What is veganism?
Veganism is defined as a lifestyle that excludes the consumption and use of animal products in our food, clothing, toiletries, entertainment and more.
It is a lifestyle that refrains from using any products tested on animals, in a nutshell, veganism is a belief against all cruelty, suffering and unnecessary exploitation of animals.
Why go vegan?
Choosing to be vegan is one of the most compassionate and powerful ways we can support animal rights, the environment and our health. And once you become committed to a vegan lifestyle, you'll find it much easier to follow than you think.
To help show you how easy it can be, I’m sharing my top 10 reasons to go vegan and why it's important to make the switch.
1. Compassion for animals
We all love animals, yet so many of them are suffering unnecessarily just so that people can eat their produce. And there’s nothing humane about taking another sentient beings life. Most of us have unfortunately grown up in a society that has turned animals into objects - we've been led to believe that it's ok to eat another living being.
Yet just like us humans, animals are able to experience pleasure and elation, as well as feeling pain and suffering. However, billions of animals are sadly exploited each year just so their meat can end up on a supermarket shelf.
The animal agriculture industry raises animals specifically for food, they are kept on factory farms, where they are treated cruelly and are denied their right to simple basics such as sunlight and fresh air.
The cute images you see on food packaging of happy cows and hens in green meadows are far from the reality. And regardless of where an animal comes from, remember this - no animal wants to die. Whether an animal is raised in a factory farm or on an organic farm, there is still no humane way to kill another living being.
By avoiding the consumption of animal products, you're taking one of the most simplest ways you can to make a stand against animal cruelty.
2. Improve your health
A well-planned and balanced plant-based diet that follows healthy eating guidelines, can give your body all of the nutrients and goodness it needs.
Some research has shown that a vegan diet can lower your risk for developing heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity and some form of cancers. Doctors have even been using a plant-based diet as a way to treat and reverse some diseases such as type 2 diabetes. Source: pcrm.org.
Vegans typically have lower cholesterol levels & lower blood pressure. This is because a plant-based diet is low in saturated fat and free of cholesterol. This helps improve your blood viscosity (the thickness of your blood), which in turn helps more oxygen reach the muscles.
A vegan diet helps to reduce inflammation which can be harmful to the body. Inflammation can cause damage to the arteries, organs and joints. Many plant-based foods have anti-inflammatory properties which helps minimise this impact.
Adopting a vegan diet is also a great opportunity to learn more about nutrition and ways to improve your diet. A diet rich in plant-based foods such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds is packed full of beneficial nutrients, vitamins and minerals. Did you know a plant-based diet contains 64 times the amount of immunity-boosting antioxidants, compared to a diet of meat and dairy? Source: plantbasednews.org.
Overall, vegans often live a healthier lifestyle because they are eating more natural products and less junk food.
"Over recent years, there has been a growing mountain of evidence in support of the health benefits of a vegetarian/vegan diet and the health risks of pounding too many beef burgers into our bodies." Source: Medical News Today.
3. Save the environment
The production of meat through factory farming contributes heavily towards many of the world's environmental problems. From the amount of crops and water required to feed the animals, to the transport and other farming methods involved to produce meat.
Animal farming has become one of the biggest global causes of deforestation, water pollution, loss of natural habitat and species extinction. The vast amount of animal feed alone that is required for meat production is a major contributor to deforestation.
Animal agriculture is responsible for up to 91% of the Amazon rainforest's destruction, around 30% of the earth's land is used for animal agriculture (and this number keeps growing).
Every minute, the equivalent of 7 football fields of land is destroyed to make way for animal agriculture. Shockingly, in Brazil alone, the equivalent of 5.6 million acres of land is used to grow soya beans for factory farm animals in Europe, and almost half of all water consumption in the US goes to raising animals for food. Source: onegreenplanet.org.
On top of this, the beef and dairy cattle industry is one of the main contributors to global greenhouse gases. Methane makes up about half of the total greenhouse gases. There are two ways that cows generate methane, through their digestion and through their waste. And these greenhouse gases are linked to global warming.
One of the most effective things we can do to lower our carbon footprint is to avoid consuming all animal products. Especially when you realise that s considerably lower amount of crops and water are required to sustain a plant-based diet. Making the switch to vegan is one of the most easiest and simplest ways to reduce your impact on the environment.
4. Lose weight sustainably
Eating a natural whole-foods plant-based diet contains all of the protein, carbohydrates, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that your body needs.
It’s a lot easier to lose weight or maintain your ideal weight when you’re eating natural foods instead of consuming foods high in saturated fats such as meat, lard, butter and cheese. And foods high in saturated fats have also been linked with health problems, such as an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
Eating a vegan diet rich in plant-based foods such as nutritious fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds means you'll be consuming fewer calories and you will most likely find that you no longer have to "watch" what you eat.
Animal products are much higher in fats than vegan foods so we can load up our plates with lots of vegetables and still stay lean. On top of this, studies have shown that vegans tend to have a much healthier BMI.
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5. Improve your fitness
It's becoming more and more popular for athletes to switch to a plant-based vegan diet thanks to the obvious health benefits.
Many people fear a loss of energy or muscle mass when removing animal products from their diet, but in fact quite the opposite is true. This is because the idea behind vegans not getting enough protein from plants is a myth. Plant-based protein such as beans, lentils, chickpeas, nuts, quinoa and tofu are much healthier and natural sources of protein, and have less fat than animal produce.
