November is World Vegan Month - a time to celebrate how far veganism's come in recent years, and a time to share vegan tips and recipes with those interested in the movements potential benefits. Our Online Community's resident dietitian, Alice, has taken the time to write about why veganism's grown so rapidly in popularity, its benefits, and she's also shared a rather tasty 'Vegan Pumpkin Spice' smoothie (trust me, I made it myself over the weekend). Enjoy!

Veganism is a diet that excludes all animal products including meat, dairy and eggs. It has become an increasingly popular and mainstream lifestyle over the past 10 years. Its growing popularity seems to be due to two main factors:

  • Desire to protect the environment and reduce harmful farming practices.
  • Desire to live a healthier lifestyle.

There is a huge amount of information available about what is or isn’t a “healthy diet”. This conversation has become even more confused when it comes to what to eat when you have cancer. There are a lot of fad diets and lifestyles such as 'clean eating' which are unnecessarily restrictive and exclude major food groups such as carbohydrates, which are an important part of a balanced diet. Restricting your diet too much, and not replacing missed nutrients can be really dangerous for your overall health. This is especially true when you have cancer as you need to be as well-nourished as possible during your cancer treatment. You may also be struggling with weight loss and poor appetite as a side effect of your treatment.

Veganism is not classed as a fad diet as it is a lifestyle choice made in view of ethical and nutritional concerns. A vegan diet can be very healthy whether you have cancer or not. However, you have to be careful to include enough.

Here is a seasonal recipe that includes lots of these essentials and may be especially good if you have a poor appetite and are struggling to get enough calories and protein in your diet:

Vegan Pumpkin Spice smoothie:

  • 1 frozen banana (the more ripe the better).
  • 150g of cooked pumpkin (Tinned pumpkin puree also works well).
  • 150ml almond milk fortified with calcium.
  • 3 tablespoons of maple syrup.
  • 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract.
  • 2 tablespoons of pumpkin seeds (and a few to sprinkle on top) - pumpkin seeds are full of the nutrients that can be more difficult to find in a vegan diet including protein, omega-3, calcium and iron.
  • ½ teaspoon of ground mixed spice (or more if you prefer).

Simply blend all the ingredients and enjoy! Tip - a scoop of vegan vanilla ice cream will add even more calories and protein to this shake.

Current evidence shows that maintaining a healthy weight and following a mainly plant-based, Mediterranean style diet reduces risk of cancer recurrence and other common diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Veganism is not a cure for cancer, however, if done well it can be a very healthy way of life and may contribute to your overall wellbeing.

As with all diets, it is essential to get a healthy balance, avoid cutting out whole food groups. It is also vital to remember to enjoy what you are eating, food is about happiness as much as it is about health!

If you've any questions about diet, if you're a little unsure about what you should or shouldn't be eating. Why not ask one of our dietitians via the Ask An Expert section of our Online Community. For more information on maintaining a healthy lifestyle, take a look at Macmillan's healthy eating guide.