Is Being Vegan Healthy?
Trends come and go, as do fad diets like keto, low-carb, and the list goes on. Throughout history, there have been many weird habits humans incorporated into their supplementary and dietary regimens including mummy tea, actual beaver’s tails, medicines containing opium, and other weird items.
One thing that has remained since the time of the gladiators is veganism and vegetarianism. Back in ancient Rome, they called this diet the gladiatoriam saginam, and it consisted of little to no meat consumption, rather focusing on alternatives like legumes, grains, and pulses.
It isn’t only the gladiators that follow this diet though because veganism has become especially popular in the past decade thanks to concerns over the effects of the meat industry on the environment and ethical concerns for animal rights as well.
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The amount of individuals eating vegan diets is the largest ever, but not all vegans are created equal. Your choices as a vegan, just like your choices as an omnivore, are what makes your diet and habits better or worse for your health, but we’ll go into detail later.
Being vegan is becoming more popular, but it still is in the sub-ten percent of all populations, with Israel having the most vegans at five to eight percent of its population following a plant-based diet.
If you love animals or work in jobs around animals, it might be in your interest to switch to veganism as well, due to the ethical concerns regarding factory-farmed meat.
What benefits are there to being vegan?
Let us first talk about passive or external benefits. When removing meats and meat byproducts from your diet it means you must replace those missing nutrients with other foods that can help you maintain a balanced diet.
When you think of vegans you first think of the environment. Many studies have revealed that the meat and dairy industry is responsible for 60% of agricultural greenhouse gas emissions, but the way of raising these farm animals is also crucial in these findings.
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Deforestation is also a big problem with these industries, even though animals raised on pastures rather than manually deforested plains have been proven to be healthier, take up less land, and excrete fewer emissions, not to mention it being somewhat more ethical as well.
The sector that focuses on creating feed for these animals is also horrible for the overall environment, with cattle receiving the larger chunk of soy production, which leads to water scarcity in soy-producing areas as well as leeching tons of chemical fertilizers into the surrounding areas.
Soy is healthy for humans, and if it were only produced for humans rather than both humans and cattle, it wouldn’t be creating such massive environmental problems.
One thing that needs to be mentioned is nitrous oxide, which only accounts for six percent of greenhouse gas emissions, but leaves the atmosphere extremely slowly, taking around 100 years to get broken down.
The whole effect of the meat and dairy industry creates a chain reaction that not many people think about. From greenhouse gas emissions hurting our atmosphere, which then acidifies our oceans, uses too much water and land, kills habitats, and eliminates species, the list can go on.
Now for the personal benefits.
When eating vegan, you are provided with more antioxidants, fiber, less cholesterol, and also more important minerals and vitamins. This is thanks to the diet heavily relying on vegetables, fruits, pulses, and grains. These nutrients include potassium and magnesium, as well as vitamins A, C, and E.
Properly planned vegan diets can also increase heart and kidney health, as well as aid those with type 2 diabetes since it has been proven that those following vegan diets tend to have lower insulin levels.
Vegans, if eating properly, also tend to have less body fat and better overall health. There have been many showcases of vegan athletes producing amazing outcomes within their sports sectors, which also goes to show how sustaining being vegan can be when done right.
What drawbacks are there to being vegan?
As mentioned earlier, some vegans are unhealthy because they’re simply not doing it right, just like omnivorous diets can be unhealthy too.
If a vegan is solely eating pasta, bread, margarine, Oreos, and pre-made vegan meals, it is unhealthy and will lead to health complications pretty quickly down the line.
Veganism also comes with certain deficiencies that can only be solved with some form of supplementation, be that pills or fortified foods. Such nutrients include B vitamins like B12 and iron (which is derived from meats the easiest).
Vegans are also at risk of more brittle bones since calcium is easily derived from dairy, something they can’t consume.
Genetics and lifestyle are also large factors for health, it has been speculated that some diets are better for certain genetics, but this goes for adults rather than children.
Trends in childcare have always changed throughout the decades, and making your child vegan has become one of the trends we have been seeing that is actually quite harmful. Let’s not even get into making carnivore pets eat vegan.
Children can get deficiencies the same as adults, and eating vegan can falter their growth unless parents focus on proteins, fats, and provide their children with an adequate caloric energy intake.
Of course, you could argue that supplementing the necessary nutrients could work for children, for example, calcium and fatty acids, but children and infants should still have omnivorous, diverse diets for the sake of their health and growth.
You also shouldn’t go vegan for weight loss, because people tend to not do vegan weight loss correctly, developing deficiencies and health problems next to that smaller size.
Vegan junk food is also a big health risk in the long run, especially with all these meat and dairy alternatives. Butter and cheese alternatives can be even worse for your health due to their ingredients and processing. Make sure to pay attention to your fat and sugar intake when indulging daily.
Fret not though, vegan diets have still been proven to have many benefits that outweigh those of omnivores, but all of these outcomes boil down to how healthy individuals are eating.
Always make sure to eat foods that are whole and high in nutrients, no matter what diet you follow, and never tip into extremes to continue a healthy and happy lifestyle for yourself.