Veganism is clearly having a moment.
It was the most buzzed about food trend of 2016, garnering more tweets and hashtags than McDonalds and Coca-Cola combined, while vegan YouTube channels gained eight times more subscribers than their meat-based counterparts. Vegan goddess Deliciously Ella’s self-titled debut cookbook became the fastest selling cookbook of all time when it was released in January 2015 (coming in ahead of established cookery classics like Jamie Oliver’s The Naked Chef and Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking) while YouTube sensation FullyRawKristina reached 845,000 subscribers by the end of 2016 with some of her videos getting over 15,000 hits mere hours after they’d been posted.
With 1 million Instagram followers at the time of writing, Deliciously Ella’s hip-yet-wholesome public image has turned her into the poster child par excellence for the vegan movement while the infectious brand of Pollyanna-inspired optimism lauded by FullyRawKristina (who trails behind Deliciously Ella with 945k Instagram followers) has launched hundreds of copycat YouTube channels, all hoping to cash in on her sunny, squeaky-clean persona.
With just one wave of the latest Instagram filter, all former stereotypes of vegans as bearded, barefoot hippies playing with hacky sacks and eating mung bean stews have been banished from the popular imagination forever. Or have they?
Despite more and more people turning vegan every year, a whopping 1500% increase in the sale of vegan products in 2016 and many devout meat-eaters cutting back on their daily meat consumption by incorporating more vegan food into their diets (they call themselves “flexitarians”), there still seems to be a lot of misconceptions about the vegan movement. Despite veganism now being considered “hip” and mainstream with trend-conscious millennials wanting to fit into a niche “food tribe”, surveys suggest that there are still some negative connotations surrounding veganism with 14% of all comments about veganism on social media coming from a place of slander and ridicule.
Even if you haven’t been vegan for very long, you’ll be familiar with the onslaught of misguided questions and comments that get hurled your way by concerned and/or curious meat eaters. “Where do you get your protein?” is probably the most common question (and most trivia savvy vegans probably already have a few pre-prepared answers up their sleeves extolling the virtues of spirulina and sprouted quinoa).
“Isn’t it expensive to be vegan?” is another common question, while statements such as “our ancestors weren’t vegan” and “we evolved to be meat eaters” are other popular misconceptions that vegans everywhere are expected to defend at a moment’s notice.
When most people think about the dietary habits of our forefathers they either imagine cavemen tearing into large Flinstones-sized steaks or sanguine, bristly-faced men sitting in banquet halls in the Middle Ages carving up enormous roast pigs. In fact, many people who ridicule vegans and discredit veganism choose to jump onto the “our ancestors weren’t vegan” bandwagon and drive the point home until they’re blue in the face.
Since you’ve probably perfected your list of complete plant-based protein sources and can cheerfully tell people that it’s cheaper to subside on whole grains and vegetables than it is to eat wild salmon and filet mignon, perhaps now is a good time to brush up on some facts about our so-called “meat-eating” forefathers.
Despite people’s protestations, there is much evidence to suggest that human beings aren’t “meant” to eat meat and haven’t “always” eaten meat. As Dr. Richard Leakey states:
“You can’t tear flesh by hand, you can’t tear hide by hand… We wouldn’t have been able to deal with food sources that required those large canines.”
Paleoanthropologist Briana Pobiner goes on to say:
“The meat-eating that we do, or that our ancestors did even back to the earliest time we were eating meat, is culturally mediated. You need some kind of processing technology in order to eat meat… So I don’t necessarily think we are hardwired to eat meat, but it is an important part of our evolutionary history.”
We were not born with the large fangs and killer claws necessary to “process” a live animal and turn it into food. It is far more instinctive to gather roots and berries than it is to butcher an animal and turn it into sausage meat. If you place a hungry child in a room with a live rabbit and a carrot he will instinctively grab the carrot. So people that argue that meat eating is an instinctive need to be reeducated.
Veganism is synonymous with healthful eating, with flexitarians choosing to incorporate more vegan options into their diets because of the perceived health benefits of adopting a vegan diet such as lower blood pressure and cholesterol. Veganism is gaining traction in mainstream society because it is obviously filling a collective need to be more mindful and conscious of what we put in our bodies. Just ask successful vegan entrepreneurs Deliciously Ella or Fullyrawkristina (or any one of their loyal fans) and they’ll gladly tell you: veganism is hip, being healthy is cool and even people with only one foot on the vegan bandwagon can see the difference that eating a predominantly plant-based diet makes to their overall health and wellbeing, not to mention their wallets!
So if you want to lose weight, get healthy and save money, turning vegan can help all that in one fell swoop.