Is the Vegan Diet Sustainable?
As a coach and nutritionist, Ben Coomber wanted to try Veganuary in an effort to better advise his clients. The question is, will he be sticking to a vegan diet?
Many people try out the vegan diet, or at least being to eat more plant-based food. I did Veganuary at the beginning of this year. Why?
I wanted to experience what a full vegan diet felt like. As a nutritionist, I had never followed this diet despite advising vegan, vegetarian and a variety of plant-based clients in my work as a coach. I decided to go ‘all in’ so I could comment with more authority and experience first-hand what it was like following a strict vegan diet.
It wasn’t easy, the transition to new protein sources and knowing how to cook them in interesting ways was often a challenge, so you have to be aware of how you’re going to make these changes and get more creative in the kitchen.
From a gym and performance point of view I personally also felt low on energy starting out, as if I was lacking something, so ensuring I was eating enough total calories, getting enough protein in general, and getting creative with my protein sources was key. My diet focused a lot on porridge bowl combinations with Awesome Vegan Protein, chick pea and lentil curries, tofu in stir frys and Asian dishes, protein smoothies with fruit and awesome vegan protein powder. I also had lots of fruits and vegetables as per my usual diet with a few meat replacements like vegan sausages and mince.
Did I stay vegan? No, but I have met my normal diet and a vegan diet half way and have focused more of my meals exclusively around plants, adopting a more flexitarian approach, if you want to coin it with a term. A mixture of tofu, pulses, nuts and meat replacements have a larger place in my diet now in replacement of some of my usual animal protein intake, likely reducing my meat and dairy intake by half, and to be frank I think many should do the same, there is no reason why not.
This brings to question is the vegan diet the new fad? In my opinion, no. Will people do it thinking it’s a quick fix to their health and dieting woes? Of course, that’s just the diet industry, and as a collective we need to be fighting the change and educating people in the right way.
The vegan diet is about a set of principles people believe in, including that the meat industry has become damaging to animal welfare and our food network, that it is unnecessary to eat animal protein with every meal, that the food system is heavily contributing to climate change, and I have to agree with some of the arguments, in the right context. There is no reason why more of us cannot eat more plant-based foods. Before I did veganuary I would say 70% of my diet was from plants, which is why I didn’t have any radical health shifts during Veganuary, I was already very healthy from my diet, it was just my protein sources that were changing.
If we can reduce the stress on the planet by not letting intensive farming become the dominant farming method (because we are choosing cheap and processed meats) and broaden our nutrient intake by eating more plant-based foods and protein sources, I see that as a win. I don’t see the downside to a more plant-based diet. Our health wins, the planet wins, and we get to see more variety on the shop shelves. I’ll still continue to eat meat and a little dairy because I feel physically better and perform better doing so, but it will be far less. And I think it is important for everyone to engage in this conversation as it’s the future of our health, the planet’s sustainability and our food environment at stake.
Ben Coomber is a Performance Nutritionist, Author & Speaker with the UKs #1 rated podcast ‘Ben Coomber Radio’. Ben teaches Personal Trainers to become nutrition coaches on The BTN Academy, and owns Awesome Supplements. Connect with Ben over on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, or Instagram. For everything else visit: www.bencoomber.com