Every few years, it seems that there is a new diet or eating craze that hits the nation. From low fat to low carb or high protein, even a combination of specialized shakes, cookies or bars to choose from. The goal of most of these is to lose weight, look slim and very often overall health is left to the wayside, forgotten and ignored. The latest one that seems to be picking up steam, especially with the younger generations and has many documentaries to back it, is eating vegan. This concept relies on the principle that you would stop eating any food or ingredients that come from an animal; so dairy, meat, fish, eggs and sometimes even honey or insects would be avoided. No, breastmilk is not included in this because it comes from our same species. Many of us who grew up eating animal products are turning to a different way of life that makes us healthier, slimmer and is more conscionable in general. I happen to be one of these people who has stopped eating meat altogether for the past four years and keep an entirely vegan kitchen at home. I occasionally eat some dairy and seafood when out at restaurants or other people’s houses, but keep working hard to decrease this more and more. If you are curious what the big fuss is about this movement keep reading for 15 reasons to eat vegan!
We are all hearing a lot about climate change or global warming lately as well as greenhouse gas emissions. The bulk of the blame is being put on the burning of fossil fuels but often animal farming is left out of the equation. Animal agriculture is one of the biggest contributors to global warming along with deforestation which is inevitably linked to eating meat. So, how does eating meat actually cause global warming? It is an unfortunate fact that deforestation is a by-product of animal agriculture because of the need to expand pastures to raise animals and to grow feed for these creatures. Also, animals like cattle produce methane that also adds to the greenhouse gases. All of this isn’t even taking into consideration all of the water and other resources that go into producing the food fed to the animals that people are eating, and the water fed directly to them also. The explanation is simple for why eating vegetable produces fewer emissions than eating meat; rather than producing plants to feed to animals while they grow and then eating them we can just skip that second step and eat the plants themselves which is infinitely more efficient.
14. What’s in Meat?
Antibiotics is a topic that is often discussed when it comes to discussing meat consumption. The fact of the matter is, many, if not most, animals that are industrially farmed are given doses of antibiotics, partly to potentially increase their size, make them utilize their feed more effectively because that kills their gut flora and also to fight off infections. One of the problems with this is that over time it can lead to antibiotic resistant bacteria which can make it more difficult to treat if passed to a human due to improperly cooked meat. This is actually why Canada and the European Union has banned subtherapeutic use of antibiotics in meat animals; it is still legal in the United States. In addition to antibiotics, meat can also contain less than appetizing animal by products due to the way they are slaughtered. Furthermore, even if you are eating one type of animal, it is very possible that other body parts may have been added to the mix. Does pink slime or even gelatin come to mind? I recently made the mistake of looking up the process of making gelatin even though I already stopped consuming it beforehand. By the way, gelatin is an ingredient in a lot of candies and even marshmallows.
13. Internal/Overall Health
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), heart disease and stroke have remained the biggest causes of death worldwide in the last 15 years. Now, I am not necessarily saying that a non-vegan diet is what causes these deaths or that it is the only cause, but how about using diet to reduce these numbers. Also, wouldn’t it be great if a change in diet could be enough to solve health issues without needing prescription medications that are often associated with side effects, both short and long-term. From 2002 to 2011, 1,615 people participated in a 10 day study of the impacts that a vegan diet had on their overall health. This is of course not the only study that looked at similar variables, and spoiler alert, they were successful. Not only was there an average weight loss of 1.4 kilograms (again this was only in 10 days) but also there were significant improvements in blood pressure, blood lipids and blood sugar. Also, those who were the most overweight in the beginning, had the most favorable results. Of course these findings are not part of an isolated incident. Why not test this study out on yourself and see what happens? I will mention that if you are going to eat vegan, make sure you are eating properly, not just eating processed vegan foods and potato chips, and getting enough of the proper nutrients including supplemental B12. Check with your doctor to figure out what is right for you.
12. More Variety and Flavors
Since starting on my vegan eating journey I have definitely gotten more creative with my cooking and eating. I use a wider variety of fruits and vegetables, and even more herbs and spices to flavor my dishes. I have also, for the first time ventured off in search of vegan recipes to widen my horizons even more. Now that I have lived through this expansion, I more often notice how mundane the average omnivore’s diet is; meat, potatoes and maybe a vegetable often frozen or from a can; beef, chicken, pork, repeat. More often than not, meat eaters don’t tend to realize that just because they do eat meat doesn’t mean that they absolutely have to have it with every meal. Instead of getting stuck in a rut with the same foods over and over why not try out a vegetable and quinoa dish or a hearty vegetable soup. As you’ll see, there are other ways to get your nutrients in, in a delicious colorful way.
