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While veganism has been around in one form or another since the age of the Buddha, it is only in the last ten years or so that it has been really picked up by the masses. As the twentieth century drew to a close, globalization and the internet age provided the perfect opportunity for veganism to appeal to every single demographic across the globe. While the digital age may have provided veganism the perfect medium for its recognition and acceptance, the true reason for its popularity has been its positive effects. Veganism is beneficial, both for the individual and the environment, and I, personally, have found it to be a breath of fresh air in a time where food is either extremely fatty or extremely sugary.
But are there more negative effects than positive effects to being vegan? Critics of veganism love to point out that veganism has a detrimental effect on one’s health. They argue that veganism introduces an iron deficiency in its users since iron content in meat and dairy products is less than that found in most vegetables and plants. As a result of similar reasons, vegans are also stricken with a zinc deficiency. Veganism critics also point out the fact that vegans have no natural way of taking in Omega 3 acids as vegan alternatives to fish contain the Omega 3 in a form which cannot be automatically used by the human body and has to be first transformed into DHA and EPA. In addition, the issue of decreasing bone density and rickets is also brought up as vegans have smaller amounts of calcium and vitamins in their bodies as compared to their non-vegan counterparts on account of their refusal to take eggs, milk and other dairy products which have always been high sources of calcium and vitamins. The case of Vitamin B-12 deficiency is highlighted in particular as Vitamin B-12 is important for promoting physical and cognitive growth by helping in the normal functioning of the brain and the nervous system. Vitamin B-12 is mostly found in meat and dairy and vegans are found to be deficient in this particular vitamin on account of their refusal to touch animal products.
The points raised by critics are logical and in line with recent scientific studies conducted by reputed journals and universities across the globe. However, if seen from a wider context, they are misleading. I specifically use the word ‘misleading’ as they only provide part of the idea and refrain from providing the complete narrative as it would threaten the furthering of their own particular narrative. Now let us understand how the critics have it wrong. First, the critics fail to point out that an alternative to each deficient vitamin and metal is readily available in non-animal foods. While vegans do lose an important source of iron by forgoing meat and dairy, the same iron can be taken in by eating spinach, lettuce, asparagus, olives and beans which do not have any of the side effects involved with consuming meat and dairy. For the case of zinc, cabbages, fireweed sprouts and lemon grass provide an excellent alternative to non-vegan sources of zinc. Similarly, while direct sources of DHA and EPA are not available to vegans, cashews and walnuts provide an excellent of Omega 3 acids and the human body can convert these acids in a sufficient quantity to fulfill its requirement for healthy growth.
Correspondingly, vegans also have access to a wide assortment of products that provide an excellent alternative to non-vegan sources of calcium. Fortified-soy milk, calcium rich tofu, broccoli, okra and soya bean are all rich in calcium and can be easily and readily consumed to provide the body the same amount of calcium available from non-vegan sources. An Oxford University study by Roddam and Key in 2013 found that when an adequate amount of calcium is provided to the human body (about 500 mg per day), there is no disparity in the probability of bone fracture and rickets between vegan and non-vegan people. For the provision of vitamin B-12, which is also popularly known as Cobalamine, fortified all-bran cereals and fortified soy products such as tofu prove to be an excellent choice for vegans.
Turning your attention now from picking apart holes in the logic of critics of veganism to benefits of veganism itself, veganism presents a lifestyle that is healthy, light and refreshing. For starters, going vegan is quite helpful if you are looking to control and reduce obesity. Since non-vegans consume meat in the form of fast food (which is rich in fat and oils) and dairy in the form of confectionaries and sweets (which are full of both sugar and fats), they quickly become obese. The positive effects of meat and dairy are sidelined through the consumption of meat and dairy in such unhealthy forms. Vegans, through forgoing the consumption of meat and dairy, actually do themselves a favour as they save themselves from the main sources of obesity that plague the planet today. Agreeing with the vegan approach, several reputable scientific journals have highlighted the fact that vegetarians not only possess the lower Body Mass Index (BMI) than non-vegans but are also less likely to become obese as compared to their non-vegan counterparts. This is because vegans take in lower amounts of protein and fat as compared to their non-vegan counterparts. Meat, milk, cheese and other dairy products are particularly excessive in fats and removing such items from the daily intake significantly controls the obesity of an individual. So if you are yearning to reduce your belly fat or trying to become lean, going vegan (rather than taking dangerous diet control pills) is the best option.
