Why a Vegan Diet
The vegan diet has grown tremendously in popularity over the past twenty-years. I have a friend who has been vegan since about the age of 15. He helped me get a better perspective on how challenging following a vegan diet was approximately 20 years ago and how things have changed (in America at least).
But first, what is the vegan diet? A strict vegan simply does not use any animal products. They will not use them as food, clothing or any other consumable item. Individual vegans state different reasons for making their choice. It is often for two main reasons: ethics/morals and health.
The way animals are treated on factory farms can be appalling and downright unethical. This is a huge concern for vegans. They often take it a step further by insisting that humans do not have the moral right to ‘use’ animals as they please.
Other vegans mainly site health factors as their motivation for following the diet. Animal products do contain things that are not too healthy. Beyond the normal compounds such as saturated fat, vegans also worry about the drugs used on animals, possible diseases mainly brought on by the factory farming process (remember mad cow) and even the stress hormones that may be in meat.
Going vegan (or even vegetarian) means you will have to fill your diet with some type of nutrition. For those doing it right, this means more vegetables. That is a great thing and a big reason why a vegan diet is often promoted as being healthier than the typical omnivore diet. Any diet, in my opinion, that includes more fresh vegetables is going to be better than one with less. I base my opinion off an overwhelming amount of scientific studies showing the benefits of a diet full of a variety of vegetables.
From my conversations with a vegan of twenty years and many other vegan friends, it is fair to say that sticking to a vegan diet is a lot easier in America today than it was in the past. Vegan restaurants are popping up all over and grocery stores, especially Whole Foods, Henry’s, and Trader Joes type stores, are offering a larger variety of vegan friendly products at reasonable prices. Being vegan in a big city is often easier because of a greater variety of vegan choices and fellow vegans that support and educate newcomers.
As with following any diet, being vegan is a commitment that involves a lot of learning. You must learn how to better prepare and cook food. You must also learn what is in your food and what makes up the ingredients of your foods. A seemingly benign food like jello is not vegan friendly (horse byproducts are used). Vegans must also learn what goes into other products they may use in their daily lives. Leather is out as is silk, wool and soaps made with animal derivatives.
As with any diet, nutritional variety is key to keeping it healthy and successful. Sticking to a vegan diet is a big commitment and a continuous learning process. Fortunately it is becoming much easier to do so with the growing number of vegans and vegan friendly options.