In just three years, the number of people who identify as vegan has grown 600 per cent. At a time when people are discovering more about the food they eat and the impact on their health, the growth is not surprising. After all, what better way to nourish your body than with plant food?
Being vegetarian or vegan was once considered oddball; some probably still think it is. But more people are discovering that a chickpea burger is every bit as delicious as a beef burger. Nut cheese can make you think twice about whether that’s Camembert on your cracker. And we couldn’t we all use more fruits and vegetables in our diet?
A Globaldata trends survey showed the percentage of U.S. consumers who identify as vegan has grown from 1 per cent to 6 per cent of the population since 2014. In Canada, a survey for the Vancouver Humane Society showed that eight per cent identify as vegetarian and another 25 per cent who say they are eating less meat. There are three big reasons: They want to do better by animals; they want to do better by Mother Earth; they want cleaner, better nutrition.
This change does not come about on its own. Influencers drive a movement and IMPACT has compiled a roster of Canadians who are behind the wheel. They are chefs and artists, athletes and activists, all innovative and all influential. So, let’s raise a glass of kombucha and meet Canada’s Top Vegan Influencers.
34, Oakville, Ont.
Angela is the inspirational and creative genius behind OhSheGlows.com, an award-winning plant-based recipe blog with an emphasis on serving up crowd-pleasing, approachable and accessible recipes alongside (and often inspired by) slices of Angela’s everyday life. The blog features more than 500 recipes. You can also find her recipes — as well as tons of drool-worthy photographs — in her New York Times bestselling cookbooks, The Oh She Glows Cookbook and Oh She Glows Every Day. Her recipe app has more than 100,000 downloads.
I began by sharing my story about my struggles with food and disordered eating on my blog. One of the most rewarding parts about what I do is the feedback I receive from people letting me know how my blog and recipes have inspired them to forgo animal products in their diet and embrace new plant-based foods. I’ve also heard stories from readers who have overcome illness, lost weight, changed careers, or overcome depression or an eating disorder. It’s a great feeling to have the privilege (and I do consider what I do to be a huge privilege) of sharing my life’s passion with other people, and to know I’m positively impacting their lives. Connecting with other people through my writing and recipes, whether in person or online, has added so much to my life. I can’t say enough good things about the atmosphere of mutual support and friendship I’ve encountered in doing what I do, and I’m so proud to be a part of it.
42, Los Angeles, Calif.
Vancouver native Brendan Brazier is the man who made people believe athletes can get all the protein they need from plants. Cofounder of the Vega brand of plant-based nutrition products, Brazier has been vegan since he was 15 and grew into a two-time 50K Canadian Ultra-marathon champion and one of the world’s best professional Ironman triathletes. He is author of the best-selling Thrive book series, and is editor-in-chief of alive USA magazine.
Since training breaks down muscle tissue and food rebuilds it, exercise and nutrition were the two chief elements of my successful bid to become a professional athlete. Having adopted a completely plant-based diet at the age of 15,I had refined its subtleties over the years to synergistically complement my training for quick and lasting results.
34, Toronto, Ont.
Lauren is an inspirational, influential voice of a new generation, operating her own modern-day media outlet as a self-described FoodTuber, blogger and cookbook author. Lauren transitioned from close to 10 years as a television host on MuchMusic and MTV Canada to independent, self-made content producer for two successful YouTube channels and other social media platforms where she shares gourmet vegan comfort food recipes.
I’m always ecstatic when omnivores eat my food and send me such positive feedback about the recipes. I get a lot of comments like, ‘My dad, boyfriend, husband or grandparents loved your recipe for (blank) and they couldn’t believe it was vegan.’ I live for those reactions. It shows me that people are excited about cooking and are open minded to eating plant-based alternatives of their fave foods and meals.
33, Vancouver, B.C.
Erin Ireland is a passionate food reporter and operates the website, itstodiefor.ca, which serves to connect Vancouverites with the most delicious and ethically-sourced food in the city.
Along with her social media presence, Erin co-hosts a monthly Mindful Movie Night, a Mindful Book Club and she has just started a run club called Heartbeets that’s “powered by plants.” She shares recipes on itstodiefor.ca. and regularly posts cooking demos on Insta-stories.
Four years ago, working as a food reporter, I discovered my mission in life: to raise awareness about the importance of plant-based eating. My work and actions are all geared towards highlighting how easy, delicious and healthy a vegan diet can be.
39, Calgary, Alta.
Sasha is a lifestyle coach, personal trainer, dancer, competitive bodybuilder and cancer survivor. She has written a new vegan cookbook outlining the medicinal benefits of food in a plant-based diet and speaks on vegan lifestyle in Vancouver and Calgary. She leads vegan transition groups and helps “carni” food establishments veganize their menus.
I live the lifestyle even within the bodybuilding community where I consistently promote plant-based training as an effective way to earn your stripes within the very meat-positive fitness industry. After every bodybuilding show, once the announcers note that I am a vegan and all-natural competitor, without fail, I will have at least two people come to see me backstage to ask more. It’s such an amazing and organic way of bringing the message across.
