Benefits of being vegetarian

“A vegetarian diet doesn’t necessarily lead to weight loss — especially if you eat out at restaurants often,” says Tallmadge. “A lot of times, the only vegetarian dishes on the menu are cheesy and fattening.” It can be hard to find restaurants serving soy burgers or beans and rice, and eating restaurant-size portions of pasta, rice, nuts and cheese could quickly add up to weight gain. According to Tallmadge, the desire to eat lighter meals that provide adequate protein is what makes many vegetarians change their minds and start eating fish.

The most important thing for vegetarians of all kinds to remember is to make sure they are getting key nutrients, including protein, fatty acids, iron, zinc, iodine, calcium and vitamins D and B-12. Protein is essential for building muscle mass, amino function, fighting disease and healing, according to Tallmadge, so make sure you’re getting protein in each meal throughout the day for optimum absorption. “In order to get essential amino acids and nutrients,” says Tallmadge, “vegans must eat soy protein — the only vegetable protein which is as complete as animal protein. Or they must mix beans with grains.”

If you’re considering going vegetarian, keep these tips in mind:

  1. There are numerous research-proven health benefits to following a vegetarian diet, but only if you’re doing it properly and not substituting meat with processed or high-fat vegetarian products.
  2. Both lacto-ovo vegetarians and vegans need to make sure they are getting adequate nutrition. It’s a good idea to purchase a book on how to follow a vegetarian diet, or to meet with a nutritionist to outline what a few days of meals looks like.
  3. Be aware of how much of your diet is made up of nuts as a source of protein, especially if you’re trying to lose weight. An ounce of nuts is about 180 calories and 5 grams of protein. You should be getting between 20 to 30 grams of protein per meal. So: You’d have to eat thousands of calories worth of something like nuts in order to get the amount of protein you need to be healthy, according to Tallmadge. They’re a healthy food, but high in fat and calories — so be sure to round out your diet with a variety of vegetarian proteins.

Contents

Benefits of Being Vegetarian

In the last decade, we have witnessed an explosion of scientific knowledge that has made more information available to humanity than in all previously recorded history. Due to the dedicated research of scientists and doctors, we now understand more than ever before about our physical body and what measures promote good health. As more evidence is coming to light about the beneficial effects of maintaining a vegetarian diet, the number of vegetarians around the world is steadily on the rise.

Throughout history, many great philosophers, saints, and enlightened thinkers have recognized the value of vegetarianism. It is only recently that science has confirmed the views on vegetarianism explained by these great people. More and more people are realizing that this diet can increase the health and wellbeing of our body, mind, soul, and the planet.

Books, journals, magazines, and newspaper articles have published research on the health benefits of a vegetarian diet. Doctors and nutritionists widely recommend that people reduce their consumption of meat, high-fat foods, and eggs as a health measure. They encourage the increased use of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains in one’s diet to cut down on cholesterol in the body and to minimize the risks of heart attacks, high blood pressure, strokes, and cancer.

The results of medical findings have already had a far-reaching impact on the food and restaurant industries. We find more foods are being produced without animal products. If we look back even twenty years, a vegetarian eating at a restaurant hardly had any choices offered on the menu. Today, we can find a variety of delicious vegetarian dishes at most restaurants. Natural food stores and vegetarian restaurants abound in most cities.

Even large grocery chain stores carry a large variety of vegetarian foods. Those who carefully consider the advantages of vegetarianism will see that the quality of their life and health can be greatly improved on such a diet.

Longtime vegetarians have testified to the changes they experienced when they gave up meat. Many have reported that they felt more energetic, not only physically, but also mentally. Animals that do not eat meat, such as the elephant, the horse, the mule, and the ox, are known for their great strength and endurance. Having more stamina, vegetarians tend to exhibit improved efficiency and concentration in their physical as well as intellectual work.

You Are What You Eat

There is an expression, “You are what you eat.” In countries of the East where vegetarianism has been the diet for thousands of years, people recognize that whatever they eat forms a part of their body and also influences their thoughts. They believe that if they eat the flesh of an animal that the mental and emotional vibrations or characteristics of the animal will form a part of their own nature. Today, science is researching the effect that our own stress hormones have on our body and the damage that long-term stress does to our organs. Those who eat meat are ingesting not only the flesh, but all the hormones of stress that are released due to the animal’s fear as well. Thus, many people prefer to live on plant foods, which are more conducive to mental equipoise.

Vegetarianism for Spiritual Wellbeing

Many enlightened beings, saints and spiritual teachers have traditionally advocated a vegetarian diet for spiritual and moral reasons. For those pursuing a spiritual path, a vegetarian diet is essential for several important reasons. First, spiritual teachers have always taught that we are more than just a body and a mind; we are also soul. They have also taught people the process of meditation to help rediscover our true nature as soul. To help gain proficiency in the spiritual practices, vegetarianism is a helping factor. To be able to concentrate in meditation, we need to be calm and collected. If we eat the flesh of dead animals, our own consciousness will be affected.

In the East, vegetarianism has been considered essential to spiritual development. Spiritual teachers promote a life of nonviolence. Helping factors for spiritual growth include developing the ethical virtues of nonviolence, truthfulness, purity, humility, and selfless service. The vegetarian diet is a natural by-product of nonviolence, in which no harm is done to any living creature. That is why saints through the ages have recommended a vegetarian diet, avoiding meat, fish, fowl, and eggs.

Vegetarianism and Ecology

Vegetarianism also improves the health of the planet. Ecologists and environmentalists are concerned about protecting the living creatures on earth. Environmentalists have pointed out that one solution to the problem of food shortages is better utilization of our resources. For example, the amount of grain needed to feed one cow to provide meat for one person could feed many times that number of people. Ecologists have also shown that raising cattle and processing meat requires much more fuel, water, and energy than is used to produce grains and vegetables. Vegetarianism is one effective means of conserving our vital resources.

People around the world are becoming more enlightened and concerned about obtaining the highest quality of life. They are more interested in solving the mysteries of the universe and more keen to find personal fulfillment and lasting happiness. We are simultaneously concerned about the welfare of our global community and the preservation of our planet.

How we maintain the health of our body, mind, soul, and planet is a choice each has to make. A balanced vegetarian diet will result in improved health and fitness, greater mental equipoise, and higher spiritual attainment. Following the vegetarian diet can help us achieve the health and purity of our body, mind, soul, and planet. We will not only be contributing to peace for ourselves and all life, but we will also be doing our part toward making planet Earth a haven of joy and peace.

Being a vegetarian can help us attain a healthier body, mind, soul, and planet. Along with this, we can augment our well-being through meditation. Vegetarianism prepares the groundwork for the health of body, mind, and soul. Meditation can add to our overall health by reducing stress to our body and mind, and can put us in touch with the soul. If we sit in meditation, we can take steps towards a healthier state of wellbeing.

Believe it or not, there are tons of advantages of becoming a vegetarian. Despite this, just 5 percent of Americans consider themselves vegetarians, according to a 2014 review in the journal Nutrients. If you haven’t considered vegetarianism in the past, keep an open mind. Making this simple dietary change could add years to your life.

Animal and Environmental Welfare

Giving up meat benefits animals and possibly the environment.

