While many people are taking to the vegan diet on moral and ethical grounds, the debate rages on as to whether vegan is healthy or harmful. Before we delve into this question, it is important to understand what constitutes a vegan diet.
What Constitutes a Vegan Diet?
A vegan diet is an extreme form of vegetarianism which eliminates the intake of all animal products on moral and ethical grounds. In practical terms, this means avoiding meat, game, poultry, fish and shellfish and even animal-derived gelatin, diary products, eggs and honey. There are some people who are lacto vegans, meaning that while they take diary products, they avoid eggs. Then there are others who are semi-vegetarian in that they include fish and poultry in their diet.
There are some people who think veganism is unhealthy, while the proponents of veganism counter the argument by stating that vegans live a healthier life. The supporters point out that a vegan diet tends to be nutrient-rich, high in fiber, cholesterol-free, and low on fat.
The Advantages of Following a Vegan Diet
A vegan diet finds support on the basis of its nutritive value as also on moral and ethical grounds. A vegan diet not only promotes mercy toward animals, but it also aims to protect our environment. This is because forests are frequently destroyed to create farms for raising livestock. We all know forests contain irreplaceable natural treasures, and by destroying them, we directly harm the environment. Secondly, studies have shown that animal proteins require 3 to 15 times more water than what is required to produce plant protein.
The number of health benefits associated with vegan diets cannot be ignored.
Health Benefits of a Vegan Diet
Veganism promotes a healthy lifestyle and reduces the risk of obesity, heart disease, osteoporosis, diabetes, hypertension, and several kinds of cancer. These findings have been substantiated by the American Dietetic Association, which clearly states that vegetarian and vegan diets are associated with reduced risks for all of these conditions. People may argue that there are several nutrients that are available only in animal products, but on the whole, it is possible to get all the nutrients in a vegan diet.
There are many benefits of a vegan diet, some of which are:
- Animal foods have a high content of saturated fats as compared to most plant foods. This in turn means that regular consumption of meat can increase the risk of high cholesterol in the body.
- Some meats are also deficient in carbohydrates, in particular the starches that are essential for maintaining a good health.
- Excess intake of meat products also increases the risk of heat related ailments, diabetes, kidney stones, arthritis, multiple sclerosis and osteoporosis.
- Vegetables are high in minerals and vitamins. Meats, on the other hand, do not contain many minerals or vitamins with the exception of vitamin B-complex.
- Meat is difficult to digest and remains in the stomach for a longer period of time.
- Most meats when cooked produce benzenes and carcinogenic compounds that increase the risk of colon cancer.
- Natural preventive substances for cancer including vitamin C, B-17 and NDGA are derived from vegetarian foods.
To sum up, veganism promotes a more humane and ethical lifestyle. It promotes the values of nonviolence and the peaceful coexistence of people and animals.