Veganism, once thought to just be reserved for peace loving hippies, has really come a long way over the years for dozens of scientifically sound and ethical reasons. Contrary to popular belief, IT'S NOT CRAZY!!! Its recent popularity might stem from the HUGE environmental and health movements, but it is not to be confused with other fads. It has been around for thousands of years and is also a part of many religious beliefs. Many public faces have even joined in as well: Ben Franklin, Albert Einstein, Ford, Gandhi, Ellen DeGeneres, Joaquin Phoenix, Woody Harrelson, Miley Cyrus, Liam Hemsworth, Joan Jett, Morrissey, Sia, Pamela Anderson, Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones), Ellen Page (Juno), Alicia Silverstone, Ariana Grande, James Cameron, Wacka Flocka Flame, Travis Barker, and many more actors, politicians, and celebrities. You get the picture!
Here are some reasons we love veganism.
Weight loss and muscle building:
"Weak & scrawny" has been the stereotype for veganism for quite some time, but as the plant based fitness movement grows, that thought is diminishing quickly. More bodybuilders, long distance runners, and people simply looking for better health have transitioned into being vegan. Their results are amazing! Vegans can build muscle and strength just like meat eaters. Period. No matter what anyone tells you, "vegan" does not have to equal "weak" unless you let it. In fact, when building muscle the vegan way, you are building completely lean muscle since you aren't adding in all the LDL and saturated fats. Vegans may also feel the benefit of lower-calorie meals, which when compared to other dietary groups, means vegans are often leaner, have lower BMIs and body fat percentages. Overall, they weigh 5-20% less.
DON'T WORRY! You DEFINITELY will get enough protein. In fact, most of us may be getting too much. Why? Because society (ex. meat and dairy industry) may have influenced us into thinking we need a certain amount. A 140 lb woman needs at LEAST 50 grams a day, all of which can come from just plants alone. Many studies have proven that getting too much animal protein is actually harmful on your body! Thankfully, foods like lentils, alone, provide about 20 grams of protein in
just a cup. A cup of cooked spinach provides 5 grams! When weightlifting, you cause "damage" to your muscle in the gym and you're in a catabolic state. When you consume the protein afterwords, you get into a anabolic state and you're body send the aminos where they need to go in order to build & repair. Your body does NOT care whether you get that protein from a plant or an animal. No differentiation, just utilization.
-Tempeh (complete amino acid profile/complete protein)
-Benevolent Bacon (bacon substitute)
-Tofurky, Gardein, Sweetearth, Beyond products
-Protein powder (Ex: Sunwarrior)
-Flax milk + protein
-Flax waffles + protein
-+ several more
Ward off diseases, illnesses, & pains:
People are extremely sensitive about their diets, especially when you challenge what they have always believed to be true. If it comes to their longevity and overall health/well-being though, why not just take a minute to listen to the facts? Eating animal fats and proteins has been shown in studies to raise a person's risk of developing cancer, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, hypertension, Alzheimer's, heart disease, etc. Because they tend to be low in saturated fat, high in fiber, and packed with antioxidants, plant based sources of protein, iron, calcium, plus other essential vitamins & minerals really help mitigate some of these modern world health issues. Quite simply, vegan diets are just more healthful. It has been proven time and time again that a diet full of veggies is the single most effective way to stop the progression of disease, particularly heart disease, which alone kills about 1 million Americans every year. That's more than any other disease or illness and is heavily related to intake of animal products. Another interesting fact for the day: The EPA estimates that ~95% of the pesticides in the average American diet comes from meat, fish, and dairy. These products contain carcinogens and heavy metals that can't be removed through cooking or freezing. They can also be laced with steroids and hormones, which is all completely legal. Avoiding these awful things and replacing them with an abundance of antioxidants and vitamins & minerals also helps with joint pains and aches. In fact, many people have reported less of a need to take their painkillers or regularly visit their chiropractor.
The story of a full-flegged diabetic, 450+ pound man on 7 heart/blood pressure medications, getting 4 insulin shots a day, sticks in my mind. Because of his son and doctor, he went vegan. After ONE year, he lost ~190 pounds, without ANY exercise (which we don't recommend). He also took out four heart medications and three quarters of his insulin intake.
Vegans tend to eat seven or more pieces of fruit and veggies per day, meaning they have a 33% reduced risk of premature death compared to people who don't. When you transition to a vegan diet, you can add about 13 healthy years to your life!!! Studies have found that by 2050, widespread adoption of plant based diets would avert 8.1 million premature human deaths every year. This was found to be the case due to factors including the reduction of red & processed meats, which are considered carcinogenic, clog your arteries and slow down your immune system. For proof, check out the Asian countries that have adopted a vegan lifestyle. They have the longest life expectancy in the world!
