vegan ‘Q-pie’ was commended at the British Pie Awards and they have been awarded ‘Menu of the Year’ from Sport and Leisure Catering Magazine.


Green Gazelles Rugby

From football to rugby, the world’s first vegan rugby club all follow a plant-based diet. Matt Dickens, the Coach, spoke to the BBC on the team’s mission:

“You can still perform physically without needing to eat animal products, and the message really is just to spread kindness.”

Philip Bryden, the Green Gazelles nutritionist credits a wholefood plant-based diet for reducing inflammation. When speaking about the common fear for athletes around protein on a plant-based diet, he says “Yes, you need protein but protein is just being carried by the steak; the steak is the vehicle.”


Interested in becoming more plant-based? Here are 5-ways to get started.

1. Choose a couple of days a week to eat plant based food and expand your palate slowly.

2. Becoming plant-based doesn’t mean your whole dinner plans need to change. Try simple swaps such as replacing mince in a shepherd’s pie or bolognese for lentils. Try your tacos or chilli with mixed beans instead of meat. Tofu, tempeh, and jackfruit make good swaps for chicken, beef or pork in stir fries, curries. There’s plenty of fake meat options too to make this easier.

3. Discover your local fruit and veg stall and pack lots of variety into your meals. Eating plant-based can be a great culinary discovery, you might just find your new favourite foods!

4. Why not set yourself a challenge and try a month of veganism as part of Veganuary?

5. There are some great plant-based recipe websites. Some favourites include Hurrythefoodup,  Deliciously Ella, and BOSH! 

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