The Personal and Global Benefits of a Vegan Diet
What’s Not Good for Our Bodies
The food marketing messages and information we receive in United States has us eating food that literally makes us sick. For instance, the National Dairy Council has been selling us the “Milk, it does a body good” and the “Got Milk?” campaigns for more than a decade now and yet, milk isn’t good for us. Non-organic milk contains anti-inflammatory drugs like naproxen, antibiotics, hormones, sex hormones, steroids, anti-malaria drugs, anti-fungal drugs and anything else that might have been found in the contaminated feed. The truth is, milk doesn’t do a body good. Even the famous baby boomer pediatrician, Dr. Benjamin Spock, recommended no milk after age 2 due to the risk of heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, and diet-related cancers.
The typical American diet is heavy on chemicals, sodium and sugars, including chemically created sugars that mimic scores of illnesses and high fructose corn syrup which is added to thousands of products unnecessarily increasing our unhealthy caloric intake. Using milk as an example again, we are told to drink milk because it is high in calcium and Vitamin D, but neither of these are readily available in milk nor are they easily absorbed by the human body. What foods are high in calcium and vitamin D that is easily absorbed? Green leafy vegetables like kale and spinach, sardines, salmon and egg yolks. Where are the marketing campaigns for these healthy, nutritionally-rich foods? Enter the vegan diet which is good for us and for the planet.
Vegans are often thought of as radical animal rights people who eat raw, strange, tasteless foods. Nothing could be further from the truth. While many vegans are staunch animal rights supporters, many eat a vegan diet purely for its health benefits. Just what is veganism? It’s a diet that excludes meat, dairy, eggs, and other animal-derived products. That means no steak, cheese or mayonnaise.
You might think veganism is just one of these new fad diets, but it’s not. In fact, a vegan diet was first mentioned in 500 B.C. by Pythagoras of Samos, the Greek philosopher and mathematician. Pythagoras is famous for his theorems of right triangles, but he also advocated benevolence for all species on the planet, including humans. Additionally, the followers of Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism advocated vegetarianism, of which veganism is a form, so as not to inflict pain on animals. It wasn’t until the 18th century that veganism even caught on in western civilizations. Today, we are bringing the vegan diet to light, not only for its kindness towards animals and the planet, but also because a vegan diet can be exactly what you need to heal all of your preventable illnesses, aches and pains.
The benefits of a vegan diet are almost too many to mention here. However, I will do my best to give you a sense of the far-reaching value to our health of such a nourishing, wholesome and beneficial diet. As much of our traditional American diet is devoid of nutrition, a vegan diet is chock full of just what the body needs to heal and then stay healthy. The body’s natural state is one of vitality and in order to support that we need to give it what it needs. Let’s start with good solid nutritional value in the food we eat.
Most of the food we eat is dead. Dead food is food that has been cooked on high heat and thus has no real nutrition left in it. This applies to any food that is heated over 120F degrees which includes most of the foods we eat and almost all processed foods. Cooking food chemically changes additives into acid-forming toxins, free radicals and poisons that make us feel tired, achy, weak and sick. By contrast, live food is full of nutrition, including vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, probiotics and much-needed enzymes. If you choose organic fruits and vegetables, there are no chemicals to deal with and no toxins to ingest. So, instead of reaching for that sticky bun or package of potato chips for a mid-afternoon snack, why not mix up a quick vegetable drink with kale, spinach, an apple, and some fresh ginger? You will feel so much better and your body will thank you, too.
The advantages of a vegan diet include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Proper carbohydrates that your body can really use that won’t make you fat,
- More fiber than in your macaroni and cheese lunch, which reduces the chance of colon cancer,
- Loads of antioxidants that protect against cell damage and from some forms of cancer,
- Prevention of the following diseases:
- Cardiovascular disease by eating nuts and whole grains and eliminating meat and dairy,
- Lowering of blood pressure by eating whole grains and less sodium,
- Prevention of Type II diabetes, but also healing of Type II diabetes – yes, you read that correctly
- Lower your chance of breast cancer like women in other parts of the world who don’t consume large amounts of meat and animal products
- Alleviate arthritis by eating a vegan and gluten-free diet based on the most current research,
- Reduce the possibility of osteoporosis by eating a diet that is neither too high or too low in protein, has adequate amounts of calcium, is high in potassium and low in sodium.
