If you aren’t aware of the many vegan benefits, you might want to sit down. How you approach your diet can have a massive impact on things like energy levels and long-term health, and eating a plant-based diet doesn’t just keep you healthy. It also keeps the planet healthy.
You might resist eating a vegan diet because, well, you were raised eating meat, dairy, and eggs. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t switch now. And it’s not as hard as it sounds.
While you need lots of fresh, whole foods in your diet to enjoy all the vegan benefits, you can also find alternatives to your favorite meats, cheeses, and other non-vegan foods. Limiting your consumption of processed food will help you achieve optimum health, but you might have to start slow.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. What are the various vegan benefits? And why should you consider veganism?
What Does it Mean to Be a Vegan?
Vegans do not eat meat, dairy, or eggs. Essentially, they don’t consume any product made, in whole or in part, with animal by-products.
This doesn’t just extend to your diet.
True vegans don’t wear clothing, use makeup, or otherwise use a product that was made from animals. You might be surprised how many soaps, shoes, linens, and other products couldn’t exist without an animal’s unwilling contribution.
To be clear, veganism and vegetarianism are two different things. Most vegetarians do not eat meat, but they do eat eggs and dairy. Vegans believe that consuming animal by-products amounts to animal exploitation, so they do their best to live in harmony with animals — not as predators.
There Are More Than 1.6 Million Vegans in the U.S. and Growing
About .5 percent of Americans are vegan. That might not seem like many, but when you consider that the percentage makes up 1.6 million Americans, you can see that this isn’t a fad or trend that will go the way of Thighmasters and Tai Bo.
Vegan benefits have caused many people to abscond from animal products in all areas of their lives. Higher concentrations of vegans live in certain parts of the country, of course, but no matter where you live, you can eat a vegan diet without depriving yourself.
Over the last year, vegan foods have risen in consumption by 20 percent, reaching over $300 billion in overall sales. Clearly, people are hitting back with their wallets. They want non-vegan businesses to know that they don’t support practices like factory farming and animal testing.
The Reasons People Become Vegans
People become vegans for lots of reasons. Some of them are selfish. The many vegan benefits can lead to improved health and better functioning on a molecular level, and some people eat vegan diets without even considering labels.
However, there are many reasons to consider becoming vegan, especially if you want to protect animals and our planet. As vegans swell in numbers, more restaurants and supermarkets will cater to their dietary needs, which benefits everyone.
But for now, let’s look at some of the specific vegan benefits and how they impact you as a consumer, animal lover, and sentient being.
If you believe that animals shouldn’t live — and die — in service to humans, veganism will likely prove extremely attractive to you. By aligning your values with your diet and consumer behavior, you live more in harmony and feel better about your choices.
It’s easy to view chicken breast fillets at the deli counter as nothing more than food. However, that food came from somewhere. Imagine if you were to visit a factory farm and see the chickens caged prior to slaughter. Would you feel as good about your decision to make baked chicken for dinner?
Making conscious decisions about your diet might seem stressful, but if you care about animal rights, the decision becomes easier. You might even feel as though you’re finally living your beliefs rather than just voicing them.
We’ll dive into this in further detail below, but a plant-based diet is extremely healthy. When you fill your plate with vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, seeds, and grains, you can eat more food in one sitting, which increases satiety, and consume more valuable nutrients and minerals.
Some people say that you can’t meet your dietary needs as a vegan, but the extensive pile of research on vegan benefits would prove those people wrong. You simply have to make sure you include lots of variety in your diet.
If you love to cook, you’ll enjoy veganism even more. Your dishes will become more colorful, flavorful, and diverse. Mixing new herbs and spices into your plant-based meals gives you almost endless variety.
Animals serve a greater purpose. They fertilize the ground, spread pollen, maintain the populations of prey animals, provide food for predatory animals, and even host parasites that don’t hurt them.
Consider cows, for instance. They’re a great source of fertilizer when they’re allowed to roam free and consume their natural foods. Plus, cattle egrets follow them around and consume the insects that are drawn to cows themselves as well as their feces.
