Veganism is typically equated with healthy eating, but today’s factory-produced fake bacon, sausages and burgers could be tarnishing the halo of a plant-based diet. New Scientist investigates
27 October 2021
DONALD Watson was born in Yorkshire and spent much of his youth on his uncle’s farm. But rather than making him feel at ease with breeding animals for food, the realisation that these “friendly creatures” went for slaughter horrified him. He became a vegetarian in 1924, aged 14. Two decades later, with his wife and four friends, he coined the word vegan from the first and last parts of the word vegetarian, and founded the UK Vegan Society.
Watson’s diet was filled mostly with nuts, apples, dried fruit, vegetables and, when wartime rations allowed it, lentils. Fast-forward to today, and Watson would have been astonished at the wealth of vegan-friendly offerings. Browse the aisles of supermarkets in the UK, US, Australia and beyond and you will find a growing amount of space dedicated to vegan fish and meat alternatives. But while Watson’s diet turned out to be a healthy one, a different picture is emerging for some of today’s vegans.
Take a look at the ingredients in the ever-increasing variety of products and they can seem more like junk, packed full of salt and ingredients such as “soya protein concentrate” that you wouldn’t find in a chunk of meat.
While today’s factory-produced foods make it easy to switch to a vegan diet without the need to make drastic changes to eating patterns, these alternatives might be worse for our health than the meat versions they are replacing. Finding out is increasingly important, due to the growing number of people avoiding meat and dairy in their diet. So what do we – and don’t we – know?
When Watson applied for vegan …