What is Vegan?
The word ‘vegan’ was used for the first time in 1944. A small group of vegetarians broke away from the Leicester Vegetarian Society, UK to make a Vegan Society. This group gave up eggs, dairy, and products of animal origin. This means besides refraining to consume meat they gave up milk, curds, wool, etc., veganism attempts to prevent cruelty to animals in any form. Be it for clothing, food, or any other purpose.
These people went vegan for various reasons.
Vegans believe every creature is equal and has the right to freedom and dignified existence without exploitation. They believe they don’t have to consume the animal’s flesh, wear its skin or drink its milk. Especially when there are alternatives available to prevent unnecessary cruelty.
Vegans believe that this form of exploitation causes physical and psychological stress to the animal. The stress is enhanced because of modern farming and dairy practices. Moreover, unnatural feed is offered to the herbivorous livestock such as bone meal. Then there are other malpractices such as killing and grinding of male chicks by the poultry industry. This feed is given to the ducks being prepared for the foie gras markets.
Vegans express their ethical stand on these issues by not consuming products that are cruel to animals in any manner. Veganism aims to raise awareness and protest so that people choose to make gentler choices.
Veganism enhances health and delays age-related diseases. A plant-based diet reduces the risk of Type 2 diabetes, cancer, heart diseases, premature aging, and death. A vegan diet reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative diseases.
Veganism also helps avoid unnecessary stress due to side effects linked to the use of hormones and antibiotics used in animal husbandry. Besides, many studies point to a link between lower body mass index (BMI) and bodyweight because of a vegan diet.
Vegans choose to avoid animal products to reduce their impact on the environment. The United Nations report (2010) informs that these products require more resources such as land and water. They also lead to higher emissions of greenhouse gases.
Animal husbandry adds 65% nitrous oxide, 35% methane, and 9% CO2 per annum. Conversely, a vegan diet requires growing plants that fix the atmospheric carbon dioxide and other gases by the biogeochemical cycle.
Animal husbandry is a water-intensive activity as it requires the grass to be watered. To raise pastures, trees are cut down and water is diverted. Trees and brush may be burned to develop pastures. These practices add more carbon dioxide, soot, and other polluting gases to the atmosphere.
On average, they require 5500 gallons of water to produce a pound of beef. On the other hand, the same amount of cereal requires 43 times less water to produce.
Benefits of Veganism
A healthy skin, clear eyesight, a clean alimentary canal–there are many benefits of veganism. We elaborate on them here;
Vegan Food Is Rich in Nutrients
You will consume more whole grains, beans, vegetables, nuts, peas, seeds, etc. These whole foods carry more fiber and more unprocessed nutrients. These fibers and nutrients are closer to nature, thus easier to digest and process.
Naturopathy and Ayurveda believe food is medicine. Imagine suffering from no flatulence, acidity, food allergies, or lactose intolerance because of your diet. This is the benefit of veganism. Besides, the diet is rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, potassium, folate, vitamin A, C, and E.
But like every meal vegan diet should be well planned to be balanced. You should watch your diet for essential proteins, carbohydrates, fatty acids, iodine, zinc, iron, calcium, etc. Stay away from the fast-food options of vegan food and choose to eat homemade wholesome and fresh foods. This is because whole foods carry greater amounts of certain nutrients a healthy body and mind require.
Weight Loss And Control
More and more people are turning to a plant-based diet to shed those pounds. Observational studies have shown that vegans have a lower body mass index compared to non-vegans. Other studies have reported that vegan diets are effective in weight loss compared to controlled diets.
For example, one study compared the weight loss between two groups. Group A was given a vegan diet, and group B a control diet. The vegans lost 9.3 pounds more than the control diet group. Another interesting study found that vegans lost more weight compared to calorie-restricted diets. Even when the vegans could eat until they felt full.
Another study found that vegan and vegetarians lost more weight than the group following the standard Western diet. Another comparative study of five different diets – vegan, vegetarian and western. Found that the weight loss effects of vegan and vegetarian diets were as well accepted as the Western diet.
This means that a vegan diet reduces calorific intake without compromising the nutritional value of the food. This means it promoted weight loss without the need to actively watch the calories.
Lower Blood Sugar and Better Kidney Function
Veganism reduces the incidence of Type-2 diabetes and decline in kidney function. Vegans have lower blood sugar levels and higher insulin sensitivity. This reduces the risk of developing diabetes by 50 to 78 percent.
Studies have shown that a vegan diet reduces blood sugar levels in diabetics more effectively. It is more effective than the diets recommended by the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP), American Heart Association (AHA), and American Diabetes Association (ADA).
Another study showed that 43 percent of diabetics taking part in the vegan diet program could reduce the dosage of medication. This is 17 percent more than the group following the ADA recommended diet.
Another study reported that diabetics taking plant protein instead of meat reduce the risks of kidney failure. Several other studies report that a vegan diet offers complete relief from symptoms of systemic distal polyneuropathy. A condition that causes sharp and burning pain in diabetics.
Protection from Cancer
The World Health Organization says that a third of all types of cancers can be prevented by correct diet, habits, and environment. For example, including legumes in your diet reduces the risk of colorectal cancer by 9 – 18 percent.
Eating seven portions of vegetables and fruits daily reduces the risk of cancer by 15 percent. Vegans take plant protein like soy that protects them from breast cancer. This diet also protects from colon and prostate cancer as smoked meats and other dairy products are absent from their diet.
Lower Risk of Heart Disease
Fresh legumes, vegetables, and fruits are laden with fiber, vitamins, minerals, etc. that prevent heart disease. A well-planned vegan diet helps reduce the risk of high blood pressure by 75 percent. It also lowers the risk of dying by heart disease by 42 percent.
This is because a vegan diet reduces blood sugar and cholesterol levels compared to other diets. This is because vegans consume more nuts, whole grains, and fruits that offer fiber, minerals, and vitamins essential for a healthy heart.
Reduces Risk Of Arthritis
Studies show that a vegan diet brings health benefits to old and young with arthritis. Forty participants in a study continued eating their regular omnivorous diet while their health and arthritis were monitored. Then they switched to a vegan diet for six weeks.
During this time, they reported better energy levels, better bodily function, and less pain. Two other studies offered a pro-biotic rich, raw food diet and a vegan diet to the participants. The symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis were monitored through the course.
The studies reported that the subjects in the vegan group showed greater improvement in symptoms such as joint swelling, pain, morning stiffness over the others. Thus, we can conclude that a vegan diet reduces symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.
Veganism not only benefits our health but that of the planet. It is a sustainable way of living minus cruelty to animals. Veganism not only reduces the onset and effect of age-related neurodegenerative diseases. It also protects from diabetes, cancer, heart and kidney diseases. Besides, it mitigates conditions such as blood pressure and arthritic pain. Due to all these benefits, it is no surprise that veganism is gaining popularity by the day.