  • Adopting a vegetarian diet means no animal is harmed to put food on your dinner table. For some people, this simple fact gives them peace of mind.
  • The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) says most farm animals in the U.S. are raised in subpar conditions, which are unacceptable to many consumers. Such conditions include (but are not limited to) being kept in small overcrowded cages, indoor confinement, misuse of antibiotics, and abusive handling by workers.
  • Greenhouse gas emissions associated with 2,000-calorie diets are twice as high in meat eaters compared to vegan dieters, according to a 2014 review in Climate Change. Lowering greenhouse gas emissions could have a beneficial impact on global warming and climate change because greenhouse gases in Earth’s atmosphere trap the sun’s rays (which can increase temperatures). One reason meat production creates greenhouse gas emissions is because factory farm animals produce methane during food digestion and feces excretion, according to the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).

Lower Body Weight

If weight loss (and staying slim) is your goal, consider giving up meat.

  • Adopting a vegetarian diet is one of the most effective ways to lower body mass index (BMI) according to one 2014 study in Roczniki Panstwowego Zakladu Higieny. This is true, especially when you’re used to eating high-fat meats because when you cut out meat, you’re lowering calories and saturated fat. Vegan dieters tend to have the lowest BMIs, according to a 2014 review in the journal Nutrients. This is because vegan diets are the most restrictive out of all vegetarian meal plans.
  • Meatless diets lower your risk for obesity, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Reports. One reason for this is because non-meat eaters generally eat less saturated fat and more fiber-rich plant-based foods.
  • One 2013 study says that while some overweight adults have increased life expectancies compared with normal weight adults, they experience a higher proportion of these later years in poor health.

Keep in mind to achieve and maintain a healthy weight as a vegetarian, you should abide by general healthy eating guidelines, which include limiting added sugar, sugary drinks, and saturated and trans fats.

Reduced Heart Disease Risks

Cutting meat from your diet may also lower your risk for heart disease, which is a leading cause of death in the U.S.

  • Harvard Health Publications suggests vegetarian dieters are more likely to have lower blood pressure and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels than meat eaters. This means meatless diets can lower your risk for heart disease.
  • The American Heart Association says vegetarian diets may lower high blood pressure and coronary heart disease because plant-based diets tend to be lower in cholesterol, saturated fat, and total fat.
  • A 2016 study in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition confirms vegetarian diets help protect against getting, and dying from, heart disease. This is due, at least in part, to vegetarian diets’ effects on blood pressure.

Lower Cancer Risks

Another chronic disease affected by vegetarian dieting is cancer.

  • The 2016 study published in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition says vegetarian dieting protects you against cancer, lowering total cancer incidence by 8 percent. Researchers who conducted this study found cutting out all animal-based foods (vegan dieting) reduces your cancer risk by 15 percent.
  • A 2011 review in Cancer Management and Research also reports vegetarian dieting helps lower cancer risks, which may be due to fiber, antioxidants, and phytochemicals found in plant-based foods like fruits and veggies. Authors of this review say red and processed meats have been linked with higher risks for several types of cancer.
  • A third 2013 study confirms vegetarian diets appear to protect against cancer.

Diabetes Control and Prevention

Lowering your risk for diabetes is another perk of vegetarian dieting.

  • According to the 2014 study in Roczniki Panstwowego Zakladu Higieny, improved insulin sensitivity is one reason why vegetarian dieters have lower risks for diabetes.
  • The Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine says meats and high-fat diets can cause your body to become more resistant to the action of insulin, and lower-fat, plant-based diets improve insulin sensitivity. This could be due, at least in part, to vegetarian diets’ effects on body weight.
  • If you already have diabetes, you can still benefit from going meatless. A 2014 study in Cardiovascular Diagnosis and Therapy says vegetarian diets significantly improve blood sugar control in people with type 2 diabetes. The Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine confirms vegetarian diets aid in weight loss and help lower blood sugar.
  • Mayo Clinic says fiber, abundant in plant-based foods, helps control blood sugar by slowing the absorption of sugar into your body.

Keep in mind vegetarian diets high in added sugar, refined carbohydrates like white bread, saturated fat, and total calories may negate the beneficial effects of vegetarian dieting on blood sugar.

Cost Savings

Purchasing meat isn’t cheap, especially when you choose organic, hormone- and antibiotic-free brands. That’s why cutting out meat from your diet can help you pinch pennies when money is tight. In fact, one study published in 2015 in the Journal of Hunger and Environmental Nutrition found plant-based diets can save you almost $750 per year while providing you with more nutrient-dense fruits, veggies, and whole grains.

Why Go Vegetarian?

Because there are so many health, economic, and ethical reasons to switch from regular to vegetarian dieting, why not give it a try? However, when doing so be sure to plan your meals carefully to get plenty of protein, iron, calcium, zinc, iodine, vitamin B12, vitamin D, and omega-3 fatty acids.

What to know about becoming a vegetarian

A person may be at risk of certain nutritional deficiencies when making the switch to a strictly vegetarian or vegan diet.

The specific nutrients that a person may be lacking will depend largely on the type of vegetarian diet that they eat.

For instance, a person who still eats dairy, fish, eggs, or a limited amount of meat may not have any issues with nutritional deficiencies. Conversely, people who follow vegan diets may need to supplement with vitamins and minerals, depending on their dietary intake and restrictions.

Some of the nutrients that are most likely to be lacking include:

Protein

Most people get their protein from meat, fish, or poultry. Lacto, ovo, and lacto-ovo vegetarians can get protein from both plant and animal sources. People who follow a vegan diet will not get protein from animal products. Some substitutes can include:

  • certain grains, such as quinoa
  • legumes
  • beans
  • seeds
  • nuts
  • nut and seed butters

Read more about some of the best meat substitutes for vegetarians here.

Iron

Iron is another nutrient that is present in red meats and other animal-based products. However, a person can get iron from other sources, such as:

  • broccoli
  • beans
  • raisins
  • whole grain wheat

Read more about the best iron-rich foods for vegetarians and vegans here.

Calcium

Calcium is primarily in milk and other dairy products. Some potential replacements for people following a vegetarian diet that does not include dairy include:

  • tofu
  • edamame
  • kale
  • fortified cereals
  • collard greens
  • almonds
  • rhubarb
  • fortified plant milk, such as soy or rice milk

Vitamin D

The body produces vitamin D when the skin gets direct exposure to sunlight. However, certain factors can make it difficult to get enough vitamin D in this way. For example, in many countries, there is not much sun during the winter months, and people tend to cover up.

Also, many people prefer to limit the time that they spend in direct sunlight to reduce the risk of sunburn and skin cancer.

As the dietary sources of vitamin D are mostly animal products, vitamin D supplements are the best way for many vegetarians and vegans to get consistent, absorbable vitamin D.

Zinc

Zinc is another nutrient that is important for a person’s body. Many animal-based foods are high in zinc, including meat, seafood, eggs, and dairy. However, there are also plant-based sources of zinc, such as:

  • soy products
  • beans
  • nuts
  • beans

Omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are present in fish, such as salmon. These healthful fats are important for overall health, especially brain health.

Although plant-based omega-3 fatty acids also occur naturally in chia seeds, algal oil, and flax, these are a type called alpha-linolenic acids, which the body has a limited ability to convert to active forms. Therefore, a person may wish to look for fortified products or talk to their doctor about omega-3 supplements.

Vitamin B-12

Vitamin B-12 is important for many functions in the body, including red blood cell production. A vegetarian can obtain vitamin B-12 from:

  • eggs and milk, if they are following a vegetarian diet that includes these foods
  • certain fortified cereals
  • fortified plant milk
  • nutritional yeast
  • supplements

This Is What Happens to Your Body When You Give Up Meat

Many esteemed evolutionary anthropologists point to a growing body of evidence showing that our earlier ancestors weren’t the skilled and canny hunters of popular imagination. Increasingly, they posit that we got our taste for the flesh of other beasts from scavenging from animals that really are natural born killers. A 2015 study measured how much meat lions and leopards left on a kill and concluded that they’d be plenty left to meet the total daily caloric requirements of at least one male homo erectus, possibly more.

