Georgina Phillips, Director, The Tonic Communications blogs about her Veganuary experience
Anyone who knows me knows I love my food – I love to eat out and cook/bake, so with a New Year’s resolution in mind, I liked the idea of challenging myself to be a bit more adventurous this January; trialling vegan recipes and seeing how readily accessible vegan options actually are. But my main drivers for doing Veganuary, centred on my health and the health of the planet.
With just a few days left to go in January, those motivators for changing my diet are still there and now it is clear to me that my eating preferences have, almost certainly, changed for life.
Back in November we started working with Medichecks, the UK’s leading home health check service and they shared with us an incredibly insightful study which showed that vegans are healthier than carnivores. We broke the story in early January and while results are still trickling in, the national media too, appreciated the evidenced-based piece, with Sky News, The Daily Telegraph, PA and many more featuring it. That gave me the little nudge I needed to try for myself.
So, to get a thorough understanding of my own health and to properly understand the user experience, and to see how well my body was performing on a Veganuary diet (mid-month), I undertook Medichecks’ Well Woman UltraVit Blood Test. Using a blood sample taken by one of the brand’s clinical partners, several biomarkers were tested including liver and kidney function, white and red blood cells, vitamin and mineral levels, and hormones (plus lots more)!
While I nervously waited for the results to come in, which was actually only a few working days(!), I was pleasantly surprised to find that overall I’m in good health. Only a few deficiencies were detected. My Vitamin D levels are insufficient (very common at this time of year) so I was advised to supplement with 20-50 mcg of vitamin D per day for twelve weeks, while also trying to get 15-20 minutes of midday sun when the sun is out. Vitamin D can also be found in fortified foods such as breakfast cereals, tofu and some fruit juices.
My cholesterol profile showed low levels of protective HDL cholesterol. The advice I was given was to try and rectify this as HDL is protective against cardiovascular disease (heart attacks, strokes etc) and low levels can increase my level of risk, so I should increase my oily fish consumption or take omega 3 supplements. I was also advised to continue to exercise regularly too.
As the month draws to a close, I am faced with the decision about what to do next and the whole experience has taught me some valuable lessons.
Will I stay vegan? No, but it’s unlikely I will be a carnivore again. I felt the buzz of eating out was replaced with some trepidation. Some places really don’t accommodate vegans, with most vegetarian dishes loaded with dairy, and on the occasion when I wanted something a bit naughty at home, the Veganuary alternatives didn’t quite match my expectations (but thanks for trying Papa John’s!).
I will still be considerate with my eating though and as a family we’re opting to become pescatarians from Feb 1st. Living in North Tyneside, we’re lucky to have locally caught fish and shellfish on our doorstep and we already get our dry goods from our local weigh shop, Buy the Kilo. They’ve just started supplying regionally grown veg and fruit boxes, featuring local farm eggs too, which means we can massively reduce our food miles.
On reflection, while January can be quite a depressing month and I have found it challenging at times, what I’ve enjoyed is the camaraderie of other vegans sharing recipes with me and learning more about the really progressive local businesses that are serving up exquisite food (big shout out to DoughNotts for fuelling our team brainstorm last week!). I know now that I will have more plant-based food days and will continue to try the local eatery innovators, who are flying the flag for great, reasonably priced vegan food. All in all, it has been a life-changing experience for the better.