Alongside this, a plant-based diet has been known to reduce inflammation which helps athletes to recover quicker from sports and workouts. Many famous athletes have adopted this healthier way of eating, and their positive results are evident in the eye-opening documentary: The Game Changers. (Currently available on Netflix)
I have witnessed my own incredible change in my fitness levels since switching to a vegan diet. My recovery times have reduced rapidly and I have a lot more energy during a workout.
Meat and dairy are particularly difficult foods for the body to digest, and this can take much of your energy leaving you feeling tired after a heavy meal. Plus, plant-based diets are rich in fibre, which helps to aid digestion. I firmly believe that as an athlete you can get the best nutrition and enough protein from a whole foods, plant-based diet.
Related post: Get fit on a vegan diet
6. Boost your mood
Did you know that veganism can help to prevent and lessen the affects of anxiety and depression? Some studies have shown that a plant-based diet can improve physiological health as well as mental well-being. Many people struggle with mental health issues and a lot of how we feel on the outside stems from the foods we are consuming. Switching your diet to plant-based foods and removing highly processed animal products could help lift your mood and reduce symptoms of anxiety.
7. Better skin and hair
Meat and animal by-products have been linked to acne, inflammation, and the premature development of wrinkles. That's because these foods contain harmful chemicals, such as pesticides and hormones that our bodies are not able to process easily. This can lead to our skin and hair suffering as a result.
8. Discover delicious new food
Trying out and discovering delicious new plant-based foods and recipes really broadens your horizon. It also let's you find tasty dishes that you might never have thought of trying before.
When you decide to go vegan, you’ll instinctively get more creative with your meals and you'll be surprised at how many different food options there are. It's not all about eating salads!
I've developed a new-found passion for cooking after switching to veganism, and I love experimenting with different flavours. I also love seeing peoples faces when they taste my favourite key lime pie and I tell them it's vegan!
9. Prevent world hunger
Did you know that over half of the worlds grains are being fed to factory farmed animals? The amount of grains grown to feed these animals could instead be used to feed millions of people worldwide. Instead, globally many people are still going hungry every day.
On top of this, it takes a vast amount of water to produce meat. 1 pound of beef requires 1,799 gallons of water, this includes irrigation of the grains and grasses in feed, plus the water required for drinking and processing. Compare this with a study that found that the plant-based Beyond Burger requires 99 percent less water to produce than a beef burger.
10. We don't need to eat meat
Just like gorillas and elephants, humans are herbivores - we don't need to eat meat in order to survive. We eat it out of choice, yet we can easily live on a plant-based diet. And why would we continue to place our taste buds as a priority over that of an animal's life?
Our anatomy alone proves that we are not designed to eat meat. We don’t have long sharp teeth required to rip into flesh, and unlike carnivorous animals that have smaller intestines, our long intestinal system struggles to digest meat. Source: plantbasednews.org.
The same thing goes for dairy. Cow’s milk contains a lot more protein and fat because it’s meant to be fed to calves, not humans. Once calves are born they grow big very rapidly, hence the need for their mother's milk. It’s not designed for human consumption and can contribute to weight gain among other problems, such as lactose intolerance.
Why being vegetarian isn't enough
The suffering caused by the dairy and egg industry is a lot less publicised than the suffering of factory farmed animals.
What's wrong with milk and cheese?
Sadly, with the production of dairy products brings a large amount of unnecessary cruelty. Cows are continually forcefully impregnated to produce calves in order for them to produce milk. Once born, the calves are immediately and cruelly taken away from their mothers so that they don't drink the milk that will eventually end up on supermarket shelves.
This also leads to the premature death of female cows who are slaughtered once their milk production decreases, as they are deemed useless to the industry. It also contributes to the sad and inhumane death of male calves when they are born, as they are of no use to the dairy industry either.
But eggs are ok, right? No.
And the egg industry does not fair much better. Even 'ethical' or 'free range' eggs still involve the killing of male chicks when they are just a day old, as they are considered useless to the egg industry. Often this happens in the most inhumane way possible - by being thrown into a grinder whilst they are still alive.
When eggs are taken from a mother hen, she will overcompensate by laying more. By laying a lot more eggs than she is supposed to, this can cause an considerable amount of damage to the hens insides. It's certainly not a nice life to live.
Unfortunately we've been taught that eating certain animals, such as cows, is normal. Yet for most of us we'd never dream of eating a cat or a dog. This is something called speciesism. In reality, once we begin to see and treat all animals equally, and we understand the connection - that they are living beings with a right to a life, we can begin to align our life choices and actions with our morals.
There's never been a better time to go vegan
With such a wide availability of delicious plant-based food options these days, it's no surprise that more and more people are going vegan every day. Veganism has become much less of a minority and a lot more mainstream, and continues to grow.
In the UK alone all good supermarkets now stock vast amounts of vegan food choices, not to mention the number of vegan restaurants and cafes popping up in every highstreet.
Looking for inspiration comes easily in the form of pinterest, instagram and facebook, where you can find endless recipe ideas and tips on how to transition to a vegan lifestyle. And when other people see the positive changes that veganism has created in your life, they’ll want to find out more about it too.
So what do vegans eat?
There are so many delicious dishes to choose from, I've really loved discovering and baking new foods. My favourites at the moment include my oat and banana energy balls, this quick and easy falafel recipe, and if you're in need of a little sweet treat - these yummy key lime pies will hit the spot! (All shown below)
Find more of my vegan recipes here.