Veganism is spreading like wildfire…
There has been a 600% increase in the number of people identifying as vegan between 2014 and 2017 (1).
What’s driving this upward trend in plant-based diets? Why go vegan?
In this article, I share 9 compelling reasons to go vegan, including our our own experience and some things to look out for if you decide to make the switch.
Table of Contents (Jump to Section)
1. Animals can feel pain, fear, love, and more
Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash
Sentience is defined as “having the capacity for sensation or feeling”. You and I are sentient beings. Like us, animals can feel complex emotions like fear, loss, love, pain, and many others.
This never clicked for me until Kayla showed me Sadia Badiel’s story (founder of vegan food blog Pick Up Limes) about why she went vegan. She watched Sadia’s YouTube channel for months before we made the commitment, and I never would have even considered going vegan if Kayla hadn’t opened my eyes. I highly recommend you read Sadia’s story if you want to learn more about why someone would want to go vegan.
Basically, Sadia committed to veganism after watching a gruesome scene on TV show The Walking Dead. In the episode, people were lined up in front of a basin like cattle, bashed over the head with a bat, then had their throats slit to allow the blood to drain.
Click here to watch the clip (warning: clip shows spoilers and is extremely graphic).
Yet, that’s what we do to animals. We treat them horribly…
- We breed chickens to lay an abnormal amount of infertile eggs (which is a process akin to that of childbirth, with immense pain and struggle). (2)
- We forcibly impregnate cows so they continue to produce milk. (Imagine if we forced humans to become pregnant over and over, milking them and turning that milk into cheese). When they can no longer produce milk, we slaughter them. (3)
- We toss baby male chicks and sick or weak females into a grinder because they can’t lay eggs or be used for meat production. They’re considered “waste” by food manufacturing companies (see the video below). (4)
All of this is just scratching the surface of the monstrous, inhumane, unjustifiable way we treat factory farm animals. Your mind has now been opened to the terrifying truth of the world we live in… and you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.
This is the single biggest reason Kayla and I committed to a plant-based diet. But in case you’re not yet convinced, let’s keep going.
2. (Some) Meat is kinda gross
You might be thinking, “That’s awful! But I love meat; I could never give it up.”
Well, let me tell you what you’re actually eating. Every time you sit down to a meal of meat, eggs, or dairy products, you’re really dining on bacteria, antibiotics, hormones, dioxins, and a host of other toxins known to cause serious health issues in humans. (5)
We’re talking E. Coli, campylobacter, listeria, and more—all known to make you violently ill and cause diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and even a virus that causes obesity. (6)
In fact, scientists at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health tested supermarket chickens’ flesh and found that 96 percent of Tyson chicken packages were contaminated with campylobacter, a dangerous bacterium that causes 2.4 million cases of food poisoning each year, resulting in diarrhea, cramping, abdominal pain, and fever. (7)
Oh, and did you know that it’s legal for your meat to contain trace amounts of feces? (8) That’s right; you’re eating poop. Not to mention blood and the other bodily fluids. Yum!
That said, we’re talking factory farm animals here. Animals that are treated better without being force-fed antibiotics and who aren’t subjected to overpopulation in confined spaces contain far less of these bacteria and diseases.
3. Lower your risk for heart disease and type 2 diabetes
Eating meat, particularly red meat and poultry, significantly increases your risk of developing diabetes. (11)
Luckily, recent studies have found that “a whole-foods plant-based diet—legumes, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and nuts, with limited or no intake of refined foods and animal products—is highly beneficial for preventing and treating type 2 diabetes.” (12)
Keep in mind that you can’t just eat nothing but salad and tofu and expect to cure yourself. As the study says, you still need a well-balanced diet with a variety of foods, including sufficient protein. If you’re interested in going vegan, check out this beginner’s guide.
4. Treat or reverse other current health conditions
Diabetes isn’t the only health condition caused by eating meat, and it’s not the only thing you can cure by going vegan! Meat contains lots of bad cholesterol and saturated fat, both of which can clog your arteries and make you feel lethargic.
We’ve long known that eating a well-planned vegan diet is healthy and nutritionally adequate at all stages of life (13). Now we also know that vegans have lower rates of cancer, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, strokes, and even Alzheimer’s. (14)
In fact, a diet centered around whole plant foods is the only diet proven to reverse heart disease in the majority of patients. (15) Woohoo!
5. Lose weight effortlessly
If you’ve ever struggled with losing weight, vegan foods may be your solution.
I already mentioned how meat contains viruses linked to obesity. Vegans are, on average, up to 20 pounds lighter than their meat-eating counterparts. (16)
The best part?
Unlike those unhealthy fad diets, a plant-based lifestyle leave you slim and provide bounties of energy. I say lifestyle because it’s not a “diet” in terms of doing it for a limited time to lose weight, but rather a shift in what you eat for life.
6. Feed the hungry
The first time I told someone I was giving up meat, they said “there are just too many people in the world; we need to produce all that meat to feed them.”
This is completely false. In fact, not only do we not need meat to feed the population; factory farms are actually causing the planet to have less food!
