Style & ShowbizHealthy Eating

Giving up meat, dairy and eggs has amazing health benefits - just ask the stars

Laura Whitmore looking vegan great
Laura Whitmore looking vegan great

Laura Whitmore, Rosanna Davison and Ellen De Generes say turning vegan gave them heaps more energy.

 For the carnivores amongst us, the idea of giving up meat can be hard to contemplate but there is a growing number of Irish people who are shunning their once-favoured food-stuffs and going flat-out it comes to vegetarianism. No longer a fad, veganism – a plant-based diet that eliminates all animal-derived products including meat, dairy, and eggs – is not just the go-to eating regime for animal rights activists, it is also garnering a huge following in Hollywood.

While this radical lifestyle choice has an obvious allure – ranging from weight loss and ethical reasons involving animal welfare, and the subsequent refusal to eat or wear animal products (leather, suede, fur, wool, silk, feathers) there are many reasons to go green.

Not only does this animal-free diet lower your BMI, reduce cholesterol and eliminate unwanted blubber – a meat and dairy-free menu can also fend off chronic disease.

Laura Whitmore is just one celebrity who took her commitment to vegetarianism to new lengths this year when she absolved to eat no animal products when she embarked on a month-long vegan diet in support of the animal rights organisation Peta.

The 27-year-old Bray-born presenter is not the only A-lister to have caught the vegan bug, with unlikely stars including Mike Tyson and Woody Harrelson also joining the fray.

 Naturally enough, if you want to reap the benefits of veganism there is an element of sacrifice involved but the reward will be ten-fold.

Lose weight

Celebrities are not oblivious to the weight-loss properties of the plant-based diet. Natalie Portman (inset, right), Lea Michele, Ellen DeGeneres and even Mike Tyson slimmed down after going vegan; with the former heavyweight losing 100 pounds.

Trading a meat sub for a veggie burger may not seem like an instant fix but studies have shown that people who consume less animal products often have lower rates of obesity and, on average, weigh five-to-20 per cent less than flesh eaters.

Really, it’s a no-brainer – a vegetarian diet contains less saturated fat and cholesterol.

Eating a primarily plant-based diet which includes fruit, vegetables, grains and seeds (which are virtually calorie-free) that are high in fibre will keep your appetite sated for longer and, therefore, you will consume less through the day, meaning you won’t have to jump off your wardrobe to get into a pair of skinny jeans.

A vegan diet however, isn’t necessarily a hall pass to an all-you-can-eat meat and dairy-free buffet. If you over indulge, increase your portions size and eat too many high-calorie foods, you will be lugging a spare tyre around in no time.

Fight Cancer

Chowing down on fruits and vegetables is not only good for your waist line, it can even minimise the risk of certain cancers.

A new study from Loma Linda University found that vegans have lower rates of cancer than meat-eaters and vegetarians. Women who adhered to a strict vegan diet had less risk of breast, cervical and ovarian cancer.

The benefits of the animal-free diet were further seen when Dr Dean Ornish and Nobel Prize winner Dr Elizabeth Blackburn found that a vegan diet can manipulate genes that cause prostate cancer, breast cancer and heart disease.

Live Longer

Drinking in moderation, giving up smoking and exercising have long been touted as the elixirs of life. In reality, adopting a vegan diet can add about 13 healthy years to your life span.

Michael F. Roizen, MD, author of The RealAge Diet: Make Yourself Younger with What You Eat says, “People who consume saturated, four-legged fat have a shorter life span and more disability at the end of their lives. Animal products clog your arteries, zap your energy and slow down your immune system.”

\[Ciaran Lennon (SW)\] Meat eaters also experience accelerated cognitive and sexual dysfunction at a younger age.”

Cheap and Cheerful

We are all feeling the strain financially, which is why veganism is more enticing than ever. Not only are you safeguarding your health you are also saving your pay packet. Economical foodstuffs make up the bulk of your daily diet, costly meat and dairy produce are replaced by beans, legumes, grains (inset, right), nuts and seeds which can all be purchased quite cheaply in bulk.

