Whether you’ve just resolved to give up meat for the 2018 new year, or have been avoiding all animal products for years now, it does no harm to review the benefits of veganism, both to you and the planet.
Four million people in the UK, 7.3 million in the US, and 1.3 million in Canada are now at least vegetarian. A poll by Harris Interactive found nearly 4 million adult vegans in the US, and 2016 research by the Vegan Society found the number in the UK had grown by 350 percent in ten years.
For many of us, the issue is primarily ethical – unimaginable suffering and loss of life contributes to a meat-based diet, with cows, pigs, chickens and lambs farmed in horrifying conditions. But it turns out a meat-free diet also contributes to your better overall health and significantly benefits the planet.
Numerous studies show lower incidences of heart disease, lower BMIs and lower blood pressure in vegetarians. The World Cancer Research Fund has linked eating too much meat with bowel cancer, and being overweight has similar dangers.
If you resolve every year to eat healthily to lose weight but find yourself no thinner or healthier, why not consider going full vegan? A vegetarian or vegan diet can be twice as effective for weight loss than meat-based dieting. Vegans tend to weigh less, and most people lose weight after making the switch, even from vegetarian to vegan.
Dropping the meat, dairy, and eggs, which are high in cholesterol and saturated fat, can almost halve your risk of heart disease and significantly cut your risk of diabetes. According to a 2017 paper by the US Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, going vegan “may provide health benefits for the prevention and treatment of certain diseases”. They identified significant differences in health issues among people eating only plant-based meals.
It cut their risks by:
62% for diabetes
33% for heart attacks
29% for heart disease
18% for cancer
and in men, 35% for prostate cancer.
The paper also confirmed that a vegan lifestyle is beneficial for everyone, including pregnant and breastfeeding women, babies, children and athletes.
One study found removing dairy from the diets of migraine and asthma sufferers significantly improved their conditions. Dairy is also heavily implicated in skin complaints. Cow’s milk, full of oestrogen and other hormones, can stimulate the hormones linked to acne breakouts.
Meanwhile, the evidence for giving up meat to protect our environment continues to stack up. Beef, for example, uses 160 times more land and causes 11 times more greenhouse gas emissions per edible calorie than crops like wheat, rice or potatoes. It’s not just the greenhouse gases the animals themselves constantly release into the atmosphere; it’s the entire fossil fuel-burning industry needed to raise, kill, and transport them. Animal agriculture also wastes far too much of the Earth’s increasingly scarce water, and the waste produced by factory farms pollutes poor rural communities.
A vegan’s carbon footprint is about 50 percent lower than an omnivore’s. Research has shown that if everyone ate a completely plant-based diet, it would cut food-related greenhouse gas emissions by 70 per cent and save 8 million human lives by 2050.
So, if you’re wondering what you’ve got yourself into, or still teetering on the brink of veganism, what better time to join the food revolution? And if you stopped eating animal-derived food twenty years ago for animal-welfare reasons, give yourself a pat on the back.
Recipes and other practical information are available from The Vegan Society at https://www.vegansociety.com/resources/.