16 October 2019

World Food Day – should you consider veganism?

Today, 16 October 2019, is World Food Day and it’s interesting to note that South Africa has seen a sharp increase in veganism. But why? And how can you start eating less meat?

Have you ever considered going vegan? Or is this something you would never consider? However you look at it, meat consumption has a large carbon footprint and is more costly than a diet focusing on plant-based food.

According to The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, livestock production contributes an estimated 14.5% to global greenhouses gas emissions.

Drought and limited water supply also add to the concern, as it takes around 15 500 litres of water to produce 1kg of beef.

Animal agriculture also uses a third of arable land and is one of the leading causes of water pollution and rainforest fires for land clearance.

Dr Lize Barclay, lecturer in Future Studies and Systems Thinking at the University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB) says the following:

“South Africa is a country with an agricultural economy, very heavily dependent on the production of animal-based products, with numerous industries related thereto. With an increase in veganism, the global demand for animal-based products will decrease.

“It is not only direct animal products that will be impacted on, but also many other consumables, such as sweets and wine, which use some kind of animal product in their manufacture. The wine industry already took note and is producing vegan wine ranges,” notes Dr Barclay in a press release.

South Africans as meat eaters

But for many South Africans, veganism remains something they would never consider.

Dr Barclay says a unique challenge in South Africa regarding converting to veganism is the deep relationship people have with animal products.

“This ranges from the slaughtering of sacrificial animals for religious and cultural festivals to the “braai culture” that remains the mainstay of many social events. Navigating the ethics of animal rights and the environment on the one hand and the right to religions and cultural expression, on the other hand, will be very complicated."

A growing trend

But even so, South Africa, especially Cape Town, has seen a sharp increase in the rise of veganism and the availability of vegan options. This is very much because of the growing concern about the environment, mostly among the younger generation.

Dr Barclay explains that the increase in veganism is a great opportunity for new restaurants, cookbooks and the development of meat alternatives.

“Most supermarkets have taken note of the trends and have introduced various plant-based and vegan alternatives. New faux meat companies, such as Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods have gained support from investors and consumers, even though these products are not entirely considered to be vegan.

“Most ridicule and questions vegans have to endure are often based in ignorance and thus don’t be sheepish: go try a vegan dish on Meat-Free Mondays, visit a vegan restaurant, or enrol in Veganuary. It might just change your world, literally.”

Simply reduce your intake

Even if a vegan diet is something you would never consider, reducing the amount of meat you consume can hold great benefits for your health, your wallet and your environment. Our dietitians at Nutritional Solutions suggest the following easy tips to help you reduce your meat intake:

  • Make beans and legumes such as lentils and chickpeas a pantry staple. They give a hearty texture to casseroles and soups and don’t only contain healthy plant protein, but also a lot of fibre.
  • Rethink your portion sizes – reduce the amount of meat in your dish by bulking a Bolognese or other meaty soup or stew with lentils or beans. Soon, you’ll be keen to make an entirely plant-based dish.
  • Make vegetables the main, instead of the sides. Baked potatoes in their skin provide fibre and a whole range of valuable vitamins and minerals, especially potassium, to the meal. Top the potato with low-fat chunky cottage cheese, chopped gherkins and peppadews and serve with steamed broccoli and baked butternut.
  • Instead of buying three different meats and one salad for a weekend braai, eat one type of meat with several vegetable sides. Alternatively, swap the chops and wors for a vegetable patty or fish wrapped in foil (with tomato onion, lemon juice and fennel) served with an onion tomato chilli relish, a chickpea salad and a green salad.  

Image credit: iStock


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