Why I’m vegan… and why you should be too
Whether you like it or not, vegan diets are on the rise – and they’re not just a fad. Take a look at why you (and all your friends) should jump on the bandwagon.
By Madeline Keyes
As a vegan, I’m questioned and teased and criticised on a weekly basis. And I’m sick of it. While I truly believe that everyone has a right to their own opinion – especially when it comes to the food they eat – I’m also a huge advocate for health and education, and I want the world to know that veganism isn’t something to chastise… it’s something to admire.
When I transitioned to a vegetarian diet in my teenage years, I had no idea that it would one day become a lifestyle. Today, when my friends, family and colleagues ask me how I do it, my answer is always the same: “How could I not do it?” Ceasing the use of animal products and by-products has changed my life and the way I view it. It's improved my body, my mind and my spirit, and I’m willing to come across as “preachy” in order to share that experience with others.
"Veganism has improved my body, my mind and my spirit, and I’m willing to come across as “preachy” in order to share that experience with others."
For those of you interested in trying veganism, I encourage you to take the plunge. And I assure you it’s not near as intimidating as it appears. Grocery stores and restaurants are, for the most part, increasingly vegan-friendly. Healthcare professionals are beginning to embrace the shift, and some even recommend a vegan lifestyle for their patients. And, best of all, the general population is slowly becoming inquisitive rather than judgemental.
So, without further ado – here’s why I’m vegan… and why you should be too.
A vegan diet gives you superpowers
No joke, friends. Here’s just a few of the superpowers I’ve obtained since becoming vegan:
- An undefeatable immune system
- Supernatural energy levels
- A metabolism faster than the speed of light
- Invincible skin
I might not be immortal, but these health benefits are pretty difficult to refute – especially because I’m telling you that I’ve witnessed them firsthand. I used to catch a cold twice a year. For 25 years of my life, no matter how hard I fought, I got the sniffles and an agonizing sore throat every spring and fall. But I have not – I repeat, have not – been sick since I switched to a vegan diet.
On the metabolism note, I want to share something with all of you here today that’s very close to my heart. For nearly a decade of my life, I struggled with an eating disorder. Like 8 million other women in America, I exercised too much and ate too little in an effort to shed pounds. I struggled with this until I became a vegan. Then, just like that, I didn’t struggle anymore. I’m not an expert, so I can’t tell you exactly why this is the case. Perhaps it’s a result of my improved mental state, or maybe it’s because becoming vegan cleansed my body of the toxins that were triggering my unhealthy outlook on food. Regardless, the outcome remains – within a month of embracing a vegan lifestyle, the symptoms that I dealt with for years suddenly disappeared. And the timing is far too precise to be a coincidence.
Now, let’s talk skin. I have friends who have struggled with acne and dryness upon becoming vegan. This is uncommon, but it happens. However, these rare skin conditions don’t occur because you’re lacking dairy, eggs and meat. They occur because you’re lacking essential fatty acids – and these can come from various plant-based sources. Personally, I find that oils, nuts and avocados are enough to sustain my body’s fat needs, but everyone is different. If you decide to try veganism and find that your skin is suffering, all you can do is experiment with different foods until you find the perfect balance. This is the key to maintaining your health whether you eat a plant-based diet or not.
But don’t vegans need to take supplements?
Yes. Yes, we do. But that’s not a bad thing.
Let’s take a step back for a moment and look at the bigger picture. It’s important to remember that it’s extremely difficult to get every single nutrient that’s necessary for our individual bodies and lifestyles, but this doesn’t apply exclusively to vegans. Deficiencies occur no matter what you eat. So, meat eaters, can you please stop acting like vegans are the only ones who need to worry about their nutrient levels?
"It’s extremely difficult to get every single nutrient that’s necessary for our individual bodies and lifestyles, but this doesn’t apply exclusively to vegans."
The common mindset is that taking vitamins and minerals to enhance your regular meals is a weakness. And that’s simply untrue! I can guarantee that the majority of people are lacking a certain nutrient regardless of what their diet looks like. Supplements help correct those deficiencies, and taking that extra step for your health is nothing to be ashamed of. Both conventional and integrative doctors across the globe advise their patients to take probiotics, Omega-3s and Vitamin D (to name a few), every single day. And vegans get a bad rap for taking a couple measly pills?