11. Good for your Wallet and the Economy
If the environment and your health aren’t convincing enough reasons to eat vegan, how about it being good for your wallet and your country? Many people don’t consider adding more fruits, vegetables and whole grains into their diets because they worry about increased grocery costs. What they don’t realize is that decreasing or eliminating animal products altogether would make their overall spending lower than shopping for a diet that includes meat. A 2012 study concluded that a plant-based diet with extra virgin olive oil actually costs less than one with lean animal protein. The plant based diet also consisted of more servings of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. On a more global level, there is an enormous added cost to both public and private healthcare. These numbers are in the billions and are directly related to the consumption of meat. Perhaps one of the solutions to reduced costs to families and government lies in the nutritional re-education of everyone. It is necessary to consider both the short and long-term health and financial consequences of what we are eating and especially what our children are eating.
What is sustainability anyway? According to Mr. Google dictionary, in this case it refers to the “avoidance of the depletion of natural resources in order to maintain an ecological balance”. So when we were discussing land and water consumption before, a vegan argument would say that such a large quantity of water consumption just isn’t sustainable because if we keep going as we are, we will run out of clean drinking water far too soon. The main sustainability argument made for veganism is that plant based diets require less energy, land and water resources than versus a meat-based diet. In addition to eating less or no meat, another factor that would help in achieving sustainability is to eat locally as much as possible. If it doesn’t have to travel to get to us, very simply less fuel is used.
9. Prevent Animal Cruelty
Improved health, less spending and a greener planet are some very strong factors that influence new vegans to change their lifestyles. Another poignant aspect is how animals are treated while they are being raised and also how they are killed and slaughtered. Documentaries like Food Inc., Cowspiracy and Vegucated, discuss and show very graphic video and images of the saddening reality associated with being a meat eater and how that meat gets to your plate. Animal youngs are taken from their mothers and shipped off to be raised, sold or immediately processed. Their mothers can be seen mourning the loss of their children. Chicks are debeaked so they don’t peck one another to death in their painfully close living quarters. These spaces are often so crowded the birds cannot get any exercise whatsoever and they have to walk over each other and they end up eating excrements because it is just everywhere. What happens with four legged animals is not much different. Unfortunately animal cruelty especially towards farm animals is either poorly regulated or completely unregulated; and there is a lot of progress to be made before this may change even a little bit.
8. Our Bodies are not Made for Eating Meat
You can’t even imagine how many times I’ve heard people make the statement that we are meant to eat meat as an argument against going vegan; that we have canine teeth for a reason, to rip apart flesh. Firstly, I don’t understand why so many people get so bent out of shape about the choices of others to stop eating animal products and why they are so adamantly against learning about the potential benefits of a plant-based diet. Meanwhile, I have almost completely converted at least one former self-proclaimed meat eater into a vegetarian. For simplicity sake let’s just compare carnivores and humans, or meat eaters versus fruit, vegetable and nut eaters. On the one hand carnivores in the animal kingdom walk on four paws and have claws, probably for faster movement to catch and attack their prey. They also have large mouth openings, great sharp fangs and short pointed incisors. On the other hand, humans have hands that can grasp and we can walk upright, maybe so we can harvest plants. We also have quite small mouth openings, very simple and basic blunt canines and big flattened incisors. One mouth is designed to tear up meat and the other is meant to mash plants including nuts. Carnivores complete digestion within two to four hours, in order to keep meat from rotting in there while we take 12 to 18 and meat actually does start to deteriorate in our intestines when we eat it. There are definitely more details available about this topic, but these are the basics.
Back to the age-old topic of losing weight looking good and training your body. There is a long-held myth that you have to eat meat and dairy to be strong, but this has been busted by firefighters, body builders and pro athletes who have adopted a completely plant-based diet and still excel in their field. Tony Gonzalez from the NFL, tennis star Venus Williams, Mike Tyson (you must know that name) and so many others are killing it in sports and don’t eat animal products. If big muscles aren’t for you, maybe you would be more interested in hearing that supermodel Petra Nemcova switched to a vegan diet and is apparently looking better than ever and Christie Brinkley credits her looks to a vegan diet too; she is in her 60’s but looks like she could still be in her 40’s. As for weight loss, the Journal of General Internal Medicine published a study in 2016 that concluded a vegan diet resulted in the most weight loss followed by those assigned to the vegetarian diet groups and those in the non-vegetarian group ended up with the least weight loss. There you have it.
6. What’s in Dairy?
When moving away from eating animal products, meat is usually the first to go, and often dairy is the last. There is something comforting and maybe even addictive to those of us who grew up consuming dairy. Even I occasionally have some non-vegan ice cream or a piece of cheese when not at home; although, I will never again drink a glass of animal milk because of the following information I found out, and all of this is compounded by the fact that I am a breastfeeding mother and don’t understand why humans are the only species that never actually wean from drinking milk; human milk is for baby humans, cow milk is to grow baby cows, it’s simple but I digress. The reason that cows produce milk to begin with is to feed their babies just like us humans. This means they must get pregnant and birth a calf first, and this cycle is often forcibly repeated to maximize milk output. As previously mentioned these calves are then taken away so the mother’s milk can be collected and not wasted on the baby. The more milk production from each individual cow, the more profit for the seller. Also just like meat, cows are pumped with hormones to increase their supply, these hormones end up in the milk you are drinking. Along with pus because over-producing mammary glands inevitably end up getting plugged ducts which turns into mastitis which is a breast infection. That is what you are dunking your cookies in.
