Mitra Wicks: 'my skin was more luminous and I was left revelling in a self-satisfied haze of leafy liberation'.
Virtuous veganism for health, beauty and pleasure
15th November 2014
Setting aside her fondness for meaty delicacies, Mitra Wicks decided to follow the celebrity vegan trend. Buoyed along by the gastronomic pleasures of London's finest vegan restaurants, she declares the change a success - in terms of health, wellbeing, beauty ... and reducing the exploitation of animals in industrial farming.
My energy levels increased dramatically, my skin was more luminous, and I was left revelling in a self-satisfied haze of leafy liberation. Kebab? What kebab?
I can't lie. As much as I adore yoga, meditation, Ayurvedic practices, juicing, kale and anything involving hemp, I unashamedly confess to loving a good meaty kebab (hey, I'm half Persian, it's how we roll).
In spite of my ardent love of fine meats, much like the recent efforts of Jay Z and Beyoncé with their 22-day vegan diet, I have been contemplating drastically cutting down my meat intake and including more vegan days in my week after fervent research on the matter.
It appears it's not just meat-loving me who has decided to shun the steak. The Vegan Society (which estimates that there are a total of 150,000 vegans in the UK today) recently said that the number of new vegans this year is up sharply on 2013 - a direct result they say, of the media attention surrounding the glamorous couple's meat-free mission.
This time, no more Mr Nasty!
Ex-footballer Dean Howell also ignited media interest a few years back when he revealed how he shunned the stereotypically debaucherous, kebab-shovelling, booze-binging lifestyle of his teammates, opting to embrace a health-enhancing vegan lifestyle instead.
He claimed it gave him a "phenomenal body" and the stamina he needed to excel as a professional athlete. "After adopting a vegetarian diet at the age of 20 and then a vegan diet at 24, I maintained the same weight but slimmed down and saw my stamina go through the roof", he passionately exclaimed.
He is now PeTA's pleasing-to-the-eye poster boy and runs the 100% vegan health supplement company Revolution Foods - spending his time exhibiting at plant-promoting events such as Vegfest UK, educating the masses on his revitalizing, holistic wares.
With other lean-limbed celebrity vegans such as Kate Winslet and Anne Hathaway making admirable role models and an increased awareness of general food consumption, animal cruelty and environmental factors, more of us than ever before have decided to take the jovial jump into virtuous veganism, reaping the plethora of health-boosting benefits as a result.
It's a fact that vegans consume less cholesterol and saturated fat, substantially lowering their risk of developing heart disease - a major killer in the UK today.
If glossy-haired celebs don't convince you, maybe the science will - for example a 2008 American study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics which concluded that "a very-low-fat vegan diet can be useful in increasing intake of protective nutrients and phytochemicals and minimizing intake of dietary factors implicated in several chronic diseases."
Another study in the same Journal, part funded by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, concluded that if a vegan diet was followed on a long-term basis, it "may be associated with a reduced risk of major chronic diseases, particularly cardiovascular disease."
Scientific studies aside, the refreshing truth is that fruits, vegetables, lentils and seeds contain a powerhouse of immune system-boosting, heart-healing, skin-nourishing, energy-enhancing antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.
Could these bright-eyed, smug vegans, slurping away on their emerald green wheatgrass smoothies and gorging on their glorious turmeric-tinged cauliflower curries be on to something?
Pondering this thought in my mind and craving inspiration for my newly meatless, veg-packed kitchen, I decided to delve into the smug depths of the London vegan foodie world for one month and was pleasantly surprised with my findings...
Previously based in Soho, Vantra Vitao is a wholesome haven of veggie goodness known for its flavoursome vegan dishes - and has been frequented by an array of meat-loathing celebs such as Tilda Swinton, Bijork and Keira Knightly.
Accompanied by a stodge-loving loved one in pursuit of a more angelic way of eating, we were impressed by the heaving platters of vegetable-based dishes, hearty soups, brown carbs and eye-catching, dairy-free desserts, as we made our way through the bustling restaurant.
The food was healthy, beautifully presented and tasted good enough to convert the most ardent meat eater to an eternal life of plantdom. We were particularly impressed with the ‘Oasis of Sahara' - a raw dish of wrapped avocado, Brazil nut falafel, coriander and sunflower seed cheese.
Raw at La Suite West
Who says plants aren't posh? The elegant Raw restaurant in Bayswater's stylish La Suite West boutique hotel was created to appeal to the more refined vegan diner. Think recently converted, meat-banishing gap yah students after spending a year in India and ethereal LA leaf-lovers...who now live in London.
The majority of dishes are served raw for optimum nutritional benefit - with an emphasis on vibrant flavour combinations. Their beetroot falafels in particular were ridiculously good, whereas the mango and avocado maki added a unique Japanese twist.
Speaking of Japanese twists ... my next vegan foodie stop was at the quaint Itadaki Zen - Europe's first organic and vegan sushi restaurant.
Their handmade vegetable sushi rolls were of a rather epic nature but the all-veggie tempura selection was good enough to encourage the most carnivorous of chums to ditch their jobs as investment bankers and set up all-vegan lifestyle communes in Brighton.
Although Primrose Hill's Manna has always been known as London's 'oldest and most established' vegetarian restaurant, the menu is now 100% vegan and features numerous raw dishes to cater for the health-conscious vegan of today.
I urge you to try their nachos especiales - a dairy-free, surprisingly cheesy, crispy warm mass of tortillas, black beans, homemade cashew cheese, fresh guacamole and salsa.
For those of you with no time to cook, leave your desk to buy lunch or just like the convenience of having every meal lovingly prepared for you by health-minded chefs, there is the Godsend that is Soulmate Food.
Recently found tweeting about the merits of supplying nutrient-dense meals to the X Factor house, this charismatic company sends you breakfast, lunch, dinner and two snacks a day for a whole week.
I sampled their famed vegan plan and was deliriously happy with the multi-coloured offerings - which would always arrive exceptionally fresh and tasty. My favourite dish was the zesty carrot salad with spinach, lentils and fresh mango. The sultry smoked tofu and aubergine hot pot was also quite the belly pleaser.
After a veg-packed month of quaffing copious amounts of crispy kale, snacking on heaps of hummus and downing creamy avocado smoothies, my energy levels had increased dramatically, my skin was more luminous and I was left revelling in a self-satisfied haze of leafy liberation.
Kebab? What kebab?
Mitra Wicks is an organic beauty and lifestyle writer. She blogs at MitraBeautyYoga and tweets @mitrabeautyyoga.
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