Why to Become a Vegan

Vegetables, of course, are a big component of the vegan diet.
Vegetables, of course, are a big component of the vegan diet. | Source

The boom of fast food chains and processed foods is taking its toll on our health. More and more people are suffering from chronic illnesses like Heart Disease, Diabetes, High Blood Pressure, Dementia, and more. Pharmaceutical companies are developing more and more drugs to treat what ails us. But is medication the only way?

More and more people are embracing the fact that our health is a mirror image of what we eat. Physicians and medical experts are now teaching their patients how to eat well to be healthy. Many people have adopted a plant based vegan diet only to find that they no longer need medication for high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol. People who have struggled with obesity are enjoying the natural weight loss that comes with this lifestyle change.

If you have been looking for a way to improve your health and reduce your risk for developing chronic illnesses, the vegan diet may be for you!

Benefits of a Vegan Diet

You have probably been told for years to eat your vegetables and that vegetables are good for you. But just how good are vegetables and other plant based foods for you?

According to the Physician's Committee for Responsible Medicine, eating a diet based on plant foods can dramatically improve your health and repair and reverse some of the damage from disease that has been done over the years. Plants are naturally high in fiber and low in saturated fat. In other words, they are naturally healthy for you.

Some of the many benefits that you can glean from a vegan diet include:

  • a 40% decrease in risk of developing cancer as compared to those who eat meat and dairy products;
  • prevent heart disease and reverse atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is hardening of the coronary arteries caused by build up of cholesterol and calcium which is otherwise known as plaque.
  • lower blood pressure. Because plants have no cholesterol and low sodium, eating a vegan diet has been shown to lower blood pressure within 2 weeks.
  • better control and reversal of adult onset diabetes. Eating a vegan diet that is naturally high in fiber and complex carbohydrates allows insulin to work better. So, blood sugar is more easily controlled. The need for insulin injections in adult onset diabetes can be decreased or totally eliminated.
  • reduced risk of kidney stones.
  • reduced risk of gallstones.
  • decreased risk of osteoporosis. Eating meat may actually draw calcium out of bones, thus promoting osteoporosis. Countries eating primarily plant based diets have a lower incidence of osteoporosis than the USA.
  • decreased incidence and severity of asthma attacks.
  • reduced risk of Alzheimer's Disease.
  • natural weight loss.

Vegan vs Vegetarian

The term, vegetarian, describes a variety of diets that are plant based. Veganism is actually a form of vegetarianism. Under the umbrella term, vegetarian, there are many sub-categories. These sub-categories include:

  • Vegetarian - a broad term used to describe a person who consumes a plant based diet that does not include meat, fish or poultry
  • Semi-Vegetarian - describes someone who eats a plant based diet including poultry, seafood, dairy, and eggs. Semi-vegetarians do not eat red meat.
  • Ovo-Lacto Vegetarian - eats a plant based diet and includes eggs and dairy
  • Ovo Vegetarian - consumes a plant based diet and includes eggs.
  • Vegan - describes those who eat a plant based diet that does not include meat, poultry, seafood, dairy, or eggs.

The difference between the vegan and vegetarian diet are simple. The vegan diet is considered the strictest of vegetarian diets and also includes a life philosophy. The vegan lifestyle is driven by compassion for animals. Vegans do not consume any animal products but also do not use any animal products like leather, wool, silk, or down.

Natural peanut butter, almond milk and pure maple syrup are foods that can be enjoyed on a vegan diet.
Natural peanut butter, almond milk and pure maple syrup are foods that can be enjoyed on a vegan diet. | Source

What Can Vegans Eat?

Vegans eat a healthy variety of grains, legumes, vegetables and fruits. If you have been a meat eater all of your life, you may think that by eliminating meats from food choices that your new diet will be bland and limited. Nothing could be further from the truth! A vegan diet can be varied and offers a wide selection of foods that provide the protein ordinarily consumed in the form of meat, eggs and dairy.

