What I've Learnt From Going Vegan

    I've now been vegan for a whole five months, which is so much longer than I planned - I started in January 2020, with the aim of just doing Veganuary. But here I am, still vegan and loving it! I've been thinking a lot recently about how much of a learning curve it has been, and how the lifestyle has really impacted my health for the better. Here are the biggest things I've learnt since going vegan.

    A vegan diet is far from limiting

    Given that the main premise of veganism is cutting out animal products, you’d assume that it would be a somewhat limiting diet. Aside from not being able to eat a slice of cake at work every so often I’ve really found that this isn’t true at all.

    Since going vegan I’d say that my diet has become more varied and colourful, and my relationship with food has got better. Cooking is more fun now, and I find myself looking forward to every meal rather than quietly praying for a takeaway instead. I’m eating food I’d never actually tried before, such as maple syrup and tofu, and I’m incorporating so many ingredients into my cooking that you’d never usually find in my kitchen – lentils, cashews, and edamame beans, to name a few. Plus, it’s allowed me to eat all those foods that I absolutely love but don’t usually buy because my partner doesn’t like them. It’s a win all round!

    Mistakes will be made, and that’s okay

    Being the perfectionist that I am I was insistent that I wasn’t going to slip up during Veganuary. And then I did, on the first day, by absent-mindedly licking a spoon used by my step-daughter to make non-vegan cakes. I was gutted, but then I made another mistake later on as I ate something that had egg in it, and it wasn’t until last week that I realised I’d been eating pittas with milk powder in the whole time (turns out that one supermarket selling vegan pittas does not equate to all of them doing so).

    I made some mistakes but the world didn’t stop. It was fine. I felt a bit sad, but I realised pretty early on that mistakes will happen – they even happen to people who have been vegan for years. It doesn’t make me any less of a vegan, but rather serves as a lesson to watch out for in the future. If you’re currently transitioning to veganism and make a mistake then don’t beat yourself up about it!

    So many arguments against veganism are based on falsehoods

    Unfortunately there is a lot of misinformation going around and this stops people from trying veganism as they tend to believe it (myself included). Doing lots of research from websites, documentaries, and speaking with long-term vegans helped me to separate fact from fiction, and I’ve been able to bury some of those myths that I truly believed were real. Here are a few of my favourite arguments against veganism that I’ve discovered are completely untrue:

    “You won’t get enough protein on a vegan diet”

    The meat industry has been telling us for years that meat is the best sort of protein, so it’s understandable that people think you need it to meet your daily protein quota. It’s not true though… Where do you think those animals get their protein from? So many vegan foods are high in protein, from vegetables like peas and spinach to pulses like beans and chickpeas. A portion of black beans has more protein than a chicken drumstick, and a cup of lentils contains more protein than a hamburger!  (source: Eating Well)

    Image by Ulrike Leone from Pixabay

    “Our ancestors hunted animals for meat so it’s natural”

    Science has debunked this well, with a fairly recent discovery that found that we’d got it all wrong about our ancestors. Previously we’d assumed that we were predominantly hunters, however any investigations into this didn’t take fossilised plants into account as they don’t preserve as well. Now scientists have found that our caveman ancestors ate way less meat than we’d thought, with approximately 95% of their diet consisting of plant-based foods. (source: Live Kindly)

    “Soy is bad for the environment so eating more soy is worse than eating meat”

    This is quite a bizarre myth as technically it is true – eating soy is bad for the environment and is one of the leading causes of deforestation. However, the majority of soy goes directly to animals used to create meat and dairy products, and they consume way more than we would – approximately 90% of the soy used in Europe goes towards livestock. (source: UK Roundtable on Sustainable Soya: Baseline Study 2018)

    Image by Ria Sopala from Pixabay

    Weirdly, this means that, by consuming soy instead of meat or dairy, less soy will be used in total, which ends up better for the environment.

    “We have carnivore teeth so it makes sense for us to eat meat”

    Another myth I blindly believed, but again it’s totally untrue. Examining an actual carnivore tooth would make it pretty obvious that we don’t possess any, and our teeth resemble the teeth of creatures like gorillas instead. Gorillas, by the way, are herbivores (or more specifically folivores), meaning that they don’t eat any meat.

