Australia ranks as the #1 nation for searching the term 'vegan' on Google, so it seems that plant-based eating is the new black.
Nearly half (44 per cent) of Aussies report going meat-free at least once a week, so what exactly is veganism and how can it benefit our body and mind?
Kirsten Scott, Nuzest expert and Holistic Health & Wellness Coach takes us through the growing movement.
Kirsten says that when you eat a plant-based diet, your body goes into detox mode.
“It is a known fact, not an opinion, that animals from non-organic, natural farms are being fed antibiotics,” Kirsten says.
Not only will you be reducing the risk of being exposed to these antibiotics, Kirsten reveals that following a plant-based diet increases the body’s metabolism.
“It causes the body to burn calories up to 16 per cent faster than the body would on a meat-based diet for at least the first three hours after meals,” she says.
Furthermore, eating a diet that is high in fruits and vegetables means you’re consuming antioxidants, vitamin E and folate.
Additional help needed for brain health
If you decide to ditch meat, it’s important to ensure you’re getting enough vitamin B12 for optimal neurological health.
“Vitamin B12 can only be found in animal products and is essential for protecting nerve cells,” Kirsten explains. “Low levels of B12 can interfere with mood as well as concentration, so those not eating meat need to find a product such as Good Green Stuff that contains methylcoalamin, which is the active form of vitamin B12.”
Introduce new ingredients
Don’t bite off more than you can chew - ease into vegan eating slowly. Try picking food groups one-by-one to eliminate and follow it for a few weeks to see how you feel.
Kirsten recommends trying to cut dairy first. “Our bodies are not made to digest cow milk, which is why 75 per cent of people are lactose intolerant,” she tells. “Cheese, ice cream and chocolate were always my favorite foods growing up, so I was a little nervous about this one. But all I did was find replacement foods.”
Instead, Kirsten opts for coconut and almond-based ice creams, and her cheese of choice is made from pea protein or nuts.
“Of course, it tastes slightly different at first because the food is different. But different doesn't mean worse; it just means different,” she says. “Veganism is about learning how to make your foods in a healthier manner, not dropping all of the foods you grew up with and replacing them with carrots.”
Increases your variety of proteins
The biggest misconception about vegans is that they lack protein in their diet, Kirsten tells.
However, if enough plant-based protein is consumed (quinoa, beans, nuts, grains, seitan, tofu, etc.) vegans can get the same amount of protein as meat-eaters without the fat component.
“Once you decide to have a plant-based diet, you will quickly learn there are thousands of different plant species you haven't tried yet,” Kirsten says.
Better for you and the planet
Apart from helping your body in many different ways, the benefits of plant-based eating stretch much further.
“In Australia, 250,000 animals are killed every hour for their meat. Each vegan saves about 200 animals a year,” Kirsten says. “Therefore, if you're vegan for 15 years, you have saved 3,000 animals. That is a serious difference.”
Kirsten also shares that veganism assists in cutting pollution (helping to reduce pollution created from the meat industry) and saves water (1,000 gallons are needed to produce 1kg of meat).
Despite this, Kirsten does maintain that everyone’s ideal diet is different.
“While many people do thrive on a plant-based diet, I do warn that everyone's body is different and that it may not be suitable for everyone,” she says. “At the end of the day, the optimal diet for any one person depends on multiple factors such as age, gender, activity levels, current metabolic health, food culture and personal preference.”