Vegan fact: Several studies have reported that well-rounded vegan diets provide more fiber, antioxidants and beneficial plant compounds than meat-based diets. They also appear to be richer in potassium, magnesium, folate and vitamins A, C and E.
You don’t need meat to survive!!!
I’m not even sure where to begin here, since I’ve heard so many arguments to the contrary. People have told me, for example, that our ancestors ate meat; ergo so should we. Well, our ancestors also lived in caves and had no choice but to kill animals to survive. Needless to say, times have changed. Nowadays, there are various protein sources available for those who eat a plant-based diet – and, believe it or not, the least healthy of those is meat. Which brings me to my next point…
“Meat is good for you”. Actually, it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. Multiple studies have shown that the amount of synthetic hormones in commercially available meat is extremely dangerous for human consumption. “What if I eat organic, ethically raised animals?” First and foremost, please don’t make this argument if you don’t actually eat organic, ethically raised animals. It weakens the legitimacy of your point. Secondly, there are naturally-occurring sex hormones in meat (progesterone, testosterone and estrogen) that exceed safe levels of endocrine-disrupting chemical pollutants. In other words, these substances can have a dangerous impact on your own hormones – and that’s not something you want to mess with.
Oh, and we’ve known for years that consuming meat on a regular basis increases your risk of developing heart disease, high cholesterol, cancer and a number of other diseases. And yet it’s still a staple in western diets.
"We’ve known for years that consuming meat on a regular basis increases your risk of developing heart disease, high cholesterol, cancer and a number of other diseases."
Explain that one.
Saving the planet, one nut at a time
Energy is a powerful thing. I could write a whole other blog on this but, for now, suffice it to say that the energy we consume directly effects the energy we emit and, ultimately, the energy of the entire universe. This is a big pill to swallow – not to mention a lot of responsibly for one person to take on. But making a difference in the energy of our world all starts with one decision. In this case, the decision to become vegan.
Funnily enough, schools still teach children that leaving the water running is harmful to the environment. What they don’t tell them is that it takes up to eight times more fossil-fuel energy and 200 times more water to produce a pound of beef than it does to grow a pound of plant-based food. Flip through your kid’s textbooks and you likely won’t see that the meat industry is one of the largest sources of water pollution, or that animal agriculture is a larger contributor to climate change than all forms of transportation combined. So ask yourself where you’d rather be placing your energy – in saving the environment, or lending to its demise.
Vegan fact: The amount of grain it takes to feed livestock raised for meat production could feed over 1 billion people.
"Ask yourself where you’d rather be placing your energy – in saving the environment, or lending to its demise."
All the time, people tell me that I’m only one person. “You couldn’t possibly make a difference,” they tell me. And for a moment I think maybe they’re right. But then I remember that there are millions of other people out there eating a vegan diet – and hundreds more every single day. Add up all those individual people, and you’ve got yourself a revolution.
I’m not asking you to drop what you’re doing and make a concrete commitment to become vegan. If you’re inspired to do so – great. But if you’re still not convinced, try it for a day. Do some research on the benefits of veganism (there are plenty that aren’t mentioned here) and make an educated choice, not a habitual one.
Cutting to the chase
Results from a 2016 study published in the JAMA Internal Medicine Journal showed that vegans tend to live longer than meat-eaters. They found every three per cent increase in calories from plant protein was found to reduce risk of death by 10 per cent.
"Do some research on the benefits of veganism and make an educated choice, not a habitual one."
Vegan fact: Loreen Dinwiddie lived to the age of 109, including 88 years she stuck to a strict vegan diet.
None of us know how long we’re going to live. We can’t be sure whether any of our decisions are good or bad. Scientists change their minds all the time, and there are exceptions to every single goddamn rule. But I’m thriving on a vegan diet, and have been for over a year. So obviously, you don’t actually need meat to survive.
Please keep in mind that this is an opinion blog. I am not a professional nutritionist, and I have no medical degree to show for the above-stated facts. But they are indeed facts – and it’s up to you to decide how you digest them.