Moving to a plant-based, vegan lifestyle has become more popular than ever before in recent years. Every year there is more evidence of the environmental, health and wellbeing benefits of moving to a vegan lifestyle.
Why go vegan?
Veganism is the art of not consuming any animal products, including the clothes you wear, the food you eat and the drinks you consume. Vegan diets can lower blood pressure and cholesterol according to some research, and even lower the chances of getting type 2 diabetes.
Many people also go vegan to help support the environment and combat the climate crisis.
How to go vegan
Moving to a vegan lifestyle can be a stark difference to some previous diets and ways of living, especially if you’re jumping from a heavy-meat diet to a vegan one. It’s not uncommon for people to try vegetarianism or pescetarianism first, to start slowly by cutting out meat and/or fish, before dairy products and eggs.
You first need to work out exactly what parts of your lifestyle need to change, as approximately two-thirds of vegans are still using items that they mistakenly think are vegan. Apart from food and drink, you also need to cater for:
The clothes you wear
Many clothes include materials that are taken from the skin of animals. This includes the usual suspects such as wool, leather and fur, but some might not know that silk, suede and even some jeans (which may have a leather patch at the back) are not vegan.
It’s worth doing your research on the materials of the clothes you own to make sure you’re not wearing any animal produce. Or at least, bearing this in mind for future clothes purposes.
Traditional tattoo ink includes the likes of glycerine, gelatine and bone char, all of which are animal by-products. And stencil papers are often made using lanolin, a substance derived from sheep’s wool.
As long as your tattoo artist has a clear understanding of the inks on their studio shelves, you will be able to get a vegan tattoo. Achieving vegan tattoos is possible with different, modern inks which are now available, though it may involve some research into exactly what supplies your studio uses, asking your artist is the best way to get the answers you need.
Many beauty products (makeup, skincare and haircare) include animal ingredients or animal-derived products. This can include the likes of honey, beeswax, collagen, gelatin, and many others. However, just because it does not include an animal-derived product, this does not automatically mean the product is not vegan. It must also not have been tested on animals, either. This is why you should always look for vegan and cruelty-free labels.
Looking for vegan logos and labels is always a great way to quickly identify vegan beauty products. If you see a vegan logo or a CCIC bunny logo it means that your product is vegan, cruelty-free and safe to use. If the product is lacking in clarity it may be time to dig deeper. Looking into ingredients and other product pointers will help you to identify the product and if it’s vegan or not.
You might not know, but many fabric softeners contain animal fats - you should look out for tallow dimethyl ammonium chloride.
Other household cleaning products may include the likes of caprylic acid (sourced from milk), tallow (which comes from cows) and animal glycerol.
Vegan cleaning products, like beauty, will specify when they are vegan and cruelty-free so it’s always worth double-checking.
How does going vegan help the environment?
Factory farming massively contributes towards the climate change crisis, and going vegan can also help the serious humanitarian crisis that’s being caused by the environment as a result of climate change.
Along with environmental benefits, going vegan has serious health benefits. Yes, animal products do nourish our bodies, but when we go plant-based, we focus on consuming more nutritious foods, more regularly. There’s a reason nutritionists tell us to eat more fruit and vegetables after all.
And finally - your bank balance will thank you! Veganism has a stigma of having expensive foods, but if you make and cook your own vegan meals, you’d be surprised how cheap it is.
Does going vegan make you irritable?
Going vegan can make you irritable - but only if you do it improperly. This is for the same reason as you get irritated - or ‘hangry’ when you’re hungry. When some people go vegan, it can result in nutritional deficiencies, which have an impact on your mental health.
It’s important that you maintain a well-balanced diet, and avoid replacing animal products with low-nutrient choices. If so, don’t be afraid to take some of your nutrients in vitamin forms, such as omega-3 and Vitamin B12. Also, don’t forget to make sure you eat enough calories!
Does going vegan cause weight loss?
Going vegan should not be used as a fad diet. Instead, it should be a lifestyle change. That said, going vegan can help you to lose weight as part of a healthy lifestyle.
Vegan diets are much more prevalent in fibre, a key component for weight loss. They’re also lower in saturated fats, and typically lower in calories than meat and dairy-based foods. However, there are still plenty of vegan junk food alternatives that don’t include one fruit or vegetable, and some food items can be a lot higher in healthy fats, such as oil and nuts.
Put simply, yes, going vegan can help weight loss - but it won’t directly make you lose weight unless you focus on a balanced diet, as you would any other diet. Don’t avoid junk food entirely, just have it from time to time.
What can I expect when I go vegan?
As mentioned, you will consume fewer calories as a vegan at first. So to prevent fatigue or sluggishness, you will need to eat a higher volume of foods.
You will find that you’ll benefit from a fresh round of recipes with vegan foods, and that can change up your day and how you cook. Vegan food is great when cooked fresh, and cooking can be fun when you’re learning new recipes. We also recommend batch cooking recipes regularly so you don’t have to always spend a while cooking.
You may deal with meat and dairy cravings when first shifting to a vegan diet, but don’t beat yourself up about this. You’re changing your habits after decades of living a certain way - that’s hard! This is why we recommend not changing overnight but taking small steps.
With more fibre, you may suffer from initial digestive issues too, however, as you change your diet slowly your bowels and gut will adapt eventually.
Being vegan can be a hard task, especially when it comes to finding vegan products, however, there are ways around it. Using your common sense and a bit of research will easily lead you to products that are full vegan and cruelty-free.
Going vegan is a hard task. But, like many things that are hard - running a 5k for the first time, raising children, finishing a university degree - it’s absolutely worth it.