Everyone from Bill Clinton to Serena Williams to Beyonce has gone vegan lately. What is the craze all about? The vegan diet – a diet that consists only of plant foods (fresh fruit, vegetables, grains, beans, nuts, and seeds) – has a surprising amount of leverage, giving it the reputation as the diet that is not just a passing fad. Here are four benefits of the vegan diet.
Major Benefits of the Vegan Diet
1. Weight Loss
It’s no surprise that the worst foods for our weight are those filled with fat and calories…and these foods almost always fall under the categories of meat and dairy. Beef, cheese, butter, ice cream, eggs—all are just terrible for our waistlines. Even leaner meats like chicken or fish are usually slathered in a creamy sauce.
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It’s no wonder, then, that eating a vegan diet is synonymous with being thin. It’s not impossible – but certainly extremely hard – to be an overweight vegan. To lose weight fast and keep it off for good, the vegan diet is an extremely good bet.
More important than weight is our health. Joel Fuhrman, MD says that our health is a product of the nutrients we eat divided by the calories we eat. Sure, that steak has iron and protein in it, but it also has loads of fat and cholesterol, and pretty much no vitamins, minerals, or phytochemicals. Yes, that cheese has calcium, but it is also packed with fat and cholesterol, with no additional vitamins, minerals, or phytochemicals to speak of.
Plants, on the other hand, do provide a lot of protein and calcium, without the fat or cholesterol. You can find tons of protein all over the plant kingdom, especially in beans and nuts. You can also get plenty of calcium from leafy green vegetables and certain fruits, like oranges. These foods, in addition to having protein and calcium, are filled with fiber, complex carbohydrates (the good kind!), vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals—without the added fat, cholesterol, or animal protein, which has recently been highly linked with cancer.
3. Animal Welfare
Many don’t know about how animals raised for food are actually raised. They hear vague rumors about the “factory farms” where our meat, milk and eggs come from, but don’t know (or even want to know) the details.
The truth is that the Animal Welfare Act specifically excludes animals used in agricultural production. This means that the cows, pigs, chickens, and other animals exploited for food are subjected to grossly inhumane conditions and suffer from both physical and psychological disorders as animal factories seek to maximize productivity and profitability.
Related: 6 Health Benefits of Pets
The details are so shocking that many people turn vegetarian or vegan overnight upon hearing them. If dogs and cats were treated the way that cows, pigs, sheep, and chickens are in our food system, most of us would be so incensed that we would be spurred into action. For more information, read The Food Revolution by John Robbins.
4. The Environment
Finally, most of us are really learning to care about the environment. We hear the increasingly indisputable facts about global warming and read reports of fresh water shortages, water pollution, air pollution, and soil degradation; those of us who have heard the details are usually quite concerned for future generations.
One of the best kept secrets – which is now coming out in the press – is that transportation, while a big factor in pollution, is not our worst source of environmental destruction. What is? Animal agriculture. According to the United Nations, 18% of the earth’s greenhouse gas production is directly or indirectly involved in the production of livestock – more than all transportation combined.[i]
Other reputable sources think this number is much too low, and believe the true percentage is closer to 51%.
The beauty of the vegan diet is that while you are making an exciting and noticeable impact on your waistline and your health, you are also saving hundreds of animals from suffering and slaughter, as well as making a positive impact on our environment. Perhaps this is why the vegan diet doesn’t seem to be a passing fad – people can eat delicious food that keeps them trim and healthy, all with a higher purpose.
[i] United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. Livestock’s Long Shadow. Environmental Issues and Options. 2006 Pg 112.
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