There’s a broad consensus among scientists that the frequent consumption of meat enabled our brain volume and mental capacity to grow far beyond that of the other hominidae—the taxonomic family that includes all the extant species of gorillas, orangutans, chimpanzees, and bonobos. Though many of us might blanch at the thought, eating meat has made us who we are as a species. (As a side note, we are now on the cusp of consuming meat that comes without all the death that, until now, has been part and parcel of every delicious, nutritious mouthful.)

Given how important meat has been to the human story, and how vegetarianism and veganism has done a takeover of your Instagram feed, you might wonder what happens to the human body if you walk away from it completely. Well, wonder no more.

Inflammation decreases

The complex biological response of body tissues to harmful stimuli, such as pathogens, damaged cells, or irritants is commonly known as inflammation. In essence, it’s a protective response—considered a mechanism of “innate immunity” and in many circumstances, it’s your friend. Still, you don’t want inflammation to come to your “rescue” when you have been chowing down on a ribeye, yet that’s what can happen.

“Animal products contain inflammatory compounds such as saturated fats and endotoxins,” says Virginia Beach-based dietician Jim White. He adds that by contrast, plant-based diets are naturally anti-inflammatory due to their high fiber and antioxidant content. White points us to a study which demonstrated that plant-based diets result in a decrease of the C-reactive protein, an indicator of inflammation within the body.

You may run low on certain vitamins and minerals

Most of us are well aware that meat packs a lot of protein and, depending on the animal, cut and preparation method, a fair amount of fat, too. What we don’t talk about as much is the vitamins and minerals present in things we eat that once mooed, clucked, baaaed, or oinked. Going without some of these vitamins and minerals for extended periods of time can have health consequences. That’s why vegetarians and especially vegans often need to seek them elsewhere.

More from Tonic:

“Not eating meat does require you to pay more attention to certain nutrients,” says Atlanta-based nutritionist Marisa Moore. Moore explains that B12, omega-3 fatty acids, and iron are a few of the top ones you’d need to keep an eye on. They can be found in places other than flesh: B12 is abundant in nutritional yeast and fortified foods, for instance, and “you can get vegetarian sources of iron in beans and leafy greens”—enhanced when combined with a source of vitamin C. Omega-3s, found in fish, come in an algae supplement or foods like chia or hemp seeds.

Your microbiome changes

Your microbiome is the word used to describe the the trillions of microorganisms living in your body. Long overlooked, these microorganisms are increasingly recognized as being crucial to our overall health. They produce important nutrients, train our immune systems, turn genes on and off, help protect us from cancer, and keep the tissue in our gut healthy. Studies have demonstrated they play a role in obesity, inflammatory bowel disease, diabetes, atherosclerosis, autoimmune disease and liver disease.

The bad news for meat lovers is that meat and other animal products can a create something called trimethylamine oxide, or TMAO, in the gut that frankly, you don’t want in there. “Meat consumption triggers bacteria within the gut to produce a substance that the liver converts to the toxic product TMAO, which increases cholesterol, which could up your risk of cardiovascular disease,” White says, explaining that plant-based diets produce little to no TMAO and their high fiber content promotes growth of healthy bacteria within the gut.

What’s more, research suggests that people who have been sticking to a plant-based diet for some time make little or no TMAO after a meal containing meat, because they have a different gut microbiome. It only takes only a few days of cutting out animal products for our gut bacteria to change.

Living longer is not out of the question

Seventh Day Adventists are a protestant Christian denomination whose American members, on average, live several years longer than the national average. The fact that their church discourages them from smoking and drinking alcohol is likely responsible for some of that difference, as are their tight-knit communities. They are also non-meat eaters. Given that the regular consumption of meat is associated with a slew of chronic diseases including cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, infections, kidney disease, liver disease or lung disease, the significance of this particular behavior on longevity can’t be ignored.

At the DNA level, there’s evidence showing that plant-based diets are better at stopping people from fraying at the ends—literally. “A plant-based diet has been shown to lengthen telomeres, or the caps at the end of chromosomes that keep DNA stable, resulting in cells and tissue to age more slowly,” says White, adding that shortened telomeres are associated with earlier death and aging. “Additionally, the nutrients in plant-based diets optimize how cells repair damaged DNA.”

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Confession time. I used to think I needed meat. I thought digging into a juicy cut of something that was once alive was a fundamental part of my personality. It defined me in some incremental way. And yet, just a few weeks ago, it all snapped into place. There was no trickle effect here; my mind flooded with an immediate realization. I no longer wanted to eat meat. I simply woke up one morning—in more ways than one, you might say—and haven’t wrapped my lips around a single burger since. Here’s why.

Meat and animals = the same thing

Wandering aimlessly down the aisles at my local supermarket, I’d paw at the various packages of faceless meat products. Faceless being the operative word. Never having to see the animal I was about to eat was a huge part of how I maintained my lifestyle. I was squeamish about eating meat off the bone because it was ‘too real’ or, to put it frankly, “too close to being an animal” for my liking. Perhaps I should have known even then; I was a closet veggie through and through. (Thinking of giving up meat? Here are the easiest ways to going vegetarian.)

Despite adoring the flavor of the stuff, the idea of eating animals had always made me especially queasy. This realization came a to fruition just over a month ago. My partner was describing in graphic detail a meal he’d recently eaten. At the heart of his quippy anecdote was the fact that the pork belly on his plate had been joined to a few extra ribs; he’d gotten more meat for his money and was utterly thrilled. Instead of partaking in his glee, I felt a confusing sense of unease.

Are we destroying the planet?

It hardly takes a genius to answer that question. Yes. Yes, we are. Climate change is happening, one horrendous hurricane at a time (seriously, it’s one of the worst hurricane seasons ever). There was a point when I simply had no clue of the extent to which the meat industry was contributing to the problem. I wasn’t alone in that ignorance either. Yet, while considering a change of diet, I really started to look into the facts of the matter.

The figures were worse than I’d expected. Livestock and their byproducts are responsible for 51 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, according to a report by Worldwatch Institute. Or, to rephrase that, the industry alone produces an unfathomable 32.6 billion tons of carbon dioxide every single year. What’s more, the UN has stated that a shift to a vegan diet could stop global poverty, hunger, and the impact of climate change. The facts are right there.

Decision time: Bye, bye meat

You could call my decision to go meat-free a snap one. It happened in an instant. I can’t proclaim to have spent months mulling over the idea—turning it around in my mind until I had my definitive answer. That’s not how it happened. It was hardly even a conscious choice. At least, it didn’t feel like one.

I was sitting in the shared work space I use, listening to some soft background music as I typed away. And yet, the same notion kept coming to me. That thought in the depths of my mind kept niggling and nagging away. I no longer wanted to be a “meat-eater.” There. I said it.

But what will people think?

Now, I wish I could say that I’m the kind of person who didn’t give a flying monkey’s what people thought. Sadly, I’m not that girl. Telling people about my choice wasn’t about them; it was an affirmation to myself. I’d expected indifference. After all, it wasn’t a major change; not really. What I got instead was one of two strikingly opposing opinions.

“But we’re supposed to eat meat!” my friend spluttered over her freshly poured glass of prosecco. She was two in and ready to tell me what she really thought. Her opinion was clear-cut—meat was a part of our natural diet. We needed it. And I was, as she so bluntly put it, stupid to think otherwise.