Because It’s Easier Than Ever

Supermarket aisles are jampacked with meat and dairy alternatives which means it’s now easier than ever to maintain a vegan lifestyle. Restaurants are also catching on, with a slew of top diners adding vegan-friendly foods to their menus and more and more, specialist vegetarian eateries accommodating the surge in vegetarianism.

Remember, meat-free alternatives such as tofu, veggie burgers and tempeh are lower in calories, but high in protein, making them diet-friendly foods.

Vegans also omit foods that are processed using animal products which can even include some wines that are filtered through fish guts, jellies and marshmallows that contain gelatine (crushed animal bones and hides) and even orange juice which can contain omega 3, which is derived from fish.

Stand up for Animals

When we are tucking into a succulent meat dinner, it’s not often that we’re struck with a moral question regarding the treatment of the animal that is unfortunate enough to be residing on our plate.

But is that because we are not fully informed? The reality is that the majority of animals who are raised to slaughter live in cramped inhumane conditions, often suffering greatly before they are put to death.

If you are an animal lover, simply refusing to eat meat can make a difference. According to, one person can spare about 50 animals per year by eliminating animals from their diet.

Reducing your carbon footprint

You may have opted for energy-saving light bulbs or even switched to a fuel-efficient car but giving up meat could be one of the most effective ways to combat global warming.

According to the United Nations, cattle farming equates to more greenhouse gas emissions than the combined pollution of every car that is currently on the road. The University of Chicago, found a vegan is responsible for the release of approximately 1.5 fewer tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year than a meat-eater. l



Breakout recipe

This is a quick and easy recipe that works well at any time of the year.

Serves 4

2 tbsp vegetable oil

2 medium leeks, sliced

2 large open mushroom, sliced

2.5cm/1 inch cube fresh root ginger, peeled and thinly sliced

1 clove garlic, crushed

5 floz (125ml) soya cream

Salt and pepper

Fresh parsley, chopped

Handful cashew nuts

Enough pasta for four people

1 In a pan over a medium heat sauté the leeks in the vegetable oil. After a few minutes add the mushroom, ginger and garlic. Cook for a further few minutes then pour in the soya cream.

2 Add salt and pepper to taste. Cover and allow to simmer gently. Meanwhile cook the pasta.

3 Once pasta and sauce is ready, pour the sauce into the pan of drained pasta, add the parsley and cashew nuts, then mix well. Serve immediately.


Vegan Restaurants

l Very Healthy Food, 72 Douglas St (Cork)

l Cafe Paradiso, 16 Lancaster Quay, Western Road (Cork)

l Cornucopia, Wicklow St  (Dublin 2)

l Blazing Salads, 42 Drury Street (Dublin 2)

l Hibiscus Wilde Vegan Food Bar, 72 Thomas Street (Dublin 8)

l Seomra Spraoi Vegan Cafe, 10 Belvedere Ct (Dublin 1)

l The Quay Street Kitchen, Quay Street (Galway)

l Vina Mara, 19 Middle Street (Galway)


Laura Whitmore’s vegan diary

Day 1

Breakfast: Porridge with seeds, non-dairy yogurt and almond milk.

Lunch: Pitta bread with avocado, tomato and vegan cheese.

Snack: Vegan beef-flavoured crisps.

Dinner: Salad with vegan cheese, vegan chicken, avocado, seeds.

Day 2

Breakfast: Avocado and

tomatoes on toast.

Snack: Nuts.

Lunch: Vegan fish finger


Dinner: Carrots, potatoes and gravy.

Day 3

Breakfast: Nutty granola with mango and soy yogurt.

Lunch: Spinach pancakes with carrot purée and sprouted salad.

Snack: Lemon and blueberry muffin.

Dinner: Vegetable-layered lentil bake.