34, Vancouver, B.C.
Anna Pippus is an animal rights lawyer specializing in laws and policies that impact animals farmed for food. She writes regularly for national media, mobilizing people to take action for animals through social media and community events, conferences, government committees and university classes. She is often in the media as a spokesperson for veganism and animal rights. Anna serves as director of farmed animal advocacy for Animal Justice and is strategic advisor for We Animals. Anna is a mother of two and an enthusiastic plant-based cook.
I’m humbled and amazed, actually, by how rich and meaningful my life is as a vegan. You gain so much more than you give up when you stop participating in animal agriculture. Your behaviour aligns with your values, which feels great. Each time you eat, you can actively contribute to making the world a better, kinder, more just place. You tap into a community of others who also care deeply about animals, about taking action, about living with integrity, about creating a better world. You discover a whole world of colourful and delicious plant-based foods.
35, Canmore, Alta.
Danielle may be one of the best examples of the grassroots growth of veganism. She is a cookbook author, musician, rock climber, cave guide, Spanish speaker, English teacher, world traveller, whole foods nutrition and lifestyle coach and passionate raw food chef. Through hands on raw food cooking classes, the Saskatchewan native has been sharing her knowledge, skills and transforming lives one workshop, one kitchen at a time.
I felt switching to a plant-based diet was the only way for my conscience to be clear. That was 10 years ago and since learning even more about the health implications of eating too many animal products, I believe with all my heart that plant-powered is the only way for us to live sustainably in peace. I’ve chosen this lifestyle for the health of the planet, my own health and the respect for the lives of the billions of domesticated animals.
24, Calgary, Alta.
Madi Fastpants is a vegan professional triathlete who is passionate about the welfare of all animals and lending a voice to them. She believes the way to a better world is through a plant-based diet.
As a high-level athlete, I was really struggling with hormone fluctuations and fatigue. It was so frustrating. I did some research and decided to try a plant-based diet. I felt better almost immediately. It was unbelievable. I then found out about how awful animals are treated in factory farming and how raising animals to eat was hurting the environment. It was such an easy decision as soon as I had the information. At first you are so excited to share this amazing information with everyone. You want everyone to feel this good. I am so fortunate to have friends who are well known in the vegan community and that live a vegan lifestyle. I share their information via podcasts, cookbooks, social media and events. I also just lead by example. Trying to do the best I can to lead a compassionate life and still being able to perform as a triathlete in an endurance sport. In fact, I thrive.
David J.A. Jenkins
75, Toronto, Ont.
Who Follows David: Students and scholars of nutrition around the world
Clinical nutrition investigator David Jenkins is one of Canada’s true food pioneers, the man who first conceived the glycemic index, which measures the effect of food on blood sugar, his work has proved to be foundational for nutrition research around the world. The University of Toronto professor, medical doctor and gastroenterologist is also a researcher at Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute at St. Michael’s Hospital and physician/director at the risk factor modification centre and division of endocrinology. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, an Officer of the Order of Canada and, knowing what he knows about food and the planet, went vegan 12 years ago.
I have felt that being vegan goes some way to fulfilling one’s obligations to the environment and to one’s fellow creatures. Plus, I can use it to keep my cholesterol level down — very necessary. And it allows me to sample the menus of the excellent vegan restaurants that are either established or springing up in Toronto and at the same time feel happy about supporting worthwhile enterprises.
51, Canmore, Alta.
Shayla Roberts is a whole-foods, plant-based health and fitness coach and athlete. All of her athletes/clients receive a plant-based, vegan nutrition plan. With her own family history of heart disease and cancer, Shayla promotes health through a vegan lifestyle for the prevention of chronic conditions, for weight loss, for improved fitness and peak performance, for longevity and improved health and fitness at every age.
I let my clients know that based on all the available research, this is the best and healthiest way to eat. I have had many clients lose 30, 50 and 100 pounds and change their lives. They have kept off the weight, run marathons, completed triathlons and gran fondos. There is no downside. I am healthier, the planet is healthier and it’s better for the animals. I can’t think of a reason not to be vegan. At any age and any stage, you can change for a lifetime of benefits.
Emily von Euw
23, Vancouver, B.C.
Emily is an award-winning vegan food blogger and best-selling author of three cookbooks, the first one published when she was just 19. A lover of fresh mountain air and evergreen coniferous forests, Emily says she eats plants because she loves her body, the planet and other beings. I want food to nourish my body and brain, work symbiotically with the earth, and allow other earthlings their right for freedom and justice. Em’s fave food is unquestionably chocolate.
I like it when people tell me they’d be worried about meeting protein requirements if they went vegan, and then proceed to comment on how strong I am.
21, Vancouver, B.C.
Stephanie is a plant-based blogger, podcaster, YouTuber and community creator. At her core, she’s a spiritual person who loves to connect with others and spread her truth and joy. Stephanie went vegan initially for health reasons, after a severe eating disorder.
Being vegan is not about deprivation, but abundance: how delicious, simple and fun food can be. But mostly it’s about being kind and loving to the planet, to other animals and to ourselves —our beautiful bodies that do so much for us every day.