Veganism is here to stay and that’s a fact. As the popularity of plant-based eating continues to gather momentum, more people than ever before are beginning to explore the vegan diet. Veganism appeals to people looking to improve their health whilst also addressing the wider issues of food production, which include both environmental and animal welfare concerns.
The vegan phenomenon
Veganism has become one of the fastest growing diet trends, according to the Vegan Society who have reported that the number of vegans in the UK now exceeds 500K people (1% of the population). According to more recent research carried out by Compare the Market, this figure is now thought to have increased to 7% of the population.
Consumer interest in veganism has also risen as findings from the Vegan Society report a 987% increase in the demand for meat-free food products. This is reflected in findings from a recent Mintel report showing that more than half of all new product launches in the meat-free foods market were vegan and that 26% of consumers preferred these products to be solely plant-based.
Paving the way and spreading the word are charities such as Veganuary and Meat Free Monday’s, which continue to encourage the population to uptake a healthy lifestyle by saying no to animal products and yes to a plant-based diet.
What has helped to drive this increase in veganism?
The Veganuary campaign has helped to promote veganism with 168,542 omnivores taking part in last year’s event. Meat-Free Monday has also grown in popularity since its inception in 2009 and offers a more accessible option for those wanting to reduce their meat intake.
The perception of vegans has also changed over the years from bare foot hippies to those with a serious commitment to their health. Celebrities such as Gwyneth Paltrow have long championed veganism and more recently professional sportspeople such as Serena Williams have adopted this style of eating to help improve performance.
Veganism in the media
Digital platforms have helped accelerate the growth of veganism by providing easy access to reliable information for people interested in learning more. Social media has also played a role as a source of inspiration and advice on how to adopt this way of eating.
The popularity of veganism is also reflected in analytics from internet search engines such as Google who reported a quadruple increase in ‘vegan’ searches between the years of 2012 and 2017.
itsu are challenging the myths surrounding veganism
Despite the growing interest in plant-based eating, stigmas surrounding veganism continue to exist. Many of the assumptions surrounding veganism are based on a misunderstanding of the diet and despite criticism there’s no reason why this diet, if followed properly, cannot provide all the nutrients needed for the body to function properly.
Did you know that 40% of our food at itsu is vegan?
Being inclusive is important to us and we want everyone to be able to eat beautiful, regardless of your diet preferences. We’ve been developing our range since 1997 and have always valued customer feedback to help drive innovation and deliver exciting new dishes. Forty percent of our entire range is now vegan, and we have grand plans to lead the health revolution by expanding our plant-based menu options.
We’re passionate about the environment and are continually looking for ways to reduce our corporate footprint. A recent study carried out by Oxford Brookes University found that avoiding meat and dairy is the single biggest way to reduce your impact on the environment. This is echoed by leaders in the field who believe that simply going meat-free once every week can significantly reduce harmful emissions; say hello to a plant-based favourite of ours every Monday!
Health and wellbeing is at the root of itsu’s ethos. What started as a promise of only using fresh, wholesome and varied ingredients has now evolved into a pledge to offer 50 dishes under 500 calories and a further commitment to develop and expand our new vegan range.
What are the health benefits of veganism?
A well-balanced vegan diet contains more fibre, which is an important nutrient lacking in the diet of many people. The vegan diet has also been shown to include more fruit and vegetables which are a rich source of micronutrients and phytochemicals (compounds derived from plants shown to help protect the body against disease). Studies also show that eating meat-free may lower the risk of obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes.
Time to set the record straight on some of the common myths surrounding veganism
itsu’s aim is to make everyone feel welcome and, in our quest to support the plant-based revolution, we’ve decided to debunk a few common myths surrounding veganism.
Vegans need to take supplements
Not necessarily. The vegan diet is often assumed to lack essential nutrients, but this is more about food choice than the diet per se. Veganism does take a little more planning and food knowledge but once you understand what to include in your diet, preparing and seeking out balanced vegan meals quickly becomes second nature.
One exception is omega 3. Vegan omega 3 comes from foods such as nuts and seeds, and whilst these are useful sources, they’re not adequately converted in the body, so you may want to consider a supplement (sourced from sea algae).
The vegan diet is lacking in vitamin B12
Vegan foods naturally rich in vitamin B12 are limited to nutritional yeasts and spreads such as marmite. Some forms of seaweed do contain vitamin B12 and may be a useful source but not one to solely rely on. But this doesn’t mean you can’t get what you need as fortified foods such as plant-based drinks (soya, nut and coconut), cereals and spreads are a very reliable way to top up your intake.
The vegan diet is lacking in iron
There’s no reason why you can’t get enough iron from a vegan diet as it’s found in many foods such as beans, pulses, lentils, nuts, fortified breakfast cereals, tofu, dark green leafy vegetables and seaweed. You can absorb more iron from plant-foods by teaming them with a source of vitamin C found in fruits, juices and red peppers and you should avoid drinking tea with meals as it contains tannins which can prevent uptake in the body.
Vegans don’t get enough protein
If heavy weight boxer David Hayes can get enough protein on a vegan diet, then so can you! Proteins are made up of 21 amino acids, nine of which are referred to as being essential. Many plant proteins are lacking in essential amino acids but including a wide variety of these foods with every meal will insure your intake. Plant protein can be sourced from foods such as beans, pulses, nuts, seeds, quinoa, tofu and edamame beans.
Vegans don’t get enough calcium
Dairy is not the only source of calcium and vegans can get plenty from other foods. To ensure a good intake of calcium you should include 2-3 servings of foods such as tofu, almonds, dark green leafy vegetables, sesame seeds, tahini and fortified plant-milks.
Sesame seeds are a great source of calcium and help to keep bones strong, and the power of these little seeds shouldn’t be underestimated. A study conducted by Save Our Bones, found that whole sesame seeds contain about 88 mg of calcium per tablespoon of seeds and just a quarter cup of natural sesame seeds provides more calcium than a whole cup of milk.
As the world becomes more accustomed to veganism, and the different ways that we can enrich our bodies through food, we expect more and more people will want to broaden their dietary horizons. itsu celebrates health and well-being in all its forms, we’re always pushing ourselves to develop the most nutritious, well-balanced dishes for our vegan friends. Keep your eyes peeled because we have some meat-free surprises up our sleeves for 2019.
Looking for some inspiration? Take a look at one of our most popular vegan recipes.