Without cattle egrets, cows and bulls would likely get bitten more often, and without cows, cattle egrets might not find a sufficient food source in nature.
These symbiotic relationships play out across land and sea. Disturbing the delicate ecosystems wreak havoc on animals and plant life alike.
One excellent test of whether you should become vegan, benefits to your health aside, is to ask yourself whether you could live with an animal for a day, a week, or a month, then watch it go off to slaughter. More importantly, could you eat the flesh of that animal?
It’s easy to separate ourselves from other animals when we only see the end result. However, when you bond with animals, watch them interact with their families, and witness their human-like emotions and relationships, consuming them becomes difficult, if not impossible.
Don’t think about other people’s moral compasses. Consider your own. What does it tell you?
5 Vegan Benefits for People
We’ve talked a little bit about human health and covered the vegan benefits for animals and the environment, but let’s dig a little deeper into how you, specifically, can benefit from veganism. Understanding the variety of food available to you as a vegan might help you make the switch more fluidly.
Instead of thinking of veganism as a way to deprive your body of something, consider it a vehicle for discovering new foods. As a carnivore, you might have limited your palate when it comes to vegetables, fruits, and other items in the produce section of your local supermarket.
Are Vegans Healthier?
This type of umbrella question doesn’t take into consideration many factors. For instance, you can be a vegan and still smoke, drink copious alcohol, overindulge in sugar, eat too many processed foods, and experiment with recreational drugs.
All of those activities negatively impact your health.
When it comes to an apples-to-apples comparison, though, vegans tend to be healthier.
In an interview with WedMD, renowned dietician Katherine Tallmadge says of vegetarianism and veganism that they “can be nutritionally superior to any other way of eating.” According to Tallmadge, vegetarianism and veganism are among the “healthiest ways to eat” due to nutrient density.
Are Vegans Healthier Than Carnivores?
Are there health benefits to being vegan? Absolutely. A carnivore is someone who consumes meat from animals. This doesn’t take into consideration dairy or eggs.
Are vegans healthier than carnivores? According to Tallmadge, they certainly can be. By choosing the right foods for a nutritionally diverse diet, you reduce inflammation in the body, improve vitamin stores, and often lose weight.
Additionally, meat comes with certain unpleasant additives, including the hormones factory farmers use to “bulk” up their animals — often to inhumane sizes. Diseases can be passed through meat that results in human illness, and it’s hard to know where your meat actually comes from.
What Are the Health Risks of Being Vegan?
Every diet comes with certain limitations. You might have heard that vegan benefits are outweighed by the potential health risks, but science doesn’t bear that theory out.
Many people get the majority of certain vitamins, such as D and B-12, from animal products. Vegans can also have low levels of iron and zinc in their blood because they don’t replace what they would get from animals with another source.
People who eat vegan diets might have lower levels of calcium in their bodies, which can lead to conditions like osteoporosis. Additionally, some vegans struggle with eating too many processed foods and refined sugars, which increases the risk of obesity.
The answers to these problems lie in your diet. You can increase your consumption of foods that contain the right nutrients and phytonutrients to remain healthy. Many vegans also take dietary supplements to ensure their nutrient resources don’t get depleted.
1. Lower Risk of Cardiovascular Disease
One of the primary vegan diets is the reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. Eating meat can ramp up your cholesterol and increase your blood pressure, both of which put more strain on your heart and arteries.
2. Protection Against Diabetes
Many people develop Type II diabetes from eating lots of meat, dairy, and processed foods. The standard American diet consists of fried foods, meat cooked in grease, and other foods that contribute to insulin resistance.
Fortunately, there are ways to prevent or control diabetes through diet. Turning to vegan benefits can help you lose weight, reduce your body mass index, and enjoy more energy. By consuming nutrient-rich foods and cutting out “filler” foods, you become healthier.
3. Good Digestive Health
Another amazing vegan benefit is that your gut health will likely improve. Plant-based diets are loaded with both soluble and insoluble fiber, which promote regularity while maintaining a good population of healthy gut flora.
