Why you should turn vegan in 2017

Vegan pizza at Gigi Pizzeria, Newtown.
Vegan pizza at Gigi Pizzeria, Newtown.  Photo: Anna Kucera

COMMENT

It's time for a vegan revolution. I mean, resolution.

Each new year, countless people resolve to lose weight and eat healthfully but many find themselves no thinner - or healthier - in July than they were in January. Perhaps this year, everyone should put some stock in the US Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics' new position paper on vegetarian and vegan eating and resolve to ditch meat, eggs and dairy foods.

The updated paper, which was published in December, confirms that wholesome vegan foods "are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits for the prevention and treatment of certain diseases". It specifically points out that people who eat plant-based meals are less likely to suffer from obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and cancer.

According to the authors, people who go vegan reduce their risk of developing diabetes by a whopping 62 per cent, of being hospitalised for a heart attack by 33 per cent, of suffering from heart disease by 29 per cent and of succumbing to any form of cancer by 18 per cent. Men can reduce their chance of developing prostate cancer by 35 per cent just by eating vegan.

Soul Burger in Glebe offers plant-based fare.
Soul Burger in Glebe offers plant-based fare. Photo: Supplied

And in case you weren't listening the first time they said it, the academy reiterated its assertion that a vegan lifestyle is suitable - even beneficial - for everyone, including pregnant and breastfeeding women, babies, children, adults, athletes and your third cousin, twice removed.

And that's not to mention anyone who professes to care about animals or the environment.

The report even includes information on the environmental aspects of eating vegan. Susan Levin, one of the report's authors, acknowledges that the academy's expertise is in nutrition but says it's impossible to ignore the evidence proving that plant-based foods are better for the planet. Research has shown that if everyone ate a plant-based diet, it would cut food-related greenhouse gas emissions by 70 per cent and save 8 million human lives by 2050.

Going vegan spares countless animals, too, so it's the right thing to do from an ethical standpoint. And not to sound like a teenager, but everyone is doing it. According to a poll by Harris Interactive in New York, there are nearly 4 million adult vegans in the US alone (and even more vegetarians). More and more companies now offer plant-based options in order to meet the growing demand. Ice-cream company Ben & Jerry's, for example, introduced four vegan flavours in 2016, and multinational Unilever recently introduced its own non-dairy mayo spread - after previously suing another company that makes vegan mayonnaise for alleged false advertising, arguing at the time that mayonnaise must contain eggs.

In late 2016, Tyson Foods - the largest US meat company by sales - invested in Beyond Meat, a company that makes vegan meats. It was a smart move: the vegan-meat market is projected to reach $5.2 billion globally by 2020.

So, yeah, I guess a vegan revolution is taking place - an innovative one at that. A few months ago, a meat-free gastropub opened in Miami, and the city is getting a vegan butcher in early 2017. It won't even be the first in the US - The Herbivorous Butcher opened in Minneapolis in January 2016. A popular Mexican restaurant in Dallas made news when it switched to serving all-vegan fare, and North Dakota recently got its first vegan restaurant.

In Australia, Suzy Spoon's Vegetarian Butcher offers vegan sausages, patties and schnitzels. And Crust Gourmet Pizza Bar introduced its first vegan cheese pizza in December 2016.

Out with the old and in with the new, as they say. If you want to turn over a new leaf, resolve to go vegan in 2017. And if you need help - and extra inspiration - check out Jackie Day's new book, The Vegan Way. It includes 21 days' worth of tips and encouragement that will help you be a happy, healthy vegan.

Heather Moore is a staff writer for the PETA Foundation. 

Tribune News Service