Roughly 50% of grains worldwide are being eaten by animals in the industries. Worse yet, 82% of children living next to livestock are starving! Farmers are growing wheat then shipping it away from starving children to send to first world countries. (17)
Shockingly, it takes 2,500 gallons of water, 12 pounds of grain, 35 pounds of topsoil and the energy equivalent of a gallon of gasoline to produce just one pound of beef. (18)
So, no—we don’t need to mass slaughter living creatures to feed the hungry. Quite the opposite; veganism is literally the only solution to end world hunger.
Fun fact: Being vegan could save up to 724,925 gallons of water per person each year! (19)
7. Fight climate change
Alright, at this point, I think you’ll agree with me that it’s kind of insane we don’t have more people going vegan. I mean, is halting mass slaughter 10 times worse than the holocaust, removing feces from our diet, and ending world hunger not good enough?
In case it wasn’t, going vegan also fights climate change.
Depending on the study you look at, 18-51 percent of man-made pollution comes from the meat industry—that’s more pollution than transportation. (20) This is because it takes around 40 calories of fossil-fuel energy to create just one calorie of feedlot beef (versus 2.2 calories of energy to create plant proteins). (21)
Not to mention, factory farming is the number one cause of rainforest deforestation. More trees are cut down for livestock than palm oil, fracking and logging combined. (22)
Finally, factory farming of animals is also the largest contributor to ocean pollution due to animal waste winding up in the ocean. The waste causes a lot of harm to the environment, killing millions of fish and causing “dead zones” in the ocean that can’t support marine life at all. (23)
8. Boost your mood and have more energy
We already talked about losing weight without the fatigue. But did you know that eating more plants can also improve your mood and even fight depression?
Back in 2016, a guy by the name of Karl Hoppner shared his story of how veganism saved his life and eradicated his depression. He’s not alone—Kerry Graff, a medical doctor, had learned of the benefits of plant-based diets and was concerned the diets she prescribed her patients was actually harming them. So she went vegan, lost 25 pounds, and also dropped her depression!
These findings are backed by science, too. Several studies have found a link between plant-based foods and a drop in depression and anxiety in test subjects. (24)
9. Reduce acne
Last but not least, vegan foods (or rather, a lack of meat) can improve your skin and clear up your acne!
To put it as simply as possible, our body has protein-receptors called mammalian target of rapamycin complex 1 (mTORC1). Some researchers believe mTORC1 turns on the pathway (or chain reaction) for the body to create acne breakouts. mTORC1 is activated by nutrients, especially amino acids like leucine. Animal products are high in leucine, which causes this receptor to be overstimulated, leading to increased sebum (oil) production—a known cause for acne. (25)
In addition to reducing the leucine in your diet (and thus your chance for breakouts), fruits and vegetables are also high in fiber, which improves digestion. (26) Your digestional tract is directly related to your skin health! Not to mention all the vitamins and minerals in plant foods.
Is Going Vegetarian Enough?
At this point, you’re probably convinced of the reasons to go vegan. But you may be wondering… “Do I have to give up milk and cheese, too? Giving up meat is enough, right?”
Well, not really.
Milk and egg farming are almost as bad as meat farming. Cows are forcibly impregnated (raped) to continue to produce milk. When they can’t anymore, they’re killed. Chickens are bred to continuously produce infertile eggs until they can’t, then they’re killed.
Photo Source: Quillette
This isn’t humane. And these products aren’t healthy, either. Dairy products have many of the same issues as meat, including causing obesity, acne, heart disease, diabetes, and more.
But here’s my take on it: If you want to go vegetarian to start, then do that. It’s more important to get started with this change than to try and be perfect at it. Perfection often halts and even destroys progress. Do what you can, take it at your own pace, and give yourself a pat on the back for even reading this article!
What About “Ethically” or “Humanely” Raised Animals?
I 100% understand this. Animals in the wild die gruesome, horrifying deaths; like being eaten alive and viciously ripped apart. It’s far better for the animals (in my opinion) to live out their life with no pain and easy access to food and have their life ended painlessly.
However, many companies market their products as “free range” and “humanely raised”, when in reality, the living conditions and the way the animals are treated is virtually the same. Instead of being stuffed in a cage, they’re stuffed into a massive barn where they can barely move and they’re laying on feces, with giant red bedsores on their bellies (very painful). (27)
Here’s an image of “humanely-raised” chicken living conditions:
And here’s what those awful bedsores look like:
Unfortunately, the vast majority of big corporations are in it for the money, and they will hide or obscure the truth in favor of the almighty dollar. There may be a few true ethical brands, but they’re few and far between.
Why The Heck Is Everyone Eating Meat If We Know All This?
This is a question that’s kept me up at night. The answer really comes down to the history of veganism, the way we solved malnourishment in the old days, and a lack of education of the general population. The truth is hidden from us behind the scenes and we’re taught, through advertisements and cultural norms, what’s right or wrong to eat.
