A vegan diet is one which avoids anything that is derived from animal products. That is, consuming plant-based foods such as vegetables, fruit, grains, and nuts, while avoiding meat, fish, dairy, or egg products.
There are three typical reasons that people choose to eat vegan.
- It’s a healthy choice. Eating a well planned vegan diet can reduce your risk of suffering from diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and several forms of cancer.
- It’s compassionate. The condition in which factory-farmed animals are raised is alarming. Housing is often cramped and filthy. The animals are overfed to grow and produce at an accelerated, unnatural rate. Millions of calves and male chicks are killed every year as a waste product of milk and egg production. All of this is unnecessary because we can easily and affordably feed ourselves on plant-based foods. Choosing a vegan diet demonstrates compassion for these creatures.
- It’s better for the environment. Plant-based diets use only one third of the land and water required to support a diet based on meat and dairy products. The livestock industry alone produces 18% of all of the global greenhouse gas emissions. Unsustainable farming practices designed to support the meat and dairy industries lead to habitat loss, wasting water, soil erosion and degradation, pollution, climate change, and genetic erosion.
Fervent supporters of animal rights or the environment are likely already on board with plant based eating because they know the negative consequences of the alternative. What about changing to a vegan lifestyle because it is more healthy for you? Just knowing that it is more healthy doesn’t seem to be enough for most people. It is just too easy to continue eating the foods that are readily available to us – fast food, packaged foods, meat, and dairy. Unfortunately, these foods are often laced with sugar (high fructose corn syrup), animal fat, dairy, and oil. They taste great and are very addictive. It’s no surprise that it often takes a major healthy scare ( heart-bypass surgery or being diagnosed with cancer, or diabetes, or multiple sclerosis, or alzheimers) to motivate people to change their eating habits. I’ve shared the story of my journey to a plant-based lifestyle in this series of posts. Hopefully, it will make the transition easier for you.
My journey started with curiosity. I was amazed as I watched two co-workers totally transforming themselves over a period of about a year by just eating healthy. It was almost miraculous. Kate had shed 80 pounds, and Jenn had lost 110 (she is now at 153 and counting). When I asked Jenn how she did it and why, she recommended the video “Forks over Knives.” Donna and I found the video on Netflix, and watched it. We were astounded. This compelling video showcased overwhelming evidence that excess meat and dairy consumption is the primary cause of the epidemics we see in America – heart disease, cancer, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, etc. Yes, it also addressed the mistreatment of animals and devastating effect of unsustainable practices of the agriculture, meat, and dairy industries on our environment. However, the health implications were the focal point, and the main source of motivation for changing my eating habits.
The evidence presented in the video included several things in particular that got my attention:
- The massive 10-year China study showed that a plant-based diet can arrest and even reverse heart disease
- Researchers were able to “turn cancer on and off” by increasing and decreasing the level of milk casein in a diet
- When the Germans occupied Norway and took away meat and dairy assets, the incidence of heart disease and cancer in the general population reduced dramatically. When Germans occupation ended years later, meat and dairy consumption resumed, and so did the high rates of heart disease and cancer.
- A 20 year study by Dr. Esselstyn showed remarkable results with patients who had serious heart issues, by putting them on a whole-foods, plant-based diet.
It was very clear after watching this video that if I wanted the best chance of living healthy into my old age, it was eating without meat and dairy. Donna agreed, and our journey to healthy plant-based eating began in September of 2012.