When eating grains, vegans focus on healthy whole grains. Whole grains have not been stripped of their bran and are high in fiber. They are complex carbohydrates that our bodies must work on for a period of time to digest. Whole grain foods take more time to chew and are more satisfying than their refined counterparts. You can increase whole grains in your diet by eating whole wheat or other whole grain bread, whole wheat pasta, and brown rice.

Legumes play a big role in the vegan diet. An excellent source of protein, legumes are seeds that grow within pods. Usually, it is the seed that is eaten. However, some pods are also consumed. This is the case with peas. Legumes are a wonderful source of protein, and just 1/2 cup provides 15% of the daily allowance of protein. Great sources of legumes include beans, lentils, peanuts, chick peas, and peas.

At the core of the vegetarian diet are vegetables. Vegetables provide vitamins and minerals, fiber, and small amounts of protein. Visit your local produce aisle and check out the wide variety of vegetables that are a part of both the mainstream American diet and the vegan diet.

Fruits provide additional fiber, vitamins, minerals, and a wonderful sweet or tart flavor. Usually used for desserts or snacks, fruits can be added easily to many recipes for a delightful new taste!

While typical dairy products are not consumed on the vegan diet, many alternatives are available. Almond or soy milk can be used instead of cow's milk. Ice cream made from soy or coconut milk is delicious! Visit your local organic or whole food market to learn about alternative dairy products.

Condiments like mayonnaise also have vegan counterparts made from plant sources. Pure maple syrup is an excellent sweetener. Give some condiments a try to discover which you like.

Vegan Diet Basics

Protein in the Vegan Diet

Called the "building block of life," protein is essential the the repair and growth of the body. According to the Physician's Committee on Responsible Medicine the average American consumes twice as much protein as is actually needed. Worse than that, though, is that the protein is usually from animal products that are high in cholesterol and saturated fat. It is recommended that you use simple math to determine your daily protein needs. To find your daily requirement of protein, use this equation:

your body weight (in pounds) x 0.36 = your daily protein requirement in grams

Protein needs can be easily met in the vegan diet. It is recommended that rather than focusing on counting grams of protein, you simply focus on eating a balanced diet that includes:

  • 5 or more servings of grain daily;
  • 3 or more servings of vegetables daily; and,
  • 2-3 servings of legumes daily.

High Protein Foods in the Vegan Diet

Food
Amount
Grams of Protein
Black Beans
1 cup
15 g
Chick Peas
1 cup
14.5 g
Peanut Butter
2 tbsp
8g
Seitan
4 oz
24 g
Tofu
1/2 cup
19.9 g
There are many plant based foods that are very high in protein and low in calories, cholesterol and saturated fat.
Beans are legumes.  Brown rice and whole wheat pasta are examples of wholegrain foods.
Beans are legumes. Brown rice and whole wheat pasta are examples of wholegrain foods. | Source

How to Be a Healthy Vegan

A vegan diet that includes a variety of whole grains, legumes, vegetables and fruits is naturally rich in vitamins and minerals. The one vitamin that is not available in plant foods is Vitamin B12. This vitamin is primarily found in animal products. Most multivitamins contain B12, and this is an option for ensuring your intake is adequate.

B12 is also available in fortified foods like cereals, soy milk, alternative meat products, and nutritional yeast. The daily requirement of Vitamin B12 is 2.4 mcg (micrograms) per day. One serving of a fortified cereal can provide more than twice the daily recommended allowance. So, read your labels and check for B12. Then, plan your meals to include those foods that will provide B12.


Learn More About the Benefits of a Vegan Diet

Need More Information About the Benefits of a Vegan Diet?

Forks Over Knives is an excellent resource for understanding all of the benefits of a vegan diet. The documentary showcases the life work of two prominent physicians, T.Colin Campbell, MD, and Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr., MD. Dr. Campbell's 40 years of nutritional research include The China Project which is the most comprehensive study on the impact of nutrition on health. Dr. Esselstyn's work has focused on the long-term affect of plant based nutrition on the arresting and reversal of heart disease. Forks Over Knives is a must see for the benefit of your health and fully explains the risks of eating animal products and the benefits of a plant based diet.

