Home Lifestyle World Vegan Month: Not just another fad, it’s a way of life

World Vegan Month: Not just another fad, it’s a way of life

‘I couldn’t believe that my parents went plant-based,’ says former meat-lover

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The prospect of a diet packed with chickpeas, lentils and quinoa may sound like the beginning stages of a green, crunchy nightmare for a loyal South African meat lover.

But surprisingly these grainy wholesome foods have become more tempting of late with millions globally turning to plant-based and vegan diets in a bid to cure their health woes and simultaneously heal the world.

Such was the case for Dané Vermeulen (30), foodie and systems leader at Food For Mzansi’s digital partner, Yehbaby Digital.

READ: Life’s too short to eat bad food

A few weeks ago Vermeulen, a former lover of all things cheesy, took a leap and committed to a new plant-based lifestyle.

Foodie Dané Vermeulen has recently transitioned to a plant-based lifestyle. Photo: Supplied

She is set to document her journey in Food For Mzansi’s Mzansi Flavour Digest recipe mailer in the upcoming weeks. Stay tuned and sign up to receive the newsletter every Monday.

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Vermeulen who is also an aspiring food photographer says her decision comes after she had to get tested for covid-19. Her doctor conducted a routine test and discovered that she had a high blood pressure reading of 158/90.

“My doctor recommended the usual, exercise and healthy diet with no sugar, no starch, with greens and lean meats, we all know the drill,” she says.

“I started exercising and trying to eat healthier, but I did not really see results. After two weeks of trying to follow doctor’s orders my blood pressure only dropped to 150/85.”

A visit to her parents sparked her plant-based journey. “They told me that they are making the move to plant-based. I was shocked. I didn’t believe it!”

Well, a month into her new lifestyle and Vermeulen is already noting some major changes. Food For Mzansi caught up with the foodie to hear her Vegan chronicles.

It all began with a Netflix documentary. How have you been coping without that South African national treasure, the lamb chop?

My parents recommended that I watch a Netflix documentary called The Game Changers because it would change my life. I decided to watch it because I knew nothing will be able to change my mind on leaving meat behind. After watching it, I had to humbly admit that it did change my life and all my preconceived notions of what animal protein does to our bodies.

What have been some of the challenges in the transition?

Oddly enough I did not find it challenging to leave meat, but I do struggle to find good alternatives for dairy. I love cheese!

Although I predominantly eat plant based meals, I think of myself as a flexitarian, which, to me, means that a plant based meal will always be my first option, secondly vegetarian and then lastly, when I have no other choice, for instance a dinner at a friend’s where there are no plant-based options I will compromise by eating meat. 

How do you cope with that temptation?

If anything, I am more tempted by convenience! Not wanting to think about what new recipe I need to create tonight so that we can have a tasty plant-based meal. I would recommend planning your meals for the week and researching other plant-based and vegan meals for inspiration.

What are some major changes you have noted?

After getting rid of all the animal protein products I can already feel the difference in my body. I am more alert, less tired and I feel like my body has more strength. I am also able to exercise for longer and harder. The biggest transformation is that my blood pressure dropped to 124/81 which is normal for my age and I am extremely happy about it. I am also quite overweight so my hope is that I will start losing some weight as well.

Veganism is a way of life

If you have ever wondered what exactly defines a vegan diet, our in-house nutritionist, Andrea Du Plessis explains, “veganism involves the exclusion of all animal products, such as meat, fish, dairy, eggs and even honey.”

Vegan culture at its core is motivated by individuals that are against animal cruelty and highly focused on environmental well-being and sustainability.

Dietician Andrea du Plessis. Photo: Supplied

ALSO READ: Consider these foods for your plant-based diet

In other words, Vegans do not consume the products of anything with a face, Du Plessis elaborates. “It’s a big shift in mindset and a radical approach to a person’s diet.

“The vegan lifestyle is driven by people who really want to do their best to reduce their footprint on the environment.”

World Vegan Month is in full swing and plant-based eaters from across the globe are celebrating their 100% cruelty-free lifestyle.

Observed in November, World Vegan Month is a global effort to promote the benefits of a vegan or plant-based diet.

According to Du Plessis one of these benefits is nutritional. “Consuming foods in their natural state is highly concentrated in vitamins, minerals and fibres that are not necessarily present in a normal diet of proteins.”

READ: How to do a plant based braai

She does however clarify, that following a plant-based diet does not make you healthy. “Fizzy drinks are plant-based, slap tjips are plant-based. Nutrition is the key.”

Skipping a tjoppie every now and then won’t hurt, if you are thinking of making the transition even once a week, why not try our selection of Vegan recipes this month.

Vegan umfino with rosemary mushrooms: Food blogger Anda Mtshemla shares her vegan take on umfino that makes a strong argument for the vegan lifestyle.

Umfino, a South African staple is traditionally made with maize meal and finely chopped spinach. It is best served warm, usually with a side of tomato relish, stew or vegetables.

Spicy Harira Soup: While South African cookbook author and food stylist Dianne Bibby believes that food is universal and has the ability to connect people beyond any border.

She makes this wonderfully fragrant Moroccan harira soup with zesty seasoning which promises to bring the smell of a Moroccan market right into your home.

Chef Hennie’s piccalilli: Head chef of Spier Farm Café, Hennie Nel, shares his recipe for the British pub grub favourite, piccalilli spread on a slice of toasted sourdough bread and topped with a medley of roasted vegetables. 

Piccalilli is yellow relish of pickled veggies and spices that is easy to make and can be stored in sealed jars for several months. 

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Noluthando Ngcakani
Noluthando Ngcakani
With roots in the Northern Cape, this Kimberley Diamond has had a passion for telling human interest stories since she could speak her first words. A foodie by heart, she began her journalistic career as an intern at the SABC where she discovered her love for telling agricultural, community and nature related stories. Not a stranger to a challenge Ngcakani will go above and beyond to tell your truth.
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