January is the month of resolutions, good intentions, and the occasional fad diet. The time of year when indulgence is replaced with abstinence; joviality with sobriety. You’ve probably already heard about Dry January (an attempt to mop up our excessive festive alcohol consumption) – but this year the better-life seekers can also opt for Veganuary. In short, eliminating all meat, fish, dairy and eggs from your diet for the month. The initiative, launched in 2014, seeks to encourage people to try a vegan diet, stating that “Veganism is one of the most effective choices a person can make to reduce the suffering of animals, help the planet and improve personal health.”
Despite the stereotypical litany of vegan-myths (think: under-nourished, long-haired, hippie lentil-lovers), veganism is steadily becoming one of the most popular diets around the world. Propagated by the clean eating brigade, it has a lengthy list of celebrity backers: Russell Brand, Ellen Degeneres, Natalie Portman and Samuel L. Jackson. And then there’s the ever-growing list of vegan athletes, including Serena Williams, Mike Tyson and former Mr Universe Barnabas du Plessis (a past PETA spokesperson), which should put paid to anyone with the phrase “but what about protein?” on their lips.
Intrigued? Here are six scientifically tested reasons to give Veganuary a go this month. You never know, you might even be tempted to carry on beyond February 1.
1. It can help you lose weight
It’s diet season! If the four weeks of endless boozing, chocolate-nibbling and mince pie-scoffing that essentially makes up December has left your belt a little tight, Veganuary may be just the ticket to help you shed the extra pounds (as long as you move a bit as well). A 2015 study showed that those following a vegan diet lost comparatively more weight than those following omnivorous and vegetarian ones. Good news for anyone still in a cheese-induced coma.
2. It’s good for the environment
Agriculture is one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions (more than all transport), potentially increasing to 50pc by 2050. Rearing livestock for animal-based products requires far more land, water and energy than producing grain; 27kg CO2 is generated per kilo beef in comparison to 0.9kg per kilo of lentils. According to a 2016 Oxford study, the adoption of a vegan diet globally would cut food-related emissions by 70pc. That’s got to be a good reason to put down the ham sandwich.
3. It might make you live longer (if you do it for more than a month)
While veganism isn’t necessarily a one-way ticket to a zen-like, eternal youth, numerous scientific studies have been taken to measure the impact of a plant-based diet in reducing the risk of major diseases, including diabetes and heart disease with positive results. A vegan diet also eases the symptoms of arthritis-sufferers and can help to prevent obesity, which affects 1 in 6 Britons and is a leading cause of death.
A 2016 study from Oxford argues that the mass-adoption of a vegan diet could cut 8.1 million deaths a year. Becoming vegan for 31 days is not going to have the same effect, but it’s worth bearing in mind.
No one needs to tell you that eating fruit and vegetables is beneficial, but in case you’ve forgotten everything your parents and teachers ever taught you, they’re full of essential vitamins and minerals (including calcium, potassium and Vitamin C) and dietary fibre. All of these should keep you feeling and (ideally) looking great. Even though you’ve had the 5-a-day mantra drilled into you for years, the chances are you’re still not eating enough fruit and veg. Unless you plan to survive on a diet of crisps and vegan sausages (I don’t recommend it) trying out Veganuary will, if anything, force you to eat more of the good stuff.
5. It makes you smell better
Go ahead and raise your eyebrows, but a recent study analysed the sweat of those who eat a diet of mainly fruit and vegetables, and found that it was deemed to be more attractive to women (who actually had to smell and evaluate each sample) than those on a carb-heavy diet. The sweat produced by veg-eating men was described as “floral, fruity, sweet or having medicinal qualities.” Do you need another reason?
6. It could even make you better in bed…
Live like a vegan, cook like a vegan
Now that you’re sold on Veganuary, it’s time to embrace the opportunity to experience a whole new world of cuisine. There are a innumerable delicious ways to eat vegetables, and, in case you missed it, veganism is a big deal in the food world now, with bloggers and books such as Deliciously Ella and The Happy Pear soaring to popularity. And it’s not just blonde twenty-somethings who are championing the humble veg, chef Yotam Ottolenghi and food writer Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (who definitely knows his way around a carcass) have both dedicated books to them. So stop moaning, get in the kitchen and try something new. You may even find you like it.