Plant-based eating is gaining traction, both locally and around the world.
By Jennifer Campbell
There was a time when the plant-based diet was viewed as a mere craze, limited to niche cafés and alternative communities. But as the trend grows, it’s clear that more and more people are trying out a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle. And, plant-based food needn’t be boring — more and more restaurants are coming up with innovative meat-free dishes. In fact, according to Dutch food design
agency Marielle Bordewijk, plantpowered vegan food is set to become one of the biggest food trends of 2019. So, what does plant-based eating involve, and where can you try it locally?
WHAT IS IT, EXACTLY?
Veganism refers to a diet in which no animal products are consumed — that includes eggs and all dairy products. To make sure that all nutritional requirements are met, a balanced plant-based diet includes vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seed, legumes, and fruit as well as plant-based milk like soy, almond and coconut. But, plant-based eating goes beyond food choices — according to the South African Vegan Society, veganism is an ethical movement geared towards solving issues surrounding animal exploitation, health, and the environment.
Besides the ethical reasons for going vegan, there are a number of health benefits to opting for a plant-based diet, provided it is carefully planned and balanced. Eating a diet rich in fresh fruits, vegetables, legumes and fibre have been linked to a reduced risk of heart disease, while whole-food
vegan diets are generally high in nutrients, fibre, and antioxidants.
A study has confirmed that people who have a diet rich in plant-based proteins are sixty percent less likely to develop an unhealthy build-up of plaque in the arteries of the heart, opposed to the people that have a diet rich in animal-based protein. It has also been shown to improve blood sugar levels.
HOW BIG IS THE TREND?
The trend towards plant-based foods is driven largely by the millennial generation, and while it’s not yet mainstream, it’s become a popular choice for a wide range of people, from athletes to celebrities.
Unfortunately, there are no up-to date statistics regarding the exact number of vegans in South Africa, but according to a study performed by research agency Mintel, four percent of all global vegan products launched in 2016 were in South Africa, putting us in the top ten countries to produce vegan food. Internationally, it is clear that the trend is growing.
According to a 2016 poll conducted by the Vegan Society in the UK, Britain’s vegan population has grown by five times in ten years, almost half of whom are between 15 and 34 years old; while plant-based food has become a top search trend in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Austria and Israel.
TRY IT YOURSELF
Thanks to the rising popularity of plant-based diets, there are now a number of restaurants in our main cities that serve up a fresh veggie fare.
Raw & Roxy Café in Cape Town specialises in raw vegan food — think lasagne made with zucchini, raw cashew nut cheese, green pesto and tomato relish; raw pizza crafted from activated buckwheat and flaxseeds topped with nut cheese and veggies, and ice cream made with frozen cashew nut milk and coconut oil.
Oh My Soul in Durban is a vegan café that serves up a good selection of salads and plant-based burgers, as well as shakes made with coconut milk. They also offer superfood smoothies and a range of sweet treats, like waffles served with nice cream.
In Joburg, you can find loads of plant-based dishes at the Greenside Café. Their breakfast menu includes options like scrambled tofu on rye, and baobao yoghurt granola fruit salad topped with cashew cream. They also have a selection of pasta, salads, wraps