“You are what you eat” may be a saying heard time and again, but this phrase, coined by Anthelme Brillat-Savarin in 1826, holds more truth to it than simply meets the eye. What one puts in, is ultimately what one will get out. In recent years, with the rise of ethical debates and the shifting of viewpoints with regards to man´s impact on the planet, came with it the rise of plant-based diets and food revolutions worldwide. The most common of these being vegetarianism and veganism. Big questions, however are how doable these diets are on a day-to-day basis and what impacts they could have on the body in future.
Most people, worldwide, are somewhat familiar with the concept of vegetarianism and veganism, but with so many diets and fads spanning across the years and with many of these negatively impacting the body´s overall well-being, scepticism remains about how good plant-based diets can be and whether or not the removal of a food group may result in deficiency problems later on. Vegetarians and vegans alike may have differing reasons for why each individual decides to follow an animal-meat sans diet, but recurring trends in motif link to ethical reasons when it comes to animal-food production, man´s negative impact on the planet (environmental concerns) and the desire to live and lead healthier lives.
Recent studies, like those conducted by The Vegetarian Times, have shown that being vegan or vegetarian may be better for your health than you think. Amongst many reasons, a plant-based diet can reduce one´s risk of diseases like cancer and coronary heart disease. Plant-based diets also increase energy-levels and have been proven to aid weight-loss and lower cholesterol levels. In some cases nutritional supplements may be needed, but these ultimately depend on one´s own biological needs and differ for everyone.
Ultimately, with the removal of a food group, comes with it concerns by the general public that deficiencies will result. The Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa, find that one should ¨aim for a balanced plate: ¼ protein, ¼ starch and ½ vegetables and fruit on your plate.¨
One of the biggest concerns for many people is the fact that meat, a large source of protein for most people, is cut out. For vegetarians and vegans alike, this is a problem easily solved by simply replacing these foods with protein-packed plant substitutes like soy, quinoa, grains or legumes. As per the DietDoc, fruit and vegetables are ¨probably the most important group when it comes to good health.¨
This way of living has also bred with it a culture and a unity in plant-based diet foodies worldwide. Public figures like callisthenics body-weight trainer Frank Medrano and model Kate King, who are both vegans, relay to their respective audiences that such plant-based diets are doable and can still keep one medically fit and healthy. Kate King offers advice on her blog for those wanting to follow a vegan diet.
The lifestyle unity between vegetarians and vegans alike, also breeds with it communities. These can be seen on vegan food pages on social media, vegan or vegetarian societies like the South African Vegan Society, or magazines like The Vegan Life. Restaurants are also becoming increasingly vegetarian and vegan friendly, by offering alternatives for those with these dietary specifications. There has been a visible increase in recent years in recipes showing vegan alternatives to popular foods like pancakes, donuts or even burgers, allowing those who don´t necessarily follow these diets themselves, to incorporate them into their daily lives.
Not only is veganism and vegetarianism proving to be both doable and good for one´s overall health, but also an inclusive ´club´, open for all those interested or willing.
[Photography my own]