Heather Rosa – Nutritional Therapist on Veganuary and Creating Wise Food Choices

By Kerri L Watt

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A survey conducted in 2018 found that there are around 600,000 vegans living in Great Britain. The Veganuary website tells us that over half a million people have participated in the Veganuary campaign since 2014 from 178 countries around the world. 

The Vegan Society also confirmed that veganism gets almost four times more interest than vegetarian and gluten-free searches online. Vegan meals are said to be the fastest-growing takeaway choice in the UK and over a quarter of all evening meals are vegan or vegetarian too.

I spoke with Heather Rosa, Dean of the Institute for Optimum Nutrition, about how to create and maintain a healthy diet and her views on veganism.

Kerri L Watt

Does it surprise you that we have around 600,000 vegans living in Great Britain?

Heather Rosa

It really does. It’s higher than I expected. Although, it would depend on how many of those are vegan really in the true sense of being a vegan, which is not just the dietary approach of eating no animal-based foods. It goes into not wearing wool or leather and into the lifestyle component of the vegan philosophy. I think that’s why the whole term plant-based developed as a sort of differentiation between the philosophical vegan approach and people who just wanted to give up meat.

Kerri L Watt

What would you say is the biggest misconception or myth around becoming a vegan?

Heather Ross

I believe the biggest misconception is that if you remove a major nutritional component from your diet, that you’re going to be well without some form of additional supplementation in your diet. That’s the biggest myth I see, is that you can actually survive on this diet without any additional input from supplementation or fortified foods. Because the largest missing component in the vegan diet is B12.

Kerri L Watt

What about the Veganuary campaign where people around the world go vegan for the month of January. Do you think that’s quite a positive message and a positive campaign?

Heather Rosa

Veganuary is not a positive message at all. I always ask “Why are you doing this? What’s your motive for going meat-free? Is it an environmental issue? Is it a philosophical issue around animal husbandry? Why?” A lot of people are not attending to the quality of the food they’re eating. They’re just buying foods which are labelled vegan or plant-based. 

There’s a lot of talk about the climate and I think one of the things that we’re going to see in 2020 and as we go along is a bigger debate around the climate, animal husbandry, animal production and food production. 

Vegan foods are not any less environmentally impactful when you’re producing highly refined foods that require energy and waste. When you plough a wheat field, you kill animals. So there’s no aspect of the food chain that doesn’t include some form of killing of animals.

We as humans are designed for a wide set of foods not processed or minimally processed and meat and fish were a large part of those diets. There is no vegan civilization in the world.

I’m #Organuary which is a different campaign set up by the public health collaboration to encourage people to eat more organ meat which is the most nutritional foods on the planet. 

Kerri L Watt

I read recently that retail sales are expected to increase to 650 million pounds a year by 2021. 

Heather Rosa

It’s very difficult to make money in the food industry because of spoilage. So the more you can manufacture a product, you can refine a product and make it stable on the shelf, the more profit you’re going to make in the long term. But that doesn’t always equate to human health.

Kerri L Watt

Can you tell us, what led you to start working within the world of health and education?

Heather Rosa

Like many of our students who come to the Institute for Optimum Nutrition, it was sparked by finding that you couldn’t resolve an illness through Orthodox medicine. The only place to then study this to help others was the Institute for Optimum Nutrition, which was set up by Patrick Holford. After doing my training, my natural inclination was to explore how to expand this training and that’s what I’ve been doing for the last 30 years.

Kerri L Watt

How important is it for us to review and reflect on our diets?

Heather Rosa

That’s becoming more and more prevalent now. There’s a more mindful, conscious approach to eating developing. People of getting more and more interested in seasonality of food, the provenance of food, and the quality of food. They’re beginning to be more educated in these aspects of their food and nutrition. 

I think it’s useful every so often to look at what you’re doing. We live in a fast, crazy lifestyle where we want simple things and that’s where convenience foods come in. And there are convenience foods out there which are healthier than others. It’s just a question of choice. 

Kerri L Watt

Do you think social media, the internet and celebrities have a big part to play in the foods we eat?

Heather Rosa

Very much so. Beyonce shared her ginger and cayenne water diet and a vegan diet for getting ready for a big performance. Lots of young people followed suit as a result of it and it is not even a healthy diet by any means.

It is problematic because we do live in a social media world where influences have huge followings so we need to ensure those that are being engaged with are influenced in a healthy way. 

Kerri L Watt

What would be your number one piece of advice for people who are considering a new diet?

Heather Rosa

Seek a really good source of advice or maybe even to have a session with a nutritional therapist. A session with a nutritional therapist may well be a good place to start where you can actually sit down and just discuss these things with your individual needs. 

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Kerri L Watt

Kerri L Watt is an award-winning Media Strategist, host of Business Innovators Radio and contributor to Small Business Trendsetters and Business Innovators Magazine covering business growth, entrepreneurship, marketing and business trends.