With Veganuary in full swing, Melanie Morris gets the lowdown on the effect plant-based eating can have on our health.
Right now, it seems all the world is vegan… From Stella McCartney to Liam Hemsworth, the cult of plant-based eating is huge; even Carole Middleton has dabbled. However, we didn’t reach critical mass until Beyoncé and Jay-Z first took on a 22-day vegan challenge in 2015… for aesthetic purposes. Before then, veganism was a niche thing reserved for cranks and animal lovers. Now, the same herbivores are a self-identifying clan. Chef and food writer Domini Kemp, who co-owns the on-trend Alchemy Juice Co restaurants, sees this first hand: “There is huge growing interest in veganism, some for environmental reasons, some for health, and some people just want to eat a plant-centric diet for a month to help shed festive pounds and feel a bit ‘lighter’.”
The question remains, though, can you be a long-term vegan and still maintain a good health profile? The answer seems to lie under the “it’s complicated” tab. While there are hoards of “successful” vegans roaming our planet, there’s also the tribe who, despite best intentions and mindful efforts to meeting their nutritional macros and micros, still found their health falter when they stuck to a long-term plant-based diet.
To vegan and back
Personal trainer Tara Harte, above, recently returned to flexible eating after 18 months of veganism. “I was totally strict. My diet consisted of a lot of vegetables, soy, falafel and hummus, and I took a heap of supplements: B12, iron, calcium, magnesium, zinc and pea protein powder. My decision to go back to eating meat and dairy was not an easy one. I felt like I’d lost my glow, and wasn’t progressing as much as I wanted to at the gym – my strength had reached a plateau, and it was difficult to gain more muscle. Another issue, which only developed about a year into being a vegan, was painful bloating. I questioned whether it was all worth it. I eased myself back in, starting with fish, then chicken, then butter. The plan is to stick with a balanced diet, eating a little bit of everything. I do want to go for one-week intervals of being plant-based because I think it is important to give your digestive system a break from meat occasionally. I feel like I look healthy again. I wouldn’t say my energy levels have increased drastically, but I definitely have my rosy cheeks back. And I’ve gained more muscle. The biggest thing for me, though, is being able to walk into any restaurant and order an actual dish off of the menu.”
Main photograph by Jo Sonn/Unsplash
To read the full story, pick up the January/February issue of IMAGE Magazine, out now.