Today is the first post of a little series I’m doing on the top 3 reasons to go vegan. While people choose this lifestyle for all kinds of personal reasons, there are 3 that seem to always stand out as primary motivators for people to go and remain vegan: health, the animals, and the environment. From my own personal experiences and talking with others, it’s common to gain a lot of knowledge in one of these areas, become super inspired to go vegan, and then learn even more about the other 2. This is definitely what happened with me!
With this series I won’t be able to go into every single little detail on each of these 3 topics – I wish I could! But I am going to share the general, overarching ideas behind each, my personal experiences, and most importantly some valuable resources that I’ve learned so much from, so that you can pick and choose how to learn more for yourself!
Another quick disclaimer before I get going. I realize there are literally hundreds of thousands of nutritional studies out there. You can ALWAYS find one to back up whatever your belief is – heck, there’s probably one saying it’s healthy to like eat just 27 lemons a day, spin in a circle 20 times and you’ll live to be 100 years old. My stance is that the studies done on plant-based diets are scientifically legitimate, peer-reviewed, and conducted with fidelity. Many studies that try to argue with or go against a plant-based, vegan diet are not as well-conducted, and in my opinion, almost always funded by big agricultural companies, or companies that have a stake in animal products doing well, monetarily speaking. All too often we see articles with some eye-catching, click bait-y title on Facebook, and believe it without even reading the entire thing. I’m guilty of this, too! But those types of things more often than not don’t contain valuable information. So, just keep in mind who is funding the studies you’re looking at, the methods, all that scientific jazz, so that the information you’re getting is legit.
Health was absolutely my initial motivator in going vegan. I wanted to feel and look good, and when I discovered all the benefits of a plant-based diet, I knew I was never going to go back. So today, we’re kicking things off and talking about HEALTH. I think this one is so crucial, because it’s where you will see the most immediate benefits of living this way. You will literally feel them, probably almost overnight.
Before I went vegan, I had NO idea the implications that raising animals to kill and eat them had on our health. Shortly after going vegan, I read this book and seriously could not believe everything in it. I was horrified, outraged, and elated all at the same time. Elated that I was finally eating in a way that is good for my health, but shocked at everything I never knew before. Learning that meat and other animal products – like milk and eggs, which are NOT healthy – are directly linked to of all of the leading causes of death in the United States was news to me. After reading that book, I started to think more critically about things I hadn’t before – for example, milk. Why in the world are we consuming another species’ milk?! And why did we choose cows and no something like a tiger or a bear? No other animal on the entire earth does this. Cow’s milk is designed to help calves grow to be thousands of pounds. So again…why are we drinking that? Cow’s milk is for baby cows. We are not baby cows. Common sense, but I had never even questioned it before, because it’s so socially ingrained. If you haven’t read that book, I HIGHLY recommend it. Everybody deserves to have information that can impact their own personal health on such a deep level. It’s the first book I read after going vegan and it is to this day my absolute favorite. It’s overflowing with legitimate scientific sources showing how terrible animal products are for you, and it’s pretty shocking what changing to a whole foods, plant-based diet can do for your health.
If the health aspect of veganism is of interest to you but you aren’t a big reader, check out What the Health and Forks Over Knives. Both are extremely popular, and incredibly informing documentaries on the health implications of animal products, and how a plant-based diet can give you amazing health and longevity.
Let’s talk about some arguments you may here about going vegan when it comes to health, because trust me, you’ll hear them. The more you know, the better you’re able to help others understand your choices and you may just open their eyes to what you didn’t know before as well. More often than not, people’s questions and comments come from a place of love and genuine concern. When that’s the case, it’s so critical that you speak from a place of compassion, and understand that you were once in their position of not knowing the truth, too. Just share what you know and why it’s so important to you to live your life this way, and people will probably respond well!
Nutrient deficiencies: “But where do you get protein?”
- I can literally feel vegans everywhere rolling their eyes. This question is a joke in the vegan community at this point, because it is so predictable and something people are SO concerned about. Honestly, I don’t blame people for asking. The media has drilled it into our brains that we need protein, protein, and more protein. After reading this book it all made sense to me. The media and marketing around protein and animal products is misleading and seriously confusing. We’re told foods like eggs are necessary for a healthy diet, that they’re packed with good protein. We actually need far less protein than we are told, but we’re pushed to buy it for economic reasons. Big animal agriculture companies fund studies that are so spun to feature their products as healthy, and some huge health organizations are funded by these companies, causing confusion that these products are good for us. People just hear the ads about milk or whatever other animal product being healthy and believe it, without looking deeper and seeing the study is absolutely horribly conducted or literally funded by the people promoting the product itself. People are being taken advantage of by these mass marketing projects whose only focus is to make money, and it’s sad.
- America is so concerned with getting enough protein, but think about it – have you ever met somebody with a protein deficiency? Probably not, unless you went to a developing country where there are people suffering from actual starvation, that are therefore lacking in all nutrients. If you’re getting sufficient calories, you’re getting enough protein. Protein is in ALL plants! If you eat a variety of plant foods, you will have no issues with protein – I’m living proof, and so are the millions of other vegans that have yet to drop dead from lack of protein. There are numerous elite bodybuilders and endurance athletes who are vegan, and none struggle from being weak or slow because of less or lower quality protein.
