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Eat.Fit.Well

Veganuary: What to Know Before You Participate


written by Skye Sherman - Jan 24, 2022
medically reviewed by Dr. Christine Bishara, MD - Mar 22, 2022

Photo Credit: by Jill Wellington, by Pexels.com
Photo Credit: by Jill Wellington, by Pexels.com

Have you ever been interested in trying out a vegan diet? If so, January might be the perfect month to do it because you’ll be in good company. Every year, hundreds of thousands of people around the world participate in Veganuary, which is a commitment to eat vegan during the month of January.

If you’re unfamiliar with veganism, it’s basically a type of vegetarian diet that excludes all animal byproducts. Vegans cut out not just meat but also animal products such as milk and eggs. Some vegans even cut out honey. Anything that comes from an animal (especially if acquiring it involves harming the animal in any way) is off-limits to a vegan.

Eating vegan during the month of January can be helpful in kick-starting your year with a healthy routine or shaking yourself out of the dietary rut of the winter months. Many people take a break from their strict diet and exercise routines during the holidays, so going vegan in January can be very helpful in getting back on track, even if you don’t commit to eating vegan forever.

But is Veganuary a good idea for everyone? What are the potential health benefits and risks? Should everyone try Veganuary each year? In this article, we’ll take a look at what you need to know before you participate in Veganuary.

What is Veganuary?

You might’ve thought that people just made up the idea to eat vegan in January, but there’s actually an organization called Veganuary who heads up the annual event. According to their website, “Veganuary inspires and supports people all over the world to try vegan for January and beyond.”

Their overall mission is to convert the whole world to veganism for the sake of animals and the environment, and they further their mission each year when they inspire people to try eating vegan and commit to just one month of eating a vegan diet.

You might be amazed how successful their annual campaign has been since they started promoting the idea in 2014. According to their website,

● “Over 580,00 people signed-up in our 2021 campaign

● People from 209 countries and territories took part

● More than 825 new vegan products and menus were launched for Veganuary 2021

98% would recommend Veganuary to a friend

● Our 2021 campaign featured in more than 1500 media stories.”

It’s pretty amazing that so many people are interested in trying out the vegan lifestyle every year. But while going vegan is undoubtedly a good idea for the animals and the environment, is it actually a healthy dietary choice as well? Or does it pose health risks?

Is a vegan diet a healthy lifestyle or a risky trend?

There’s a good reason that many people consider a vegan diet one of the healthiest lifestyle choices you can make (for your own personal health, not considering the positive impact on animal welfare and climate change). Try a vegan diet even for a short time and you’ll be amazed by how much better you feel.

Increasing your intake of fresh fruits and vegetables and limiting the heavy calories of meat can do wonders for your body.

According to the Harvard Health Blog, “Research over many years has linked plant-based diets to lower rates of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers (as compared with diets high in meat and other animal products). Dietary guidelines and recommendations from nutrition experts reflect this, encouraging the adoption of diets (such as the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet) that are heavy on fruits and vegetables and restrict consumption of red meat.”

However, there are some potential drawbacks to going vegan. You have to be conscientious and purposeful when you eat vegan because you might miss out on certain nutrients otherwise. According to the Harvard Health Blog, “Plant-based diets carry some risk of inadequate protein, vitamin, and mineral intake.”

Of course, you can overcome these risks pretty easily. If eating vegan means you naturally consume less protein and iron, you can just make food choices that ensure you get adequate amounts of these nutrients. Vegan diets can also deplete you from B vitamins, especially vitamin B12, so it’s important to ensure adequate intake of vitamins. You can also take vitamin supplements or choose vegan foods that are good sources of the vitamins and minerals you may be lacking. For example, nuts are a great source of protein and spinach is a hearty source of iron. Many fortified foods also have added vitamin B12, so be sure to read labels.

The risks of going vegan are pretty limited as long as you are careful about getting adequate amounts of all the nutrients your body needs. Going for regular bloodwork or taking supplements every day can help you stay on top of your health.

Is Veganuary unsafe for anyone?

A recent study presents one potential risk of going vegan. The Harvard Health Blog reports, “Vegetarians and vegans may have an increased risk of stroke. Researchers in the United Kingdom analyzed the risk of stroke and other health problems over two decades among nearly 50,000 people based on the diets they followed.”

Below are some of the relevant results:

● “rates of stroke were 20% higher among vegetarians. However, the overall risk was small, equal to three extra cases per 1,000 people over 10 years.

● the higher stroke risk among vegetarians was mostly due to hemorrhagic stroke

● the higher stroke risk was not observed among pescatarians.”

