Are you considering going vegan? Here are a few reasons why you should go vegan or consider becoming more plant-based!
Maybe you have a friend or family member that is vegan. Or maybe you’ve discovered veganism through a YouTuber who inspires you to become healthier or a documentary that made you question your current lifestyle and diet.
Now, you are considering going vegan, but want to know more about how this change will impact your life and those around you. This major life switch can be intimidating at first, but when you equip yourself with the benefits of living a plant-based lifestyle, it’s difficult to go back.
Here are a few reasons why you should go vegan or consider becoming more plant-based:
- For the animals
- For your health
- For the environment
- For other people
WHY GO VEGAN: MY STORY
Everyone goes vegan for a different reason or maybe even multiple reasons. I started integrating a plant-based diet into my life initially because of my health and cystic acne that I struggled with from the age of thirteen.
Since the time I first became a teenager, I saw several dermatologists that recommended creams, antibiotics, and birth control as a solution to my acne. My skin constantly fluctuated. One year my skin would be clear due to a round of antibiotics, and then the next my skin would be breaking out again.
By the time I was in college, my acne had become so incredibly painful that it hurt to even put a shirt over my head. I had cystic and nodular acne that continued to spread. I couldn’t get rid of it, and my fight for clear skin seemed hopeless.
I saw a dermatologist again, and she recommended Accutane. She told me about all the horrible side effects, but I didn’t care. This magic pill seemed like my ticket to acne free skin forever. I didn’t realize how awful the side effects would be.
For seven months, I took 80mg of Accutane a day. During those seven months, I experience red puffy swollen eyes, dry skin that burned to the touch, hair that was so dry and brittle I had to style it daily to keep it from looking like one giant ball of frizz, digestive issues that made me nauseous every time I ate, and low energy levels that turned me from an active person to one that only wanted to lie in bed every single day.
But, I was determined to finish the round of Accutane because I hoped and believed I’d be acne free for the rest of my life. At the end of the round of Accutane, I had clear skin. My confidence skyrocketed.
And, for a year, I continued to have clear skin, I still dealt with some of the symptoms of Accutane, particularly low energy levels. Exercising felt difficult and less enjoyable. At the end of that year, my skin began to change.
My face broke out in acne that only got worse instead of better. My dermatologist recommended Accutane again, but I didn’t want to experience all of the side effects all over again especially since many of them still lingered. I also was worried about the long-term health effects of Accutane.
During this time, I found several YouTubers that were talking about the health benefits a plant-based diet and even how many of them cleared their skin with that diet. I watched documentaries, including, What the Health, Cowspiracy, and Forks Over Knives. I really just wanted to stop feeling sick all the time.
So, while driving one day, I decided that I was sick of feeling sick. And that maybe my bad skin could be a result of my diet. I cut meat out of my diet that day. The next week, I cut dairy, and a week after, that I cut eggs out of my diet.
Soon after I made these changes, I started feeling more energized. I could get more done during the day. I felt great. The digestive issues I was having disappeared. Several months later, my skin completely cleared.
No, a plant-based diet isn’t a miracle. But, what you put in your body dramatically effects the way your body functions. Now, a year and a half later, my skin continues to be clear. I may have the occasional pimple, but it’s because I occasionally will have some junk food like oily microwave popcorn.
Rather than feeling confused as to what was causing my acne and with no way to stop it, I now know that a standard American diet was harmful to my skin and health. And later into my health journey, I discovered why veganism is important to more than just me and my health.
After my fourteen-year-old Labrador passed away from old age, I made a connection between the food I ate and the furry pets I loved. I would give anything to allow my dog to live a longer healthier life, so how could I deprive other animals of that same healthy joyful life.
Veganism is an ethical choice as well as one for your own health. Even if you just decide to occasionally add in a plant-based meal or participate in Meatless Mondays, you are making a difference for others and yourself.
Vegan and vegetarianism isn’t a new fad. For thousands of years, people from all backgrounds have chosen a plant-based lifestyle for their health, the environment, to prevent and put an end to animal cruelty, and for living a more peaceful life.
Did you know that many famous scientists and figures since 570 BC have been vegetarians or vegans?
Pythagoras (570 – 495 BC)
Pythagoras was a famous Greek philosopher and mathematician. He is also known as the first man to suggest that the earth was round instead of flat. He believed:
As long as man continues to be the ruthless destroyer of lower living beings, he will never know health or peace. For as long as men massacre animals, they will kill each other. Indeed, he who sows the seed of murder and pain cannot reap joy and love.
In fact, “Pythagoreans” was what vegetarians called themselves before “vegetarian” was coined in the nineteenth century.