    “A vegan diet is deficient in B12”

    I’ll admit that before I became vegan I didn’t know where B12 came from, and it seems the majority of people don’t know either. I was stunned to learn that it doesn’t actually come from animals, like I was told, but from the soil. The reason why so many of us are deficient in it (including meat eaters, by the way), is that we’ve made it impossible to get B12 in a natural way now – over-farming has resulted in a severe reduction of soil quality, meaning that B12 is less present, and our vegetables are so over-washed that none of that B12 goodness that is left (if any) makes it onto our plates. (source: Forks Over Knives) We also aren’t able to drink from rivers anymore, which was another way that early humans gained enough B12.

    Image by Pexels from Pixabay

    Even livestock are given B12 supplements due to our interference with the soil, so a perfect comeback to any meat-eater telling you that taking a supplement is no replacement for eating the real thing doesn’t have a leg to stand on, as they too are getting their B12 via a supplement (just with an animal as the middle man). They’re not necessarily getting enough of it either, and in reality we should all be reaching for the supplements if we want to be healthy.

    “Soy alternatives will mess up your hormones”

    This was one I truly believed for year as I was told that soy contained oestrogen, which of course will screw with your hormones and lead to incidents such as breast tissue in men. Turns out this isn’t the case – soy actually contains phytoestrogens which, despite the similar name, act in a different way. (source: Healthline) Rather than overload your body with oestrogen they actually prevent our bodies from producing too much, meaning that eating soy is an effective way of getting your hormones under control, and not the other way around.

    Funnily enough, if you’re concerned about oestrogen levels then you’ll want to be avoiding dairy instead – cows are often given oestrogen to product more milk, which unfortunately is then digested by the people drinking said milk.

    Those with power tend to ignore the health benefits of veganism…

    The documentary Cowspiracy taught me a lot of things about modern day diets, but one of the most disheartening is that even those that seem on our side aren’t doing all they can because their hands are tied by the animal agriculture industries. Meat and dairy have been pushed on us for decades, and despite growing evidence against it (veganism being the only diet known to lessen the risk and symptoms of heart disease, for example), governments and big cooperations still insist that we need meat and dairy in our diets.

    Sadly, like many things, it all comes down to money, which is why we need as many people on the ground spreading the word as possible, and more activists working to get the government to do something about the situation.

    Whilst also denying the positive impact veganism contributes to the environment

    Learning about the positive impacts of veganism for the environment made it an absolute no brainer to me – according to Vegan Calculator and Cowspiracy, one person being vegan for one day saves approximately 1100 gallons of water, 20.5kg of grain, 30 sq. ft of forest, 9kg of CO2, and one animal life. How amazing is that? Yet we’re not told this, presumably because if everyone went vegan the animal agriculture industry would go bust (like it probably should do, given the damage it’s clearly causing).

    Image by Cally Lawson from Pixabay

    Like with the previous point, this information needs to be shouted from the rooftops – as consumers, we can change which industries we want around, and even minimising the amount of meat and dairy you eat without going fully vegan will make an impact for the better.

    Being a vegan is now easier than ever

    My biggest concern about going vegan was that it was going to be difficult. I was going to miss all that delicious meat and cheese, and I wouldn’t be able to find any good alternatives out there, instead living of beans and lettuce until my miserable, nutrient-deficient demise.

    I was wrong! So many shops have caught on to the demand for vegan products, and there are now so many amazing alternatives available – pizzas, meatballs, mince, mayo, and so much more. Loads of products are accidentally vegan, too, meaning you don’t have to give up your Oreo addiction just yet (thank god).

    Like any diet which removes something you love I did have cravings, however they only lasted for a week or so and were easy to overcome. Now I feel complete apathy towards animal-based products – even cheese, which I was previously obsessed with. Smelling it no longer seizes my body with an intolerable desire; I shrug my shoulders and move on. I never expected my journey to be so easy and it’s clear to see that I haven’t been the only one finding it this way, which gives me hope that many others will be able to become vegan as well. If you’re on the fence then give it a go, and I bet you’ll never want to turn back.

    What’s the biggest thing you’ve learnt from becoming vegan or changing your diet/lifestyle? Let me know in the comments!

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