The Benefits of Veganism
There are many reasons for pursuing a vegan diet. Setting aside the purported health benefits, a large percentage of people simply believe that eating meat is unethical and inhumane. Distinct from vegetarians, many vegans eschew dairy products because they are uncomfortable with the idea of taking food sources away from young animals.
Another common belief among vegans is that plant-based diets nourish the body better than those that are meat-based. Oftentimes, they cite the high toxin and saturated fat content in meat while highlighting the plentiful vitamins, minerals and antioxidants contained in vegetables, nuts, beans and pulses.
There is a good deal of scientific evidence validating the claims that plant-based diets lower disease risk. What’s more, they also help the environment.
Let’s take a closer look at the health benefits of a vegan diet.
Because animal products are higher in fats, they also contain more calories. It follows that a vegan diet can help with calorie control, meaning a greater likelihood of losing weight. Fat isn’t the only factor at play here; fibre helps to keep us fuller for longer, and vegan foods are generally fibre-rich.
A plethora of studies indicate that vegans have a superior level of fitness to meat-eaters. Of course, sometimes studies are funded by powerful people desiring a certain result, so it’s just as easy to find evidence showing the opposite. In any case, a well-constructed, plant-based diet can provide the body with all it needs to operate at full capacity. Many of the world’s top athletes have professed to following a vegan diet.
Vegans often benefit from improved endurance levels and flexibility, and generally suffer fewer injuries than their meat-eating counterparts. This is partly explained by the increased nutrient levels and lack of saturated fats in their diet, which benefits heart health and contributes to joint strength.
Reduced Cancer Risk
Smoked and processed meats are cooked at a very high temperature and are proven to be directly linked to the development of several cancers. Dairy products, meanwhile, have been directly linked to the development of prostate cancer. With a vegan diet, you can eliminate these risks.
What’s more, the hormones in meats interact with human hormones, and appear to increase the risk of hormone-receptor positive breast cancer among premenopausal women.
Fresh vegetables and fruits, on the other hand, have consistently been shown to reduce cancer risk. In fact, eating ten portions per day is associated with a 13% reduced risk of cancer according to a 2017 study by Imperial College London.
Your body naturally creates all the good cholesterol you need, so your body is always naturally protected on that front. Plant-based food does not contain cholesterol, whereas animal products such as meat, milk, and eggs do. Vegans, therefore, have much lower and balanced cholesterol levels than meat-eaters and vegetarians.
Higher cholesterol levels increase the risk of heart disease and blocked arteries, while a vegan diet considerably reduces the likelihood of either.
Less Arthritic Pain
Animal products cause inflammation of many body parts due to bad bacteria in the gut, and this can set the stage for the onset of arthritis leading to joint pain and discomfort.
The human body is far less sensitive to plant-based foods than meat and dairy products. In actual fact, while many animal products are pro-inflammatory, the vast majority of vegan alternatives are anti-inflammatory.
Improved Heart Health
A major precursor to heart disease is high blood pressure, and those on a vegan diet are 75% less likely to develop high blood pressure than meat-eaters.
It should go without saying that heart disease is deadly, a silent killer. As previously mentioned, meat-eaters consume higher levels of saturated fat which increases blood pressure and cholesterol levels and, in turn, disrupts blood flow and puts a strain on the heart. Not only are vegetables, nuts and whole-grains hugely beneficial to the strengthening of the heart muscle itself, but they help maintain a brisk metabolism.
Unfortunately, there is a common misconception that a vegan diet means you lose out on nutrients. But this is only really the case if you aren’t replacing the lost vitamin B12, calcium, and proteins properly.
Nuts, for example, are a fantastic source of fatty acids and zinc while beans and legumes release the necessary vitamin B12 and protein. Calcium intake is easily replaced with dark, leafy greens. With the correct research and planning, a plant-based diet won’t deprive you of essential nutrients. On the contrary, it can massively improve your nutrient levels.
Better Blood Sugar Management
Not only does a vegan diet reduce the likelihood of developing diabetes; it can also keep diabetes in check if adopted later on. While the majority of non-vegan snacks such as sweets, chocolate, and other refined foods generally include animal products, vegan alternatives do not. People on a vegan diet tend to snack more on fruit and nuts and therefore live far healthier day-to-day.
Reduced Risk of Kidney Failure
Studies show that a plant-based diet drastically reduces the risk of kidney malfunctions in later life. This is mainly due to the differences between proteins used in each diet.
While animal proteins can have several adverse effects on the body, plant-based ones have none and overall are far healthier for our organs.
Plant-based proteins actually encourage proper production levels in some organs, such as the kidneys and liver.
The health benefits of veganism are myriad, but the environmental benefits are just as notable. Let’s look at a few of them.
Improved Soil Quality
Did you know that seven football fields’ worth of forest are bulldozed every sixty seconds to make room for farm animals? Through no fault of their own, the livestock then weaken and erode the soil.
Ironically, the clearing of trees kills many millions of animals while also removing the protection and nutrients the soil needs to stay healthy.
Increased Freshwater Supplies
Amazingly, it takes 2400 gallons of water per pound of beef produced.In comparison, it takes just 25 gallons of water from beginning to end to cultivate a pound of wheat.
As we all know, there are hundreds of millions of people around the world without any access to clean water. And that figure is constantly rising due to a combination of mismanagement of the world’s water sources and droughts.
If livestock were replaced with plants, there would be far more clean water to go around and millions of lives could potentially be saved.
A Purer Atmosphere
In addition to the water pollution and consumption livestock cause, they also contribute more CO2 into the atmosphere than all other transportation worldwide – including air travel.
18% of humans’ greenhouse gas comes from the production of livestock, according to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the UN.
Plants, however, purify the air. As such, replacing livestock with plants would have a radically positive effect on the environment as a whole.
Reduced Energy Consumption
It takes an incredibly long time to raise animals to the point where they are ready to be slaughtered for meat. In the interim, these farm-reared animals consume enormous amounts of food. Food that is, of course, grown on land and could undoubtedly be put to more sustainable purposes.
There is another point worth bearing in mind: meat products must be refrigerated while being shipped from the point of slaughter to consumption. The energy costs are therefore significantly higher than those needed to produce and transport plant-based protein.
Save the Bees
Bees are the most important species on the planet. Over a quarter of a million species of plants rely on bees for pollination, and as the number of bees decreases, so will fruit and vegetable stocks.
A vegan lifestyle, however, means going without honey – which bees rely on as their primary source of food. The average bee can only produce 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey in its life and without humans consuming it, the bee population would quickly begin to flourish, benefiting plant life and air quality across the globe.
Less Oceanic Pollution
The world is becoming acutely aware of the destructive effect of plastic pollution on our oceans. While many people bring their own plastic bags to the supermarket, source alternatives to plastic straws, and choose plastic-free products, that is only half the battle. Almost 60% of the plastic found in the oceans comes from fishing nets.
Land-raised meat also unquestionably harms the oceans. The herbicides, fertilisers, and pesticides used on feed crops pollute our waterways and all end up in the ocean. Livestock grazing and factory farm runoff are by far the world’s largest contributors to river and freshwater pollution.
Of course, we should also consider the impact on the ocean’s fish stocks, with experts predicting that the world’s waters could be empty of fish by as early as 2055.
The Bottom Line
Clearly, the benefits of veganism are legion. Whether you’re embarking on a nutritious plant-based diet for ethical, environmental or health reasons, you’re highly unlikely to regret your decision.
If you’re looking to spread the word about veganism and don’t have the time I’d suggest looking into some copywriting services like I did for this post. You can get the facts out there, help people change their lives and make a difference, just with a little help!