Gautama Siddhartha: The Buddha (563 – 483 BC)
Gautama Siddhartha, also known as Buddha, was a wise teacher from ancient India. Buddhism was founded on his teachings. He believed that no one should eat the flesh of any sentient being including animals: “To avoid terror to living beings, let the disciple refrain from eating meat.”
Hippocrates (460 – 370 BC)
Hippocrates is another Greek philosopher and is also considered to be one of the most influential figures in the history of medicine. He was a vegetarian and believed that food could heal the body: “Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food.”
Plato (428 – 347 BC)
Though we are unsure whether or not Plato himself was a vegan or vegetarian, in his book The Republic, he describes a perfect city to be one that eats a vegetarian diet and believed that meat consumption was a luxury that drove people to war.
He believed the most peaceful way to eat was a vegetarian diet: “The gods created certain kinds of beings to replenish our bodies; they are the trees and the plants and the seeds.”
Henry David Thoreau (1817 – 1862)
Thoreau was an American writer from the Romantic Period, a movement in literature that celebrated nature and rejected industrialization. He thought that vegetarianism was a more ethical way to live: “I have no doubt that it is the pure destiny of the human race, in its gradual improvement, to leave off eating animals, as surely as the savage tribes have left off eating each other.”
Leo Tolstoy (1828 – 1910)
A Russian Realist writer, Leo Tolstoy authored two of the most well-known and highly acclaimed novels of his period, War and Peace and Anna Karenina. He sought harmony with nature and rejected all forms of violence.
During his search for living a pious life, he became a proponent of vegetarianism: “If a man earnestly seeks a righteous life, his first act of abstinence is from animal food.”
Tolstoy also believed that violence towards animals also resulted in violence towards humanity and proclaimed that, “as long as there are slaughterhouses, there will be battlefields.”
Nikola Tesla (1856–1943)
Tesla was an inventor and designer of the modern alternating current electricity supply system. He became a vegetarian slowly by eliminating meat and then fish from his diet. For Tesla, the fact that “we can subsist on plant food and perform our work even to advantage is not a theory, but a well-demonstrated fact.”
Mahatma Gandhi (1869–1948)
Gandhi, an Indian leader and non-violent civil disobedient activist, guided the Indian independence movement against British rule. He did not believe in violence of any kind and extended this idea to eating animals.
He said, “Spiritual progress does demand at some stage that we should cease to kill our fellow creatures for the satisfaction of our bodily wants.” For Gandhi, eating animals was unnecessary and inhibited spiritual growth.
George Bernard Shaw (1856–1950)
Bernard Shaw is a famous Irish playwright and constructed his masterpiece Saint Joan to document the well-known story of the French woman from the Middle Ages. He also believed in animals’ rights and was a vegetarian. He thought that there was hypocrisy in eating animals while simultaneously being sickened by war:
- We’re sick of War, we do not want to fight –
- The thought of it now fills our hearts with dread,
- And yet—we gorge ourselves upon the dead (Living Graves).
VEGANISM & THE ENVIRONMENT
You’ve probably heard that cars and other forms of transportation emit greenhouse gases. That’s why there has been a shift to developing hybrid cars. But, did you know that animal agriculture yields more greenhouse gas emissions than all forms of transportation combined?
By reducing or eliminating the use of animal products, we can make a positive impact on the environment. When we compare someone who eats a standard American diet, with a plant-based person, the omnivorous diet uses far more resources than the plant-based one.
Say two people eat the same amount of food:
- A plant-based diet would use 300 gallons of water a day while the omnivorous diet uses 4,000 gallons of water.
- An omnivorous diet requires eight times the amount of fossil fuels more than a plant-based one.
- By eating animals, your carbon footprint is 2.5 tons, while a plant-based diet would minimize your carbon footprint to 1.5 tons.
- To produce animal products, farmers need 5 times the amount of land needed for producing plant-based foods.
- A diet high in meat leads to 70% of all rainforest destruction
Eating a plant-based diet is more sustainable for the environment. Even if you aren’t ready to commit to a vegan lifestyle, small changes can make a huge difference in the impact on the planet.
VEGANISM FOR THE ANIMALS
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPA) conducted a survey that determined that a whopping 94% of Americans believe that animals raised on farms for food should be free from abuse and cruelty. But, 95% of farm animals are raised on factory farms that prioritize profit over the welfare of animals.
These factory farms don’t raise animals in an open field, leaving them to roam about the land, and letting them enjoy their lives. Instead, these animals are crammed into tight cages with no room to move and are stuffed with growth hormones. The buildings where these animals live, reek of feces and aren’t cleaned, so the animals become easily susceptible to disease and require antibiotic injections constantly.