She and her opinion were in the minority, though, as I soon found. What I mainly got from many of my family and friends was nothing short of sheer support. Another friend of mine, Becky, went one step further. She wanted to come along for the ride with me; go meat-free too. We even set-up an Instagram account to document the journey.

Spoiler: Vegetables are cheap

In my disdain of eating things that were once alive and my fear for the earth, I’d missed one major bonus here. Vegetables, legumes, and grains are cheap. Seriously. Or, to put things a little more accurately, meat is unbelievably expensive. The first few times I headed to the store to pick up some foodie treats, I was amazed at how little cash with which I had to part.

I used to buy a few cuts of meat per week; some chicken breasts, pork chops, mince meat, perhaps a steak. That part of the shop will cost £25 to £30 alone (that’s about $32 to $40). Cutting that chunk of the cash out is a huge deal. Even with buying twice as many non-meat items, which I soon found I had to, I’m now left with far more money on leaving the store. (Here are more tips on how to eat healthy on a super tight budget.)

Learning to cook (all over again)

I’ve never been the world’s greatest cook. Not by a stretch. My mom is a wonderful cook (her curries are out of this world) and yet, those genes don’t seem to be in my makeup. Or perhaps, I never tried hard enough. Either way over the years, I’ve mastered a few simple dishes to get me through. There was just one problem; they all consisted of animal products and little else.

My new vegetarian diet didn’t quite account for chili con carne or spag-bol, so I’d have to try a new approach. In the first few days after my decision, I scoured the web for vegetarian meals with some extra bang and tried them out for myself. While I’m still a novice here, my favorite dish so far has been some spiced chickpea wraps from a recipe from Thug Kitchen. I fully recommend you try it.

Facing my fear: Avocado

Unpopular opinion here: I don’t see the big deal about avocado. I mean, sure, it looks kind of attractive, if fetishizing fruit is your bag. But, I just can’t comprehend the way that people rave about this stuff. It’s the biggest deal in vegetarian meals since, well, sliced bread. The small green emoji adorns many a comment box. I get the picture. The world is avocado mad—you all have “avocado fever.”

Until very recently, though, I’d never even tried it. To me, it looked chalky and a little weird in texture. But, taking a new veggie stance meant trying new things too. So I did. I tried a very small bite. And, you know what? It tasted just fine. Nothing more. Nothing less. Though admittedly, avocados have many health benefits.

The secret of plant protein

The myth is as simple as it is effective: no meat equals no protein. I’d believed this for as long as I’d been able to understand what protein was and why we need it in our diets. Without this key food group, our bodies would not be able to repair damaged cells or, indeed, create brand new ones. It’s therefore essential to our growth and health.

And yet, meat is not the only food that contains protein in abundance. Quite the contrary. In fact, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, list lentils, chickpeas, bulgur wheat, and spinach (to name but a few) as protein sources (here are some other sources of protein that aren’t meat). So, I started including some or all of the above in my meals. What’s more, I could never have predicted the way this dietary change would affect me physically.

I actually feel stronger than ever

Disclaimer: I’m not a “gym freak.” I go two-to-three times a week, every week. Still, staying healthy and active is a massive part of my lifestyle. I attend the same classes much of the time—Tuesday’s being Body Attack. It’s hard going.

So, on attending my first BA class after completely ditching meat, I was a tad nervous. What if I was suddenly extremely weak? What if I threw up? (It wouldn’t be the first time, but that’s another story for another day.) A few minutes in, though, the change was clear. Whether it was psychosomatic or otherwise, I felt stronger. I went harder, for longer, and enjoyed the class more than ever.

I may not have been imagining this newfound strength. Earlier this year, a study from the American Society for Nutrition found that people’s muscle mass didn’t differ depending on whether they got their protein from red meat or legumes, i.e. veggies were as strong as meat-eaters. Plant power was doing its job.

My meat cravings are disappearing

In short, I feel healthier, happier, and richer. But wait just a minute here, what about my cravings? One of the things that had troubled me the most about cutting out meat was that I’d ultimate start lusting after the stuff—dreaming of juicy pork chops on the regular. And yet, it just hasn’t happened. At least not in any major way. Instead, I’ve been enjoying the realms of being veggie and all the exciting new meals it entails.

I’ll admit that there is one thing I keep wishing I could eat… just one more time. Spicy chicken wings. Those deep-fried chunks of sin are my kryptonite. Luckily, I have a sneaking suspicion that it’s merely the crispy, tasty batter that’s got me hooked. And, if that’s the case, it can easily be replaced by a whole host of substitutes. Erm, deep-fried avocado “wings,” please?

If you’re thinking of giving up meat, learn how to best reap the benefits of a vegan diet.

10 benefits of being a Vegetarian

Adopting a vegetarian diet can be the perfect way to stay healthy and happy. A vegetarian diet is a complete diet, which is associated with high consumption of fiber, vitamins C and E, folic acid, magnesium, unsaturated fat, and numerous phytochemicals. And this is why vegetarians have lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure and reduced risk of heart diseases. Vegetarian food is also easy for the body to digest, takes lesser time to cook, is healthy and most importantly saves your money. Vegetables are vital not just for our healthy living but for the environment too.

What are the benefits of a Vegetarian Diet

Here are the 10 amazing benefits of being a vegetarian or following a vegetarian diet:

Though there are many factors that would attribute to an increased lifetime and adopting a vegetarian diet is one factor you can follow. The more you eat fruits or vegetables, the lesser is the toxin and chemical build up in your body, thus facilitating more healthy years and a longer lifespan.

2. Lower cholesterol levels

Believe or not but there is no health benefit in eating animal fat. As cholesterol comes only from animal foods, vegetarian diets are cholesterol-free. Although cholesterol is an essential component of each human cell, vegetarians do not need to worry about not getting enough cholesterol, because the body can make all the cholesterol it needs from vegan foods. Korean researchers after examining the long-term effects of following a vegetarian diet concluded that body fat and cholesterol levels were lower in vegetarians than omnivores.

3. Less risk of stroke and obesity

The vegetarians tend to be much more conscious in their food choices and usually never overeat or pick foods based on emotions; two practices that greatly contribute to obesity. The University Hospital Ghent Department of Pediatrics in Belgium says adopting a vegan diet is a good way to minimize your chances of having a stroke or being obese.

4. Reduces risk of diabetes

Non-vegetarians usually experience extreme levels of blood sugar, sometimes very high, just after consumption. This can be avoided and a constant flow of blood sugar can be maintained if the nonvegetarians swap over to a vegetarian diet. A healthy vegetarian diet is easy to absorb, is nutritious and contains less fatty acids.

5. Gives healthy skin

If you wish to have healthy skin then you need to eat the right amount of vitamins and minerals with plenty of water. Fruits and vegetables that we eat are very rich in vitamins, minerals and also have sufficient antioxidants. Moreover, as they are water based, if you eat them raw it can further improve the intake of healthy nutrients. Many vegetarian foods also are rich sources of antioxidants that help you stay disease free, with healthier skin.

6. High fiber content

Fruits and Vegetables also contain high fiber content, which is necessary for proper digestion. It helps improve body metabolism and helps in fast elimination of toxins and other chemicals from the body. Vegetarian foods are usually water-based, which helps in maintaining the required liquids in the body.

7. Can reduce depression

According to researches, a vegetarian may be happier than the non-vegetarian counterparts. It was also discovered that a vegan had lower scores on depression tests and mood profiles when compared to meat or fish-eaters. Moreover, there is an element of freshness to most vegetarian foods, especially when it comes to organic produce. So it is bound to cleanse our minds and keep our thoughts positive.

