On Sunday, 14 November 2021 was World Diabetes Day and the World Health Organisation’s announcement that diabetes is the leading cause of death amongst women in South Africa was definite cause for alarm.
The link between eating less meat and the reduced risk of diabetes is well documented. Multiple studies have been conducted over the last few years. One of the more recent ones, by the University of Bonn in Germany, explored the impact of three different diets on human and environmental health, and the findings were clear. A reduced meat diet is significantly better for both human health and planetary health.
South Africa is a very meat-centric country – currently the country ranks 9th highest for beef and 11th highest for poultry consumption (per capita, globally). But despite their love for meat, South Africans are starting to explore the idea of swopping some of their meals for meat-free options – many of them for health reasons.
Earlier this year, the local Credence Institute and US-based North Mountain Consulting Group collaborated to find out whether South Africans would explore eating less traditional meat. The findings were interesting – 67% said they were likely to try plant-based meat, while 59% said they were likely to purchase it.
When coupled with the data from a separate study by KLA that showed that a quarter of South African consumers wanted to eat less meat and 47% of them want to reduce their meat intake specifically for health reasons, it begins to look like South Africans are turning the corner when it comes to embracing a reduced-meat, flexitarian diet for their health.
“In the work I do in the plant-based nutrition space I have seen so many people make radical changes to their health simply by adding one or two meat-free days to their diets,” says Tammy Fry, founder of Meat Free Mondays in South Africa and Australia. “I always say the trick is to keep it simple – start with just one day a week. Load your plate up with fruits and veggies, try to get a few days of exercise a week, eight hours of sleep a night and eight glasses of water a day. The difference can be astounding.”
Tammy is also a global ambassador for the worldwide movement, Veganuary that encourages people to try plant-based for 31 days in January. Taking the Veganuary pledge on their website gives participants free access to 31-days of recipes, meal inspiration, shopping guides, nutrition guides and more.
Adds Tammy, “Veganuary is one of the easiest ways to start exploring a more plant-based diet. They offer so much guidance, it takes all the guess work out of the process. Other ways to try Veganuary is to sign up to the local Facebook Group We Love Veganuary and follow the hashtag #Veganuary2022 as there are loads of South African influencers who have committed to trying it out next month.”