5. Enough Protein
“Where do you get your protein from?” is a question you have more than likely been asked if you already eat vegan. If you are eating a well-balanced vegan diet, consuming enough calories and it consists of a variety of foods, more than likely you are getting enough protein. On the other hand, any diet, vegan or not, that consists of only processed foods and junk food would likely fall short in the nutritional department. Meat is considered a great source of protein, but what a lot of people don’t realize is that it is less bio-available to us than plant-based protein sources. Almost all vegetables, beans, whole grains, nuts and seeds contain some, if not much, protein. Aside from vegetables, I like to include beans, any color lentils or quinoa into most of my suppers; added bonus, quinoa is a complete protein. I happen to also like tofu but have read some varying opinions about how it may mimic estrogen in the body, but that’s another story altogether. All in all, when switching to vegan eating, more importance should be placed on eating a wide variety of whole foods that are plant based (one ingredient foods as opposed to packaged or processed foods) rather than worrying about getting your slab of animal protein on the plate.
4. Overall Values
The way that meat-eaters speak about their animal food is very dehumanizing and highly objectifying. In order to be distanced from the fact that their food was once a living breathing being terms like beef instead of cow and pork instead of pig are used. I remember wanting to be vegetarian when I was little and not being allowed and then my brother deliberately tormenting me by asking what animal it was we were eating. He actually went on to become vegetarian by the way. Where did we, as a people, go wrong and start taking advantage of the lives lost and sacrificed in the name of nutrition? Why did and do some people not even care that living creatures have to die for them? Perhaps even worse is the fact that those who say they don’t care won’t even look at very graphic images and videos showing the absolutely horrendous lives and deaths of what then becomes their meals. When did the hypocrisy start that some animals’ lives have more value than others? Why is it absolutely inexcusable to torture and eat dogs for instance but a second thought isn’t given to pigs, cows, chickens, sheep and others? Think about the hypocrisy of this matter and consider what kind of value you truly believe in. Should you be allowed to eat meat if you aren’t even willing to watch how it gets to your table or willing to hunt it yourself? And if someone is ok with the killing and torture, does that still make it right?
3. What About Fish?
Is fish really that different than meat? It is a bit different, but it isn’t any better. Here are some of the reasons as to why. Fish contain heavy metals including mercury and these can have absolutely horrible repercussions to our health and well-being. It affects the immune system, alters genetic and enzyme systems and damages the nervous system; it also damages developing embryos. We now know that mercury is dangerous at lower levels than previously was thought. A newer concern about consuming fish relates to the nuclear Fukushima plant meltdown. Most marine life is contaminated in the Pacific Ocean, even fish caught around California has tested positive for Fukushima radiation. The global effects of this disaster are so drastic that fish being caught are found with cancerous tumours. Do we really want to be eating unwell food, what harm will this have on us? On another note, fishing in general also has terrible environmental consequences. Commercial fishing is not only leading to marine habitat destruction but also overfishing to a point that we may very well cause the extinction of many species in the near future. Fisheries are no better than crowded chicken farming as well when it comes to cleanliness and moral treatment of living beings.
2. We Don’t Need Animal Products
“But we need animal products”, except we don’t! Just like with protein, a balanced vegan diet can provide us with all the macro and micro nutrients our bodies need. What was once believed as absolutely necessary is finally being seen as an inferior diet; eating animal products that is. Government healthcare experts from around the world are finally catching up to all of the research pointing to vegan eating as not only an appropriate option for people of all ages but something that can actually greatly improve our health. The American Dietetic Association holds the stance that properly balanced vegan diets “are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases” and they are “appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes”. That is a very succinct and clear statement.
1. Prevent and Reverse Diseases
Aside from the animal cruelty “you’re eating a formerly living being” issue I’ve always had with eating meat, the second biggest coming of age moment I had was when I learned of all the information connecting vegan eating to preventing and even reversing diseases that are usually only treated with medication or harsher methods or even untreatable; cancer is a big one. The results from The China Study was and still is a big win for vegan proponents worldwide. American biochemist Dr. T. Colin Campbell and his son Dr. Thomas M. Campbell II published The China Study based on the findings of their 20 year research study that looked at the effect that nutrition has on long-term health. More specifically they looked at the link between animal product consumption and chronic illnesses like heart disease, diabetes, breast cancer, prostate cancer, and colon cancer. The results have forever changed the world and how some people look at food. They concluded that consuming a vegan whole foods diet can avoid, reduce and often reverse the progression of many illnesses. They state “What made this project especially remarkable is that, among the many associations that are relevant to diet and disease, so many pointed to the same finding: people who ate the most animal-based food were associated with adverse effects. People who ate the most plant-based foods were the healthiest and tended to avoid chronic disease. These results could not be ignored.” Mic drop!
If you haven’t yet been convinced that eating vegan is the way of the future there really is no more that could be done to get you there. Watch some of the documentaries and decide for yourself.