Is a vegan diet really better for you?

4 January 2019

When you compare a plant-based diet to a meat and dairy diet, there are three areas where you’ll notice big differences – money, health, and environmental impact. We’ve looked at each of these areas to see if following a vegan diet really can make a difference.

 

Money

It’s a common misconception that eating vegan is super expensive – but that couldn’t be more wrong. The most expensive parts of a meal tend to be the meat and dairy, so by cutting those out you could do your bank account a favour.

We looked at some typical foods and their vegan alternatives to see if going plant-based really is going to really break the bank.

All of the prices are correct as of December 2018.

 

Breakfast – the most important meal of the day, so we’ve gone for a classic breakfast treat of pancakes.

Vegan (makes twelve pancakes)

Two bananas – 36p

200g instant oats – 28p

185ml plant milk of your choice – 17p

Total: 98p

 

Non-vegan (makes twelve pancakes)

135g plain flour - 20p

1 tsp baking powder – 2p

½ tsp salt

2 tbsp caster sugar – 1p

130ml milk – 12p

One large egg – 42p

Two tbsp butter – 5p

Total: £1

A stack of vegan pancakes

Image courtesy of Vegan Punks

 

Lunch – a simple sandwich

Vegan (‘cheese’ and tomato sandwich)

Two slices of bread – 11p

Vegan spread – 1p

Vegan cheese – 27p

Cherry tomatoes – 15p

Total: 54p

 

Non-vegan (tuna mayo)

Two slices of bread – 11p

Spread – 1p

Tuan – 50p

Mayonnaise – 5p

Salad – 7p

Total: 75p

An image of six sandwiches with different fillings

 

Dessert – you can’t have an afternoon cup of tea (with plant-based milk, of course) without a slice of delicious chocolate cake

Vegan

275g plain flour – 27p

100g cocoa powder - £1.30

Two tsp bicarbonate of soda – 2p

One tsp baking powder – 2p

Pinch of salt

450ml coconut milk - £1.08

Two tsp red wine vinegar – 2p

320g brown sugar – 90p

320ml sunflower oil – 38p

Two tsp vanilla extract – 4p

Icing

250g vegan dark chocolate - £2.50

160ml coconut milk – 40p

Total: £6.95

 

Non-vegan

225g plain flour – 24p

350g caster sugar – 63p

85g cocoa powder - £1.20

1 ½ tsp baking powder – 1p

1 ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda – 1p

Two eggs – 42p

250ml milk – 22p

125ml vegetable oil – 15p

Two tsp vanilla extract – 4p

250ml boiling water

Icing

200g plain chocolate - £1.00

200ml double cream – 73p

Total: £4.65

A slice of chocolate cake with a strawberry on top

 

Dinner – this Mexican classic is super easy to make vegan

Vegan (Quorn Fajitas)

Wraps – 95p

Cucumber – 55p

Pepper - £1.00

Onion – 30p

Seasoning – 95p

Salsa – 85p

Quorn - £1.90

Total: £6.50

 

Non-vegan (chicken fajitas)

Wraps – 95p

Chicken - £2.40

Cucumber – 55p

Pepper - £1.00

Onion – 30p

Seasoning – 95p

Salsa – 85p

Sour cream – 65p

Total: £7.65

A vegan fajita

Image courtesy of Vegan Punks

 

Vegan baking can be slightly more expensive if you have to buy more specialised ingredients, but in general the price difference between making plant-based and meat and dairy based meals isn’t huge. When you add the costs up over a week, you could see some serious savings.

 

Health

A vegan diet can also make a massive difference to your health. Eating plant-based food doesn’t mean that you’ll miss out on any protein, calcium or other vital nutrients – you just have to be careful to look for natural sources of these.

Research has linked vegan diets to lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and lower rates of heart disease. Scientists have also found that there are fewer cases of type two diabetes with people following a plant-based diet and that it can even reverse type two diabetes. It could also prevent some types of cancer.

A common myth is that a vegan diets lacks protein and could leave you less physically fit. But this couldn’t be further from the truth – in fact, vegans tend to have improved fitness levels, they recover quicker and are less likely to suffer injuries. Many well-known sports stars have moved to a plant-based diet and this hasn’t affected their performance at all, including Serena Williams, David Haye, Lewis Hamilton and Jermaine Defoe.

As if these health benefits weren’t enough, a plant-based diet can help you lose weight – animal products are higher in fat, so they tend to be high in calories too.

 

Environmental impact

There’s no denying that the lowest carbon diet is a vegan one. Even without cutting out dairy and eggs, cutting meat out of your diet can reduce your carbon footprint by a third.

A recent study found that the carbon emissions of a meat-heavy diet (someone who eats more than 3.5 ounces of meat a day – or about one chicken breast) produce around 15.8 pounds of carbon dioxide a day. In comparison, a vegan diet produces 6.4 pounds of carbon dioxide a day – that’s less than half the amount of carbon.

If you’re trying to cut your carbon footprint when it comes to food, check out the Eat Low Carbon website – it has a huge variety of meals featured on it, and tells you the carbon footprint of every single one – helping you to make greener decisions with your food.

 

Going vegan can make a huge difference to your bank account, your health and your environmental impact – even if it’s just for a couple of days a week. There are plenty of great resources to help you switch to a plant-based diet – check out our guide to going vegan, as well as The Vegan Society and Veganuary’s websites.

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