Being Vegan

vegan

Vegetarianism and veganism sound similar; most people know both eliminate meat from their diets and veganism is generally regarded as a stricter version of vegetarianism. But what is veganism, really? Is it just a branch of vegetarianism, or is it a completely separate diet in its own right?

According to the U.S. News and World Report, vegans differ from vegetarians in that they exclude all animal products from consumption: not only meat and fish, but also products like dairy and honey or any food that includes ingredients such as gelatin or eggs.

Vegans also extend their diet to their lifestyle, and do not wear or use products derived from animals, like leather or fur.

Three main reasons exist as to why people generally become vegan, according to Medical News Today.

One of the reasons is to keep with vegans’ philosophy of animal rights. Many Americans have become aware of the negative side of the meat industry through documentaries like “Food, Inc.” and increased publications about factory farming and inhumane animal treatment. Vegans take this information and incorporate it into their lives by refusing to eat any animal products at all.

Another reason people may choose veganism is because by being vegan, their food choices are less harmful to the environment.

Meat production requires a lot of energy input including fertilizer, food, and water. Vegans believe that these practices not only waste resources that could be used towards feeding humans, but also lead to pollution issues and degrade the environment.

Veganism may not only be a healthier choice for the environment; it also is shown to have human health benefits.

Vegan diets, which are high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, have been shown to reduce a person’s risk of cancer, arthritis, hypertension, and heart disease. These foods are low in saturated fat and salt, which reduces a person’s cholesterol levels and maintains a healthy blood pressure.

Veganism also helps in the prevention of Type-2 diabetes; a 2006 Diabetes Care study showed that after 22 weeks of a vegan diet, people with Type-2 diabetes had improved control of blood sugar levels.

The vegan diet also has its drawbacks. As in every diet, when one food group is cut out, a person has to be careful to replace the missing vitamins that come from that food.

According to HNGN, the biggest negative of a vegan diet is the lack of vitamin B-12. Vitamin B-12 is essential for the nervous system and brain and is found primarily in fish and meat.

Vegans also are at risk for inadequate calcium intake, which weakens bones. They also may be low in zinc and vitamin D which found mainly in fortified foods like milk. In order to ensure they are receiving enough of their essential vitamins, vegans may need to take supplements.

The New York Times exposes social and economical draws of veganism. Fresh fruits, vegetables, and other vegan alternatives like soy milk are more expensive than their processed counterparts. The word vegan can also carry a stigma; the non-vegan eater generally responds to words like “tofu”, “veggie burger”, and “vegan cookie” with disgust or distaste.

Veganism’s growing celebrity status, however, has somewhat offset its stigma. According to The Huffington Post, Bill Clinton, Carrie Underwood, Al Gore, Natalie Portman, Ellen DeGeneres, and Usher are all vegan, mainly after learning about the harsh realities of the meat industry.

According to MindBodyGreen, Anne Hathaway was a vegan for years until recently, when she traveled to Iceland to film a new movie. In the film, Hathaway must wear a 40-pound space suit and said she did not feel strong or healthy, but after reverting to an omnivore diet, said she feels better.

Veganism is a lifestyle choice, and most vegans are vegetarians for years before making the switch. But, as demonstrated in Hathaway’s case, the choice to become vegan is personal and varies for everyone.

Photo License: Creative Commons

 

One comment

  1. An interesting post. I am not sure about your conclusion though that it is a personal choice unless you would also conclude that all ethical decisions are personal choices. I would suggest that some things are right and others are wrong. Exploiting animals is wrong.

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