The Physician's Committee for Responsible Medicine is another great resource for learning more about how a plant based diet can improve health and longevity. Dr. Neil Barnard is the president of the organization. PCRM focuses on educating physicians, nurses, dietitians and community members on how plant foods can prevent and reverse many diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, alzheimer's disease, and cancer. The site is full of great information on how to implement a vegetarian diet. I encourage you to try the 21 Day Vegan Kickstart!

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Comments 12 comments

carol7777 profile image

carol7777 3 years ago from Arizona

though I read this with interest I probably will never become a Vegan. However we have a plant based diet and eat large amounts of produce daily...and limit animal protein..but we do like it. I think you did a great job on this subject and covered all the bases. Voting up and sharing.


donnah75 profile image

donnah75 3 years ago from Upstate New York

Forks OverKnives was life changing for me. I don't want to have the same health concerns that I see my parents struggle with. The transition is hard and I am not all the way there, but I am on my way to being plant strong! I won't call myself vegan, because I don't believe in the philosophy. Great article!


kansasyarn profile image

kansasyarn 3 years ago from Rural Midwest Author

carol7777, Thanks for taking the time to read. Sounds like you are bordering on semi-vegetarian. Good for you. To your health!


kansasyarn profile image

kansasyarn 3 years ago from Rural Midwest Author

donnah75, Thanks for sharing your feedback. I am a great fan of Forks Over Knives and the science behind vegetarian diets. Glad you enjoyed it!


Lucky Cats profile image

Lucky Cats 3 years ago from The beautiful Napa Valley, California

WOW! Excellent hub! Packed w/so much information. I really appreciate all the positive aspects to the Vegan diet and you've explained this clearly and concisely! Thank you so much for taking the time to write this.

Personally, I feel that we have been indoctrinated to believe that we MUST have animal products in order to live healthy, happy lives...of course, this is not true. It is weird to know that some actually still believe it to be fact. I have often wanted to draw a picture of two professionally dressed adults down on their knees, nursing from a cow while , in the next comic frame, a mother is trying to nurse her baby while the baby is actively pushing his mother away , instead, reaching for an available cow's teat.....this is how we've been taught...which is, of course, ludicrous.

You've done a great service full circle with this great article. Thank you. UP Useful, Awesome and Interesting


kansasyarn profile image

kansasyarn 3 years ago from Rural Midwest Author

Lucky Cats, Thanks for your kind comments! I feel like I am only beginning to learn of the many wonderful benefits that a plant based diet can yield. So glad, too, that the medical profession is now beginning to embrace nutrition education as a sound medical treatment.


point2make profile image

point2make 3 years ago

A very interesting and informative hub. Thank-you for all the info.....you have given me something to think about. I am beginning to realize that I need to make some lifestyle changes.


kansasyarn profile image

kansasyarn 3 years ago from Rural Midwest Author

point2make, I am so glad you took the time to read it. I wish you success and good health!


Lucky Cats profile image

Lucky Cats 3 years ago from The beautiful Napa Valley, California

Hi Kansasyarn; I "liked" on FB because this article is so thorough. Also, I have 10 acres in SE Kansas...just off HY 75....a little out of Independence....an animal sanctuary.


kansasyarn profile image

kansasyarn 3 years ago from Rural Midwest Author

Lucky Cats, Thanks for the like on facebook. I live in Northeast Kansas, about 90 northwest of Kansas City. We have a small 5 acre farm and enjoy living the country life. :-)


svdgczvmjv 3 years ago

I like this blog its a master peace ! Glad I detected this on google .


pocono foothills profile image

pocono foothills 2 years ago from Easton, Pennsylvania

Very informative Hub. Voted up. I am trying to get away from the type of diet that I grew up on, as I know it is bascially unhealthy. I've severely limited my intake of red meat, but haven't totally elimated it yet. I do eat poultry, fish, and dairy, but trying to move away from them too in the direction of mostly plant-based foods.

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