One common thing that people have worries about, beside where vegans get their protein, is where their calcium will come from. It's great that people consider that because calcium is so very important to have so that our bodies don't end up stealing it from our bones. Overtime, without enough calcium, we will become weak and lose a lot of strength. This is nothing to worry about when becoming vegan though as there are plenty of foods packed with well absorbed calcium provided straight from nature! With dairy, the body doesn't absorb as much, only about 25%, which is why getting your calcium from plant based foods is better in the long run.
+ many, many more
More energy, younger skin, and better digestion:
We all know that the better nutrition you have, the more energy you have. They go hand in hand! Too much fat (bad fat) in your blood means that arteries won't work properly and your muscles won't get enough oxygen. This makes you feel tired and completely lethargic. Ever pick up some Whataburger around lunch time? Remember how you felt afterwards when you got back to work? Without that bad cholesterol and saturated fat, your body will feel more awake. The extra vitamins and minerals help a lot with that, too. Eating a lot of fiber rich vegetables pushes waste out of the body faster, also increasing energy. Vegans typically feel less constipated and have zero bowel issues. This is because dairy, in many people, causes a lot of bloating and back-up. Why? Well, for starters, the fat and protein content of animal milk is MUCH different than human milk, leading experts to believe that we are just not designed for consuming animal milks in any of their forms (cheese, cream, milk). When we take in things that our bodies aren't meant to, reactions happen. Another reaction is acne, blemishes, and skin irritation. Ditching dairy clears the skin and literally makes you look and feel radiant, almost overnight!
Let's not forget about B12! Extremely important to get in our bodies so we don't become anemic or acquire nerve damage. B12 intake is another thing people fear when becoming vegan, thinking it must be impossible to get if they aren't eating meat! FALSE. In fact, animals are actually supplemented with B12. So why would the idea of having a B12 supplement seem shocking? It's a good idea to see a Dietitian to find our what your B12 levels are and how much you may need, but until then, there are many ways to get it in with a vegan diet.
Fortified plant milks
Fortified plant yogurts
Nutritional yeast (good seasoning for cooking)
Fortified breakfast cereals
If these health facts aren't enough, maybe consider that nearly 70% of greenhouse gas emissions (yes, that's a real thing) are a direct result of animal agriculture, livestock, and their byproducts, putting factory farming, which covers about half of the earth's land, wayyyyy ahead of transportation. Not to mention the methane produced, which is 25-100x more destructive than CO2, or the 76 trillion gallons of water used. Finally, if that still doesn't strike a chord, one person can spare almost 400 innocent animals per year by giving up animal products. You can also save about 402,000 gallons of water, 11,000 sq. ft. of forest, 7,000 lbs of CO2, and 15,000 lbs of grain. Basically, animal use is the leading cause of species extinction, ocean dead zones, water pollution, habitat destruction, and bad health. So when it comes to your overall health, environment, and the birth given rights of animals, going vegan is an all around win! Given the wide array of tasty and simple vegan meals that are bursting with fruits, vegetables, and vibrant colors, making the switch is easy! (To see many more astounding facts, check out http://www.cowspiracy.com/facts)
1. Go at your own pace. Just like quitting smoking, going vegan may take some getting used to. Start by making small changes.
-Increasing your vegetables at each meal.
-Removing meat or dairy one day a week. (Giving up cheese is NOT as hard as it may seem)
-Changing one meal at a time, like having vegan breakfasts during your first week, and so on
-Try changing one product at a time, like swapping cows milk for almond milk.
2. Plan to do it as safe and as healthy as possible
-Make sure you're getting all your essential nutrients
-Just because you're eating vegan doesn't mean it's all healthy. There are also vegan junk food alternatives, too!!!
-Seek advice from a dietitian that understands what you are looking for
-Forget about your comfort zone
-Check the thousands of vegan recipes.
-Try new, delicious dishes.
-Make variations on your old favorites.
-There are plant based alternatives for almost everything, so you don't have to miss out on any of your favorite foods.
4. Seek out new info all the time & ask for help
-Veganism is a learning curve
-Talk to other vegans
-Use the internet!!!
-Seek out social media groups and pages for help, you'll be amazed at how many there are
5. Remember why & don't give up
-Remind yourself the reasons you decided to change
-Remind yourself of the benefits you reap
-Do things to reaffirm your decision:
-read books to teach you more
-watch uplifting videos on veganism
-check out an animal sanctuary and get to know their wonderful personalities
-Find other people with similar beliefs and interest
-look on social media for other vegans and vegetarians
-download the "Meetup" app and go to events, potlucks, and meetings
Breanna is an ACSM certified Health Fitness Specialist and a degreed professional with her Bachleors of Science in Exercise Science and a Minor in Nutrition. Breanna has a passion for helping others and for health and wellness. She is eager to help you reach your fitness and body goals, contact her by phone at 210-495-3131 or message on the website and get started today!