With all the talk of Veganuary, you’d be forgiven for thinking that we are in the midst of a newfound vegetarian revolution. People who were quite happily omnivorous in 2017 have spent the previous month of January purging the excesses of Christmas by going vegan. Vegetarianism and veganism have often had a huge stigma attached to them. The most ardent of meat eaters imagine some dreadlocked, pale and super skinny hippies practising yoga, enjoying the sweet intoxicating scents of incense, acting as militant animal rights activists and wearing sandals rather than leather shoes as they chant in unison. While a minute proportion of vegetarians probably do fit this stereotype, the majority do not.
It’s still always a shock to meet someone who is a vegetarian. If you’re at a party and someone you are speaking to is offered a prosciutto canape only to refuse it saying they are vegetarian, you are taken aback. It’s as if some sort of extraterrestrial being has entered the vicinity. They can’t be a vegetarian, surely? They look fit and healthy and glowing and alert and happy. This is the joy of the newfound vegetarian revolution – you can be healthy and not be the carnivorous steak eating neanderthals you thought you had to be.
If you venture into the realms of a vegetarian diet, you’ll soon be aware of the benefits to your heart. Vegetarians tend to enjoy a high fibre diet full of whole grains, pulses and lentils, as well as the obvious vegetables. By waving goodbye to the processed meats such as reformed ham and bacon, and swapping it with leafy green vegetables, fruit and legumes, you are actively lowering your cholesterol.
An added benefit is a healthier gut and a more efficient digestive system. It’s not unheard of for people who switch to a vegetarian diet to not only feel healthier but also shed a pound or two, keeping lean and utilising their fat stores.
But What About Your Muscles?
If you’re a gym bunny and love nothing more than venturing onto the treadmill for forty minutes, rowing like a robot for half an hour or pumping some iron down in the weights room, you might be thinking that would be nigh on impossible without the nutritional elements from meat. While lean chicken will give your muscles a much-needed protein boost there are also plenty of vegan options that are just as effective. Almonds, peanut butter, quinoa and tofu are full of protein to promote the production of much-needed amino acids within your muscles.
You don’t have to make do with bland and boring food. Vegetarian and vegan cuisine cooked up in restaurants is now as gourmet and as Michelin starred as any other omnivorous eatery. How about a delicious Thai tofu rendang or a pickled beets, edamame and quinoa salad?
You can even eat all your old favourites like pizza and lasagne, just using meat and dairy free alternatives.
Eating vegetarian food makes you think outside the box and allows you to eat in a more balanced and nutritious way.
Lowering The Risk Of Cancer
There are scientific studies to suggest that the antioxidants contained within the produce from the good old greengrocers help to combat the free radicals that are loose within our bodies. It’s been suggested that we should try and eat the rainbow. While many use this as an excuse to gobble up as many skittles as they possibly can, it actually means eating a variety of different coloured fruit and vegetables every day as each colour represents a different aspect of nutrition. Start your day with porridge adorned with blueberries and banana, have a salad of beetroot, red peppers, cucumber, mint and couscous bejewelled with pomegranate seeds for lunch and how about a mushroom stroganoff with kale for dinner?
Fibre is vital for a healthy gut, so by increasing your vegetable and fruit intake, you are naturally upping your daily intake of the stuff. Alongside antioxidants and vital vitamins and minerals, you can lower your risk factors for cancer.
Many people choose to make a foray into the world of vegetarianism not just for the health benefits but also because they can’t bear the thought of contributing to a shockingly inhumane animal welfare system. We are often exposed to images of appalling abattoir practices, the barbaric transportation of animals for slaughter and the atrocious living conditions of some farm animals and cattle abroad. For some people, this is enough to simply turn their stomachs, literally. They choose to forget the meat and take a journey down the road of vegetarianism.
While not every vegetarian will be a militant campaigner, nearly all have animal welfare as a reason as to why they chose their particular diet. Why not talk to some of your vegetarian friends and see what they have to say about the topic. Most vegetarians are not missionaries and don’t wish to preach or convert the uninitiated. Those that do often get short shrift at dinner parties and find themselves very isolated. However, most people who choose a plant-based diet will be more than happy to talk to you honestly about what they eat, their health and the challenges they faced when they first became vegetarian.
If you are tempted to try out a vegetarian or vegan diet, go slowly. By steadily replacing products for meat and dairy free alternatives you can make sure you aren’t getting caught out and finding it too hard. Also, your tastes will change so even if you miss things at first, this won’t last long and there are so many good replacements out there these days. Remember, you won’t wither away, feel faint or become drastically underweight simply by cutting out meat. You will be an advocate of the leafy greens, the puy lentils and marinated tofu. Maybe it’s time you joined the ranks and became part of the vegetarian revolution.