Those who follow my blog know that I am passionate about veganism. Wikipedia defines veganism as “both the practice of abstaining from the use of animal products, particularly in diet, and an associated philosophy that rejects the commodity status of animals.”
I became vegan 3 years ago, at the end of 2014. Before then I followed a vegetarian diet (I didn’t eat meat but still consumed dairy & eggs). You can read a summarised version of my vegan journey here.
Since I’ve become vegan I have discovered so many health benefits that I’d like to share.
Improved Mental Health
I am not claiming that a vegan diet would cure mental illness however, I found that since aligning my actions with my core values of kindness and compassion, I am fundamentally happier. This is because I see the world through a different lens – a lens without the ‘invisibility cloak’.
Carnism is the invisible belief system, or ideology, that conditions people to eat certain animals. Carnism is essentially the opposite of veganism, as “carn” means “flesh” or “of the flesh” and “ism” refers to a belief system.
Once I shifted my belief system from Carnism to Veganism, I felt a weight shift off my chest. I felt at ease with myself in a way that I had never felt before. I no longer participated in unnecessary violence toward other sentient beings, and that felt better than eating any type of animal product ever did!
Better Food Choices
Once I made the conscious decision to become vegan, I had to shift my mentality about food. Food I previously consumed became no longer food. Rather I saw those as body parts of dead sentient beings, and products of cruelty and injustice.
I learnt about alternatives to meat and diary. I made my diet entirely plant based. This is also referred to as a vegan diet, or simply ‘vegan’ (although being vegan is more than a diet – see end of the article). My simple google research revealed how much nutrition can be obtained from a plant based diet. Vegan Easy is an excellent source for loads of vegan recipes and other resources about plant based eating.
Also check out Australian Guide to Healthy Eating. This is the national guideline in Australia for a healthy diet! Look at the five good groups.
The entirety of the Grains, Vegetables and Fruit categories are already vegan. These 3 groups alone make up more than two thirds of the circle!
Then there is the “Dairy” category for calcium and “Lean meats and poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts and seeds” category for protein. These are the only categories with animal products. As the name suggests protein can be obtained from tofu, nuts and seeds. Meat, poultry, fish and eggs can easily be replaced with other plant based sources of protein such as lentils, quinoa, tempeh, beans, grains, and broccoli.
Dairy is the other concern many people have when considering a vegan diet. Most people believe that dairy is the only source of calcium. Calcium is important for strong and healthy bones but there are many plant based sources of calcium. These include leafy greens (e.g. kale), collards, broccoli, okra, figs, oranges, almonds, pistachio nuts, hazelnuts, flaxseed, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, soybeans, chickpeas, navy beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, lentils, tempeh, tofu, fortified non-dairy milks, fortified soy products, fortified breakfast cereals, and fortified orange juice. Visit Vegan Easy for loads more information about healthy plant based diets.
While I didn’t suddenly become invincible to illnesses, my sinuses became less frequent and my blood results showed that my overall health has improved over the last 3 years. My vitamins, protein and cholesterol levels are well within the healthy ranges. Before I became vegan, before I was even vegetarian, I was often anaemic. Since I changed my diet my iron levels have consistently been in the healthy range.
I am not saying that cutting off meat and dairy will miraculously make you immune to every disease. There are certainly naughty foods that are still vegan (100+ naughty vegan food) – fried chips or nice cream anybody? What I am saying is that it is entirely possible to live and thrive on a well balanced plant based diet. The only supplement that is universally recommended with a plant based diet is vitamin B12.
Still concerned about health impacts of a plant based diet? Consult a qualified dietitian! For those who live in Brisbane, Australia, ‘Human Herbivore‘ is a good website.
Apart from mental and physical health benefits at an individual level, there are also wider scale benefits from being vegan:
1) As vegans we would not only stop consuming animal products but we would also stop contributing to the suffering in clothing (e.g fur, leather & wool), entertainment (e.g. circus animals, aquariums & zoos), medicine/laboratory experimentation (e.g. cosmetic testing), and working animals (e.g. horse-drawn carriages). There are loads of vegan friendly alternatives to choose from.
2) We would significantly reduce the carbon footprint on our planet. I aim to write a post about the water consumption and land clearance associated with animal agriculture and non-animal agriculture.
3) Generally, we would develop an increased awareness toward other social justice issues in the world such as; poverty, child labor, sexism, LGBT rights, racism and all things in between. Dr. Melanie Joy explains why eating animals is a social justice issue because commodification of animals is a result of a widespread oppressive system just like racism, sexism, and heterosexism.
Ultimately, cultivating compassion and justice is not simply about changing behaviours; it is about changing consciousness so that no “others,” human or nonhuman, are victims of oppression. To bring about a more compassionate and just society, then, we must strive to include all forms of oppression in our awareness, including carnism. – Beyond Carnism
So what are you waiting for? Order a FREE vegetarian starter kit today!