- Improve your Body Mass Index (BMI),
- Enjoy healthier looking hair, skin, and nails by eating nuts and getting more vitamin A and E from your veggies,
- Reduce bad breath since those who eat a vegan diet rarely deal with this,
- Reduce PMS, allergies and migraines by eating a diet full of nutrition,
- Have loads more energy and
- Live longer since vegans tend to live an average of six years longer than non-vegans.
With so many of us dealing with preventable illnesses that include heart disease, stroke, cancer, Type II diabetes, and arthritis, a vegan diet could be the simple and easy way to get healthy and stay healthy so our quality of life is high, as we deserve it to be. There are benefits to other species on Earth and the planet itself. Read on.
The majority of the animal abuse in the United States comes from factory farming. For that reason alone, it would seem prudent to adopt a diet that was kinder to the animal world. If that isn’t enough, most of the current methods of food production are harmful to the soil, toxic to the water we drink (from chemical run-off including lawn chemical applications) and kills the natural planet ecosystems meant to help maintain the delicate balance so necessary for life. For instance, heating high fructose corn syrup to 45F degrees creates a by-product called hydromethyfurfural, which is toxic to bees. It is thought that this is the possible source of colony collapse disorder. We need the bees. We don’t need high fructose corn syrup.
A vegan diet provides lots of advantages to our quest for a healthier us, but it also helps the planet. Let’s look at the soil. We can get almost all vital nutrients from eating a plant-based diet, except for B12 and vitamin D. That’s because our soil contains minerals, enzymes, antioxidants and more that end up in our fruits and vegetables. We can’t get these from the pre-packaged foods in the middle of the grocery store. But, raising animals for consumption leads to soil erosion, soil toxicity, soil depletion and deforestation. Yikes. It seems an easy decision to eat a plant-based diet so we can save the soil and continue getting the healthy nutrients we need to thrive.
We could also conserve a lot of water and energy if we ate more vegetables. More than seventy percent of the fresh water on the planet is used in the agriculture of plants and animals, but it takes 100 – 200 times more water to produce a pound of beef than it does to grow a pound of plant foods. And a Cornell University study found that producing animal based protein requires eight times more fossil fuel energy than creating plant-based protein. That means we could save a lot of energy by eating more vegetables and fruits. It would be a win-win for us and the planet.
So many of us send money overseas to help feed those who are starving, but did you know that we could actually take a chunk out of world hunger by adopting a vegan diet. This is because seventy percent of the grain grown in America is used to feed livestock. By eating a vegan diet, we could send this grain overseas and end world hunger once and for all. There is no reason for anyone on the planet to starve.
The best words to describe the typical American diet are “too much”. We are eating too much animal protein, too many chemicals, too much sugar, and too much dead food. A vegan diet, full of organic plant-based foods would solve a lot of issues we currently face, personally and globally.
For assistance in delving into this healthy way of eating, books like Forks Over Knives and The Engine No. 2 Diet provide a great foundation for education, shopping lists and meal planning so you can try a plant-based diet. They both have great websites, too! If you can’t make a complete switch to a vegan diet, try having Vegan Mondays or eating a vegan diet one week a month. There are loads of great plant-based foods out there to explore. See for yourself how healthy you can be just from eating more fruits and vegetables.
Martha Rosenberg, “Got Propaganda? Why All of the Milk Industry’s Health Claims Have Been Proven Wrong”, AlterNet, March 12, 2012, accessed May 5, 2016, http://www.alternet.org/story/154443/got_propaganda_why_all_of_the_milk_industry’s_health_claims_have_been_proven_wrong
Dr. Joseph Mercola, “What’s Really in Your Milk”, The Dolce Diet, accessed May 5, 2016, https://thedolcediet.com/whats-really-in-your-milk
Claire Suddath, “A Brief History of Veganism”, Time Magazine, October 30, 2008, accessed May 5, 2016, http://time.com/3958070/history-of-veganism/
“57 Benefits of Going Vegan”, The Nursing School Catalogue, NursingDegree.net, accessed May 5, 2016, http://www.nursingdegree.net/blog/19/57-health-benefits-of-going-vegan/
Whitney Lauritsen, “5 Ways Being Vegan Saves the Planet”, VegNews, February 18, 2016, accessed May 5, 2016, http://vegnews.com/articles/page.do?pageId=4425&catId=3
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