Here’s a video that really helped me understand it better:
I like this video because it doesn’t place the blame on your as a human being, but rather on the circumstance of how society developed and what we’re taught. Many people preach veganism in a way that makes others defensive and angry, which, in my opinion, is the wrong way to go about it.
You are not a terrible person for having eaten meat and dairy products; it’s all you knew and you didn’t know any better. What matters is what you do now that your eyes are open.
But don’t feel like you need to be perfect. Kayla and I researched veganism for months before finally committing, and we’re still not 100% vegan. (Read why here.) Reading one article probably won’t change your life. Like anything, it’s a work in progress!
Our Transition to (Near) Veganism
Kayla and I were vegan for six months after learning everything you’ve just read. However, we’re not 100% vegan anymore. The reason is that it’s so hard to be a healthy vegan.
There is a lot of “science” out there on both sides (veganism and carnivore-ism) that isn’t 100% definitive. There are healthy people on all-vegan diets, but there are also a lot of people suffering gut problems, hair loss, kidney stones, and more.
I believe it’s possible to be a healthy vegan. But you need to do your homework and work closely with a nutritionist to avoid health complications.
Because of that, we choose to occasionally eat grass-fed, humanely-raised animal meat as ~5% of our total diet. We don’t east dairy and I only eat eggs from backyard chickens I know (and even then, not often). Kayla doesn’t eat eggs, but then she never has.
We’re not the type to judge others for their dietary choices or hold picket signs outside a restaurant. Everyone’s journey is their own; we can only hope that more people choose to reduce their meat consumption and help save the planet, the animals, and themselves.
Our diet consists of a lot of rice, quinoa, lentils, beans, various veggies, fruits, and breads. A staple in my daily diet is a shake with coconut or oat milk (fortified with B12), a banana, some flax and chia seeds, and peanut butter. We’ll share our meal plan once we’ve finished refining it — stay tuned!
Want to learn more about our personal story and how Kayla started this site? Click here to read our about page!
Vegan Health Concerns You Should Know About
If you’re thinking about going vegan, there are a few things you should be aware of before you dive in. It’s amazing for your health, but there are some common pitfalls that give vegans a bad nutritional rep. Don’t let that worry you, though; with a little planning, you can overcome all of these concerns and live an extremely healthy plant-based lifestyle!
I won’t go too deep into these here, so if you want to understand more, check out this article.
Protein Deficiency – A common problem with new vegans is protein deficiency. At first, you may not know what to eat, so you eat salads and veggies (which are extremely lacking in the protein department).
To solve this problem, ensure your diet includes protein-rich plant foods such as mock meats, beans, legumes, lentils, nuts, seeds, some soy, and even hemp and pea proteins. Even things like Spinach and dark green vegetables contain a surprising amount of protein!
Photo Credit: BBC Good Food
Vitamin B12 – Another health concern for vegans is a lack of vitamin B12 in nearly all plants. B12 is an important vitamin to keep your cells healthy and prevent anemia, and is only found in animal foods. (26)
If you decide to take this path, please either get B12-fortified foods (such as oat or nut milks) or get a B12 supplement. These supplements and fortifications are taken from micro-organisms and do no harm to sentient beings, but keep you healthy and happy.
Good information supports vegan health, pass it around. Click here to learn more about B12 on a vegan diet.
Other Vitamins & Minerals – In addition to the two main nutritional concerns above, many vegans suffer from a lack from the following vitamins and minerals:
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids
- Fat-soluble vitamins like A and D
Again, this is largely due to a lack of education among the vegan community and not including plant foods that contain these minerals. When in doubt, take supplements to ensure you’re getting these essential nutrients. You should also see your doctor before making any kind of diet shift like this!
Fun Fact: Omnivores also suffer from a lack of some of these nutrients, including vitamin D! Veganism isn’t the problem; lack of nutritional education is.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some common questions people have asked us about veganism:
Why do people choose to be a vegan?
People choose to be a vegan for many reasons. But the three primary reasons are for their health, for the environment, and for the animals.
What is the purpose of veganism?
The purpose of veganism depends on your reason for going vegan. For many, the purpose is to help animals. For others, the purpose is to reverse certain health conditions or to lessen their impact on the environment.
Is it healthier to be vegan?
It can be. However, it’s only healthier to be vegan if you get all the nutrients your body needs, including the nutrients that are hard to get on a vegan diet (such as protein, iron, calcium, vitamin B12 and Omega-3 fatty acids). See a nutritionist for more help.
Do vegans live longer?
Some studies have found that vegans and vegetarians live longer than their meat-eating counterparts by up to nine years. (27) However, correlation is not causation. Vegans and vegetarians are also more likely to exercise, be married, smoke less and drink less alcohol, all of which can lead to a longer, healthier life.
There you have it—nine reasons to go vegan. If you read this far, I imagine you’re ready to take the plunge, or are seriously considering it.
You’ve learned that a plant-based diet is ethical, can save the planet, improves your health, and can help you effortlessly lose weight. And the extra energy certainly doesn’t hurt!
If you’re ready to dive in, the next step is to learn what to eat. Check out this beginner guide to get started!
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