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Does going vegan help climate change – and what new products can I try?

From the impact of veganism on the planet to the new products on offer during the month, here are all your burning questions about Veganuary answered.

Like it or not, veganism is everywhere you look these days, with everyone from Beyoncé to the UK’s business secretary praising veganism’s ethical, climate and health benefits. 

The plant-based diet comes into sharp focus every year during January, with millions of people trying out veganism during the month as part of Veganuary.

The idea of the month is to allow those interested in plant-based living to dip their toes into the lifestyle, with supermarkets and food retailers often introducing new vegan lines throughout the month to make things easier. 

For people trying veganism for the first time, however, the diet and lifestyle can feel overwhelming at first. 

People often have a variety of questions about how to do Veganuary, what it involves, why people do it, and what actually counts as vegan.

So read on for the answers to all your burning questions – along with a few tips on following a vegan diet.

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How did Veganuary start? 

Veganuary was started in 2014 by a non-profit organisation of the same name as a way to encourage more people to try a vegan diet. 

Since then the numbers of people participating have skyrocketed around the world, with the Vegan Society claiming that over 580,000 people from 209 countries took part worldwide in 2021. 

What is veganism?

Simply put, veganism is a diet which involves avoiding any products derived from animals, such as beef, cheese or eggs. 

Many vegans also avoid animal-derived products in the other things they buy, such as opting for pleather instead of leather when purchasing clothes or shoes. 

Not all vegans are in agreement about what exactly constitutes an animal product. Some vegans eat honey, for instance, while others avoid it. 

What does Veganuary involve? 

The basic idea of Veganuary is to avoid animal products for an entire month, but people interpret this instruction differently depending on what’s realistic for them and their lifestyle.

Some people just avoid animal products in their diets, while others attempt to avoid animal products or animal cruelty in the cosmetics they use and the clothes and accessories they buy.

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What are the reasons people go vegan? 

There are lots of different reasons why a person might go vegan, including ethical concerns over farming practises to health issues associated with eating meat and dairy.

One growing concern around eating meat and dairy is the climate impact of these foods, with many now opting for veganism as a way to combat climate change.

Can going vegan help fix climate change? 

Clearly, one person changing their diet won’t be enough to fix the global issue of climate change.

However, researchers from the University of Oxford previously found that following a plant-based diet is one of the most effective things an individual can do to reduce their impact on the planet – with a carbon footprint reduction of over 70 per cent. 

Meat and dairy products can be damaging to the environment and climate in several ways, though some products – such as beef – are more damaging than others. 

Cows produce methane, a greenhouse gas even more dangerous than carbon dioxide. Because millions of cattle are bred to satisfy global demand for beef, the industry contributes a large percentage to the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Forests all over the world are felled to make way for cattle and soya to feed cattle – destroying vital carbon-absorbing trees. 

Globally, meat and dairy accounts for around 14.5 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO).

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Is veganism a healthy diet? 

According to the NHS, it’s possible to get “most of the nutrients you need” by following a vegan diet so long as you plan well and make sure you’re consuming enough of each food group. 

To follow a vegan diet healthily, the NHS recommends:

  • Eating at least 5 portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day
  • Basing meals on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates (choose wholegrain where possible)
  • Having some dairy alternatives, such as soya drinks and yoghurts (choose lower-fat and lower-sugar options)
  • Eating some beans, pulses and other proteins
  • Choosing unsaturated oils and spreads, and eat in small amounts
  • Drinking plenty of fluids (the government recommends 6 to 8 cups or glasses a day)

You should be careful not to inadvertently consume too much salt – as some vegan “substitutes” for meat and dairy products can be high in salt content. 

Where can I find vegan recipes and vegan products? 

One way you can access tips and recipe ideas for Veganuary is to sign up to the official newsletter, where you’ll be sent hints and recipes on a regular basis.

Luckily, the range of recipes and vegan food products now available is vastly expanded when compared to a few years ago, so most major supermarkets stock vegan-friendly products like plant-based milks, vegan burgers and dairy-free spreads. 

The app “Is it Vegan” can be downloaded onto your smartphone and used to check whether a product is or isn’t vegan in case the label isn’t clear.

Vegan recipes can be found everywhere online, from BBC Good Food to specialist vegan recipe sites, while dozens of cookbooks can be bought in-person or online which focus exclusively on plant-based recipes.

Social media sites like Instagram can also be a great place for inspiration and tips. Accounts like “Accidentally Vegan UK” for instance, document products which you might not have realised were vegan-friendly. 

What new products are on offer?

During Veganuary, many retailers and restaurants introduce new products specifically aimed at vegans, with more on offer this year than ever before. 

That means there’s no need to give up the treats and food you love – with plenty of alternatives on offer to compensate.

Some of the new products introduced for Veganuary 2022 include: 

  • Aldi has introduced a new vegan range to its supermarkets, including vegan mayo and the company’s first ever vegan cheese, which is considerably cheaper than similar products sold by competitors.
  • The Bel Group has launched its first ever vegan Babybel cheese, with packs available from Sainsburys nationwide for £1.50
  • Krispy Kreme UK has launched three new vegan donut flavours in Brownie Bliss, Caramel Choc Delight and Apple Custard Crumble flavours.
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