It seems like everyone and their dog is going vegan these days (and yes, dogs can totally live well and healthily on a vegan diet). If you don’t know someone who’s gone vegan recently, the chances are that you’ll meet one by 2020 at the current rate of the growth of this lifestyle choice. Just so we’re all on the same page, a vegan is someone who doesn’t eat, drink or wear anything that comes from an animal. They don’t consume meat, fish, eggs or dairy products and they don’t wear wool, silk, leather or (of course) fur. There was a time when vegans were considered a loony fringe group on the fringes of society. It took long enough for vegetarianism to gain a mainstream foothold, much less the perceived mung bean chomping hippies that the vegan lifestyle had previously been associated with.
What? You don’t eat cheese?!? How are you even alive?
As the high fat, high protein, low carb diet fads that categorized the early ‘00s held sway, it seemed like the voice of veganism was forever silenced. Recently, however, veganism has been given an enormous PR boost as celebrities from Miley Cyrus and Beyonce to Jared Leto and Woody Harrelson serving as compelling poster children for the vegan lifestyle. While it would be disingenuous to say that many younger people are going vegan just because celebrities are doing it, they have certainly raised the profile of the vegan lifestyle and (along with insightful documentaries like Cowspiracy and What The Health?) have encouraged people to think more carefully about the health, ethical and environmental impact of their dietary choices. As is always the case in a capitalist economy, supply has risen to accommodate demand and it seems today that you can’t walk down the high street of any major conurbation without seeing a vegan diner, restaurant or cafe.
Like pretty much anything else in life, however, the mass adoption of a plant based lifestyle has been met with controversy. Omnivorous nutritionists, pundits and those who have a vested interest in the animal agriculture industry have been quick to shoot down the benefits of a plant based lifestyle. While they have raised some interesting points about many vegans being Vitamin B12 deficient (as, by the way, are most omnivores) but although some criticisms have a basis in fact, a lot of them are utterly absurd. Here, we’ll look at some of the wonderful things that will happen when you go vegan for your health, your budget and the planet…
You make the world a better place
Animal agriculture is a leading cause of global warming, deforestation, animal habitat loss and water pollution. Even if you install a smart showerhead, cycle to work and never print anything out on paper again, the net benefit you create for the planet is still fairly negligible if you continue to use animal products.
Farming cows, pigs and sheep contributes to 65% of the world’s human-related nitrous oxide emissions.Nitrous oxide, by the way, is almost 300 times as damaging to the environment as carbon dioxide and can linger in the atmosphere for up to 150 years. Is this something you really want to actively contribute towards?
Of all the meats, beef is the most resource and energy intensive. 1 calorie from beef requires 27 times more energy to grow than a single calorie from soybeans. Likewise 1 pound of beef requires upwards of 2500 gallons of water to produce. To put that in perspective, it takes only 25 gallons for a pound of wheat. So, if you replace your beef burger with a burger made from seitan- a gluten based ‘wheat meat’ can be engineered to be similar in texture and flavor to beef your new and equally tasty burger will have a hundredth the water footprint.
Moreover, the methane caused from animal feces and flatulence is extremely damaging in its own right. Methane has over 80 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide and is at least 25 times as destructive over the space of 20 years. Thus, even if you gave up the eating of meat, the keeping of cattle for the dairy industry would not reduce this significant contributor to global warming meaningfully.
You say no to animal cruelty
Even if you have an omnivorous diet, you’re probably not okay with animal cruelty. Unfortunately, in a capitalist society, the only way to vote on any consumer issue is with your wallet, and if you’re buying meat (especially cheaper processed meats) you’re helping to support an industry that has cruelty woven into it. Even ovo lacto vegetarians are supporting animal cruelty when you consider the cruelty that takes place in the dairy industry. When you eschew animal products you reduce the demand for them. You may not think that you alone will make much of a difference, but believe me when I say that others will follow your example when they know your reasons why.
Eating your 5 portions of fruit and veggies a day becomes really easy
We all know that we should eat at least 5 portions of fruit and veggies a day, but most omnivores struggle with this because there are so many convenience foods on the market. Vegans can’t afford this luxury as most convenience foods have animal products in them. Thus, vegans tend to get really good at meal prep really fast, and getting their 5 a day becomes a cinch.
You have so many protein sources to choose from
“But where will you get your protein from?”, it’s a common reaction amongst omnivorous friends and relatives. Firstly, very few people in the western world are protein deficient and while protein is certainly a valuable macronutrient, it’s been unduly elevated in the wake of the Atkins, Dukan and paleo diets. The fact, however, is that all protein comes from plants. Only plants can take nitrogen from the atmosphere and convert it into amino acids. When you eat animal flesh you’re eating their recycled plant protein. There are plenty of lean and complete protein sources in the plant world for you to choose from.
You’ll realize that vegetables are actually pretty tasty
Most vegans were omnivores once and they likely used to view veggies as something to be “gotten out of the way” before you could get to the meat. When your plate consists entirely of veggies however, you really get a sense of just how tasty they are. You’ll find that you take more time to appreciate their flavor and texture. When you’re used to consuming only plant based foods, the prospect of putting a cheeseburger or chicken nugget into your mouth will become way less appetizing.
You’ll be likely to live longer and more independently
A vegan diet has been proven to reduce your risk of a broad range of health problems. It has been shown to impede or even reverse the progress of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, many forms of cancer and even dementia. This is firstly because vegans eat fewer processed foods. Sure, there are soy and gluten based wheat substitutes, processed vegan “cheeses” and heavily processed ready meals on the market to tempt vegans who have the urge for some junk food, and these should be avoided or considered a treat. The health risks caused by these foods pale in comparison to, say, processed foods like bacon, pepperoni and ham which are actually type 1 carcinogens just like cigarettes.
Plant foods are higher in fiber, lower in saturated fat and more nutrient dense than animal products. Did you ever stop to notice the correlation between obesity related health epidemics and diets rich in high fat, high sodium, high sugar processed foods? We all want to live to a healthy age without our kids having to contact ParcProvence.com to arrange full time care for us. A vegan diet is not a panacea that will guarantee you good health for the rest of your life, but it can hugely reduce your risk of these very serious conditions.
You’ll spend a lot less on food, even when you’re eating out
It’s simple economics. Meat uses more of farmers’ resources to raise so they charge distributors more for it than they do for veggies. They in turn charge you more. When you remove meat, fish and dairy from the equation, however, you start to notice just how much cheaper everything is. Even when you’re eating out with friends, you’ll find that the vegan options are cheaper to prepare and so they cost you less, while still giving you more nutrition per forkful than what’s on your omni friends’ plates.
You’ll lose weight and look great
If you’re tired of restrictive diets or frustrated with juice cleanses, you’ll be delighted to learn that a wholefoods, plant based diet is proven to be the most effective for sustainable weight loss. Moreover, since your body will be in better overall health, you’ll find that you’re full of energy and vitality, your skin and eyes look clearer and that you look even more beautiful.
Ultimately, even if you feel that a vegan lifestyle isn’t for you, you should view every little thing you can do to reduce your reliance on animal products as a net gain for your health and the world. Few would argue that upping your consumption of veggies, fruits, nuts and