Food / 01.01.2017

Why Vegan-uary is a thing

By Roisin Dervish-O'Kane
Get the health benefits of being vegan without the limiting lifestyle – how you can jump aboard Veganuary 2017

IBSfoods_forwebVeganism is no longer limited to strict health addicts or animal-rights activists – even Beyoncé’s been at it! But should we follow suit? A plant-based diet will improve your health by increasing the nutrient content of your food, all the while reducing calorific intake – but let’s face it, it’s not that easy to follow a diet free from animal products, and even harder to reach an adequate protein intake.

Have your cake and eat it too

Big-hit diet books that advocate the Vegan lifestyle and make it more accessible are becoming are more common. VB6: Eat Vegan Before 6:00 by Mark Bittman (Sphere, £12.99) helped to shift the opinion on veganism due to its take-home message that you only have to restrain yourself part-time to get weight loss and health benefits.

Bittman converted to part-time veganism to combat his high-cholesterol and blood sugar levels, also limiting white bread, pasta, junk food and alcohol during the day. The results were a sustained lifetime weight loss of more than 20lbs and blood sugar levels in the healthy range.

Practice moderation

While a wholefood diet rich in vegetables, wholegrains, legumes, nuts and seeds is super-healthy, you do still need to keep an eye on what you eat after 6pm. According to healthy nutritionist Carina Norris, ‘You do need to continue your evening meal in moderation – if you want to eat meat, keep it lean, or have fish, and limit treats. If you use it as an excuse to binge on sugar and junk foods, you won’t get the health benefits.’

But won’t dining-out become a problem?

Luckily for us, it’s becoming much easier to dine-out whilst following a vegan lifestyle. Everywhere from gastropubs and cafés to fine-dining restaurants are becoming aware of the demand for plant-based menu options, and the trend for specialist vegan and vegetarian cafes and restaurants is growing. Even the king of haute cuisine and owner of the most Michelin stars ever, Alain Ducasse, has taken the meat off the menu of his Paris restaurant.

It’s big news this side of the channel too. Londoners on the run can fill their plates with delights including Japanese miso roasted aubergine or puy lentil, caramelised shallot and kohlrabi salad at luxe plant-based buffet restaurant Ethos, just behind Oxford Circus, on Eastcastle Street.

But for vegan dining taken to a whole new level, head to The Montagu restaurant at The Hyatt Regency London – The Churchill hotel in Portman Square, London – winner of Best Vegan Menu in this year’s PETA Vegan Food Awards. Head chef Ali Parvinjah has created a fine-dining vegan menu, both beautiful and delicious, based on the ‘farm-to-table’ philosophy and packing a serious protein punch by the inclusion of foods such as red and black rice, and cheeses made from nuts.

Endless health benefits

Calling part-time veganism ‘the perfect modern antidote to modern city living’ – Ali’s philosophy, however, is to flip Bittman’s idea and eat vegan after six. ‘The body benefits from a protein kick-start to start the day, and not overloading the digestive system with heavy foods such as meat in the evening,’ he explains. It’s worth taking on board the overall message, though – eating a vegan diet for 60-70 per cent of the day can benefit overall health and weight-loss, as well as allowing the body to absorb more goodness from non-vegan foods when eaten at other times.

Sound like a good plan? Why not kick-start your Veganuary with some fine-dining inspiration with one of Ali’s showstopping vegan mains – sure to be a dinner-party talking point for months to come!

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