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The Top 11 Reasons to Follow a Vegan Diet

Lisa has been vegetarian since 2008 and vegan since 2016. She holds a professional diploma in sports and exercise nutrition.

reasons-to-follow-a-vegan-diet

What Is Veganism?

The term "vegan" was introduced in 1944 by Donald Watson (1910–2005), an English animal rights advocate and the founder of the Vegan Society. Since then, veganism and the fight against speciesism have come a very long way.

Veganism itself is the practice of withdrawing, notably in the diet, from the use of any kind of animal products, and a related ideology that opposes the status of animals as commodities. An individual who practices a vegan lifestyle or ideology is recognized as a vegan.

Vegans tend to associate with veganism for many reasons, commonly for ethical, health, and/or environmental reasons. Their diets primarily consist of fruits & vegetables, nuts & legumes, grain products (bread, rice, pasta), and plant-based dairy alternatives (ex. almond milk, soy-based cheese).

Now that you have a basic understanding of what veganism is and where it came from, let's dive into eleven reasons as to why you should proudly join the vegan community!

11 Reasons to Go Vegan

  1. Reduced Saturated Fats
  2. Helps to Reduce Muscle Decay
  3. Increases in Multiple Vitamins and Minerals
  4. Prevention of Many Diseases
  5. It Will Help You Achieve Your Best Weight
  6. Your Dermatologist Will Be Impressed
  7. Helps to Mellow Out Some of Those Everyday Functions
  8. Eliminating the Habits of a Western Diet
  9. Consuming Hormones and Antibiotics Is Evidently Unhealthy
  10. Elongate Your Life Expectancy
  11. Do It for the Planet and for the Animals
Vegan Avocado Tacos

Vegan Avocado Tacos

1. Reduced Saturated Fats

Saturated fats are one of the unhealthiest types of fat, alongside trans fats. Commonly used foods high in saturated fats are things like butter, animal milk, meats and animal fat, and tropical oils (e.g., coconut oil, cocoa butter). And as you can see, almost all of these foods high in saturated fats are not vegan-friendly. So naturally, adopting a vegan diet automatically will cut down your saturated fat consumption.

2. Helps to Reduce Muscle Decay

The vegan diet is usually quite high in carbohydrates as vegans' food options are obviously decreased. Carbohydrates are important for muscle building in the body, as they are protein sparing. Because the body uses glycogen (the substance that is deposited into the body’s tissues via carbohydrate consumption) as its immediate source, consuming a plentiful amount of carbohydrates helps prevent the body from using protein stores for energy instead. If the body is forced to use protein as its energy source instead, muscles will begin to break down, and injuries will become more apparent.

reasons-to-follow-a-vegan-diet

3. Increases in Multiple Vitamins and Minerals

Following a vegan diet helps to improve the levels of many important nutrients in your body, such as fibre (important for digestive health), potassium (involved in muscle contractions, heart function, and water balance), vitamin B9/folate (helps tissues to grow and create new proteins), antioxidants (help to prevent or slow damage caused by free radicals), vitamin C (important for skin health and immune function), vitamin E (helps to repair damaged cells), phytochemicals (believed to help protect cells against cancer), and protein (required for the structure, function, and regulation of the body’s tissues and organs).

reasons-to-follow-a-vegan-diet

4. Prevention of Several Diseases

“You are what you eat” rings true. Your diet impacts your body’s health status immensely, and fuelling your body with hearty and wholesome foods will ultimately help to prevent some of the most common and debilitating diseases present around the world. These include cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol levels, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, prostate cancer, colon cancer, macular degeneration, cataracts, arthritis, and osteoporosis.

5. It Will Help You Achieve Your Best Weight

Diet culture has been everywhere for years and is promoting a very toxic mindset to billions of people around the world; it has sadly become normalized. In 2019, the weight loss industry had a revenue of $192.2 billion in the United States and $272.7 million in Canada (Weight Loss Services in Canada, 2020). Let me tell you from both personal experience and also through my studies in university and college that diets do not work long-term and not good for your physical or mental health.

Eat well and move your body, and your body will be where it needs to be. Following a plentiful vegan diet can help to achieve or maintain a healthy weight for your body individually, as well as upping your energy levels. “Many believe that you need to lose weight to be healthy; it is often the other way around. If you are healthy, you will achieve your best weight.” —Abby Courtenay, RD

reasons-to-follow-a-vegan-diet

6. Your Dermatologist Will Be Impressed

Dermatologists are essentially hair, skin, and nail doctors, and following a vegan diet has the ability to greatly impact the health of all of these things in a positive way. Following a vegan diet greatly increases your chance of ingesting silica, the building block of collagen which is responsible for strengthening your bones, hair, and nails. Going vegan can help to improve your complexion, the elasticity of your skin, thicken your hair and increase its growth speed, and improve the strength of your nails.

7. Helps to Mellow Out Some of Those Everyday Functions

There’s a certain kind of offensiveness that comes with walking past someone with bad B.O. or having to have a discussion with someone who seems to have not used mouthwash in two weeks. Thankfully, a vegan diet can help to curb both of these things. Your body essentially sweats out your diet, and eating a wholesome plant-based diet instead of processed foods will significantly decrease the vulgarness of your B.O.

For all of the women out there who deal with excruciating PMS symptoms, a vegan diet can possibly help to minimalize or even eliminate that suffering. There have been cases reported that a vegan diet can make periods lighter and less painful, as consuming dairy can make periods heavier and more painful due to the phosphoprotein A1 casein. A1 casein can form the inflammatory opiate casomorphin (or BCM7), which then stimulates inflammatory cytokines and mast cells, affecting periods as the uterine lining that is shed during your period is full of these mast cells. Uterine mast cells release histamine, which then releases heparin, which in-turn causes heavy periods.

