Is Veganuary good for you?
Is Veganuary good for you?
This is one of the most commonly asked questions about the yearly Vegan eating challenge on the internet. 2023, when this article was written is my fourth year taking part in Veganuary and it is something I look forward to every year. So, knowing that there is this commonly asked question out there I decided to find out for myself, is Veganuary good for you?
This blog post is not medical advice and is provided for entertainment purposes only. Please speak to your doctor before you start any new diet.
Veganuary, The Bad?
When looking at if Veganuary is good for you I thought it would be important to get the bad things out of the way before we look at the good. With that in mind, here are some of the reasons why you might not want to take part in Veganuary.
Processed Meat Replacements
You might assume that because a food is vegan it has to be healthy, right? Well…it turns out that just isn’t true, especially when it comes to meat replacements. If you eat a vegan burger at a fast food restaurant you’re probably going to be consuming just as many calories as a burger made from meat. So while those vegan sausages are delicious, and they really are AMAZING, you shouldn’t be eating them every night.
But, avoiding processed meat replacements isn’t difficult! The easy go to answer is have a salad, but salads are really only the beginning of your options. Lentils with crushed walnuts make an amazing, non-processed substitution for ground beef. Pasta, curries, noodles, and rice dishes can all be enjoyed without any meat too.
One of the biggest reasons why we humans love meat so much is that it really hits the Umami cravings our brains have. Umami doesn’t just come from meat though. You can also get it from tomatoes, nutritional yeast, mushrooms, miso paste, seaweed, vegan soy sauce, and liquid Maggi Seasoning to name just a few things.
Dessert Substitutes – High in Fat and Sugar
Vegan dessert substitutes have similar problems as vegan meat substitutes, they aren’t good for you just because they’re vegan. Many premade vegan desserts are high in fat and sugar, making them just as unhealthy as their non-vegan counterparts.
But, just like with meat substitutes, there are options! If you go on a website like Pinterest you will find thousands of vegan dessert recipes. Not all of them good, I will admit. But there are some gorgeous ones in there. If you prefer chocolate, then any well stocked health food store will have vegan chocolate. Eating vegan doesn’t mean deprivation!
Palm oil is absolutely awful for the environment and it is in everything these days, including a lot of premade vegan foods you will find in the grocery store. This is also true of a conventional diet too. Palm oil became an easy way to maintain flavor and consistency across different batches of food, so it became VERY popular in all types of processed foods. Chances are unless you eat 100% homemade food all of the time, you’re eating palm oil.
Again though, there are options. If you want to avoid palm oil, simply avoid eating a heavily processed diet. This can be achieved most easily on a vegan diet, but it is possible on any diet.
The biggest deficiency that is talked about around a vegan diet is B12. This is because B12 only really comes from animal products. Unfortunately for us, humans do need B12 to live, so getting it is important.
Thankfully, there are many foods that are fortified with B12, to help make sure that vegans do get their B12. Plant milks and breakfast cereals are the most common foods that are fortified with B12. You can also get supplements that contain B12.
Even if you don’t have the fortified foods or take the supplements, if you take part in Veganuary you won’t see much of a decline in your B12. It can take up to 2 years of not having any before you start to see any problems. So, if your plan is only 1 month then you will be fine, assuming you’ve been eating meat the last few years.
You might assume that because you aren’t consuming meat, and thus blood from an animal that you will become iron deficient on a vegan diet…but that actually couldn’t be further from the truth. Unlike with B12, Iron is found in a number of different plant sources and in fact vegans tend to have higher iron levels than meat eaters just because there are so many different ways to get it. So, while you might think that iron deficiency is a concern, so long as you are eating your veggies, you will likely be just fine.
Another common concern is getting enough protein when you eat vegan. When people think of protein they’re typically thinking of meat. But, there are a ton of ways to get it from eating plants. Beans, Mycoprotein, Nuts, Chickpeas, Tofu, Peas, and even Quinoa are just some of the best plant proteins you can eat.
There are a ton of vegan and plant-based bodybuilders online who are proving that it is possible for all of us to have enough protein to maintain or even grow our muscles without meat and other animal products.
Studies have shown that vegetarians and vegans do have higher rates of bone fractures and bone density-related issues, this much is absolutely true. But, it is also something that is completely avoidable and one of the many reasons why you should work with your doctor and a nutrition specialist to make sure you’re eating the right plants in the right quantities.
If bone density is a concern for you, and lets be honest, it should be a concern for everyone..one month of low calcium intake from a poorly adjusted vegan diet won’t have that much of an impact. Meaning that you don’t need to worry about it while you take part in Veganuary.
Veganuary, The Good!
Lower Blood Pressure and Cholesterol
Vegan diets are often associated with a reduction in your blood pressure and your cholesterol. Veganuary may only be a month long, but you can see some small results in that short time. Those changes will reverse if you then go back to the diet you had previously, but with Veganuary you can see what is possible without the need for pharmaceuticals. If you suffer from high blood pressure then Veganuary might just be the thing you need to get started down the path of recovery.
Better Gut Health
Many today suffer from poor gut health because of the diets we have today and because of antibiotic use. But, eating a vegan diet can improve your gut health which can have an impact on everything from bathroom time to your ability to concentrate as well as your emotional state. I won’t lie, healing your gut takes a lot of time. Some studies have suggested that it takes as much as a full year for your gut biome to recover after you’ve had just 1 week of antibiotics. Will you see massive changes in the bathroom after just 1 month of a vegan diet? Actually, maybe. You will likely be eating more fiber which will help things process more quickly and comfortably. So if going number two isn’t smooth sailing for you, then yes, you might see improvement just from doing Veganuary.
Many who change to a vegan diet see the weight start dropping almost immediately, so what better way to start that New Years’ Resolution to lose weight than try out a vegan diet? Even if you don’t continue to eat vegan past Veganuary those results will help you get started with your weight loss goals. Eating a non-processed/low-processed vegan diet doesn’t have to mean deprivation or feeling hungry after you just ate either. Many options are so low in calories that you can eat as much of it as you want and you will feel full before you’ve managed to eat many calories.
Being Introduced to New Foods
One of my favorite benefits of Veganuary is the opportunity to try out new foods that I may have never eaten before. The first time I ever had a Beyond Burger was during Veganuary. While it is quite expensive, it was really tasty. It might be the first time you ever try beets or even tofu. These are all foods you can carry on eating outside of Veganuary that are really good for you. You don’t even have to keep eating a purely vegan diet to enjoy them.
But you might be wondering why you should bother. Well, studies have shown that eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables is part of what improves your gut biome. Ideally, you should try for 30 different vegetables in a week while also eating all of the colors that they can come in.
Is Veganuary actually worth doing? Yes! But, don’t take my word for it. Talk with your doctor about whether or not Veganuary will be good for you. They will be able to give you more information, tailored to your personal concerns.
Please keep in mind that I am just a blogger and a passionate Veganuary participant. This information has been provided for entertainment purposes and should not be used to make medical decisions. Talk with your doctor before you start any big diet changes.