Similarly, going vegan is also good for the health of the heart. In the case of non-vegans, the cholesterol content in their bodies gradually increases as they continue their fatty diet unabated. With time, the cholesterol content increases to such a level that their heart is threatened. At this point, there is no other choice for these individuals except to go through a bypass operation and/or to vigorously control their diet. Going vegan, on the other hand, provides a healthy alternative to this potential conundrum. As a result of their diet, vegans have lower blood pressure and lower cholesterol content in their bodies which automatically means that their hearts are healthier and stronger than their meat loving counterparts. As a result, vegans have lower probability of having heart attacks and they live longer and healthier than their meat loving counterparts. This is proved by the action of doctors who frequently direct patients with higher blood pressure and heart conditions to ease up on the meat and fat in order to reduce the risk of stroke. In addition, while meat lovers have to face the possibility of excess blood pressure as a consequence of their diet, going green can actually reduce or even eliminate the need for medications involved in reducing high blood pressure.
It has also been found that consuming excessive amounts of meat and dairy products increases hypertension. Several reputed journals over the last decade have confirmed this, stating that meat eaters have the highest probability of contracting hypertension while vegans possess the lowest probability of contracting hypertension on account of their refusal to eat meat. Since hypertension is one of the most widely spreading health problems facing the population today, going vegan can successfully protect you from visits to your physicians and the resulting expensive medicines taken in this regard.
Analogously, going vegan also provides a solid defence against diabetes. Since cakes, donuts and other sweet confectionaries contain ingredients that are extremely rich in sugar, the individuals consuming these confectionaries have a significantly greater risk in contracting diabetes. Veganism, on the other hand, encourages soy-based alternatives of the ingredients found in confectionaries which mean that vegans are saved from exposure to these harmful substances. Therefore, diabetes has been found to be lower in vegans than in non-vegans.
Finally, benefits of veganism in promoting anti-aging are also well known (Sareen, 2016). Having a vegan diet not only improves skin condition but also bodes well for the health of your hair. Dandruff and hair fall are both significantly reduced one to two months after starting a vegan diet and your skin would also feel fresh, glowing and wrinkle free (Sareen, 2016). I was actually shocked when my skin became fresher and softer after three months of going full vegan. The quality of an individual’s sleep is also improved on a vegan diet which results in increased freshness and improved productivity throughout the day (Sareen, 2016).
In today’s age of excessive fat, gluten and sugar consumption, a vegan diet provides a healthy and efficient path to individual health and fitness. With the global populations’ unhealthy eating habits contributing to the exponential rise in the number of patients of high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes and thus contributing to increased premature deaths, going vegan provides a safe and fulfilling lifestyle that is free of health hazards and expensive medicine. While moving from a non-vegan to a vegan diet may initially present a number of potential health issues, thankfully there are enough alternatives to essential vitamins and metals required by the human body in the vegan diet to ensure healthy living. If you wish to live a long life without worry, if you wish to remain lean and fit in order to look at your best and if you wish to do something for the environment, then there is no better alternative than going vegan as soon as possible. Veganism is not just pastime of the rich and upper middle classes anymore; it is a safeguard and an effective solution against heart failure and obesity. So instead of wasting your money in the next double patty and cheese combo meal put out by your local fast food joint, go full vegan and in two months, you will not only look a lot better and but will feel a lot better as well!
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