8. Improves metabolism

Vegetarian food is easy to digest and it keeps the metabolism of an individual in good state. Also, the resting metabolism rate or RMR in people with vegetarian diet is quite higher. You must know that RMR has a direct relation with the metabolism of an individual – that means the higher the RMR, the more speedily it burn fats and vice-versa.

9. Reduces the risk of cataract development

According to a research conducted by the Nuffield Department of Clinical Medicine at the University of Oxford, there is a strong relation between the risk of developing cataracts and our diet- with a higher risk falling on nonvegetarians or meat eaters and the lowest risk on being vegans.

10. It is economical

Last but not the least, if you follow a vegetarian diet then you are saving good amount of money. Non-vegetarian foods no doubt are expensive if compared to the vegetarian food. Hence now the choice is completely yours.

Vegetarian food that you must include in your diet:

  • Beans

  • Lentils

  • Nuts

  • Leafy vegetables etc.

To conclude, vegetarian foods have a lot more benefits than we have actually discussed in this article. Also, our intention is not to discourage or disrespect the non vegetarians. Vegetarian foods has its own benefits and non-vegetarians have its own.

Eat Healthy and Stay Healthy !!!

The pros and cons of being vegetarian

Being vegetarian benefits the body in many ways. A vegetarian diet can help lower cholesterol, and blood pressure, aiding in the prevention of heart disease. Additionally, vegetarian food is fibre-rich which helps regulate bowel movements, prevent constipation and reduce the risk of colon cancer.

A fibre-rich diet also helps in weight loss and maintenance as it keeps you full for longer. Fruits and vegetables, an integral part of this diet provide the body with vital vitamins and minerals that promote general health, immunity and a glowing complexion.
How can you define a vegetarian?
People who generally exclude meat, fish and chicken from their diet and eat a variety of plant-based foods are called vegetarians. Most vegetarian diets are rich in fibre and low in fat, especially the unhealthy saturated kind.
Within this group there are three kinds of vegetarians:

  • Total vegetarians / Vegans: Those who exclude all kinds of meat and animal-based products such as milk, butter and eggs.
  • Lacto-vegetarians: Those who do not consume meat, chicken and fish but allow milk and milk products.
  • Lacto-ovo-vegetarians: Those who consume milk, milk products and eggs but exclude all kinds of meat.

Good to Remember
A vegetarian diet is naturally low in fat and high in fibre. It is a healthy way of eating but you must be cautious to follow a planned diet that includes fortified foods to prevent nutrient deficiency.
Being vegetarian has its own risks
Advantages aside, some vegetarians – especially vegans, have low levels of certain nutrients which they should be careful to include:

  • Vitamin B12: Plant foods are naturally lacking in Vitamin B12. So vegans who avoid dairy products and eggs need a regular source of this vitamin. To avoid deficiency, a good solution would be a fortified breakfast cereal.
  • Protein: Proteins from plant foods can meet protein needs if the right food combination is eaten. Lacto-ovo-vegetarians easily get their protein from dairy products and eggs.
  • Iron: Some vegetarians have a lower iron count than non-vegetarians. Iron from plant food does not absorb as well as that from meat, so vegetarians need to increase their iron intake and also consume a Vitamin C-rich food source to enhance iron absorption.
  • Zinc: Vegetarians also appear to have a lower intake of zinc than recommended. Soy foods, legumes, nuts and supplemented foods are good sources.
  • Calcium and vitamin D: Calcium intake of lacto-vegetarians is comparable to non-vegetarians. But when milk products are excluded, calcium levels drop. Such vegetarians are advised to have soy milk fortified with calcium and vitamin D, in addition to getting adequate sun exposure.
  • Riboflavin: Vegetarians also have low levels of riboflavin than non-vegetarians. This can be corrected through the consumption of milk, almonds, fortified breakfast cereals, yogurt, soy, bananas and broccoli.

Last word
Well-planned vegetarian diets are healthy and help prevent chronic diseases. But make sure to ask your dietician to guide you on how to include the ‘at risk’ nutrients by choosing the right foods in the right combinations for a complete balanced diet.

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Vegan Meaning? What is a Vegan

The word vegan was initially defined as a diet free of animal-based foods (such as meat, dairy products, eggs, and honey.) Nowadays, the word’s meaning is commonly extended to refer to non-food products—such as clothing, cosmetics, and medicine—that are made without animal-derived substances. Vegans also typically object to exploitative uses of animals, from animal testing to rodeos to zoos and dolphin shows.

You can use the word vegan to identify a sandwich, a car seat, a shampoo, or a person. Given the word’s flexibility, seeking an accurate and uncontested definition inevitably produces disagreement. You’re always going to have bickering over who or what qualifies as vegan.

The core virtue of the vegan concept is that it enables, through the tiniest efforts, the prevention of vast amounts of animal suffering and environmental degradation. My intention here is to define vegan in a way that maximizes its power to encourage people to embrace plant-based lifestyles.

Unpacking the Meaning of Vegan

To begin our consideration of this topic, let’s start by looking at how the word vegan differs from vegetarian.

Vegetarian diets eschew meat and fish, but commonly allow eggs and dairy products. Veganism takes this idea to the next level, cutting out every item of animal origin. So vegans avoid any food made with animal flesh, dairy products, eggs, or honey.

Vegetarian diets are appealing for a number of reasons, but vegan diets make even more sense. A vegan diet extends the advantages that a vegetarian diet delivers, by offering:

  1. additional curtailment of animal mistreatment and slaughter
  2. reduction of certain health risks
  3. decrease of environmental footprint

With those benefits in mind, let’s now take a step back and look at the first time the word vegan appeared in print.

The Original Definition of Vegan

Donald Watson, a founding member of the Vegan Society, coined the term vegan in 1944 while living in the United Kingdom. Here’s Watson from that year, in the first issue of The Vegan News, introducing the word and defining its meaning:

We should all consider carefully what our Group, and our magazine, and ourselves, shall be called. ‘Non-dairy’ has become established as a generally understood colloquialism, but like ‘non-lacto’ it is too negative. Moreover it does not imply that we are opposed to the use of eggs as food. We need a name that suggests what we do eat, and if possible one that conveys the idea that even with all animal foods taboo, Nature still offers us a bewildering assortment from which to choose. ‘Vegetarian’ and ‘Fruitarian’ are already associated with societies that allow the ‘fruits’ (!) of cows and fowls, therefore it seems we must make a new and appropriate word. As this first issue of our periodical had to be named, I have used the title “The Vegan News”. Should we adopt this, our diet will soon become known as a VEGAN diet, and we should aspire to the rank of VEGANS. Members’ suggestions will be welcomed. The virtue of having a short title is best known to those of us who, as secretaries of vegetarian societies have to type or write the word vegetarian thousands of times a year!

Watson did an admirable job of formulating the vegan concept in clear and inspiring terms. You’ll notice that he defined the word solely in terms of diet.

Which foods are vegan?

Of the various senses of the word vegan, the easiest one to address relates to food. Here, things may seem cut-and-dried. If a food contains no animal ingredients, it’s vegan. There is an enormous variety of vegan foods, including:

  • Vegetables
  • Fruits and berries
  • Rice, wheat, and other grains
  • Beans, tofu, and tempeh
  • Soy milk and nut milks
  • Nuts and Seeds
  • Vegetable oils

In regard to applying the word vegan to food, I think it’s sensible to err on the side of being strict. A chocolate bar that contains one percent milk powder is absolutely not vegan.

But now I must throw you a curve ball. Some chocolate bars made exclusively with vegan ingredients may nevertheless contain traces of milk, since they’re produced on the same manufacturing line as milk chocolate bars. Ditto for other foods like vegan ice cream.

