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The Vegan Diet: Pros and Cons

Going one step beyond vegetarianism, vegans are people who eat no animal products of any kind – no meat, eggs, dairy products or honey. They receive their protein from various kinds of beans, lentils, soy products and other non-animal sources, while also consuming large amounts of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and nuts. Variety is a key concept for the vegan diet; in order to receive a complete supply of necessary vitamins, minerals and other nutrients, vegans generally must consume a broader range of foods than meat eaters or even vegetarians.

Needless to say, a diet that rejects all animal products for ethical or health reasons represents a radical deviation from what has been accepted as the norm in most parts of the world. Before changing to a vegan diet, it is a wise course of action to research the pros and cons of veganism extensively, so you can make a fully informed and intelligent decision.

The Pros

Animal products contain high amounts of saturated fat and cholesterol, substances that have been implicated in a number of serious health problems. Many studies have established the health benefits of a vegan diet, which in addition to excluding saturated fats and cholesterol includes high amounts of dietary fiber and plenty of critical nutrients, such as magnesium, potassium, folic acid and the antioxidants vitamins C and E. It has been demonstrated scientifically that vegans have lower rates of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, osteoporosis and some types of cancer as compared to those who consume meat or other animal products. Veganism can also be an excellent remedy for high blood pressure and obesity.

Besides the inherent suffering involved in factory-style farming, the raising of animals for food consumes enormous amounts of land, water, food and electricity, especially in comparison with the growing and harvesting of plant sources. An astounding 7020567650f all the grains and cereals we grow are destined to be fed to farm animals, and much of the damage to the world’s rainforests we have heard so much about is caused by ranchers clearing the land for cattle grazing. It takes 2,400 gallons of water (much of which ends up contaminated) to produce one pound of meat, while the same amount of wheat requires only 25 gallons. A German study completed in 2008 showed that meat production is seven times as energy-intensive as plant food production, and considering the tens of billions of animals currently being raised on farms worldwide, this represents a significant contribution to the emission of carbon pollution and the problem of global warming.

The Cons

Without consuming animal products, it can be very difficult to acquire certain crucial vitamins and other nutrients. Calcium, vitamins D and B12, and Omega-3 fatty acids all come either primarily or exclusively from animals sources, and anyone starting a vegan diet without really doing their research ahead of time could find themselves having a host of health problems if they are not aware of the potential nutritional pitfalls.

Veganism requires a new set of shopping and cooking skills. Pure vegan options among even meat analog products are relatively rare; restaurants and grocers have begun to offer foods for vegetarians, but veganism is still considered a fringe market. If they do not live in an area with vegan eateries and grocers with expansive natural foods sections, those who decide to become vegans must learn how to prepare their own meals using new recipes, and they must find places where they can buy ingredients that are not always easy to find in a conventional supermarket.

The Verdict

Fortunately, there are plant-based foods available that have been supplemented with or already contain the nutrients that vegans need. A conversion to veganism does require careful planning and study – instead of just going to the store and buying whatever looks good, you really have to make the effort to find a variety of foods that will give you a full nutritional profile. If you are willing to spend the time to do this, and to perhaps learn some new cooking skills, then there is no doubt that a change to a vegan diet can have a positive impact on your health, while reducing animal suffering as well as your impact on the environment.

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