Is Veganism For Me?

Veganism, we have all heard that word, whether it is from a friend we know, a crazy family member or simply an Instagram trend. It is there, lurking, appearing with increasing frequency.

You may wonder just what in the world IS a vegan? What does it mean? Is it a new occult religion trying to take over the world?

We know about vegetarians, they have always been around, that quirky person that refuses to eat meat or chicken, sometimes even fish, because they are animal lovers or they are against violence... Then what is a vegan?

A vegan is a person who doesn’t use or eat anything that comes from an animal. This includes leather, shoes, items of clothing, make up, and of course, eating meat, chicken, fish, honey, milk, eggs and so on. There is also the case where people only chose to avoid eating animal products but still use leather and clothing made from animals, this is known as following a plant-based diet.

All of this may be seen as a radical decision, because if you cut out all of this products then what do you eat or wear?

It is difficult to see past what we have known all of our lives, the rituals and practices we have engraved into our minds. How can a plate of food be complete without some chicken or fish in it? What does a vegan or plant-based person eat? Surely I will become sick or malnourished if I even attempt to eat this way, right?

Then why are there so many people transitioning to this way of living? Here are the three most common and important reasons why.

1. For Health

For most vegans or plant-based health is the main motive to switch into this diet. Whether it is because they are overweight, have blood-sugar problems, high blood pressure or simply because they feel tired all the time or have skin issues, improving their health is what makes them choose to try this seemingly radical way of eating.

There are, of course, some scientific reasons behind believing that a plant-based diet will help improve your overall health. It isn’t a secret that the obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular events and even cancer rates are constantly increasing.

There are studies that show the way we are eating is making us sick. When a person who grew up in Japan moves to the US and adopts the Western diet their chances to develop diabetes increase. We must be doing something wrong.

But is following a plant-based diet the right thing to do?

Even the ADA (American Diabetes Association) is starting to notice there is something to this whole “vegan diet”. On their webpage they have recognized that a low-fat vegan diet is as good as their recommended diet on improving glycemic and lipid control in type 2 diabetics (the most common kind). However there is another advantage to the low-fat vegan diet that the regular one doesn’t have, the adhesion. On their comparative study people tended to better follow and stick to the vegan diet because it didn’t involve counting calories and it had no portion restrictions.

When, in your wildest dreams, did you ever imagine following a diet that didn’t care for calories and that lets you eat as much as you want? It sounds too good to be true.

Let me add a cherry to this already beautiful cake: it is also low on cholesterol.

This way of eating has proven so effective on changing the weight, BMI (body mass index) and cholesterol on diabetics that patients on this trials have had to cut down their diabetic medicine intake. Also there are studies that show both a vegetarian and plant-based diet reverse atherosclerosis progression.

A little amazing, no?

Now for the not so amazing part, there is always one. A plant-based diet is low on vitamin B12 and n-3 fatty acids (also known as omega 3) leading to an increased platelet aggregation that is a cardiovascular risk factor. However, these two deficiencies can easily be managed with supplements of vitamin B12 and omega 3. So not a big problem.

AND WHAT ABOUT THE PROTEIN?

According to Harvard University the recommended protein intake for a person with low physical activity per day is 0,8 grams per kilogram of weight. This amounts to 40 to 60 grams of protein for an average weight person.

But where do I get it from?

It may seem impossible to reach 40-60 grams of protein without adding meat or chicken to the meal. But it is possible. Half a cup of cooked lentils provides 9 grams of protein. So an easy lunch of lentils, rice and a salad will give you around 20 grams of protein easily, in just one meal.

2. For The Planet

Another reason that soon becomes one of the top ones is to avoid the planet from becoming a place where we can no longer live. We all have noticed the crazy temperature shifts that have taken place over the years. Each summer brings by a new and higher heat wave than the previous one. Seasons have changed and we hear about extinction, global warming and deforestation with more frequency than before.

One of the main causes for these changes is agriculture (contributing to around 60% of total tropical deforestation), infrastructure and of course, urban development and industry.

Comparing a meal made with tomatoes, rice and pork with another one made of potatoes, carrots and dry peas shows that the first one has nine times higher emissions of greenhouse gases than the second one. So forget about carpooling making a difference, what about the effect of what we consume?

And let's not ignore the antimicrobial usage on animal agriculture. The overuse of this substances puts us at risk of infection with a bacteria resistant to most, if not all, antibiotics, a problem doctors face each day with increased worry. You may think that just because these medications are for animals it won't affect us, but remember, we share a planet and with that comes sharing things such as diseases.

3. For The Animals

Finally the greatest reason, the one most people think is a bit extreme, why not eat a cow if that is the norm and viewed as something so common no one even stops to think about it? But that’s exactly it. Why don’t you stop a moment to consider where does that piece of steak come from? Why is it that we are so disconnected from the origin of the food we eat that sometimes we don’t even know if it comes from a plant, a tree or an animal? When did we become this machine that does but doesn’t think?

Lately slaughter-house videos have emerged on the internet and social media, along with documentaries showing this reality, shocking most people, terrifying them and making them think about some uncomfortable truths. This isn’t something new, this has happened for years.

The level of horror, suffering and abuse those animals live daily has been the norm for decades now and we are only becoming aware of it. Why? And more importantly… do we really want to be a part of it? Do we really want to support that industry and its violence?

If you haven’t seen any of these videos I invite you to give them a chance to change your perspective, there are plenty of documentaries online like Cowspiracy, Fed up, Earthlings, among others.

I’m not saying following a plant-based diet is the ultimate answer, the miracle for the human race future, the perfect choice. It certainly has its own flaws, like everything on this life does. But I do think that every little action counts, the choices we make daily have an impact. So if I can help myself, help the planet and animals and improve the future for me and the ones I love I’m sure going to try to do my best.