TO mark November's World Vegan Month, Kath Baron from The Kitchen in Great Moor Street invited The Bolton News and Rachel West, who has been vegan for three years, to talk about the health benefits of the diet and showcase some of the cafe's healthy and exciting meals
WHETHER you swear by steak or chose to go green, there is little doubt about the health benefits of a vegan diet.
Differing from a vegetarian diet, which cuts out meat, poultry, game, fish, shellfish, crustacea and animal by-products – vegans also bypass dairy products, eggs, and any other animal product.
Animal rights issues aside for the purpose of this article – the diet's health benefits are vast. Thanks to a fairly recent surge in specialist brands that cater for vegans, there are now plenty of alternative ingredients and replacement foods to make sure that the meals are nutritious and tasty.
A mix of vegetables, beans, pulses and soya-based products like tofu can make a rich, delicious meal that would benefit anyone who ate it – including meat eaters who want an occasional change.
Kath Baron, aged 49, has been a vegan since she was 17 years old. She said: "When I first became vegan it was difficult at first because there wasn't much available, but it meant that I had to learn to cook for myself and read the label on everything.
"I don't think it's true that vegans miss out on nutrients. I just find foods I can eat and make them taste good. When I first turned vegan I discovered all these new foods from different countries, it was exciting. Just because you are taking meat out of your diet it doesn't mean that you miss out.
"As a country we really do eat too much meat. Animal protein is different to vegetable protein – your body has to go through certain processes to digest the meat.
"Being vegan, I am aware of cooking, how to cook, the ingredients in foods and the effects that food has on your body. We all should eat more veg, whether you are a vegan or not – that is one of the main sources of nutrition that can promote health in your body."
The Vegan Society website states that well-planned, plant-based diets are rich in protein, iron, calcium and other essential vitamins and minerals, which tend to be low in saturated fat, high in fibre and packed with antioxidants.
The NHS guidelines add that as long as children get all the nutrients they need, they too can be brought up healthily on a vegetarian or vegan diet, so long as iron, calcium, vitamin B12 and vitamin D is consumed.
Miss West, who is a member of the Bolton Veggie, Vegan and Animal Rights Group on Facebook, said: "For me first and foremost being vegan is an animal rights issue. But the health benefits of the diet have been a real bonus.
"I was vegetarian for about five years before turning vegan three years ago, and because I did it this way I found it quite easy, although there are people who go straight from eating meat to being vegan.
"The thing you get asked most as a vegan is, 'what do you eat?' But there is so much to choose from now that it isn't an issue.
"There has been a massive change for vegans relating to the foods available to them at supermarkets, for example, which is really positive. It wasn't that long ago that there wasn't much in the way of replacement meals available.
"There has been a big improvement in vegan cheeses too. There's also vegan mayonnaise. It's only eggs that are difficult to replace, although scrambled tofu has a similar consistency and is nice.
"The Facebook group is always looking for new members to join for get-togethers at places like The Kitchen, so if any vegetarians or vegans in Bolton would like to join us, please get in touch."
Afternoon meal: RLT sandwich with mustard – soya 'rashers' with locally sourced organic lettuce and tomato on seeded brown bread.
Evening meal: Cottage pie – made with green lentils and potato with coleslaw with vegan mayonnaise and locally sourced organic salad.