This Food Savvy article is being featured in tandem with the five-day vegan challenge that was hosted by the Michigan Animal Respect Society (MARS) last week. We’ll be introducing veganism, the sustainability facts, and health facts,
Overview of Veganism
A dietary vegan is someone who refrains from eating any products with ingredients derived from animals. This includes all meat, fish, and dairy. However, many processed foods contain animal-derived ingredients, too.While dietary vegans only steer clear of animal products in food, some vegans refrain from consuming or purchasing any produce derived from animal ingredients, from soaps and cleaners to clothes and shoes.
Tips for Implementing Veganism
If you’re considering any or all of the vegan lifestyle, here are a few ways you can introduce it into your routine.
- Start slow so as not to overwhelm yourself with change. First, increase the amount of plant-based foods you consume. You might also attempt to first become vegetarian (no meat or fish, but can have dairy) or pescatarian (no meat but fish and dairy are okay) before making the complete switch to veganism.
- If you enjoy the taste of meat or dairy, you can find easy and tasty substitutions for those foods, or you can simply reduce your portion size over time. For example, supermarkets often have a diverse array of plant-based choices, from eggs to burgers, and even yogurt and cheese—all made from plants.
- Explore fruits, vegetables, grains, and soy-based proteins. Not only are they delicious and fun to experiment with in the kitchen, they can help increase energy and decrease inflammation.
- Consider taking a multivitamin as the vegan diet may result in inadequate amounts of iron, vitamin B12, zinc, calcium, riboflavin, and omega-3 fatty acids. Consult with a doctor or nutritionist to discuss any concerns you may have surrounding dietary deficiencies.
Sustainability Fact Sheet
In the past three years, there has been a 600% increase in people identifying as vegan. Here are three reasons to explain the growing trend in a vegan lifestyle.
The first is that a plant-based diet is more sustainable and environmentally friendly. Avoiding animal products, especially beef and dairy, greatly reduces your carbon footprint.
- Animal agriculture is responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, more than the combined exhaust from all transportation.
- Livestock is responsible for 65% of all human-related emissions of nitrous oxide—a greenhouse gas with 296 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide, which stays in the atmosphere for 150 years.
- Emissions for agriculture are projected to increase 80% by 2050.
- Agriculture is responsible for 80-90% of US water consumption.
- 2,500 gallons of water are needed to produce 1 pound of beef.
- Livestock covers 45% of the earth’s total land animal agriculture. This has led to species extinction from deforestation, ocean dead zones, water pollution, and habitat destruction.
- Animal agriculture is responsible for up to 91% of Amazon destruction; 1-2 acres are destroyed every second.
A second reason is that many people believe following a plant-based diet will improve overall health. Research suggests that there are positive health effects when becoming vegan and consuming more fruits, vegetables, and other whole foods.
- Based on a study of 89,000 people, those eating meat-free, dairy-free, and egg-free diets appeared to cut their risk of high blood pressure by 75%.
- Vegan diets have also been shown to help in the treatment of type 2 diabetes by lowering total and LDL cholesterol and by controlling lipid levels, for example by reducing triglycerides, a type of fat that is also associated with a greater risk of heart disease.
- Research suggests that individuals on a vegan diet are at less risk to develop both Type II Diabetes and major forms of cancer such as colon, breast, and lung cancer.
Finally, a third major reason individuals embrace veganism is to promote animal rights and highlight animal abuse in the food industry.
The vegan lifestyle is not all or nothing. Even trying flexitarian (where you eliminate a single day or meal’s worth of animal products from your diet) can make a difference. It’s all about finding what works for you.