Imagine going an entire day without consuming any animal products. Doing so can be incredibly easy for some, but others may not know what to eat which scares them away from this diet. However, they, along with a majority of people, do not fully understand the impacts of becoming vegan, and often frown upon this diet for the supposed negative effects it has on one’s health.
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Countless people believe this diet even worsens people’s health and does things like cause damage to the central nervous system of a child which can cause death (Pierson). Yet, research from places such as the British Dietetic Association actually gives support to vegan diets for children (Pierson). This is only one example of a belief that people have about veganism disregarded through scientific research. Numerous others exist, like that veganism requires an exorbitant amount of money or even that one needs animal products to have good health. Despite the fact that most people think of veganism as unhealthy, expensive, and unimpactful, most do not know the true impacts and benefits of becoming vegan.
To begin, the vegan diet requires much time and diligence in picking out foods that give one a sufficient amount of nutrients. Many believe those who follow this diet tend to be more weak and dainty than meat eaters because of the food they eat, but with the right meal plan, they can have the same athletic ability as non-vegans. A successful vegan athletes diet must include energy-dense food like nuts, tofu, tempeh, textured vegetable protein and commercially prepared mock meat in their diet (Wee). Many swear this diet even improved their strength and athletic abilities, like Mr. Chua Jing Zhi. He is a vegan runner and says that after switching to a vegan diet he feels much lighter and has the ability to run faster (Wee). However, some worry that the amount of nutrients vegans consume may not suffice their nutritional needs and increases one’s health risks. Ms. Joanna Tan, a senior dietitian at Changi General Hospital, states that this diet often coincides with belief that vegans have “low energy and protein intakes” which often puts them at a “higher risk of having low levels of micronutrients” (Wee).
Although situations like this do occur, the broad options of vegan foods allows people to find the right diet for them. Some vitamins and minerals simply cannot be not found in many vegan foods making it more difficult to get the correct amounts of them. One tough vitamin for vegans to get a sufficient intake of is Vitamin B12, exclusively found in foods fortified with the vitamin, such as soy products or vitamin B12 supplements (Wee). Supplements are a great alternative to getting the proper amount of vitamins and minerals in one’s diet and are commonly used. Those who wish to become vegan often worry that they will not get enough protein in their diet. Janet M. Melton, assistant director of Inpatient Clinical Dietetics for Mayo Healthcare in Rochester, Minnesota says that people overestimate the amount of protein one needs, which totals to approximately 60 grams a day per man and 50 for women (Knopper). On average people eat twice as much protein as the USDA recommends and consume about half a pound of meat per day while that is the amount recommended per week (Bittman). However, protein needs do often become greater for athletes as they need more energy, and plant proteins may not have the essential amino acids. To ensure one has all of the amino acids they need, they should combine food sources so that proper nutritional needs can be met (Wee).
However, Dr. Scott Williams, an ob-gyn with St. Charles Clinic Medical Group states that vegans frequently face the problem of having a lack of iron, otherwise known as anemia. Iron supplements may sometimes be difficult to take, but other vegan iron-rich foods exist such as dried beans, juice, fortified cereals, and soy milk (Billhartz Gregorian). Although it takes some work to find nutrient packed vegan foods, this diet can benefit one’s health in many different ways. Veganism presents a multitude of health benefits as one frequently consumes foods such as vegetables, fruits, and nuts when they follow this diet, and research shows that these foods make one stronger and healthier. Contradictory to the foods most often eaten in the vegan diet, the unhealthy substances in non vegan junk foods have proven to increase health risks. For example, since vegans typically eat less fat and greater amounts of fruits, vegetables, and fiber, they “have a lower rate of heart disease and diabetes” (Knopper). In addition, this diet may even lower one’s risk of brain and prostate cancer according to Keri Cans, a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association who says that vegans “tend to consume higher intakes of phytochemicals, which have anti-cancer activity” (Knopper). She also adds that research suggests vegan foods such as leafy greens and orange vegetables offer the strongest cancer prevention (Knopper). Obesity also remains a huge problem in the world today, but if people follow this diet the number of obese people may decline. Studies show that vegans have the lowest rates of obesity on average because they consume less fat and unhealthy substances (Pierson).
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) “estimates [that] vegans are nine times less likely to be obese” as they “have an average cholesterol of 133, compared with 210 for meat eaters” (Knopper). Naturally, vegans eat healthier foods than meat eaters as fast food and numerous junk foods do not fit into their diet. Non-vegans may also have more costly foods in their diet, contrary to popular belief. Most likely the organic foods that vegans eat will be more expensive than processed, fatty foods because they take more time to make and transport. This common belief in plant-based diets being more expensive works in some cases, while others prove that one can be vegan on a budget. A study published in 2015 in the Journal of Hunger and Environmental Nutrition shows that on average in the United States a meat-based diet costs $53.11 per person per week, while it costs $38.75 for those who follow a plant-based diet (Kamila). Mary M. Flynn, a nutritionist at Brown University medical school and lead researcher for this study, stated that her clients were surprised by the cost of meat they purchase, especially the low-income people as they realized the cost of meat totaled to over half of their food costs (Kamila). Ellen Jaffe Jones, the author of “Eat Vegan on $4 a Day”, conducted other studies and found a way to become a healthy vegan by buying food from Walmart (Kamila).
Jones found that at Walmart vegan foods like dry beans cost only ten cents a serving, while meats like beef tenderloin cost 37 times as much and the lowest price for a hamburger comes to 7 times as much (Kamila). Jones found that by trading out the meat for the vegetables and grains one will have even more money to buy the expensive produce (Kamila). This lifestyle can actually be affordable if one does their research and makes the appropriate effort. Moreover, veganism does not only benefit one person’s health, but it also benefits the environment and society as a whole. According to Chris Beckley, president of the Colorado Vegetarian Society, it takes a massive amount of water just to make a single pound of meat. This process is extremely wasteful and time-consuming, but if people do not consume as much meat it can be avoided(Knopper). The World Health Organisation also classifies processed meat as carcinogenic, the same category as tobacco, and believes it to cause cancer (Knopper). This presents yet another reason to stop consuming something more harmful than helpful to one’s body. By becoming vegan one can help prevent worldwide issues like erosion, factory farm runoff, global warming, the overuse of antibiotics, salmonella, and E. coli outbreaks (Knopper).
This lifestyle can even impact the views people have on the Earth because if a child follows the vegan diet since they were born, they are taught compassion and respect for the Earth from an early age. Studies show that these kids become more likely to see others equally and understand the importance of equal rights (Knopper). Vegans may also even live longer as John Robbins, author of The Food Revolution, writes that his research shows vegans live an average of six to 10 years longer than meat eaters (Knopper). All of these reasons about the benefits of veganism to society as well as those mentioned before contribute to the great advantages of this diet. People often overlook and misjudge veganism for its true benefits to health, economics, and the environment. To really understand the true advantages this diet may bring, one must do their research and not follow the common beliefs of society. This lifestyle may not work for everyone, but the benefits can be overwhelming to those who stick to it. It takes a lot of time, commitment, and patience to really follow the guidelines of veganism, but the payoff can be completely worth it. Not only can one save money by switching to this diet, but they can also improve their own health and even help the Earth.
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