What Is Veganuary?
You've heard of Dry January—now meet its plant-based cousin!
At the turn of a new year, many individuals opt to make resolutions to improve their health, whether that’s hitting the gym more often or giving up alcohol in January. Over the past few years, there has been a particular surge in those trying out Veganuary, or going vegan for the month of January. Indeed, in 2022, more than 620,000 people signed the official pledge.
If you’re feeling vegan-curious, now is an excellent time to try a plant-based diet for yourself. There are numerous benefits—for both your health and the environment—and you can still make a huge impact even if you slip up. So, what are you waiting for? Let’s get those veggies!
When Did Veganuary Start?
Veganuary, a UK-based nonprofit, was founded in 2014 with the explicit purpose of encouraging people to try veganism in the month of January.
However, plant-based living is no modern concept. According to the Vegan Society, evidence of vegetarian and vegan lifestyles can be traced back over 2,000 years. Most notably, the Buddha, Siddhārtha Gautama, advocated for vegetarian diets. Veganism naturally grew out of the vegetarian movement and around 1806 CE, some Europeans, such as Dr. William Lambe and Percy Bysshe, began to publicly decry consuming eggs and dairy on ethical grounds.
The term “vegan” was officially introduced in the 1940s by Donald Watson, co-founder of the Vegan Society. While the definition has changed over the years, the basic tenet is to protect animals from human exploitation through food, fashion and other means.
What Are the Benefits of Veganuary?
Veganism has become more popular in the past few years as scientists and celebrities have touted its wide-ranging benefits. Numerous studies have connected plant-based diets with the prevention of diabetes, improvement of cholesterol levels, promotion of healthy weight loss, decrease in risk of cardiovascular disease and protection against certain kinds of cancers.
Additionally, veganism is a reliable way to make a positive impact on a world wracked with pollutants that yield untenable temperatures and widespread climate destruction. In 2021, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimated that if the world’s population adopted a completely plant-based diet, global CO2 emissions could decrease by almost eight billion tons per year by 2050. This is because raising livestock for meat and dairy—particularly cows—is currently responsible for an estimated 14.5 percent of greenhouse gas emissions each year, according to the New York Times. That’s equivalent to all the emissions from cars, trucks, airplanes, and boats combined.
How Do I Participate in Veganuary?
If you’re excited to try a vegan diet this January, there’s no reason not to up your intake of whole grains, legumes, nuts, vegetables and fruits. However, veganism is not a “magic pill” you can take to solve all your health issues. In order to reap its benefits, you must put a little bit of planning in to ensure you are meeting all of your nutritional requirements. When meal-planning, vegans should pay particular attention to the following nutrients and their plant-based sources:
- Vitamin B12 (seaweed, nutritional yeast)
- Omega 3 Fatty Acids (flaxseed, canola oil)
- Iron (nuts, legumes, dark leafy greens, whole grains)
- Calcium (dark leafy greens, chickpeas)
- Vitamin D (fortified cereals, some mushrooms)
- Vitamin K-2 (sauerkraut, kombucha, kimchi)
While supplements can be helpful for certain harder-to-source nutrients like vitamin D, they are not strictly necessary if the vegan is mindful of their diet. Additionally, be on the lookout for fortified vegan foods, such as cereals and nut milks, which frequently contain some of the above nutrients for ease.
Lastly, as you embark on Veganuary, be gentle with yourself. According to Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health nutrition expert Walter Willett, it’s not necessary to be completely vegan to reap the benefits. So, while we all aim for perfection in our resolutions, remind yourself that something really is better than nothing here! You’re doing something wonderful for yourself and the planet, and you are among a community of an estimated 88 million!