McDonald's French Fries Size Comparison

McDonald's French Fries Size Comparison

8. Eliminating the Habits of a Western Diet

One of the major problems that comes with a Western diet is that it commonly consists of too large portions and relies on too many unnecessary food products or toxins, such as animal proteins, dairy milk, eggs, mercury, and sugar. Of course, vegans can still have too large meal portions or consume too much sugar, but becoming more self-aware and conscious of your diet can help to lessen bad diet habits. And, of course, vegans do not consume animal proteins, dairy milk, eggs, or fish (mercury).

9. Consuming Hormones and Antibiotics Is Evidently Unhealthy

There are six hormones that are approved for use in beef production: testosterone, estradiol, progesterone, Melengestrol acetate, trenbolone acetate, and zeranol. Consuming even low levels of any of these hormones can have an impact on the body’s functions. Milk contains hormones, antibiotics in meat… long time exposure to the consumption of hormones has been shown to be connected to an increased chance of some cancers, specifically breast cancer.

A lot of livestock farmers also use growth hormones (usually somatotropin) in their animals, which has been suggested to increase other chemicals in the body that can cause cancer. Some farmers also feed antibiotics to their livestock in order to prevent illness and to cause weight gain in the animals. A majority of salmonella bacteria in ground beef has been shown to be resistant to a handful of antibiotics (White et al., 2001), and an estimated amount of 11 000 people in the United States will catch an intestinal illness in any given year from consuming chicken that contains antibiotic-resistant bacteria (CDC, 2018).

Of course, there is the option to buy organic meats, where the animals are only fed organic & vegetarian feed, are not injected with antibiotics or hormones, have access to exercise and the outdoors, and the meat is not exposed to radiation. The option to buy organic animal products is obviously a better choice than buying conventionally produced foods, but the best option, in this case, is to plainly eliminate these possibly harmful foods from your diet.

I know you might be thinking, “but there’s pesticide residue on produce,” which, yes, there quite often is. But the ability to buy organic produce is usually a lot more accessible and plentiful in variety than its animal product counterpart. Produce is also able to be thoroughly washed or peeled off to greatly reduce the amount of pesticide residue on your fruits or veggies.

10. Elongate Your Life Expectancy

The National Library of Medicine has published its evaluations of six different studies, all of which have results that state that lower consumption of meat leads to a longer lifespan. A lot of this has to do with vegans’ lower chances of getting some of the world’s leading fatal diseases, such as heart disease and cancer. Meat-eaters also have a much higher rate of getting various debilitating ailments, such as appendicitis, chronic inflammation, and kidney disease. Some researchers have even estimated that it can extend your lifespan by seven years (Singh et al., 2003)!

Highland cattle calf

Highland cattle calf

11. Do It for the Planet and for the Animals

By following a vegan diet for only one month, you singlehandedly will save approximately 124 917L of water, 543kg of grain, 84m2 of forest, 273kg of CO2, and 30 animal lives (Anderson & Kuhn, 2014). When considering global water use in regards to food, a whopping 70% of the water used in food production goes towards non-vegan sources (44 329m³/tonne), with the remaining 30% (18 994m³/tonne) pertaining to vegan sources (Ritchie & Roser, 2017). By cutting out animal products from your diet, you can reduce your carbon footprint substantially, help to impede climate change and deforestation, conserve fresh water, and increase the amount of oxygen in the atmosphere.

The price you pay for animal products doesn’t only come out of your pocket but also through animal cruelty. Approximately 72 billion land animals and 1.2 trillion aquatic animals are killed for food globally every year (Zampa, 2018). Highly sentient beings are being bred and tortured for the sole purpose of human consumption. Doesn’t that seem a little selfish to you, especially when animal consumption is causing so much environmental havoc and diseases?

Think of all the cases of E. Coli poisoning, salmonella, and Mad Cow Disease that stem from the consumption of animal products. Think of the countless amounts of communities who are impoverished and lack access to food because so many of our global resources go towards sustaining factory farming and animal product production. There are so many plant-based options out there now, so why opt for the conventional cruel version? Do it for your health, the environment, and the animals.

If you have not already viewed the 2014 documentary Cowspiracy, I would highly suggest doing so. Although it can be tough to view at times, it's a big eye-opener into the agriculture industry and unfolding the true path to sustainability.

References

Andersen, K., & Kuhn, K. (Directors). (2014, June 26). Cowspiracy. Appian Way, A.U.M. Films, First Spark Media.

CDC. (2018, September 10). Food and Food Animals. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/drugresistance/food.html

Ritchie, H., & Roser, M. (2017, November 20). Water Use and Stress. Our World in Data. https://ourworldindata.org/water-use-stress#:~:text=of%20agricultural%20employment.-

Singh, P. N., Sabaté, J., & Fraser, G. E. (2003). Does low meat consumption increase life expectancy in humans? American Society for Clinical Nutrition, 78(3), 526S-532S.

Weight Loss Services in Canada. (2020, June 15). IBIS World. https://www.ibisworld.com/canada/market-research-reports/weight-loss-services-industry/

White, D. G., Zhao, S., Sudler, R., Ayers, S., Friedman, S., Chen, S., McDermott, P. F., McDermott, S., Wagner, D. D., & Meng, J. (2001). The Isolation of Antibiotic-Resistant Salmonella from Retail Ground Meats. The New England Journal of Medicine, 345(16), 1147–1154.

Zampa, M. (2018, December 6). How Many Animals Are Killed for Food Every Day? Sentient Media. https://sentientmedia.org/how-many-animals-are-killed-for-food-every-day/

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2020 Lisa Hallam

Comments

Liliane Najm from Toronto, Canada on November 04, 2020:

Your article has good and useful information. I didn’t find a description of what a vegan diet consists of.