A vegan diet provides abundant dietary fibre and is lower in calories. (Credit: Getty Images)
The rising trend for plant-based alternatives in the food and beverage industry reflects the growth of interest in the vegan diet. Vegan-dedicated sites have reported that "vegan food near me" saw a 5,000 per cent increase in Google search in 2021.
So why are people thinking of switching to a vegan diet? For some, it's for ethical reasons. They care for animals and don't want to see them suffer. Others have become more aware of the impact of animal-based diets on the environment. This makes them more willing to forego meat to reduce carbon emissions and combat climate change. However, most people who are turning to veganism do it for health reasons.
Health benefits of veganism
Besides fostering connection, cooking together as a family teaches kids about nutrition. (Credit: Getty Images)
Research on dietary patterns shows eating the recommended serving of vegetables and fruits can help lower the risk of heart disease. Diabetics are advised to fill at least half of their plates with non-starchy vegetables to manage their blood sugar.
Ramping up your fruit and vegetable intake can also lead to a more robust immune system, lower cholesterol and often, weight loss. A diet with more plant-based foods can also lower the risk of:
- Chronic inflammation
- High blood pressure
For many omnivores, switching to a vegan or even a semi-vegetarian diet can be tough. But adherents say the payoff comes in the excellent quality of life in your senior years.
What to include in vegan and vegetarian diets
There is a difference between vegan and vegetarian diets. The vegan diet is the stricter of the two when it comes to what not to eat.
All animal products like meat, poultry, fish, seafood, dairy and eggs are off-limits in the vegan diet. Vegans also avoid animal-based products like honey or cheese and do not use textiles, cosmetics or soaps with ingredients derived from animals.
The vegetarian diet is like the vegan diet – no meat, poultry, fish or seafood. But versions of this diet allow a few concessions. Here are a few of the several types of vegetarian diets:
- Lacto-vegetarian: Milk and other dairy products are allowed but not eggs
- Ovo vegetarian: Can eat eggs but exclude dairy
- Ovo-lacto vegetarian: Eggs and dairy are both part of the diet
- Pescatarian: No meat or poultry, but fish and seafood are okay
- Semi-vegetarian or flexitarian: Eggs and dairy are fine, as are small amounts of meat, poultry, fish and seafood.
How to eat more fruits and vegetables
Snack healthier at the office by eating yoghurt, nuts, fruits and vegetable salad. (Credit: AIA)
So, if you don't want to go vegan, how can you improve your vegetable intake? Adding more healthy choices to your meal planning is the key.
1. Eat a variety of plant-based foods
Add whole grains, nuts and seeds to your green salad. Put bananas or berries in your cereal. Make eggs with chopped vegetables. And don't worry if your produce is canned or frozen – both count! Drain and rinse canned vegetables to reduce the sodium content.
2. Try different ways of preparing or cooking vegetables
Find salads boring? Try roasting carrots, zucchini, sweet potatoes, beets and cauliflower. You can also do a meatless version of your favourite dishes like this Vegetarian Burger.
3. Cut back on processed food
If you're eating instant ramen daily, cut it down to two to three times a week for a month until you find yourself not craving it anymore. Then, find healthy snacks or guiltless substitutes for your favourite food. Take this Pineapple Pancake as an example, which calls for wholegrain spelt instead of traditional flour.
Enlist a loved one or a friend to be your cheerleader as you adapt to a new dietary plan. Or take part in a wellness programme like AIA Vitality that can help you power through your wellbeing goals. It can be that extra motivation to finally get you eating the recommended 4 ½ cups each of fruits and vegetables a day.
YouGov. September 2019. Millennials' food choices are driven by quality and they're willing to pay more for it. [online] [Accessed on 30 May 2022]
IFT. March 1, 2022. Taking the Pulse of Teens and Young Adults. [online] [Accessed on 30 May 2022]
YouGov. 2020. One in five Millennials has changed their diet to reduce their impact on the planet. [online] [Accessed on 30 May 2022]
Heart Foundation. Plant-based, vegetarian, and vegan diets. [online] [Accessed on 30 May 2022]
Harvard Health Publishing. 2022. How much protein do you need every day? [online] [Accessed on 30 May 2022]
American Heart Association. 2018. Fresh, Frozen or Canned Fruits and Vegetables: All Can Be Healthy Choices! [online] [Accessed on 30 May 2022]