In such cases, I think it’s sensible to call these foods vegan. Because these foods aren’t formulated with non-vegan ingredients, they don’t fund animal exploitation. To whatever extent you’re eating a few molecules of milk because your vegan product shares a manufacturing line, an omnivore is consuming a few extra vegan molecules that came from your product.

Oftentimes these products bear a seal stating something like, “may contain traces of milk.” These statements exist to warn consumers who have dangerous allergies. To assert these foods aren’t vegan could create the impression that a vegan diet is absurdly strict, and repel people from embracing plant-based eating.

Let’s now look at another case of where a food’s vegan status isn’t cut-and-dried.

Is Palm Oil Vegan?

Palm oil is frequently sourced from plantations that have cleared vast tracts of jungle. Clearing such land commonly entails the extermination of orangutans and other endangered species. Vegans commonly (and rightfully) refuse to purchase palm oil sourced in this manner. Some claim this oil is not vegan because of the exploitation involved, ignoring the fact that palm oil can be produced as ethically and sustainably as any other crop.

Killing endangered apes to clear land for agriculture is certainly outrageous. But the fact is that whenever land is used for any sort of monoculture, animals die—usually horrifically. And this issue goes deeper than most people realize. The farmer growing your delicious local organic lettuce may be poisoning gophers or shooting deer who dare to threaten his crop. The bread you eat, organic or not, undoubtedly came from grains harvested with combine threshers that eviscerate any number of snakes and rodents.

So if we are going to argue that palm oil is not vegan, pretty much every other plant-based food deserves lose its vegan status as well. The word vegan then breaks down and becomes useless.

Palm Oil may be Totally Objectionable, but Totally Vegan

As you can see, the vegan concept collapses when loaded with needless weight. The fact that vegan means, “nothing produced by or derived from animals” is sufficient to convey a hugely important point, and this is where our definition should therefore begin and end. Designating a food vegan does not and should not mean it’s karma-free, or produced in morally acceptable ways.

While many vegans refuse to consume palm oil that lacks some sort of sustainability certification—and I’m in total agreement with this refusal, by the way—it’s counterproductive to assert that palm oil is not vegan.

That said, it would be laughable to assert that, simply because it’s vegan, uncertified palm oil is an acceptable food choice. Veganism cannot be the only standard by which we evaluate the ethical status of a given food. Other important issues require consideration. Let me now offer some additional examples.

What About Coffee and Chocolate?

Just as palm oil is invariably vegan—no matter how objectionable its production methods—the same goes for coffee and cacao beans. All these foods are vegan since they come entirely from plants.

Many coffee orchards and cacao plantations treat their workers abominably. Some cacao plantations even engage in slavery. But that doesn’t render these foods non-vegan. A food can involve deplorable treatment of people, and crimes against the environment, and still be vegan.

Naturally, people who become vegan for ethical reasons usually recognize there are other important considerations involved beyond whether their food comes from plants. They therefore typically go out of their way to choose fair-trade coffee and chocolate. There are plenty of brands that are fair-trade certified, so finding one poses little inconvenience.

Vegan is just one component of ethical eating. It’s absolutely possible to be a strict vegan but to source many of your foods from farms that engage in exploitative or environmentally reckless practices. This is true for many foods beyond palm oil, coffee, and chocolate. A few prime examples include tomatoes, cashews, and berries.

If you want to eat food that’s produced in the least harmful ways, going vegan must surely enter into your thinking. And if you intend to eat as ethically as possible, it’s crucial to go beyond the vegan concept when appropriate in order to make the most compassionate and sustainable choices.

Vegan as an Identity

Can you call yourself a vegan purely because you eat a vegan diet, but go no further in regard to other lifestyle choices? Different people have different opinions, but I can’t see any reason to object.

That said, this question does bring up edge cases like a person who eats a vegan diet but wears fur. But I think we’re all capable of using language to deal a situation like this. I’d call that person a vegan who has made a deeply problematic choice that directly funds extraordinary animal cruelty.

Being vegan, after all, does not mean you are a person exhibiting consistently admirable behavior. There are vegans who cheat on their spouses, are abusive to their friends, who dishonor debts, and so forth. Some of the most despicable people I’ve ever encountered are vegan. So the vegan concept should never be imagined as a comprehensive guarantee of human decency. It’s just one more approach that can help you to be a better person, like telling the truth, being kind in your speech, and refusing to steal.

When it comes to deciding whether or not somebody is vegan, my answer is usually, “who cares?” I want to spend my limited time protecting animals—not getting into endless arguments over who gets to call themselves a vegan. If someone eats nothing but plants but wears a leather belt, I think you and I have more important things to do than to protest that he’s not a real vegan.

Flexible Definitions Save Animals

If you’re not careful, it’s possible to make vegan diets sound excruciatingly restrictive to newcomers. We must therefore always strive to use the word vegan in ways that inspire change rather than inhibit it.

I’m therefore a big fan of the foot-in-the-door technique when discussing vegan topics. I often seek to convince people to make a small change in a vegan direction today, since I know that once they see how satisfying it is they’ll be open to making bigger changes tomorrow. If we manage to present the vegan concept in appealing terms, we’ll be much more able to stick our foot in the door before it closes.

I suspect the reason some people define veganism in strictest possible terms is that they think doing so will inspire more perfect lifestyle choices and thus prevent more animal suffering. But that sort of approach may be counterproductive. Most of the incidental uses of animal byproducts will automatically disappear as slaughterhouses shut down because we’ve stopped raising animals for food. For that to happen, we must talk about veganism in ways that motivate people to shift their diets towards plants.

The Plumber’s Snake

While most people would regard me as a strict vegan based on my diet and lifestyle choices, I don’t consider this word to be a big part of my identity. I rarely feel the urging to tell people I’m vegan, even during long conversations involving food politics. And I refuse to take the word too seriously, especially as a marker for who I am as a person. I see veganism much the same way I regard a plumber’s snake. It’s merely a tool to get a job done.

I use the word vegan in whatever sense I can to inspire change. Just like a plumber’s snake does its job by bending this way and that in order to clear obstructions, I bend the word vegan in whichever way serves my purpose at the moment.

Can You be “Mostly Vegan”?

Here are some phrases I frequently use in order to nudge people toward plant-based lifestyles:

  • 80 percent vegan
  • vegan at home
  • mostly vegan
  • vegan until 6:00

Phrases like these really piss off the vegan fundamentalists. They’ll proclaim you can’t be a little bit vegan any more than you can be a little bit pregnant. Sometimes they’ll even feign an inability to understand what “mostly vegan” or “80 percent vegan” is supposed to mean.

But I presume a functioning level of intelligence on the part of my listener, and if you can’t figure out that 80 percent vegan means eating vegan around 80 percent of the time, you’ve got much bigger problems than how I define the word vegan.

A Delicate But Useful Comparison

Time now for a quick detour bound to antagonize a few readers. But the comparison I’m about to offer makes a vital point that I don’t know how else to convey.

If you want to spread Christianity, you don’t need more guys walking around with giant crucifixes hanging from their necks. What spreads Christianity are people who humbly follow Christ’s deepest teachings of forgiveness and charity. This is truly leading by example, and it’s the sort of behavior that inspires others to upgrade their own conduct and character. If you want to make more Christians, the best way is to act more Christian—in the deepest sense of the word.

Some people seem to base their entire identity around being vegan. Their way of framing the ethics of eating is often strikingly similar to religious fundamentalists. They’re invariably inflexible about definitions, since they want to keep the meaning of vegan as exclusionary as possible. Veganism becomes all about reinforcing their personal sense of identity.

