This month has seen another success for Veganuary with a further rise in people experimenting with a plant-based diet.
In 2014, a total of 3,300 people signed up. In 2015 the figure rose to 12,800. In 2016 it was 23,000, and this year the figure is 59,500 of which 39,328 came from the UK. The best age range figures were between 18 and 34. You can check out more stats by going to https://veganuary.com
The initiative is to go through January without any animal or dairy produce. While many have taken up the challenge, I have heard of quite a number who have fallen away during the month, mainly citing protein deficiencies or meat cravings as the main reasons.
Protein deficiency is a serious issue. When you have been brought up on “meat and 2 veg” principles, milk makes you healthy and strong, and “go to work on an egg”, it is tough to comprehend that you can get all the nutrients you need exclusively from plant-based diets.
There are very healthy Vegans around, including body builders, who rely totally on diets without meat and without any dairy products. You just have to be careful what you eat, and ensure that the amount of protein consumed daily is consistent with your daily requirements.
Problems can arise when changing from a meat-heavy diet to a more healthy one. Here are a few rough figures on the protein content of servings of various foods. Obviously the figures are a little vague, but are produced to assume an average serving of each item, and the amount of protein (in grams) likely to be included in it.
You can see from this that to suddenly switch from meat and dairy without carefully working out a plan for alternative protein sources could quickly lead to health issues.
The broad daily requirement of protein for Mr Average is 56grams, and for Mrs Average 46 grams. However, depending on a persons metabolism and daily work or exercise regimes, these should be considered as minimum figures. The approximate percentages of where the protein comes from in a non-Vegan diet is MEAT and DAIRY 66%, CEREALS and BREADS 25% and NUTS and PULSES 9%. Therefore a considerable adjustment of food intake is required when moving away from Animal and Dairy nutrition.
Fact is, we all need protein for strong muscles and bones. Protein is needed for the absorption of calcium, vital for muscle and bone cell replenishment. Too little protein, and your body can suffer in many ways.
Firstly your whole metabolism can slow down, and your energy levels decrease. You may suffer from fatigue, and can have poor concentration. Muscles can waste, and you can experience muscular pain, as well as joint pain and bone ache. You may suffer from low immunity to illness and disease, and wounds may heal more slowly.
So how do we overcome this potential threat to our health, assuming we wish to change our dietary habits ?
Even the best green vegetables only have single figure protein amounts, so filling up with Spinach, Kale, Broccoli and Sprouts will have excellent dietary advantages, with good fibre, vitamin and mineral counts, together with a low calorie score. It won’t, though, do much for protein requirements.
Beans and Legumes can be added to the diet with various beans (such as Adzuki and Mung) adding to the protein count, but a lot have to be consumed to replace the protein from a beef steak or chicken portion. Also recommended are Seeds, Nuts, Lentils and whole grains such a Quinoa, Buckwheat, Amaranth and Oats.
Coconut Milk and Almond Milk (and other nut and Soya milks) can replace cows milk.
While the new diet is refined, it may be necessary to supplement with Protein powders, or take 1 or two days a week with a fish or dairy based meal.
The meat we now eat is rarely produced in the way it was in times gone by. As you will see from other posts and pages on this website, production methods and chemical intervention has resulted in a poorer and less healthy food reaching your table. The proteins derived from todays meat and dairy foods are lacking in quality, and there are also hidden nasties that are lurking in the contents.
Wherever possible, stick with the plant-based option, just keeping a wary eye on protein intake. Just take a one or two day meat and dairy holiday if you feel you need the extra protein. Or a fish day to add both proteins and the omega oils. The Vegan police won’t come round. After all, it’s your body. So look after it.
Look out for my next post. We’ll be discussing chocolate !