Benefits of Vegan Living: Is it Worth it?
Have you ever considered the benefits of vegan living? Thought it would be too extreme a change? Are you picturing hippies right now? 🙂 When the word vegan is mentioned people often can get confused that being vegan actual entails. They often think it is extreme vegetarian. Let’s start at the basics and then go into the benefits of vegan living.
What’s the difference between vegetarians & vegans?
Those unfamiliar with the terms “vegan” and “vegetarian” have probably pondered the difference between the two. Aren’t they both synonymous, with a shared meaning of a person who does not eat any type of meat? Not exactly. The general interpretation is that a vegan will not consume any foods of animal origin, not even honey, while a vegetarian might consume eggs (ovo-vegetarian), or dairy (lacto-vegetarian). According to the Medilexicon medical dictionary, a vegan is “A strict vegetarian; one who consumes no animal or dairy products of any type”.
Having a twin sister who has been a vegetarian since we were in 10 grade, I am quite familiar with the this diet, but had not really considered the benefits of vegan living until I did the Ultimate Reset 21 day detox last July. I had thought I was eating a relatively healthy diet, but I quickly learned I had some bad habits.
My main purpose in doing the Reset was to break though a weight loss plateau and experience it myself. I do not like recommending anything I have not tried and tested. My secondary goals was to see if I could reduce my bad cholesterol and increase my good cholesterol. As I work in the human heart failure research, I see people everyday who are suffering from heart disease. My Ultimate Reset experience and my recent watching of Forks Over Knives sparked this blog post on the benefits of vegan living.
Benefits of Vegan Living: Health
Coming from a medical background, the health benefits brought up in Forks Over Knives intrigued me especially after seeing my bad cholesterol drop over 22 points with the Ultimate Reset which is vegan the last 14 days of this 21 day detox. I have had people I work with lose significant weight and feel energized. Denise who just finished the Reset lost 15 lbs had this to say. The ultimate reset was my intro to the vegan diet and the research detailing the benefits of vegan living is impressive. Let’s talk about a few of these benefits.
Did you know that eating animal fats and proteins has been shown in studies to raise a person’s risk of developing cancer, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, hypertension, and heart disease? An article published in Food Technology in October 2012 details that an plant-based diets either minimize or completely eliminate people’s genetic propensity to developing these chronic diseases.
Whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and legumes contain no cholesterol and are low in fat, especially saturated fats. They are also high in fiber and other nutrients. A study showed that men with early stage prostate cancer who make intensive changes in diet and lifestyle may stop or perhaps even reverse the progression of their illness which struck home with me as my dad is a prostate cancer survivor. Another correlation they discussed is that women who eat very little meat and animal products have a much lower rate of breast cancer than do the women in countries that consume more animal products.
These studies made me reflect on the benefits of vegan living and whether I should make it a point to eat less animal products. What are your thoughts?
Benefits of Vegan Living: Will I have enough protein?
This is a common question and misconception when people think about vegan or vegetarian diets. Protein sources are often synonymous with consuming animal proteins like beef, fish, and chicken. Andrea Giancoli, an registered dietitian and spokeswomen for the American Dietetic Association, notes that “It’s true that most plant foods don’t contain all the essential amino acids needed by our bodies, while animal proteins do, but a grain plus a bean makes a complete protein. As long as you’re getting a variety of those, you are fine — and they don’t need to be consumed at the same time.”
There are certain vegan “super foods” like soy products and quinoa have been found to contain proteins that break down all the essential amino acids. Quinoa is awesome! You can use it like rice, add it to salads, and use it as a substitute in recipes. I have used it to make my own vegan chocolate shakeology protein bars and as a rice substitute in home made sushi and stir fry. One of my favorite blogs is Cooking Quinoa which is a great place to learn about the benefits of vegan living. One easy way to get protein while eating vegan is to incorporate vegan shakeology into your diet. I am a personal fan of the chocolate and the tropical strawberry is pretty delicious as well!
Benefits of Vegan Living: What Nutrients could be lacking?
There are a few nutrients that vegans do have to keep careful track of so the get all the benefits of vegan living without suffering health issues. These include vitamin B12, a key nutrient in cell metabolism, nerve function and blood production, and calcium. Many people automatically think you need to consume dairy products to get enough calcium. As a women, I definitely worry about osteoporosis. While, animal products are rich in vitamin B12, and dairy products contain loads of calcium, vegans can get B12 and calcium from fortified cereals and fortified dairy substitutes such as soy or rice milk. Dark green leafy vegetables like broccoli, collard greens or kale also are good sources of calcium.
Iron is another essential nutrient as it needed for the creation of hemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells that delivers oxygen to cells and tissues throughout the body. Plant foods such as dried beans, dark green leafy vegetables and fortified dairy substitutes are good vegan sources.
Benefits of Vegan Living: Final Thoughts
The purpose of this blog post is not to convince to you to become a vegan. I myself, do not plan to become full fledged vegan at this time, but my Ultimate Reset experience and the knowledge I gained via Forks Over Knives and PubMed research, definitely make me consider the benefits of vegan living more closely. This is not for everyone, but I do believe making some small changes into your lifestyle can have major health effects. Small changes likes eating less animal products and more vegetables. Making the choice to get that workout instead of postponing it until tomorrow which as you know becomes the next week, month, etc.
So please take a moment to comment below to let me know your thoughts, suggestions, etc!
I run monthly Ultimate Reset Challenge Groups. Why don’t you join me in one of my groups and experience the Benefits of Vegan Living yourself!