Debunking vegan-ism and becoming aware of the common myths and facts about vegan and plant-based diets is imperative. It will assist you in making a conscious decision on whether it is the right choice for you.
In today’s day, the number of persons identifying as vegan or following a plant-based diet is on the rise. Celebrities such as talk show host Ellen DeGeneres and actor Toby Maguire, athletes such as tennis star Venus Williams and NBA player Kyrie Irving, singers such as Ariana Grande and Miley Cyrus all identify with a vegan diet. By definition, vegans are individuals who choose to avoid consuming animal products for either ethical, health or environmental reasons — or a combination of the three.
The terms ‘vegan’ and ‘plant-based’ are often used interchangeably. However, there are differing opinions on who a vegan truly is. For some, following a vegan diet is an enough to call themselves vegan. For others deeply invested in the vegan culture, veganism is more than just following a diet free of animal products. Veganism is defined as a way of living that attempts to exclude all forms of animal exploitation and cruelty, be it for food, clothing or any other purpose.
Top Three Reasons for Choosing to be Vegan or Following a Vegan Diet
Ethical Reasons– Ethical vegans strongly believe that all creatures have the right to life and freedom. They deplore the small pens and cages in which many factory farmed animals spend their life.
Health Reasons – Some choose a vegan diet for its potential health benefits including the reduction of inflammation in their bodies, increase of energy and to avoid side effects linked to antibiotics and hormones used in modern animal farming.
Environment – Many choose to avoid meat and animal products due to the environmental impact of animal agriculture. Meat production is wasteful, causes pollution and the industry is a major contributor to climate change.
Pros: Benefits of following a Plant-Based Diet
- High in anti-inflammatory foods such as antioxidants, phytonutrients, essential vitamins such as vitamin C, E and A, trace minerals, electrolytes and essential fatty acids.
- High fiber diet helps prevent cravings, overeating, lowers your risk of constipation, digestive problems and reduces your risk of high cholesterol, heart disease and diabetes.
- Plant-based diet contains more enzymes, vitamins and minerals
- Improves energy levels and alkalizes body
- Can reverse certain health conditions by reducing inflammation
- Consuming a plant-based diet can make it easier to get enough pre and probiotics to maintain a healthy gut environment.
- A plant-based diet tends to contain fresh produce, often in its raw form which allows for the higher intake of antioxidants and enzymes
- Less impact on the environment as eating plant-based foods take fewer natural resources to produce and reduces your carbon foot print
Cons: Disadvantages of following a plant-based diet
- Not all vegan diets are healthy. New vegans may choose a lot of processed foods, high in oils, trans fats, sugars and added salts.
- The issue is doing a vegan diet long term. You cannot get enough benefit rich vitamin B12, zinc and certain other nutrients in your diet from consuming a vegan diet. As such, proper supplementation is required.
- It is also difficult to get the proper amount of amino acids from a vegan diet which can lead to protein deficiency. As such, proper food combining is essential.
- Higher intake of antinutrients like phytic acid which are present in grains, beans and legumes. These inhibitors can block digestive enzymes and cause digestive upset. However, soaking and sprouting your grains and legumes can greatly reduce phytic acid.
- Overconsumption of carbohydrates can cause candida and yeast overgrowth, along with weight gain. It is important to strike a balance with the consumption of carbohydrates and hidden sugars when following a vegan diet.
Debunking Vegan-ism Myths
Vegans never get disease– diet is one aspect of obtaining optimal health. However, there are various other aspect to consider like ones past diet/lifestyle history and genetics. Vegans like all others can be subject to health conditions.
A vegan diet is all that is needed for health– while a vegan diet can be a healthy choice, it is only one part of an overall plan for optimal health. Other areas such as physical and mental wellness also need to be addressed.
A vegan diet provides all nutrients from plants– surely, a rainbow-colored, whole food plant based diet provides many nutrients but it does not provide all nutrients as mentioned above. Obtaining maximal health benefits from a plant-based diet requires supplementation of various nutrients.
The bottom line is a healthy vegan diet is a whole-food plant based diet and not a junk food diet. So, is a vegan diet right for you? It really all depends on your individual body needs!
In closing, whatever diet you choose to follow, it is important to eat a diet that you thrive on and ensure that you diet is rich whole, unprocessed, high-quality plant and/or animal-based foods for optimal health.