Oct, 2020 - By Aditi Rathi
Veganism has gained popularity in the past few years with a large number of the population switching first to vegetarian diets and then vegan diets. But, what is veganism and why are people adapting it in their lifestyle? Are there any health benefits of going vegan?
This blog will answer all your questions about veganism and the health benefits involved with following a vegan lifestyle.
What is Veganism?
The term "Vegan" can be dated back to 1944 when a small group of vegetarians formed a vegan society and chose not to consume eggs, dairy, or other products originating from animals, and refraining from consumption of meat. Currently, veganism can be defined as a lifestyle that excludes all forms of animal cruelty and exploitation from food, clothing for any other purpose. But, why do they do that?
Why do people go vegan?
Adapting veganism is more like a responsibility towards animals, but also towards the environment we live, and our health. According to vegan statistics of 2018, around 8% of the world population is vegetarian and vegan which was later confirmed by recent United Nations estimates of 2020 that approximately 78 million people in the world with more than 7.8 billion population is vegan. There are several reasons for choosing to avoid animal cruelty including ethics, health, and the environment.
Ethical vegans believe that every creature has the right to life and its freedom of living. Therefore, they oppose every possibility of consuming animal flesh, milk, and either wear or use animal skin for treatments when there are alternatives available everywhere around. There are various human practices due to which animals go through physical and psychological stress such as testing on animals and modern farming practices which an ethical vegan strongly opposes. Thus, ethical vegans avoid the usage of products that involve animal agriculture.
There are a variety of reasons for people to go vegan, and the health benefits of a vegan diet have attracted a lot of focus. Vegans tend to be thinner, have lower cholesterol and blood pressure, and also have a 15% lower risk of dying prematurely from all causes. Health benefits of vegan diets are as follows:
Due to increased consumption of vegetables, vegans can miss out on essential nutrients that come from meat and dairy but this type of diet is usually high in magnesium, phytochemicals, fiber, folic acid, and vitamin C and E. Also, they are lower in saturated fat, calories, cholesterol calcium zinc omega 3 fatty acids, and vitamin B-12 and D. However, studies have found that a vegan diet can improve energy metabolism. Consumption of a healthy and vegetable-based diet results in better metabolic activities in an individual.
A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts, and whole-grains lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease development in an individual. Apart from vegetables and fruits, vegetable oils have more benefits due to their content of vitamin E, monounsaturated fats, and alpha linolenic acid. Due to the intake of lower fat content vegans are usually healthy than individuals focusing more on omnivorous diets. Fruits and vegetables have a higher content of antioxidant vitamins and fiber that dependently associates with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease.
There is a lot of evidence which suggests that vegans and vegetarians are at lower risk of developing cancer due to their nutrient intake and secondary effects such as improved metabolism. An unhealthy body is more prone to cancer risk, while vegans with lower BMI are at a lower risk of cancer.
Diets rich in vegetables and fruits have been known to lower the risk of mouth, lung, stomach, and esophagus cancers. Phytochemicals found abundantly in vegetables that occur at a higher rate in vegan diets have antioxidants that lead to restriction of the cells responsible for cancer progression. Vegan diets include nutrients which lowers the risk of cancer, however missing out on essential nutrients such as vitamin D have been associated with cancer risk. Therefore, more pronounced differences do not exist in the development of cancer between non-vegans and vegans.
According to studies, some mild-to-moderate improvements have been found in patients with migraine, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, and rheumatoid arthritis after consuming a vegan diet. Effects of a vegan diet on neurobiology and cognitive functions is one of the lesser-studied areas and therefore some studies who have focused on this genre have demonstrated that it is the lesser amount of gluten content in plant-based diets that improve cognition and mental health.
Animal agriculture adversely impacts environmental conditions, making it one of the reasons vegans choose to avoid animal products. Products obtained from animal agriculture cause higher greenhouse gas emissions and require more resources than plant-based options. Animal agriculture, for instance, contributes to three major greenhouse gases' emission; 9% of carbon dioxide emissions, 35-40% of methane emissions, and 65% of global nitrous oxide emissions-involved in climate change as per a report of United Nations in 2010.
In addition to emission of greenhouse gases, animal agriculture is also responsible for consumption of water in huge volumes, annually. For example, the production of one pound of beef needs 550-5,200 gallons of water that is up to 43 times more water than what is needed to produce one pound of cereal grains.
Moreover, animal agriculture also promotes deforestation, leading to destruction of habitat and extinction of various species of animals.
After going through these statistics it can be said that veganism is one of the solutions to environmental destruction taking place globally.
Types of veganism
Although people are highly motivated by veganism, it is hard to adapt overnight. Therefore, some small steps can also contribute to stopping animal cruelty and saving the environment. There are different types of vegan lifestyles:
Foods that vegans avoid and food which they consume
Vegans avoid all forms of food originating from animals which include meat, eggs, dairy and honey. Moreover, they also avoid ingredients such as casein, gelatin shellac, albumin, isinglass, pepsin, carmine, and whey which can be found in marshmallows, gummy candies, chewing gums, bear, wine, and breakfast cereals.
Commonly, some vegetarian dishes are also vegan if ingredients do not involve any dairy products and therefore vegetarians are more likely to adjust to such a vegan diet. Yet, various dairy products can be replaced with those derived from plants such as scrambled tofu, maple syrup, flax or chia seeds, and plant milk. Moreover, a vegan diet involves the use of vegetable oils that are used in the preparation of various cuisines. Also, vegan cheese and desserts, vegan meat can be consumed. However, these are processed products which often include artificial ingredients and additives.
Why one should opt for a vegan diet?
In conclusion to the entire guide to veganism, it can be said that a vegan diet is animal, health and environment friendly as well. If an individual is thinking about contributing to the creation of a better environment for humankind, veganism is a major step towards it. Some alterations to our lifestyle can help to lower the risk of several diseases and also help one achieve a better metabolism and a healthier lifestyle.
The COVID-19 pandemics an eye-opening event that has taken place due to animal cruelty. We not only need to fight COVID-19, but also learn from this pandemic. Moreover, New York City’s "Climate clock" shows a countdown that we have less than eight years to save our environment. That is a wake-up call to governments worldwide.
Veganism is a promising option but not impossible. There are various small steps that we can take individually to avoid environment and animal exploitation. These might include switching to cruelty-free products, opting for a vegetarian diet, slowly reducing the number of dairy products from the diet, and spreading more and more awareness among the community about these measures. In this human dominating world, veganism is a friendly hand towards our beloved animals. It is our environment, and only we can make it healthy and friendly.
It is better late than never to realize the importance of living in a healthy environment and understanding what we have done to it. If the entire society understands the critical condition we are in, seven years are more than enough to save not just humans but the entirety of “living-kind”.