Over the past few years the number of people choosing to eat a meat-free or fully vegan diet has increased dramatically. We take a look at the numbers and the facts.
The study Vegetarianism in America found that 3.2 per cent of US adults, or 7.3 million people, follow a vegetarian-based diet. Of those around one million are vegan, avoiding all animal products. In the UK a study carried out last year for the Vegan Society and Vegan Life magazine found that the number of people choosing a plant-based diet had grown by 360 per cent over 10 years!
While the Middle East does not boast quite those impressive statistics, the numbers are most definitely growing. And, while vegetarianism and veganism have traditionally been associated with animal welfare issues, many of those now opting to cut out meat cite the stated health benefits as their inspiration for change.
Advocates of plant-based eating say vegans typically have lower levels of cholesterol and blood pressure, a lower body mass index and reduced risk of death from heart disease and cancer. That their diets often include items such as avocados, nuts and seeds is another plus.
Concern for the environment is another driving factor. Around 30 per cent of the Earth’s land surface is used for rearing farm animals and livestock production
is responsible for 70 per cent of the Amazon deforestation in Latin America, where rainforest has been cleared to create new pastures.
For those wanting to adopt a greener and cleaner lifestyle, the kitchen cupboard is the place to start. Invaluable resource thekitchn.com gives a helpful list of staples:
Beans – A variety of dried and canned as well as lentils and chickpeas.
Grains – Such as quinoa, spelt and bulgur to add texture and flavour.
Tempeh – A soy protein source that keeps well in the fridge.
Tofu – Use it for baking, frying and in soups and stir-fries.
Nuts – Whole or chopped for use in salads and grain dishes.
Dried fruits – Raisins, apricots and dates for snacking and adding to stews and greens
Vegetable stock – Store-bought or made from scratch and frozen.
Nutritional yeast – Useful for sauces and as a coating.
Miso – Both light and dark for soup and salad dressing.
Tahini – Add to sauces and dips.
Dried sea vegetables – seaweed and nori to use with rice, kelp and kombu to add flavour to broths.
Coconut oil – Super-versatile from roasting veggies to making rich curries.
Maple syrup – Tasty as a natural sweetener.
Ground flax seeds – Fibre-filled and nutritious and with a little water can work as an egg substitute.
Of course there’s a huge range of recipes available online and some great books too.
A couple of our favourites are the Thug Kitchen Cookbook (also check out their Instagram) and Kristy Turner’s But I Could Never Go Vegan! But you can also check out local vegan pages on Facebook — such as Vegan & Vegan Curious in Bahrain, One Arab Vegan and The Healthy Conscience — for great food and lifestyle ideas and information on where to find veggie and vegan products in the Kingdom.
As if health benefits, animal welfare and saving the planet weren’t good enough reasons to swear off meat, these famous faces credit their diet with all manner of benefits and show you’d be in good company.
The actress, singer and mum of twins says going vegan has upped her energy levels, claiming: “It’s basically no dairy, no meat, everything is just plant-based and just from the ground. I love that I’m eating more greens. It makes you feel so much better.” And, at 47, we really can’t argue!
Dance musician Moby has long been vocal about his vegan beliefs, even naming his 1996 album Animal Rights and opening a vegan café called TeaNY in New York. He says: “Veganism should be a happy thing, not a miserable one. And we shouldn’t make people feel bad or guilty for their lifestyle choices, even if they reject veganism.”
This actress is so dedicated to the cause that she launched her own website, WildeThings.org to promote the vegan lifestyle.
The campaigner and actress has her own vegan and eco-friendly beauty line. She says: “Once I went vegan, I lost the weight I wanted to lose, my nails were stronger, and my skin was glowing. I feel great and I look better now than I did 11 years ago.”
We just visited Plant Café in Hamala – it’s lush!
And There’s More
Vegans and many vegetarians make conscious lifestyle choices with regard to animal welfare in their cosmetics, household products and even the clothing they wear.
Check out herbivoreclothing.com for funky style options and thevegansociety.com for details of outlets, designers and suppliers.
For cruelty-free cosmetics, Bahrain has its own local brands — Organicare and Green Bar — and you can find a comprehensive list of cosmetic and household products which are not tested on animals at peta.org (but watch out for parent companies which may have different policies).
And for those who want to implement the lifestyle in their homes, Peta (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) also has a list of ethical décor options.
UK beef farmer Jay Wilde sent his herd to a sanctuary when he turned vegetarian and couldn’t bear to see them killed.