Written By Natasha Zervaas N.P.
The upward trend towards a more plant based lifestyle has, according to research by Global Data, culminated in a whopping 500% increase in the number of vegan consumers since 2014, with 37% of Australians now actively reducing overall meat consumption, and 10% stating they are vegan or vegetarian.*
So what’s this plant based lifestyle all about? The reasons why people are making the switch are many, and vary from wanting to be more environmentally kinder to the planet, to being healthier overall and living longer.
There are definitely some major health benefits to reducing our overall consumption of animal products. This is because eating meat has been linked to an increase in heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and even cancer, whereas alternative proteins such as beans and other pulses may actually lower the risk of stroke.
There have been an innumerable number of studies conducted on the benefits of the Mediterranean style diet which is high in fruits, vegetables, nuts and plant oils such as olives, as opposed to the W.P.D. (Western Pattern Diet) which consists of a high intake of refined sugars, red and processed meats. Research by the Massachusetts General Hospital found that raising the consumption of animal protein in one's diet by 10% led to a 2% higher risk of death.* Hence if you want to improve your overall health and wellbeing and increase your chances of living to a ripe old age still with a spring in your step – plant based is the way to go!
Personally I love being plant based – I feel amazing on the inside and can see the difference on the outside – glowing, clear and youthful skin as opposed to my pale, bloated and acne riddled skin of old! However, transitioning to being 100% vegan has for me been a real challenge, especially when eating out at restaurants for example. No-one likes being ‘that’ person who can’t eat anything on the menu, or who drives the waiter and chef crazy by completely altering their menu to suit. It’s a challenge I’ll admit and one I still battle with occasionally. I am trying to not be so rigid when eating out at a restaurant and tell myself it’s not the end of the world if my vegetables were sautéed in butter today!
My best advice when just starting on your plant based journey is to not have unrealistic expectations that you are able to change a lifetime of habits overnight. You would need to have a very strong willpower to instantly transition from a 3 times a day meat consumer into a fully raw vegan.
Just start small, such as cooking a plant based meal one night a week (meatless Mondays for example, having smaller portions of animal protein and instead loading up your plate with a generous serving of beautiful, brightly coloured (and nutritious) vegetables. If I was unsure what food was on offer at a family gathering for instance, I would bring a plant based sharing plate to avoid any awkward ‘I don’t eat that’ conversations!
When I first started transitioning to a more plant based diet, I researched how to substitute part or all of the meat component of my family’s favourite recipes with a vegan alternative. Once I had mastered a couple of new dishes, I added them into my family’s weeknight dinner rotation. A major benefit to me as a busy working mother is not having to worry about defrosting an animal protein out of the deep freezer every single night, my weekly grocery bill is much lower and the vegan meals I’ve prepared have been super quick and easy – perfect for a midweek meal when you are tired and time poor! I’ve also noticed as the plant based lifestyle gains popularity, more and more of a variety of products are available at my local supermarket, saving me a lot of time and stress trying to source these products elsewhere..
The benefits of being plant based in my opinion, far outweigh the challenges, so be kinder to yourself – every small step you make towards a more plant based lifestyle is a positive one, no matter how small!
* PLAY Market Research (PLAY MR)
* Massachusetts General Hospital
The benefits and challenges The benefits and challenges The benefits and challenges