What you need to know about turning vegan this January

In January, it can be difficult to avoid all the ‘new year, new you’ messaging that takes over our newsfeeds. Whether you’re partaking in Dry January or trying a sugar detox for the month, starting the new year with a food-related challenge or a massive dietary change is a pretty common approach. This year, the concept of going vegan for the month (which means discarding meats, eggs, fish and dairy products from your diet) is gaining traction with a newly coined term, Veganuary. While veganism has its roots in animal welfare and environmental concerns, people have become interested in eschewing animal-derived foods for a lighter plant-based diet due to the health benefits this change promises. Is it actually a good idea or just a marketing ploy? We spoke to three nutritionists—fitness and nutritional scientist, Dr Siddhant Bhargava, celebrity nutritionist, Pooja Makhija, and integrative nutritionist, Payal Kothari—to find out.

Is there any benefit to turning vegan for just a month?

While most nutritionists support clients who want to try plant-based diets, they’re not in favour of switching to a vegan diet just to overload on the junk food from that category. It is far too easy to find vegan options even in the candy aisle and in fast food joints today, but this can take away from the efficacy of your attempt. “It has been researched that following this diet can have tremendous health benefits—if it’s well executed,” says Dr Bhargava. “A vegan diet can lower blood sugar levels and enhance the functioning of the kidneys. A plant-based diet that is rich in high-quality plant foods could also help you reduce the chances of getting Type 2 diabetes,” he explains.

Apart from the short-term and long-term benefits, it can also be a mental exercise worth trying. “For meat eaters, the thought of never eating it again can be overwhelming. So one month [of not doing it] could be an exercise in will power,” explains Makhija. She suggests that if going vegan can convince you to meal plan, be smarter with your grocery shopping and cook more at home, it’s definitely worth a try. Research has confirmed the theory as well—a 2018 study showed that participants had reduced their cholesterol levels after trying a vegan diet for just four weeks, suggesting that even a month-long dietary switch can kickstart better digestive and heart health.

What are the benefits of going vegan?

A vegan diet also may help improve healthy gut biofilms, which are thin defensive barriers that get formed around bacteria in the gut. These make it hard for glucose to enter, which in turn slows down the glycemic effect of your diet. “As a big plus, the main proteins present in a vegan diet can help reduce the absorption of saturated fat, lower cholesterol levels and help avert heart disease,” says Bhargava. Plant-based diets also boost energy levels, metabolism and glowing skin, since they’re easier on the digestive system than meat.

How can you do it without compromising on nutrition?

Makhija cautions that the switch from a meat-friendly diet to veganism can be more challenging than uplifting initially. “Dark green veggies, sesame seeds, nuts and seeds, whole grains, legumes and quinoa are your best bets [to make the transition easier],” says Makhija. She warns against overloading the body with carbohydrates and starch, which will negatively impact blood sugar levels and metabolism, and deplete your energy. “It is critical to focus on what you are adding to your diet, instead of just what you’re eliminating,” warns Dr Bhargava.

Should you try it?

Before you embrace this lifestyle chance, Makhija insists that you ask yourself four questions: Will it keep me happy? Would I like to do it for longer? Is the diet switch feasible for my lifestyle? Do I have a medical condition that is contra-indicative to this diet? “Food has to satiate you and make you feel good. If what you eat is giving you no joy and your next meal is stressing you out, then that diet, no matter what it is, won’t work for you,” she confirms.

And as for sustaining it? A lot of nutritionists suggest sticking to a middle path once you’re through with Veganuary. “I don’t believe in trends or extreme diets. Keep the eggs, reduce the meat and add veggies and fruits to your daily intake. In India, our staple diet consists of complex carbs, veggies and legumes, so you can keep a balanced plate that allows for a meat-, dairy- or egg-based indulgence when you want it,” concludes Makhija.

The article was first published in Vogue


  • Aparrna Gupta

    Transitioning from crafting stories for The Asian Age and Bombay Times to setting beauty trends in Verve, Aparrna Gupta’s journey has always revolved around resonant storytelling. Her prowess in content creation is unparalleled, with articles featured in renowned publications like Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, L’Officiel India, Lifestyle Asia, Elle, and Femina. She also excels in content ideation, trend identification, mood board creation, and product styling. Her expertise has proven invaluable to homegrown brands, enabling them to authentically connect with their audience.

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