For many, turning vegan is the new way to eat. Whether it is due to health benefits, wanting a simple way to stay at a healthy weight or wanting to help out our animal friends and the environment (the documentary Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret claims that 51% of greenhouse gases are caused by animal agriculture), thousands upon thousands of us are turning towards the plant based life.
People all over the world are finding veganism to be a huge positive factor within their everyday lives, as it loses its negative connotations, more of us are realises the potential in plant based food. It is easy to think of it as being a barrier for all of the things that you can't eat, but there are actually some pretty awesome vegan ingredients and recipes that can mix up your daily eating habits and be just as tasty.
What are the health benefits?
There are many health benefits that come with being vegan, from your weight, to your skin and more. Going vegan can help you to keep hydrated, as the amount of fruit and vegetables that vegans typically consume contain a huge amount of water that you just don't get from a meat based diet. Therefore, your skin could look much smoother and wrinkle free.
Going vegan also encourages you to eat foods higher in fibre and protein,, meaning that it is easier to control your weight without all the nasty saturated fats and cholesterol found in animal products. This means that following a vegan diet has all the health benefits of a clean lifestyle, without that limitations of being on a diet.
Many doctors now believe that a plant based lifestyle can help to prevent many common diseases and health conditions such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and numerous types of cancer. This is due to the removal of red meat dairy and other foods with high levels of saturated fat and cholesterol from the diet, which can easily be replaced with some alternative ingredients.
What types of food will I be eating?
If you're trying to learn the ways of being a vegan, you will want to know what food you're going to be eating. There's some popular vegan options that we all know (hummus we're pointing at you) but there are also some others that can help you to create some very tasty meals that you wouldn't even know are vegan. You don't have to fall into that dreaded trap of munching on raw vegetables every day.
Vegan ingredients can be as varied as you like, ingredients that maybe you're not that familiar with such as tofu, quinoa, seitan and miso can be adapted in many ways to add protein in your meals. Vegans adapt all kind of different foods from jackfruit, which can actually take the place of pulled pork (amazing), all the way through to eggless pasta, peanut butter and green veggies.
"Substituting your favourite ingredients for a vegan alternative means that you can make the same tasty foods but without the meat products"
Pulses and beans are a great base for any dinner dish and can carry loads of ingredients. Try lentils, quinoa or cannellini beans and create your dinner around them. Tofu or its more expensive counterpart 'tempeh', are also good bases and meat replacements in things such as curries, stir fry's or stews.
Nutritional yeast is popular within the vegan society as an ingredient that can add that lovely cheesy, nutty taste to recipes, so fear not cheese lovers. It may not be the same but it's a pretty good alternative. Being a vegan doesn't mean that you have to wave goodbye to all your favourite cravings. Foods such as peanut butter, nuts, maple syrup and mayo (vegan mayo that is) can still find their way into your new vegan diet.
Even baked goods have their own vegan alternatives. You may be worrying about all that cake you won't be able to eat, but there are plenty of easy egg substitutes that will put those worries to rest. One solution is to use apple sauce instead of egg, mashed banana (quantities range from a 1:2 ratio or 1 mashed banana for 1 egg) and a mixture of baking soda and vinegar (1 egg is equivalent to 1 teaspoon of baking soda plus 1 tablespoon of vinegar).
While many people worry about developing a deficiency from only eating plants, taking up a vegan diet can provide you with loads of important nutrients to keep you healthy and feeling great. Many of the ingredients that you are probably going to be including in your diet are naturally high in protein, which has many positive effects on your body. Firstly, it helps to repair muscle tissue whilst encouraging it to grow, meaning that it will help you to get a bit leaner. Protein also helps you to feel fuller for longer by slowing digestion. Many of the foods will also be high in fibre, meaning that you will have lots of extra nutrients going round your body.
Vegan foods that are high in protein include pulses and beans like chickpeas, which make a great snack. Spread them out on a tray, add a splash of oil, sprinkle with spices and roast. Peanut butter also has high protein and so is tofu, so you'll be getting a good portion of protein when you include it in your recipes.
The basics of vegan recipes
There are plenty of easy vegan recipes and they are all as tasty (or even tastier!) as a non vegan meal. For those start of the day cravings, you can easily make a vegan breakfast more exciting than one you would eat pre vegan life. Most of the recipes out there will target those early morning pangs of hunger and give you more nutrients and less empty sugar then the average western breakfast. You can mix it up by going for baked goods or get your daily fruit intake off to a speedy start with differing styles of eating fruit.
When it comes to vegan dinner recipes, they can be as imaginative as you want them to be. Substituting your favourite ingredients for a vegan alternative means that you can make the same tasty foods but without the meat products.
Being vegan doesn't have to stop at your food choices. Animal cruelty within the clothing and makeup industry is a huge ongoing issue.
Kan Von D amongst others, is making changes in this industry, producing a line of fur-free makeup brushes and other vegan, cruelty free products such as contour palettes, lipsticks and eau de parfums. Lush also does their part and do not test their products on animals. Don't know whether your makeup is cruelty free? You can check whether your favourite beauty company tests on animals at Beauty Without Bunnies.