Humble veggies rise to the occasion

Pictures by Sunisa Nathan.
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It's a popular food trend mostly not driven by the desire to lose weight – it's mostly about the ethics. Sunny Nathan looks the rise of veganism.

 “I’ve never felt this good,” says Emma Poupè, a recent vegan convert.

“Once you feel the benefits of going vegan, you almost can’t understand why everyone isn’t doing it,” the Launceston mum says. “I have so much more energy and no more brain fog.”

She’s not the only person making the switch.

Nearly 2.5 million Australians have switched to predominantly plant-based meals – just over 12 per cent of the population, a 2019 Roy Morgan Research study showed.

A number of the world’s top athletes, including Novak Djokovic, Mike Tyson, Venus Williams, Colin Kaepernick and Lewis Hamilton have turned to a vegan diet, and many have accredited veganism with their success. 

Djokovic, the world No.1 player in men’s tennis, attributed a great deal of his professional success to his diet.

“[Food is] the fuel that determines how I play, how I recover, and how alert I am on the court,” he told LiveKindly.co.

Unlike other popular diets, people don’t just go vegan to lose weight and get healthy – more and more Australians are now also focusing on the ethics behind their meals. 

Emma Poupè is a recent vegan convert.

Vegan restaurants and cafés, much like the diet, have become increasingly popular with a large number of vegan specific restaurants opening up in the last 10 years. 

Launceston alone has seen seven new vegan/vegetarian restaurants open since 2014.

Tasmanian restaurateur Keerati Kulsawang said he noticed more and more customers at his restaurants asking for vegan options.

“It was very hard for my chefs to alter many of the meals for vegans as we weren’t set up to accommodate for a vegan diet,” he said.

“I saw … the demand was there for a vegan restaurant.” He opened the Lotus Thai Vegan House in response.

Dietitian and nutritionist Stephen Hodgkinson said younger Australians were becoming more health conscious and more considerate of the ethics behind their meals and this was driving a growth in veganism. 

Unlike other recently popular diets, such as the keto and paleo diet, being vegan isn’t solely about losing weight or getting healthy, he said.

What’s different about a veganism is … a lot of the time it’s about ethical reasons, which helps keep people more motivated to stay with the diet.

Mr Hodgkinson said the majority of Australians would benefit from a more vegan diet, as only “25 per cent of Australians eat enough vegetables each day and only 50 per cent eat enough fruit”.  

There is a belief among many Australians that veganism doesn’t offer a complete nutritional diet as there’s no meat, however, that’s not the case at all, he said. 

“Many older Australian’s seem to think that a vegan diet is a hippie diet and that a meal isn’t real if there’s no meat in it, which isn’t the case. As long as you’re careful you get all the nutrients you need without eating animal products,” he said.

Ms Poupè said that since becoming vegan over a year ago, she has barely had any trouble with her health. “I’m the healthiest I’ve ever been.”

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