Science Week: Becoming Vegan

Our focus for Science Week: Food by Design on Tuesday looked at the growing trend towards more ethical and plant-based healthy eating, by becoming vegan.

You may not have realised that Veganism can take on several different nuances, such as basing your diet on plant-derived foods only; or your whole lifestyle on not using anything that has come from an animal, such as leather or products tested on animals. There are even vegans who won’t eat foods cooked over 45degC (Raw Vegan). But most of us understand the concept as avoiding anything animal-based in the diet, which then excludes eggs, dairy products and honey, all of which are still used in vegetarian diets.

The benefits of converting across from being an omnivore (both plant and animal in the diet) to herbivore are numerous, as Mr James McManus explained during the lunchtime session for Science Week. Mr McManus decided to transition becoming a vegan during his honeymoon in Bali, five years ago. While there, he discovered the delicious foods and real variety that could be enjoyed and has been vegan ever since.

The choice Mr McManus made was a conscious one and so he did his research well. He explained that the pitfalls that many fall into when they start taking animal products out of their diet is that they just avoid the meat that might be on a plate and simply eat the vegetables. Instead, those making the change must supplement what they are leaving out with different foods, such as nuts (nut butters instead of dairy butters), legumes (peas, beans, chickpeas etc to make up the protein base), pastas and rice for some carbohydrate and then look at vitamins to pick up what your diet is leaving you deficient in.

Luckily now as more people are aware of the stress on the environment that eating meat is having, more restaurants and cafes are catering for this market, nominating which meals on the menu are suitable for vegans, as well as having a much greater variety on offer. The supermarket chains are all in on it too, which must mean they appreciate that there is money to be made in this, as they offer plant-based ‘meats’, such as vegan sausages and mince. These transition foods might make the change to a new style of eating easier for people, but Mr McManus wouldn’t recommend them long term, as they are still highly processed, containing a lot of salt. And of course, being vegan doesn’t mean you miss out on desserts, as we saw how you can make meringues without using egg whites.

Has Mr McManus noticed any health benefits from being vegan? Absolutely yes, he says, even citing that the year he became vegan, his football team voted him Best and Fairest. He lost weight initially to become leaner, and there was no inflammation around the joints and in the bloodstream. His cholesterol levels are maintained within a healthy range and his regular health checks give his eating choices a tick of approval.

For people wanting to look at this as an option but worried that it might affect their sporting ability, could watch the Netflix documentary “The Game Changers”, where top athletes of all persuasions have shown how this ethical, environmental and healthier way of life has benefitted them personally.

Students can access the Meringue Video here: Let’s make Vegan Meringues


Daniela Carboon

Learning Leader – Science and Technology