Some of the sources of animal suffering from farming include:
- Physical modifications such as clipping teeth and tail docking without any anesthetic
- Indoor confinement with poor sanitary conditions
- Inability to participate in normal, natural animal behaviors
- Breeding for fast growth and high yields that harm animal welfare
- Rough handling from workers
But what about ethical farming? Grass-fed and cage-free animals are not necessarily a more ethical option. Just because the animal lived a better life than one in a factory farm doesn’t make it right to end the animal’s life for your taste buds.
When you connect the life of a cow, pig, or chicken to that of your pet at home, it makes it difficult to enjoy that cheeseburger. Why are some animals loved and given homes, when others are designated as food sources?
If you love animals, choosing a plant-based diet or vegan lifestyle can stop you from contributing to animal cruelty.
PLANT-BASED DIET HEALTH BENEFITS: ARE VEGANS HEALTHIER?
You may be considering a plant-based diet for your health. The truth is, a plant-based diet can be just as unhealthy as any other way of eating. Plant-based diets can consist entirely of junk food if you want it to. You can buy vegan mayonnaise, vegan macaroni and cheese, and vegan “chicken.” All of these items are free of animal products, but that doesn’t necessarily make them healthy.
However, a whole-foods plant-based diet can be amazing for your health. By eating a whole-food plant-based diet, free from preservatives, antibiotics, injected hormones, trans fats, artificial sugars, GMOs, and other processed foods, your body can truly heal itself.
Rich in Nutrients and Vitamins
Because plant-based whole-food diets are made up of whole grains, vegetables, fruits, legumes, beans, nuts, and seeds, your diet will consist of more fiber, antioxidants, and vitamins than a standard diet. When you eat a variety of whole-foods – try to eat a rainbow – you supply your body with what it needs daily.
Studies, such as The China Study, have shown that populations with primarily plant-based diets live longer than those that eat higher quantities of meat. In fact, the populations that do consume more meat have higher rates of chronic illness, heart disease, and cancer.
If you eat a whole-foods, plant-based diet, you are more likely to have a lower BMI. Vegans and vegetarians are shown to be thinner than their omnivorous counterparts. Even one study from 2009, found that vegans lost more weight than those who eat meat and restricted their calorie intake. You can live an abundant life filled with delicious food, eat until you are full, and still lose the extra pounds.
But, filling up on nutrient-poor food will not help you with your weight loss goals. Being vegan does not mean you’ll automatically be skinny. Just because a box has a Certified Vegan Logo on it, doesn’t mean that box of cookies is healthy for you. A whole-foods diet is the way to go.
Lowers Blood Sugar Levels
Vegans tend to have lower blood sugar levels
from a plant-based diet. You will even have a 50–75% less risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Even if you add just one piece of meat a week, your risk of developing diabetes increases.
This study also found that because vegetarian and vegan diets are high in fruits and vegetables, people lower the inflammation in their bodies overall. These foods helped to lower their oxidative stress and chronic inflammation. And, this result decreased their chances of developing type 2 diabetes.
Lowers Risk of Heart Disease
Diets rich in whole grain, vegetables, beans, fruits, and nuts are linked to lowering your blood pressure by 75% and heart disease by 42%. A plant-based diet has been seen to even reverse our number one killer, heart disease.
Both Dr. Ornish and Dr. McGregor believe and have shown that helping heart disease doesn’t require the latest drug, but instead can be reversed by diet, lifestyle, and exercise.
Prevents Certain Cancers
When you avoid animal products, you can lower your risk of prostate, breast, and colon cancers. By eating more fruits and vegetables daily on a plant-based diet, you decrease your risk of cancer up to 15% according to this study.
When you consume a lot of meat in your diet, you end up eating a diet with relatively low fiber. The higher levels of fiber in plants are actually seen to help prevent cancer. Also, meat contains saturated fats and even carcinogenic compounds—these are formed during the cooking process and are linked to the formation of cancers.
MAKING THE TRANSITION: PLANT-BASED COOKING AND RECIPES
Maybe you’re considering becoming a vegetarian or vegan but don’t know how, or maybe you are not ready to take the plunge. Just by incorporating more plant-based meals, you can make a huge impact on your health, the environment, and the well-being of animals.
When you first start cooking plant-based, you can have issues with making your meals creative. You’re not used to cooking this way. Don’t worry. Sunwarrior is committed to providing you with great tasting products and recipes.
For more tips on transitioning to meatless, check out our article on how to stay healthy and enjoy what you eat.
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