By Alisha Ahmed
“I wonder how they’re alive,” said Elizabeth Heredia, an average high school teenager. This common statement is often said regarding vegans. Although common, this statement usually comes from a place of misunderstanding.
Veganism is a type of diet/lifestyle in which individuals do not consume any animal products. This includes abstaining from meat, dairy, eggs, and honey. Some vegans will also avoid the use of products that are made from an animal such as clothes that were made from leather; and some vegans go to the extent to avoid makeup and skincare products that were tested on animals.
Veganism should not be mistaken for vegetarianism. Vegetarians don’t eat any food products made from meat, shellfish, or animal by-products, for example, gelatine or rennet. Vegetarians can eat eggs and dairy products. On the other hand, vegans completely exclude any meat and animal products.
Veganism is on the rise and curiosity about veganism is spreading.
Global warming and climate change are ongoing issues and recently, there have been ideas about how veganism can help the planet. The meat and dairy industries contribute greatly to harm on the planet. The greenhouse effect is when heat is trapped in the earth’s surface due to the emissions of greenhouse gases. The agricultural industry releases many greenhouse gas emissions such as carbon dioxide and methane which result in global warming. One cow generates around 220 pounds of methane into the earth (US EPA). Additionally, the production of meat requires tons of natural resources (water and land) and creates massive amounts of waste and pollution. Veganism is a diet that is more sustainable than an average human’s omnivore diet.
In an article done by The Human League, the benefits of veganism are discussed. A carbon footprint is a net total of greenhouse gas emissions generated by one human being. The article states, “In the US, our consumption habits generate an average of 16 tons of carbon emissions per year... if everyone in the world consumed resources like we do in the US, we would need the equivalent of five planet Earths to sustain everyone’s lifestyles.” If people in the U.S. started to eat a vegan diet, the carbon footprint could be reduced by 73%. This reduction would reduce the clearing of forests that are wiped away for animal pasture. Additionally, the article said, “Producing plant-based meat emits up to 90% fewer greenhouse gases than producing conventional meat.” A plant-based diet will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and slow down climate change.
Along with environmental impacts, veganism can also have beneficial effects on health. An article in Forbes Health stated, “A plant-based diet is typically lower in saturated fat and cholesterol, which can help reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.” Heart disease and strokes are very common and are usually linked to an unhealthy diet. A vegan diet can improve health and start the pathway to a better lifestyle. Furthermore, the article stated, “... a 2019 review in the Journal of the American Heart Association found that plant-based diets that minimize the consumption of animal products are associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and a lower risk of death from all causes.” A plant-based diet can have multiple improvements on a vegan’s health and can reduce the chances of diabetes, cancer, and aid in weight loss.
Although veganism has amazing consequences on the environment and body health, it is important to note that vegans can lead to nutrition deficiency. A review on PubMed Central talked about how vegans can easily lose out on essential vitamins. The review said, “The study found that vegans consumed the least total protein compared to other diet groups, confirming concerns that VD [vegan diet] may include insufficient protein, particularly in instances where legume, seed, and nut consumption is limited . Vegans consume fewer essential amino acids than non-vegans.” Since plant proteins are less digestible than animal proteins, vegans can have trouble when trying to fulfill their protein intake. B12 is an essential vitamin that is necessary for red blood cell formation. In the review, it states, “Low vitamin B12 intake is a significant problem in vegan diets due to the exclusion of vitamin B12-rich foods such as meat, poultry, and eggs. A lack of vitamin B12 has been linked to neurologic and hematologic problems.” A vegan diet can make it difficult to ensure all vitamins and nutrients are attained. To solve this issue, vegans should include chickpeas in their diet which is great for protein, fiber, minerals, and iron. Furthermore, to ensure the B12 requirement, a vegan diet should include nutritional yeast.
A vegan lifestyle might be difficult for some to follow, yet the diet does have multiple benefits. Vegans protect themselves from health illnesses and assist in slowing down environmental crises. Overall, veganism has a positive impact all around.