If 2018 saw an increasing number of Brits experimenting with vegan food, it also saw lots of us becoming tired, deficient and foggy as a result. In 2019 more people are opting for plant-based eating with a little animal protein, usually in the form of eggs, otherwise known as a Veggan
Whether you do Veganuary, were vegan three years ago or you have a vegan lunch on Tuesdays, 2019 is the year of the vegan, kind of.
In January this year alone, 168,000 of us chose try veganism during January for Veganuary.
A kind of vegan can also be known as a Flegan, that’s short for Flexible Vegan or a part-time vegan, someone who is vegan most of the time but eats animal produce now and then.
Flexible vegans can also be seagans, that’s those who eat fish but no other animal produce or pegans, those who are vegans that eat in a paleo style.
Confused? It doesn’t end there. There are also the vegangelists, the increasing numbers of us going vegan for short periods and telling anyone who will listen about it.
Indeed, in January this year alone, 168,000 of us chose to try veganism during January for Veganuary, a campaign that started in 2014 with 3300 participants.
Our reasons for giving up animal produce are more diverse than ever.
But for many of us, making a shift to a complete vegan life isn’t always practical or realistic – you not only can’t eat any animal produce, you have to forego honey and leather too – to be considered a bona-fide, card-carrying member of Club Vegan.
Now, our reasons for giving up animal produce are more diverse than ever and may include dietary intolerances, a desire to change our lifestyle, wanting to be kinder to animals or reduce our carbon footprint.
Plant-based eating but with eggs
Perhaps as a result, one of the biggest trends in flexi-vegan eating for 2019 is the rise of the mostly vegan eater who still eats eggs – the veggan.
Look at the statistics and Brits are eating less meat and dairy, but the same downward trend doesn’t appear to apply to eggs.
Figures from Waitrose released in November last year, for example, found that a staggering one third of Britons surveyed have stopped or reduced eating meat with animal welfare, environmental and health concerns being cited as the key reasons.
But, according to the British Egg Industry Council in 2006 we ate some 10.1 billion eggs and in 2018 that increased to 13.1 billion.
5 reasons more vegans are eating eggs
For many, going plant-based with the exception of eggs may be a stepping stone towards being a pure vegan while for others it’s about having tried full-fledged veganism before but found it somehow lacking. Here are five reasons for the rise of the veggan.
1. It’s an easy nutrient hit
Daniela Fischer went vegan two and a half years ago. ‘It wasn’t a conscious decision at first, more something I did intuitively,’ says the 37 year old, who lives in London.
‘Before I turned vegan, I never really ate much meat,’ Daniela continues. ‘I didn’t eat pork or any other red meat and chicken only every few months. I was a big fish eater though and also had eggs at least four times a week’.
Towards the end of last year, Daniela began experiencing what she describes as ‘a brain fog that had lasted for months and just didn’t want to disappear.
‘I had tried all kinds of vegan supplements, plant-based omega-3s, vitamin B12 – you name it, I tried it, but nothing helped,’ says Daniela, who works as a photographer, food stylist and influencer (@gypsy_daughter).
You can get 100 per cent of your vitamin B12 recommendation in a couple of eggs.
‘Then I tried fish oil supplements and eating eggs again twice a week,’ Daniela remembers. ‘After only a couple of weeks, I started to feel as though I had somehow woken up again; and within a month my brain fog had disappeared and my energy had returned – it was such a simple solution’.
‘Even if someone is super good at cooking, it’s really hard to get all the nutrients you need from a vegan diet,’ says Dr Carrie Ruxton, a registered dietitian.
‘For example, you get minimal vitamin D from plant foods and the Vegan Society recommends vegans take their daily supplement called VEG1, which contains B12, iodine, vitamin D and selenium, because they are so hard to get from plant foods.
‘Vegan diets don’t naturally contain enough vitamin B12 as this is mainly found in animal-sourced foods or bacterial products’ Ruxton continues.
‘However, you can get 100 per cent of your vitamin B12 recommendation in a couple of eggs.
‘Vitamin B12 is proven to support normal energy release and psychological function, as well as contributing to a reduction in tiredness and fatigue, which could explain why introducing eggs helped Daniela’.
2. You get more satisfaction after eating
‘I am still definitely a plant-based eater,’ says Daniela Fischer, who now has scrambled eggs or an omelette with lots of vegetables 2-3 times a week. ‘Including eggs for me is about eating intuitively, listening to how my body is feeling and what it wants,’ she says.
‘Adding eggs to my diet is convenient, quick and is actually more satiating that any plant-based protein alternative I’ve tried, other than tempeh, and it seems to have given my body the nutrients it needed.’
Indeed, Sarah Wolfe, a blogger at ecofityogi.com lives a vegan lifestyle in every other way except for having two eggs at breakfast.
The satiating nature of eggs – especially when eating them at breakfast – has been proven by a growing body of evidence. In one such study, researchers compared the effects of eating three eggs at breakfast and those of having a low-fat bagel breakfast alternative. They then measured participants’ blood sugar as well as their levels of appetite hormones over the three hours following breakfast.
The study, published in the journal Nutrition Research reported that the subjects were less hungry and consumed fewer calories at lunch after the egg breakfast, as well as less food over the ensuing 24 hours (measured by food diary).
Participants also showed a reduced glucose and insulin response to the egg breakfast – meaning their blood sugar was more stable – compared with the bagel breakfast. Moreover, their levels of ghrelin (the only hormone known to stimulate hunger) were also suppressed.
The satiating nature of eggs – especially when eating them at breakfast – has been proven by a growing body of evidence.
