Veganism is defined as a way of living that attempts to exclude all forms of animal exploitation and cruelty, whether for food, clothing or any other purpose.
When we talk about veganism, many people hear the word “diet” as part of the overall conversation. After all, one of the most well-known aspects of the vegan lifestyle involves not eating meat or animal by-products.
However, by centering diet at the soul of the conversation, we might be doing a disservice to vegans. There’s far more to the veganism ethos than simply controlling what one puts in his or her mouth, and ignoring those facets of the vegan lifestyle denies its power.
If you’re thinking about going vegan or if you already consider yourself a vegan, it’s important to understand why you make specific choices as a consumer and human and why you choose to avoid things that other people consider commonplace.
No, you don’t have to become an academic scholar, nor do you need to tell everyone you meet about your vegan lifestyle. However, part of those movement involves living your values. Instead of just expressing them, you demonstrate them through what you do and choose not to do.
Every year more and more people are making the decision to go vegan, and for good reason! There are so many amazing ways that veganism can improve our lives - fantastic health benefits, less stress on our environment, more efficient ways to use our resources, and many more!
There are so many unique reasons someone might choose to adopt a vegan lifestyle. When thinking about transitioning to veganism it's important to ponder your morals and the reasons why this lifestyle speaks to you. A big lifestyle change is easier to sustain if you wholeheartedly believe in your decision. Think about the standards you hold yourself accountable to, and what guides you as you decide what is right and what is wrong.
In the consumer culture we live in today we show support with money. Every purchase we make is like a vote of support. When we buy commercial products our money is voting in support of not only the product but also the practices and morals of the company. For this reason it's important to be an educated consumer so that with every dollar you spend, you're supporting something you truly believe in.
Vegan diets can provide all of the nutrients that a person needs, and they can eliminate some of the possible risks that research has associated with harmful animal fats. Research has linked the vegan diet with a range of health benefits, including those below.
Better heart health
Vegan diets can boost heart health in several ways.
A large scale 2019 study has linked a higher intake of plant-based foods and lower intake of animal foods with a reduced risk of heart disease and death in adults.
Animal products — including meat, cheese, and butter — are the main dietary sources of saturated fats. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), eating foods that contain these fats raises cholesterol levels. High levels of cholesterol increase the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Plant foods are also high in fiber, which the AHA link with better heart health. Animal products contain very little or no fiber, while plant-based vegetables and grains are the best sources.
In addition, people on a vegan diet often take in fewer calories than those on a standard Western diet. A moderate calorie intake can lead to a lower body mass index (BMI) and a reduced risk of obesity, a major risk factor for heart disease.
Lower cancer risk
According to a 2017 review, eating a vegan diet may reduce a person’s risk of cancer by 15%. This health benefit may be due to the fact that plant foods are high in fiber, vitamins, and phytochemicals — biologically active compounds in plants — that protect against cancers.
Research into the effects of diet on the risk of specific cancers has produced mixed results.
However, the International Agency for Research on Cancer report that red meat is “probably carcinogenic,” noting that research has linked it primarily to colorectal cancer but also to prostate cancer and pancreatic cancer.
The agency also report that processed meat is carcinogenic and may cause colorectal cancer.
Eliminating red and processed meats from the diet removes these possible risks.
People on a vegan diet tend to have a lower body mass index (BMI) than those following other diets.
The researchers behind a 2015 study reported that vegan diets were more effective for weight loss than omnivorous, semi-vegetarian, and pesco-vegetarian diets, as well as being better for providing macronutrients.
Many animal foods are high in fat and calories, so replacing these with low calorie plant-based foods can help people manage their weight.
It is important to note, though, that eating lots of processed or high fat plant-based foods — which some people refer to as a junk food vegan diet — can lead to unhealthful weight gain.
Read more about the vegan diet and weight loss here.
Lower risk of type 2 diabetes
According to a large 2019 reviewTrusted Source, following a plant-based diet can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. The research linked this effect with eating healthful plant-based foods, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and legumes.
Different Types of Vegan Diets
There are different varieties of vegan diets. The most common include:
Whole-food vegan diet: A diet based on a wide variety of whole plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds.
Raw-food vegan diet: A vegan diet based on raw fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds or plant foods cooked at temperatures below 118°F (48°C) (1Trusted Source).
80/10/10: The 80/10/10 diet is a raw-food vegan diet that limits fat-rich plants such as nuts and avocados and relies mainly on raw fruits and soft greens instead. Also referred to as the low-fat, raw-food vegan diet or fruitarian diet.
The starch solution: A low-fat, high-carb vegan diet similar to the 80/10/10 but that focuses on cooked starches like potatoes, rice and corn instead of fruit.
Raw till 4: A low-fat vegan diet inspired by the 80/10/10 and starch solution. Raw foods are consumed until 4 p.m., with the option of a cooked plant-based meal for dinner.
The thrive diet: The thrive diet is a raw-food vegan diet. Followers eat plant-based, whole foods that are raw or minimally cooked at low temperatures.
Junk-food vegan diet: A vegan diet lacking in whole plant foods that relies heavily on mock meats and cheeses, fries, vegan desserts and other heavily processed vegan foods.
Although several variations of the vegan diet exist, most scientific research rarely differentiates between different types of vegan diets.