No fundamentalist sect will ever take over the world. Invariably the requirements to become part of their sect are so restrictive that it will always rule out 99 percent of the population. If vegan diets are to become the norm, we need to use this word with the intention of inviting and including rather than excluding.

When to Cut Short a Conversation

There are certainly occasions that warrant using the word vegan in the strictest possible sense. But the people who insist on exclusively defining vegan to convey absolute moral purity have fallen into fundamentalist thinking. When you encounter these people, you’ll probably discover there’s no way to have a good faith give-and-take conversation.

In time, your spidey-sense kicks in whenever you find yourself talking to one of these people. In these cases, I’ve learned it’s best to politely end the conversation and let them have the last word. They’re going to get the last word anyway. And since they rarely make a sincere effort to listen, every moment of dialog is generally a waste of breath.

I’d rather devote my limited time to having conversations with the millions of omnivores who are open to thinking more carefully about their food choices.

The Case for a Vegan Diet

We will never converge on a meaning of vegan that pleases everybody. But now that we have a working definition it’s time to move on to more important things. Specifically, it’s time to move past what vegan means, to why people embrace this concept.

The best place to get up to speed on that is to read my essay titled, “Why Go Vegan?” You can finish it in under an hour, and it’ll acquaint you with the main reasons that people choose a vegan lifestyle. If you find the arguments persuasive, you’ll also want to check out my “How to Go Vegan” guide. It’s much easier than you may realize to rid your life of animal products. In fact, as you progress down the vegan road, you’re certain to enjoy eating more than ever before. That’s primarily because vegan food is incredible.

Stepping Toward a Vegan Lifestyle

If you’re moving toward a vegan diet, two books especially worth your time are But I Could Never Go Vegan! and my own, The Ultimate Vegan Guide.

Whether we’re talking about food or clothing or cosmetics, cutting out animal products is generally easy. But sometimes, it’s not obvious whether a particular item comes from animals. In these cases, you can check our animal ingredients list for the most common animal-derived foods, materials, and substances.

No matter how far down the vegan road you travel, it makes sense to start by emphasizing dietary choices. After all, the overwhelming majority of animal exploitation in this world arises from food production.

I expect that this essay has made it apparent why large numbers of people are deciding to go vegan. Avoiding animal products makes sense on so many levels.

Vegan is a uniquely powerful word. In fact, it’s probably the most important term ever coined in the service of animal protection. Unfortunately, the word can be misused in ways that give it as much potential to repel as to attract. I’ve therefore sought to define vegan in a context that unlocks its full power, without ever coming off as rigid, preachy, or uptight. I hope you’ll make use of the vegan concept in whichever ways best enable you to remove animal products from your life, and to inspire others to do the same.

For further reading: Why Go Vegan? and How to Go Vegan.

Reducetarians and demi-vegetarians are usually driven by concern for the environment and/or animal suffering, but may also cite health reasons for the main motivation to reduce their consumption of animal products.

I fully support reducetarians, and I think this will be a really important movement in helping to create a healthier earth. Reducetarians are welcome here 😉

Pescetarian

Pescetarians avoid meat but consume seafood, eggs and dairy. Pescetarians either avoid meat for health or personal taste reasons, or if concerned about animal welfare it may be a stepping-stone to vegetarianism.

Vegetarian

Vegetarians typically avoid meat and seafood but consume animal products such as eggs and dairy. Vegetarianism by definition doesn’t include avoiding products such as leather or fur, but many vegetarians do avoid wearing or purchasing these things. Most vegetarians would not engage in hunting.

Many vegetarians are concerned about the environment, animal suffering and other ethical issues and make steps to reduce their support of unethical industries. However vegetarianism by definition doesn’t necessarily involve a political or philosophical set of beliefs, and many people avoid meat purely for health reasons so they may not be concerned about the issues outlined above. People may also be vegetarian for religious reasons. Vegetarianism is often a stepping-stone to veganism, as most vegans were vegetarian before they became vegan.

Vegan

The definition from the Vegan Society describes veganism as “a way of living which seeks to exclude, as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.”

It is important to remember that veganism is first and foremost a political and philosophical ideology before it is a way of eating. Vegans are also often activists, and the principles of veganism are central to a vegan’s life. Vegans don’t just avoid eating animal products; they also abhor and protest the use of animal’s bodies (skins, fur, bones, fat etc.) in products for human use or consumption.

Veganism often overlaps with environmentalism and feminism (but not necessarily).

Plant-based

Plant-based eating is essentially the same as the vegan diet; avoiding all meat, seafood and animal products. However, plant-based differs to veganism in that it only refers to someone’s diet and not their political, philosophical or ethical beliefs about the environment or animal suffering. Plant-based is a health/food term only, it doesn’t necessarily tell you anything about a person’s beliefs in regards to the environment or animal suffering. However, many people that describe themselves as plant-based are often also ethically conscious and concerned about animal suffering and/or the environment.

Although I follow an almost entirely vegan lifestyle, I tend to use the term “plant-based” for my blog as I want the focus to be on food, recipes and health which fits better under the plant-based banner. The goal for my website is also to encourage people to reduce their consumption of animal products by showing them all the amazing, healthy and delicious plant-based food they can eat instead. My target audience is made up of anyone interested in eating more plant-based food, including those who eat meat and reducetarians. It’s important to me that my website doesn’t become a “vegan club”, appealing only to established vegans and therefore not making a difference. I will talk more about this and why I believe it’s the best approach in another post, but for now I hope this explains what being plant-based is all about, and why it works for me.

Gone are the days when plant-based food meant bland salads and disappointing burgers, when “vegan leather” was just an oxymoron, and the closest thing you had to a vegan friend was the quirky, meat-free songstress Phoebe Buffay.

Now, veganism is everywhere. Burger King offers a Whopper with a vegan meat patty, Tesla cars come with cruelty-free leather, and when KFC UK launched a vegan chicken burger, it sold out in four days, performing 500 percent better than the average new product.

By now it’s likely you know a vegan, a vegetarian, or somebody who’s trying to eat less meat. So what is the definition of a vegan diet? And why do people go vegan?

Vegans do not eat or use animal products.

What Is a Vegan Diet?

A vegan diet includes no animal products. Animal products can mean anything from meat (including fish), cheese, eggs, honey, and gelatin (a food ingredient obtained by boiling the skin, bones, or tendons of animals). If a food is made by or out of an animal, it’s not vegan.

A vegan diet, also known as a plant-based diet, can be rich in anything else – fruit, vegetables, grains, nuts, and legumes. Don’t be fooled; creatives in the culinary world use these ingredients to make everything from stretchy dairy-free cheese and vegan ice cream to meaty plant-based burgers. And you don’t have to do the hard yards in the kitchen yourself (unless you want to). Most supermarkets stock a variety of vegan products and more and more major fast-food chains are jumping on the bandwagon to cater to the rising number of people eating animal-free.

Vegan food is rich in fiber.

Vegan Diet and Health

More people are turning to plants for the good of their health. Health was the most popular motivator for the participants of this year’s Veganuary campaign, which sees people going vegan for the month of January. Forty-six percent of the 250,310 participants named health as their main reason for taking part.

A growing body of research is pointing to the harmful effect of meat, dairy, and eggs on the body. In 2015, the World Health Organization (WHO) named red meat a Group 2 carcinogen, meaning it is probably carcinogenic. WHO classified processed meat like bacon and pepperoni in the Group 1 category, signifying that it causes cancer in humans. Asbestos and tobacco smoking are in this category, too.

Meat consumption has also been linked to diabetes, liver disease, kidney disease, and arthritis.

