November is officially Vegan Month, but we're sure you've most likely already heard about it from a vegan (or five). The vegan epidemic is spreading, and although scary, it might not be the biggest mis-steak for your health.
Being a strict vegan diet means no meat, seafood, dairy... essentially any food produced using animal products. This includes baked goods containing butter, some wines and beer, and most packaged snacks. While this may seem like a tough diet to follow, research has found that eating animal-free could gift you a few extra years.
Research from the JAMA Internal Medicine Journal has identified significant reductions in the risk of death thanks to a plant based diet. For every 3 per cent increase in calories from plant protein, the risk of death is decreased by 10 per cent.
Adversely, by increasing animal protein intake by only 10 per cent, meat eaters increase their risk of death by 2 per cent from all causes.
"Research suggests that vegan diets usually contain more dietary fibre, folic acid, vitamins C & E, potassium and magnesium, but have less cholesterol and saturated fat. This reduces the risk of many modern chronic diseases such as heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure" explains Professor Moravej, a Nutritional Scientist from Manchester Metropolitan University.
Huge motivators for the surge in veganism appear to be both health and environmentally driven, with 49 per cent of vegan study participants limiting their intake on the assumption that meat is bad for their health. "Weight management (29 per cent) is the second most popular reason for limiting or reducing meat consumption, while concern over animal welfare (24 per cent) and the environment (24 per cent) are equal motivators" say Moravej.
Researchers involved in the study do warn that without informed food choices or supplementation deficiencies may be an issue when adopting this alternative lifestyle. According to top vegan PT Adam Stansbury, if you’re not careful, going vegan could open you to a deficiency of muscle-building vitamins B12, D3 and Iron, which in turn leads to chronic fatigue.
And that’s just the vitamins. It’s a lot trickier on a vegan diet to get the right amount of macronutrients through plants, too. They’re simply not as dense as animal protein. For instance, 100g of tofu only contains 8g of protein, whereas 100g of chicken is packed with 54g.
But those numbers shouldn’t stop you, and your gains are still possible. After all, look on the bright side, to reach your protein targets, you get to eat a whole lot more food, and you'll be living a lot longer to achieve your goals.
In fact, according to landmark research from the University of San Diego, a vegan diet could be key to sculpting lean muscle, too. The study explains how "vegan proteins ramp up your body’s glucagon activity, which means it primes your body’s insulin levels for single-digit body fat."
If you're still unconvinced to eat like a rabbit full time, look to Formula One hero Lewis Hamilton, and Hollywood action stars like Jared Leto and Liam Hemsworth, who both adopt vegan lifestyles when preparing for big roles.
"There are no negatives to eating like this. I feel nothing but positive, mentally and physically. I love it. I feel like it also has a kind of domino effect on the rest of my life," explains the youngest Hemsworth brother.
If vegan eating is good enough for a Hemsworth and will keep us around a few years longer, maybe it's a plan worth sticking. Or at least trying for a day.