Touted for its ethical and environmental benefits, veganism has exploded in popularity in recent times. But if you love cheese, meat, or eggs too much to give them up completely, dietician Melissa Meier explains why being a ‘dirty vegan’ might be for you.
Plant-based diets are oh-so hot right now, and with a reputation that they’re not only better for you, but better for the planet, too, it’s easy to see why. If you just can’t fathom a life without juicy chunks of steak or a cheese board, however, you might’ve heard that ‘dirty vegan’ is a good compromise. But what exactly is dirty vegan, and is it even worth it? Here’s what you need to know.
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In case you’ve been living under a rock, here’s a quick refresher: vegan diets are completely free of animal-based foods – that’s the meat of animals themselves, and any of their by-products (think: eggs, cheese, milk, etc… even honey is off the list!). The diet was originally popular among animal rights crowds and environmentalists but has recently gone mainstream in the name of weight loss and overall good health.
Now, for dirty vegan. According to the internet, there are two variations. The first is to include faux animal ‘meats’, like facon, shamburgers and cheatloaf. The second is to actually eat animal products every now and then, but follow a vegan diet the majority of the time. So which is better?
Is a dirty vegan diet good for you?
The answer to this question depends on which dirty vegan method you choose to execute. If you’re into the former, I’ve got some bad news for you.
Faux vegan meats are usually very highly processed, made from refined ingredients like wheat gluten and soy protein isolate – a far cry from fresh, whole foods. They can also be packed with sodium and saturated fat, which isn’t good news for your heart. Of course, indulging every now and then is no big deal, but as a blanket rule, I wouldn’t recommend faux meats as a regular staple on a vegan menu.
If the latter is more your thing, however, I’m all for it. Why? Plant-based goodness like fruit, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains can still make up the majority of your diet, which is a really good thing because they’re rich in fibre, vitamins, minerals, and disease-fighting phytochemicals.
But, it also means your diet isn’t as restrictive as a full-on vegan diet, so you don’t have to miss out on foods you might enjoy like meat, seafood, and cheese – it’s the best of both worlds.
A note on veganism
If you’re not already vegan, all this talk about it might have you considering it. And while it’s true that eating more plants and less meat is good for you, it doesn’t necessarily mean that foregoing animal foods altogether is the best thing for your health.
Of course, if your preference is to be vegan, then go for it. But from a health and nutrition perspective, being vegan is not actually necessary.
You might be surprised to learn that meat and dairy foods (which are completely off-limits on vegan diets) are actually rich in nutrients, like energising iron, zinc for wound healing, and calcium for strong bones and teeth, which can be hard to come by in a plant-only diet.
So, if veganism (the dirty variety or otherwise) isn’t for you, don’t stress – it’s not the only ticket to good health and wellbeing.
Melissa Meier is a Sydney-based accredited practicing dietitian. You can connect with her at www.honestnutrition.com.au or on Instagram @honest_nutrition.