While a meat-based diet could cause the onset of disease, research suggests eating plant-based could actually help you live longer. Vegan foods are rich in fiber, unlike animal products, which contain none. Researchers from the University of Otago studied the link between diet and disease earlier this year. Looking at data from 185 observational studies, they found that those who consume the most fiber are 15 to 30 percent less likely to die prematurely. They also discovered a 16 to 24 percent reduced incidence of type 2 diabetes, stroke, and colon cancer among those who follow fiber-rich diets.

Vegan foods also contain no cholesterol. Dietary cholesterol is only found in animal-based foods. High cholesterol can lead to plaque forming along the inside of the artery walls, causing the artery to narrow and blood flow to decrease. This raises the risk of stroke, peripheral artery disease, and heart disease. A study conducted by the Cleveland Clinic in 2018 suggested that red meat could increase the risk of heart disease 1,000 percent more than a plant-based diet.

Animal agriculture is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than the transportation sector.

Vegan Diet and the Environment

“A vegan diet is probably the single biggest way to reduce your impact on planet Earth,” not just greenhouse gases, but global acidification, eutrophication, land use, and water use,” Oxford University researcher Joseph Poore said in a statement last year.

Poore was the lead researcher on the world’s most comprehensive analysis of farming’s impact on the planet. The analysis saw the researching team assessing the environmental impact of the 40 food products that make up 90 percent of the total food consumed around the world. To do this, they analyzed data from around 40,000 farms in 119 countries.

The study found that many environmental issues could be helped by reducing meat and dairy consumption. If those industries were removed, land use could be reduced by more than 75 percent. That would free up an area the size of the U.S., the European Union, China, and Australia combined — all capable of feeding the world’s population.

Animal agriculture also uses vast amounts of water. “Beef has a particularly high water footprint at about 1,800 gallons per pound, while pork follows at 578 gallons and chicken with 468 gallons,” says environment website Water Calculator. “On average, the water footprint of a vegan or vegetarian is around half that of a meat-eater.”

Animal-based food production is also linked to ocean dead zones, water pollution, deforestation, and species loss. It’s a leading generator of greenhouse gas emissions, which drive climate change. Animal agriculture is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than the world’s entire transportation sector, a fact that prompted the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to name meat “the world’s most urgent problem.”

“Our use of animals as a food-production technology has brought us to the verge of catastrophe,” it added.

Global food-related emissions could drop by 70 percent before 2050 if the world went vegan, according to a study published today in the journal Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences in 2016.

Concern about animal welfare drives some people to go vegan.

Vegan Diet and Ethics

A survey by Vomad asked nearly 13,000 participants why they went vegan. Most — 68.1 percent — named animal welfare as their main reason.

The decision to stop eating animal products helps some align their behavior with their beliefs. Many people would call themselves an animal lover. Forty-five percent of Brits have an animal living with them. Most (93 percent) pet owners claim that having a pet makes them happy and 88 percent say it improves their overall quality of life.

Social psychologist and author Dr. Melanie Joy has researched the concept of carnism, a set of beliefs that lead people to eat some animals but not others.

Joy believes that although most people do not want animals to suffer, social conditioning steers many toward animal-based diets. She claims that this can cause cognitive dissonance, mental discomfort experienced by those who hold contradictory beliefs.

To prevent this discomfort, people subconsciously shift their views on animals to see them as food rather than sentient beings. The meat industry does well to further this by marketing cow meat as beef, pig meat as bacon, and calf meat as veal.

Documentaries like “Dominion” uproot this way of thinking. The 2018 film uses hidden camera and aerial drone footage to expose the “dark side of animal agriculture.”

Many people subscribe to the belief that farm animals live out happy lives before being sent to slaughter. However, an analysis from the Sentience Institute found that approximately 99 percent of animals in the U.S. meat industry live on factory farms.

Factory farms slaughter billions of animals every year.

The Truth About Factory Farms

Factory farming, also called intensive animal farming, aims to maximize production. Some factory farms keep hens in cages the size of an A4 piece of paper. Others confine mother pigs to sow stalls so small that they cannot turn around. The industry permits workers to remove parts of animals’ bodies without pain relief; chicks have their beaks cut off and calves have their horns, tails, and testicles removed.

The meat, dairy, and egg industries also cut animals’ lives drastically shorter than their natural ones. The natural lifespan of a chicken is eight years. But chickens bred for meat are killed as early as six weeks old. Cows can live to be 20 or older. But those raised for meat are sent to slaughter at just 18 months old. Lambs are killed at six months even though many will naturally live to be 14 or older.

The Daily Mail called “Dominion” the “scariest movie ever made”. Many say they can’t make it past the 10-minute mark due to the confronting nature of the footage. High Note Cafe in Idaho stopped serving animal products and went completely vegan after its manager watched just 15 minutes of “Dominion.”

Adopting a vegan diet also supports human rights issues.

Experts say we are growing enough food to feed 10 billion people. Yet almost 795 million — or one in nine people — suffer from chronic undernourishment. Between one-third and one-half of the world’s crops are fed to livestock. Eighty-two percent of starving children live in countries that grow crops for animals raised for Western consumption.

A study published by the National Academy of Sciences last year found that we could feed an additional 350 million people by swapping animal-based foods with vegan alternatives.

Summary Article Name What Is the Definition of a Vegan Diet? Description What is the definition of a vegan diet? All your questions about meat, eggs, dairy, and even honey answered once and for all. Author Jemima Webber Publisher Name LIVEKINDLY Publisher Logo

 What Being Vegetarian or Vegan Means

Being a Vegetarian.

Being vegetarian means feasting on a wide range of foods: all the luscious fruits and vegetables you can think of; wonderful, comforting beans and lentils; nuts and seeds, free-range eggs and flavoursome cheeses.

It means living a life that does not involve killing fish and animals for food, so no meat, poultry or fish, and nothing that has been taken from meat, such as lard, dripping or goose fat. Animal products are often used in the process of making foods and vegetarians and vegans have to check carefully for these. For example, gelatine (made from the bones and connective tissue of animals) is used as a gelling agent in many sweets and jellies and is also used in some low-fat spreads and desserts; fish is often used in the wine-making process and rennet (from the stomachs of young calves) is used to make some cheeses.

Vegetarian versions of most cheeses are widely available, and tend to be clearly labelled. There are some cheeses, however, that are never vegetarian. These include traditional Parmesan cheese, most Gruyère and some blue cheeses: Roquefort is never vegetarian and neither is Dolcelatte. As more and more people become vegetarian, I am sure the range of suitable cheeses will continue to increase. For more details about vegetarian cheeses, click here.

For more about the advantages of being vegetarian, click here and for more about how to go vegetarian, click here, or for the answers to all those niggling questions, click here.

Being a Vegan.

Like vegetarians, vegans don’t eat any animals that have been killed, and also avoid animal products altogether, so that means no eggs or dairy products and, usually, no honey either. For more about becoming vegan, click here.

Vegans, and an increasing number of vegetarians, also avoid wearing or using products derived from animals or that may have involved cruelty to animals: so no leather, wool or silk, or soap, beauty and household products that contain animal products or have been tested on animals. For information about cruelty-free products and foods, see Animal Free Shopper (external link).

Being vegetarian or vegan is a wonderful way to live as more and more people are discovering. You won’t miss out on any nutrients, you’ll have the great satisfaction of knowing that the choice you have made will save or improve the lives of thousands of animals, help bring about a fairer distribution of Earth’s valuable resources and dramatically reduce your carbon footprint while you enjoy fabulous food and look and feel fantastic!

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