Another study published in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition showed that an egg-based lunch can help people feel fuller for longer compared to other typical ‘healthy’ lunches.
The study compared the effects on appetite of a two-egg omelette with bread and salad versus a jacket potato with cheese and salad or a chicken salad sandwich, each containing less than 350 calories in total.
The authors concluded that the consumption of eggs for lunch had a stronger effect on satiety than any of the other typically consumed carbohydrate-based lunches.
Not bad for something that only contains 66 calories (less than a medium apple).
3. It easily solves the protein question
An average medium-sized egg provides 6.4 grams of protein per egg, and while you get protein in vegetables – watercress, spinach and bok choi are good sources – only animal protein is a ready source of what experts call ‘complete protein’.
‘Protein is made up of building blocks called amino acids and complete proteins are those that contain all nine essential amino acids and these are only found in eggs, fish, meat and poultry,’ explains Carrie Ruxton.
An average medium-sized egg provides 6.4 grams of protein per egg.
‘Plant-based sources of protein such as beans, pulses, grains and nuts miss some of the amino acids, so they will need to be carefully combined in order to form a complete protein at each meal, which is what the human body needs in order to use the protein in the way it needs to – for balancing hormones, increasing satiety and building lean muscle,’ Ruxton asserts.
For example, eating brown rice with lentils or hummus and wholegrain pita and rice and beans, all provide complete protein in the same way animal foods do.
‘The protein in eggs is complete, which means it contains the amino acid building blocks needed for optimal health. This makes eggs a great post-workout food.
‘They are also portable as you can boil them in advance and stick them in your gym bag with a few pieces of fruit’.
But while fitness people have been known to opt for mostly the egg whites in days gone by, a 2017 study found that consumption of whole eggs promoted greater muscle-building after exercise than the equivalent amount of egg whites.
The paper, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition concluded that the ‘extra’ vitamins, minerals and fats in egg yolks may have a role in modulating muscle protein synthesis after a protein meal in healthy adults.
4. It’s a quick healthy fat fix
‘One of the biggest mistakes people make when they start off being a vegan is simply taking the animal produce off their plate and not replacing it with anything,’ says Ruxton.
‘For example, they will take the meat away and just eat potatoes and vegetables, or they might get a vegan pizza without any meat or cheese. That’s not healthy – you need to make sure you are replacing these foods with high quality protein, but also including essential fats for brain and joint health.’
Omega-3 fats have been linked with brain, heart and immune health.
Nearly two thirds of the calories in eggs come from fats but these are mostly unsaturated fats including polyunsaturated fatty acids (like those in nuts) and monounsaturated fats (like those in vegetable oils). While a third of the fats in eggs are saturated, they also provide around 75mg of omega-3 fats per egg – that’s almost a fifth of your daily recommendation. Omega-3 fats have been linked with brain, heart and immune health.
Plus, make sure you eat enough. ‘When you’re eating less meat and animal products such as cheese, you will be hungrier as these foods tend to provide better satiety thanks to their rich protein content,’ says Ruxton.
‘Make sure you have lots of snacks on hand so you don’t reach for sweets,’ she advises. ‘ideally, these will be a mixture of carbohydrates such as fruit or some oatcake or rice crackers, healthy fats such nuts and seeds and some protein, such as peanut butter, hummus or coconut or soya yoghurt.’
5. Cooking (and eating) just got easier
Another mistake novices make is buying lots of vegan processed food, says Ruxton. But a vegan sausage is still a sausage. Likewise, a frozen vegan ready-meal is still a frozen ready meal.
‘Going vegan isn’t an instant passport to health,’ says Ruxton. ‘In fact, you can be vegan and still unhealthy. ‘I meet a lot of people in their 30s who can’t cook, and they go vegan and end up buying store-bought everything,’ says Ruxton.
‘Ready-made vegan casseroles, vegan lasagnes, vegan whatever is still going to be processed and could be full of cheap foods such as sugar and vegetable fat to make up for the lack of animal protein,’ says Ruxton. ‘And they are often sold at high prices.
‘Whether you’re vegan or not, I would like to see more people eating basic home-cooked food, which is why getting yourself some good cookbooks is so important when you turn vegan. And it’s worth bearing in mind that eggs are both natural and super easy to cook – from boiled to fried to omelette.’
Likewise, eggs build air into food such as cakes and pancakes, Ruxton points out. ‘Without eggs in a vegan cake, manufacturers have to add an emulsifier so that when you beat the mixture you’re getting air into it. That means they have to start adding artificial ingredients into that food to create the texture the consumer is expecting.’
Allowing a flexi-vegan diet approach can make eating on the go easier too.
Even when you’re cooking dinner at home adding an egg is an easy binder, for example in veggie burgers which would otherwise need an artificial store-bought egg-replacement or risk tasting like cardboard. You could always use flaxseeds soaked in a little water which also acts as a binder but doesn’t work as well as an egg.
Allowing a flexi-vegan diet approach can make eating on the go easier too. ‘I’m not strict vegan because I’m gluten free so sometimes I need to eat wild fish and eggs when I’m on the move, which is often as I travel a lot for work and also study and am often faced with few – or no – vegan choices,’ says Lara Buckle, 34, a PR consultant from London, currently studying nutrition. ‘I don’t eat any meat or dairy but allowing a little fish or eggs into my diet makes it so much easier to choose whole, real food.’
Look for the Lion if you’re buying eggs. More than 90 per cent of British eggs are produced within the British Lion Scheme. This emphasises hen welfare and hygiene, along with safety testing and vaccination against salmonella plus a ‘passport’ system that ensures the traceability of hens, eggs and their feed. You will find the Lion mark on the egg shell and egg boxes.