People who eat the standard American diet frequently suffer from constipation, diarrhea, and bloating. These symptoms signify that your gut isn’t processing food properly. You might hear rumbles from your belly as your food digests or take laxatives to keep you regular.
Instead of pumping your digestive system full of laxatives, try eating a vegan diet. Make it a thirty-day trial. You might be surprised by how much better you feel before, during, and after meals.
4. Lots of Energy
Energy comes from calories, but some caloric sources provide more balanced energy than others. You might have noticed, for instance, that sugar causes an initial energy rush that eventually results in a crash.
Animal meat requires tons of energy to digest. It’s fibrous and difficult to break down, so while your body struggles to push a steak through your system, you feel fatigued and unmotivated.
Some meats, such as turkey, even contain an amino acid called tryptophan that causes you to feel tired. It’s where the cultural tradition of taking a nap after Thanksgiving dinner came from.
5. Clearer Skin
There are several vegan benefits for your skin. For one thing, if you’re shopping for cruelty-free skincare products, you’re likely using soaps and moisturizers that don’t contain harsh chemicals. These “lighter” options are more natural and don’t result in breakouts.
Additionally, dairy has long been linked to acne and other skin issues. By cutting milk and cheese from your diet, in addition to other dairy products, you can experience benefits in just weeks. And, since the vegan diet is associated with reducing inflammation, you’re likely to experience less bloating in your cheeks and around your eyes.
Huge Vegan Benefits for the Environment
The environment benefits most when it’s undisturbed. In other words, if we leave animals to their own devices, they pretty much take care of themselves. When you disrupt delicate ecosystems and create businesses like factory farms, however, the environment suffers.
We touched on this earlier, but let’s explore the ways in which vegan benefits extend to the environment all around the world.
When it comes to understanding vegan benefits, you have to think beyond your plate.
Let’s say, for instance, that you had a cheeseburger for dinner.
To create that cheeseburger, cows had to be fed and watered. Since we’re raising cows and bulls for their meat, those animals have to drink until they’re slaughtered. Additionally, they consume tons of grain, which must be watered to feed the cows.
Then you have dairy cows. These animals must also be watered and fed, which increases water consumption even further.
And that’s just for one hamburger.
Keeping the Soil Clean
We can also preserve the organic nature of our fruits, vegetables, and other vegan foods by avoiding animal meat and by-products. Factory farms, for instance, produce a lot of manure, which has to go somewhere. In that manure are the hormones and other additives farmers give the animals to make greater profits.
Clean soil is soil that doesn’t contain harmful chemicals or additives. When more people eat vegan diets, we consume less meat, and the soil remains cleaner for growing all different types of foods for human consumption.
Cutting Greenhouse Gas Emissions
One of the primary vegan benefits is that it reduces your carbon footprint immensely. Factory farms and similar operations, from slaughterhouses to butcher shops, expend a lot of energy from fossil fuels. That, in turn, reduces finite resources.
Saving Animal Lives: The Most Important Reason to Go Vegan
A plate free of animal flesh and by-products helps protect animals that don’t have voices for themselves. A cow can’t protest its own slaughter. A chicken can’t rebel against its farmers. And if you value animals as more than just a source of food, going vegan allows you to speak for them.
Think about your household pets, the ones who greet you when you get home and snuggle with you after a long day at work. You might throw the Frisbee for your dog or watch your cat interact with a new scratching post.
Dogs and cats might be domesticated, but they don’t have more value than other animals. Spend an hour on YouTube watching elephants cry over their fallen brethren or female tigers gently teaching their cubs the way of the world. You’ll see more human in them than you ever have before.
Studies show that animals experience emotion, including love. By farming them for their meat and by-products, we deny what is rightfully theirs.
Furthermore, it’s not just a matter of killing animals for their meat. Animals are kept in tiny, dirty cages with no access to sunlight or companionship. They’re denied their natural diets and even mutilated. One of the chief vegan benefits is standing up against animal cruelty.
Understanding vegan benefits can help you make an educated choice about what you put on your plate or buy from the store. When you decide to avoid consuming animal flesh or by-products, you stop contributing to the problem.
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What are some other vegan benefits you have discovered?