A diet that excludes the consumption of animal products is called a vegan diet. This means that a person subsists on only plant nutrition and avoids eating any form of meat, from beef to chicken and fish, as well as eggs, milk, cheese, and other animal-derived products. An English-born animal rights advocate named Donald Watson was the first to coin the term “vegan” in 1944 when he founded the Vegan Society. Watson created the concept of veganism as a logical progression of the vegetarian lifestyle, which itself forbade the consumption of any form of meat. The concept of veganism prior to 1944 was known as strict vegetarianism, which became popular in the 1800s in both the United States and Great Britain. Many reasons exist for adopting a vegan diet, including improved health and the defense of the environment. For many, animal welfare plays a significant role in their decision to go vegan, as some fear the inhumane treatment of animals in the production of food. By turning to a vegan diet, one may feel that they are not contributing to a system of animal cruelty.
A vegan diet is entirely based on plant nutrition and not animal products. This means it concentrates on fruits, vegetables, grains, seeds, legumes such as beans, and nuts. A vegan diet typically features soybeans to create meat substitutes, including tofu. Soybeans are an important part of the vegan diet not only because they provide a significant source of plant protein but also because they contain key amino acids. Vegans may also replace animal-based milk with milk produced from hemp, coconuts, soybeans, almonds, and grains such as rice. Vegans also tend to replace honey with products such as agave nectar, and there are vegan forms of cheese, mayonnaise, and even infant formula.
A diet in which a person abstains from meat and other animal products offers a number of significant health benefits over a normal diet. For instance, a vegan diet almost completely eliminates the consumption of cholesterol, especially bad cholesterol. This is because plants generate almost no cholesterol; cholesterol intake comes almost entirely from animal-based food products. As a result, a vegan diet results in a drastic reduction of cholesterol levels in the body. In addition, this type of diet also increases one’s levels of iron, magnesium, vitamins C and E, as well as dietary fiber and folic acid. Studies show that a vegan diet results in a reduction of calories and saturated fat as well as a lower risk of high blood pressure and type-2 diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and many types of cancer. On the other hand, a diet that consists of heavy meat consumption, particularly beef and other red meats, is high in cholesterol and saturated fats. These foods bring with them the elevated risk of various cancers, type-2 diabetes, stroke, heart disease, and obesity.
Veganism also helps reduce the negative effects of animal agriculture on the environment. Many farms have become industrialized so that large numbers of animals such as cows or pigs are consolidated in one facility or area. This increases the animal-based food supply, which may appear positive to non-vegans; however, industrialized animal agriculture has a devastating impact on the environment. Animals in these facilities produce massive amounts of waste, and this animal waste, or manure, releases large amounts of methane into the air and seeps into the soil, where it leaches into groundwater and can eventually make its way to larger bodies of water and threaten drinking water. Even non-industrialized animal agriculture is damaging to the environment, as it generally uses up large areas of land as pasture and in some areas is a cause of deforestation due to the need to create more space for livestock. The use of antibiotics and the erosion of soil are also problems that stem from the need for animal products for food. Ultimately, animal agriculture contributes significantly to water and ground pollution and also contributes to global warming.
For more information about plant-based nutrition, please review the following list of links:
- Vegetarian Diet
- 11 Convincing Reasons That Going Vegan Isn’t Crazy
- What Is Included in the Vegan Food Pyramid
- Why Go Vegan?
- The Impact of Industrialized Animal Agriculture on the Environment (PDF)
- Farming’s Toll On the Environment
- Factory Farming and the Environment
- Vegan Diet
- Are Vegan Diets Healthy? Are Vegans Healthier Than Omnivores?
- Vegan Food Guide
- Vegetarian and Vegan Diets and Heart Health
- Fats, Omegas, and Cholesterol
- The Risks of a Poor Diet and Being Overweight
- Fat Food Sources and Side Effects
- Center City Dental Services
- Center City Cosmetic Dentist
- Center City General Dentists
- Becoming a Vegetarian