In January of this year I decided to go vegetarian for a month. I simply wanted to try it out and see how I felt afterwards. I figured if I liked it I would keep going and if I didn’t I would stop. These events were sparked by a documentary I saw about the health benefits of a plant-based diet. I figured jumping straight into it would surely be a recipe for failure, so I decided to start with only eliminating meat. However, I didn’t watch just the one documentary. I watched more, a lot more. I started reading and researching. It wasn’t long before I decided to go straight vegan because I found myself genuinely not wanting to eat dairy or eggs and it felt wrong to force myself.
Before jumping into this, let me make a few things clear:
- I am not a doctor or a nutritionist and even if I was, I doubt I’d have the confidence to claim that absolutely every single person on Earth can thrive on a plant-based diet. I know there are people who suffer from severe allergies and other health concerns that make it a challenging diet at best.
- While it may sway the odds in your favor, following a plant-based diet is not a guarantee that you will not catch certain diseases and it is not a cure all if you start that diet after getting sick.
- A plant-based diet is not necessarily a healthy diet. If you’re a “junk food vegan” or you’re trying to survive on nothing but cantaloupe juice and kale don’t expect to see all the possible benefits of someone eating a well-balanced diet.
- To state the obvious, these are not all-inclusive lists.
Possible Health Benefits
1.) First of all, vegan diets are not inherently inadequate at any point in life, including pregnancy or infancy. This is according to both the American Dietetic Association and the British Dietetic Association.
2.) Processed meat is classified as a carcinogen and red meat is considered a probable carcinogen. Red meat has been linked to colorectal, pancreatic, and prostate cancer.
3.) Plant-based diets help prevent and manage Type 2 Diabetes. They are effective at reducing blood sugar and can also improve kidney function.
4.) Eating dairy regularly has been linked to increased risk of prostate cancer. Additionally, it’s been associated with increased risk for breast, ovarian, and lung cancer in people with lactose intolerance. This is significant because roughly 65% of adults have a lowered ability to digest lactose, but it’s rarely diagnosed.
5.) While it is not conclusive, there is evidence to suggest a plant-based diet may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s Disease.
6.) Plant-based diets are shown to not only reduce the chance of heart disease, but actually unblock clogged arteries. Considering that cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the world, this information could save many lives.
7.) There are many risk factors increasing the likelihood of people experiencing strokes. Plant-based diets help reduce many of them, such as hypertension.
1.) Plant-based diets are inherently missing Vitamin B12. Symptoms of Vitamin B12 deficiency include: anemia, cognitive difficulty, trouble walking, and weakness/fatigue. Vitamin B12 must be supplemented through vitamins or fortified foods. (I use fortified nutritional yeast.)
2.) Plant-based diets that largely consist of unhealthy food will still have negative impacts on your health, including heart health.
3.) Veganism is, by nature, somewhat restrictive. For someone recovering from an eating disorder this could potentially hinder their progress or be used as a cover for their illness.
4.) Even if your diet doesn’t consist of junk food, if it’s not well planned you may be missing important nutrients. (To be fair, this is true of any kind of diet.)
All of that being said, in my opinion the potential health benefits are merely a perk. If that is someone’s sole interest they can eat a plant-based diet without living a vegan lifestyle. The heart of veganism will always be for the animals.