Veganism has risen in popularity over the last decade and has lost its reputation as being an extreme or a fad diet.
In what has been called on YouTube “The Speech that Broke the Internet” Joaquin Phoenix, upon accepting his Oscar for Best Actor in 2020 for Joker, devoted his speech not to a reflection on a long acting career or an endless list of credits, but to raising awareness about cruelty to animals in the dairy industry. This is a far cry from the 1990s and early 00s when celebrities were often recruited to promote the dairy industry by sporting milk mustaches in the ubiquitous “Got Milk?” ads.
The tide is turning towards plant-based foods, and veganism is not just taking hold among celebrities but the population at large, especially millennials. According to Statista, among millennials, 7.5% are vegetarians compared with 2.5% of those over 50. Concerning veganism, the number of Americans eating a plant-only diet is double that of those over 50. These numbers may not seem huge, but they are growing, and there is definitely a buzz on social media and in the food industry about adopting a plant-based diet.
Is It Just a Trend?
Some skeptics feel that millennials are adopting vegan diets because they are fashionable. Unlike other fashions, such as fancy clothes that involve a certain amount of self-indulgence, veganism requires significant self-discipline. Anyone who has ever tried eliminating animal products from their diet understands it is a greater challenge than vegetarianism, which allows cheese, milk, and eggs.
One indication that veganism is here to stay is that the trend has been steadily growing. From being a relatively new term in the 1990s to reaching prominence today, it doesn’t show signs of stopping. Restaurants, eateries, and grocery stores are highlighting vegan options and are aware of the demand for vegan products. These products are useful for those who may not be vegan but have dietary restrictions and may find these food items useful for health or religious reasons.
Another reason veganism may grow is the increasing and legitimate concern about climate change. It requires many more acres of land to raise cattle and other animals for food than to grow plants. Deforestation to clear land for ranchers and the meat industry has created environmental problems from the decrease of the world’s oxygen supply and an increase in greenhouse gases to soil erosion and flooding.
Also, vegan diets often have virtually no saturated fats and cholesterol. Those who suffer from high cholesterol or obesity may benefit from a vegan diet to improve health and promote weight loss.
Concerns about Veganism
Although veganism is a growing dietary lifestyle, there are many critics. While many vegans argue that all of the nutrients the body needs can be taken from plants, there are very few plant-based foods that contain B-12, which is needed for neurological health. The effects of a deficiency in B-12 can be dire and range from a tingling pin and needle sensation to irritability and shakiness.
There are only a few plant foods that contain B-12, including nori or seaweed and tempeh. However, there is some doubt about how much B-12 is actually retained in dried nori. There is also a risk of missing out on Vitamin D, but this vitamin can be absorbed by spending time in the sun.
Vegans may have to take supplements to get enough B12 as well as creatine and taurine. If the one problem with veganism–the lack of several nutrients–can be remedied by taking a daily supplement, then it is unlikely vegans will be dissuaded from their diet.
Here to Stay
With health benefits, environmental concerns, and the perception that veganism is trendy with many celebrity endorsements of the lifestyle, it is likely that veganism is here to stay. A vegan lifestyle requires planning and commitment but provides a number of benefits. It is essential, however, to take a supplement of Vitamin B12 and other nutrients to stay healthy on a vegan diet.