As the article points out, “If confirmed, these findings will complicate the way we look at plant-based diets. Are there serious and underappreciated downsides to these diets that should make us think twice about choosing them? Or is the increased risk of stroke heavily outweighed by cardiac and other health benefits?”

The research is still early, but the bottom line is that we may need to examine how a vegetarian or vegan diet may increase the risk of stroke. Time will tell as we receive further study results, but for now, it’s something to be aware of if you are considering trying Veganuary.

There’s another potential risk to be aware of, according to an article in LAD Bible titled Veganuary Could Actually Be Bad For You If You Change Your Diet Too Quickly, Says Expert.

The article states, “it could actually be detrimental to your health to launch straight into such a different way of eating. … if you are going from a general meat-eating diet you might find this change a shock to the system to say the least - and finding alternatives for your usual meals can feel overwhelming. Consultant dietitian Ro Huntriss says that it can be less dangerous and more beneficial to gradually step up to a vegan diet, rather than just taking the plunge and going cold turkey on animal products and junk food.”

The article points out that some people go cold turkey and cut out meat from their diet but do not find ways to replace the protein. “We need protein for muscle growth and repair, so to maintain your strength it is important this is replaced.”

The most important part of going vegan is ensuring you’re still eating healthy, whole foods and getting plenty of the nutrients you need (that are not as abundant in plant-based diets). As long as you’re eating healthy, unprocessed foods during Veganuary, you should be good to go.

What to expect if you do Veganuary

Wondering what to expect if you participate in Veganuary? If you typically have a lot of meat, dairy, and other animal byproducts in your diet, your body will certainly feel different when you go vegan.

An article published by US News & World Report asks, What Happens to Your Body If You Go Vegan for a Month? Their answer is this: “Making the switch can be a challenge for people who are accustomed to incorporating dairy and meat in their diet, but it could offer some health benefits. It might even change your body in certain ways. But how it might change depends on what you were eating before.”

Some of the potential changes they say to look out for are the following:

● “Reduced body weight.

● Improved heart and vascular health.

● Improved blood sugar control.

● Reduced joint pain.

● Improved bowel health and regularity.

● Reduced cancer risk.”

Some people worry they’ll be hungry or get bored if they stick to meals with no meat. Where’s the protein? Isn’t that the filling part? Incorporating protein rich legumes and beans such as lentils, kidney beans and black beans and can help with this.

But this is simply a myth. There are so many ways to cook and flavor meat-less meals. Have you ever added cilantro or coriander to a meal? Try it for a month and see all the creations you come up with. You certainly won’t go hungry if you cook meals such as veggie stir-fry, garden pasta, avocado toast, or fresh fruit and pea protein smoothies. Find a few vegan cooking blogs you like and plan out your month of meals.

Don’t worry about dessert, either! You don’t need dairy for a fabulous ice cream sundae or a decadent treat of dark chocolate and forest berries.

You may feel significantly different after even just a short time eating vegan. Many people report that their skin takes on a healthy glow, they shed a few pounds, and they feel more energetic and healthy than ever. Because every body is different, your experience eating vegan is your own!

Regenuary: an optional alternative to Veganuary

Have you ever heard of Regenuary? If going vegan is unsafe for you for any reason, or you just love meat too much to give it up, one option is to try Regenuary.

According to The Guardian, “Proponents say the ‘regenerative farming’ eating challenge encourages consumption of more sustainable animal products.” The idea of Regenuary is “for people to source as much food as possible from producers who use regenerative farming methods.”

According to the founder of Regenuary, the goal is to get people thinking more about how their food is produced. You might have to do a bit of research before you participate in Regenuary, though. It’s not as simple as sticking to a vegan diet; instead, you’ll have to do your homework to find out more about where your food comes from and how it makes its way to your plate.

The article continues, “Unlike the fairly self-explanatory rules of Veganuary, Regenuary is more nuanced and involves eating seasonal produce from farms that proponents say have lower, or even beneficial, environmental or social impacts. This idea is gaining ground and ‘regenerative’ may be the farming buzzword of 2022. It remains a rather broadly-defined concept – essentially it is any form of farming that simultaneously improves the environment, including in a social sense.”

If you want to eat in a way that helps the earth but don’t want to commit to Veganuary for any reason, then Regenuary might be just the diet for you. Eating seasonally and locally (which is part of participating in Regenuary) can be extremely healthy and even boost your immunity.

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Comments:

Veganuary Regenuary wrote at 1/27/2022 6:20:35 PM
It is great to read this article.

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