- Most important to remember, food is a package deal. Yes, you get protein with meat, but you also get cholesterol, saturated fat, hormones, antibiotics, heavy metals, and fecal matter. Yes, I mean poop. Furthermore, casein, the protein found only in animal products, has been scientifically proven to turn on cancerous cells. WHY would we ever want to consume something that can fuel cancer?! With plants, you get protein, plus all the benefits of fiber, water, phytonutrients, vitamins, and minerals, and literally none of the bad stuff. Oh, and the benefits of feeling great, having tons of energy, and never feeling like you need a nap after a huge meal of healthy, plant-based foods.
- A lot of people worry about deficiencies in general when switching to a vegan diet, and I totally get that. You want to make sure you’re still hitting all of the nutritional bases, and that’s important – check out this article from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, stating all of the benefits of vegetarian and vegan diets, and how one can adequately plan to get all important nutrients, vitamins and minerals. It’s lengthy, but more great proof that a plant-based diet is undoubtedly best for us when it comes to staying healthy and living a long life. If you’re still worried about protein or some other specific nutrient, there are plenty of great vegan supplements available, like plant protein powders, as well as B12 supplements, and there are tons available on Amazon.
- So, this is one I hear a lot, and I’m not going to lie, it kind of makes me want to bash my head into a wall. But just like before, I don’t think people are wrong for initially holding this opinion. Eating animals is so socially ingrained – almost everybody grows up doing it, so why question it? Plus, with all the paleo nonsense out there to confuse everybody, it’s no wonder people think animal products are “necessary” for a healthy, “natural” diet. The paleo diet has had a popularity boom recently, for good reason – people are losing weight. It seems the US is obsessed with the elusive key to sustained weight loss, and many believe they’ve found it by going paleo. But the paleo diet is not sustainable for long term health and longevity. People that go paleo give up processed foods, the shit that people eat on the standard American diet – so of course they lose weight! Even with the horrible animal products they continue to eat, anybody would lose weight by giving up things like chips, candy, and soda, and swapping them out for fruits and vegetables – that part of the diet is awesome. The issues arise in the long run. Regardless of how “pure” their meat and other animal products are, they still have awful health implications. The plant-based diet is the only one proven to bring sustained, easy weight loss, as well as long term health. There are no well-conducted, scientific studies backing the paleo diet and long term health. People that are paleo may lose weight in the short term, but down the road, heart disease doesn’t care if you ate grass-fed or factory farmed beef.
- Also, studies have been conducted on our paleolithic ancestors, and those studies are telling. People back then actually ate 95% plants, and I guarantee most people on the paleo diet would be upset to hear that, because it doesn’t justify them eating primarily meat and other cholesterol and fat-laden foods like bacon, eggs and butter. That video shows that there are societies today that eat a totally plant-based diet that have great health and longevity. The paleo diet celebrates as much animal products as you want, but studies show that the actual people of the paleo era had 5 times more fiber in their stomachs than the average American gets today. This shows that the majority of their diet came from plants, with the OCCASIONAL animal, because there’s no fiber in meat. Here’s a great video on paleo versus plant-based when it comes to health and why the modern paleo diet doesn’t really make sense. I get the allure of weight loss – the good news is that a totally plant-based diet can get you to your natural, happy weight, easily. Plus, you can probably eat as much as you like, and not worry about weight gain – as long as you’re eating whole foods, plant-based, not processed vegan junk food. 🙂
- Then there’s the biological indicators – our teeth are flat, for grinding plant materials, while carnivores have razor sharp teeth for ripping and shredding flesh. Our stomachs are way less acidic than a carnivore, since we don’t need to quickly break down meat and bones. Human intestinal tracks are much longer than that of a carnivore – carnivores need to get the meat and toxins that come with it out of their bodies quickly, while ours are quite long, and we need a lot of fiber to keep things moving through that long track, which comes from plants. Check out more on all that here.
- Then there’s the “we’ve been doing it forever” component of this argument. Just because we participate in a normalized activity that has been occurring in society for decades, doesn’t mean it is optimal for our well-being, or that it is okay to support. There were times when society supported smoking cigarettes for health. That was SO off, and society has shifted. The same thing is happening with veganism. When it is now proven that these animal products are directly causing diseases that are entirely avoidable, it makes no sense to continue doing so. We can live, and thrive, on 100% plant foods.
So, that’s it! I wish I had learned about the ample health benefits of a whole foods, plant-based diet even sooner, and I can’t promote it enough for overall health and well-being. If you’re currently in good health, try eating this way and you’ll probably feel even better! And if you are sick, this is a lifestyle that could potentially save your life. Here are some books from medical and science professionals who have a ton of experience with working with heart disease patients and literally reversing their illnesses:
- How Not to Die by Dr. Michael Greger
- The China Study by T. Colin Campbell
- Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease by Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn
- Proteinaholic by Dr. Garth Davis
- Eat to Live by Dr. Joel Fuhrman
- The Engine 2 Diet by Rip Esselstyn
I want to hear from you guys! How has the health component impacted your lifestyle choice if you’re vegan? If you aren’t, what’s tripping you up? Let me know if you plan on or do end up watching any of these documentaries or read the books. If you’re having any feelings at all that you want to make changes, I can’t support and encourage you enough in doing so. Being vegan is NOT about being perfect. It’s about doing the best you can to decrease your harm on others, and in the meantime, help yourself to feel better than you ever thought you could.
Thanks so much for reading, friends. I am so thankful for each and every one of you!