Are you a die-hard meat eater who waits over the hauling weekdays to satisfy your hunger for your favourite chicken wings? Are you voracious for a taste of your favourite chicken burger at a fast food joint? Well, weekends might quench your thirst or online deliveries can reduce temporary boredom of veggies, but, when you are relying on meat too often, this might call for a temporary doomsday for your body and a long-lasting pain for the environment. Do we know meat-eating as a trend is followed in western and most developed societies as people tend to consider a variety in eating and love to dine out at restaurants which offer them exquisite offerings of meat?
However, when it comes to eating trends, a lot many people are opting for veganism. But this does not mean simply eating vegetarian food, read below to understand the expert views on veganism and the principles of a vegan diet:
What is Veganism?
Veganism is considered to be a modern form of vegetarianism refusing the consumption of animals and animal based products. The term, “vegan,” is said to have been emerged in the year 1944 by a minor group of vegetarians who divided themselves from the Leicester Vegetarian Society in England to develop into a Vegan Society. Members within the group resolved not to consume meat, poultry, dairy products and milk. Veganism has evolved into different types. Individuals adopting the practice were classified as vegans. Based upon the categories, the types include:
- Dietary Vegans – Vegans refraining from the consumption of meat, dairy products, eggs including animal procured substances in their diet are referred to as dietary vegans or vegetarians.
- Ethical Vegans – People adhering to the practice of abstaining from animal based products not just for the purposes of food, but for other commodity based usages inculcating the practice and philosophy into other spheres of life are classified as moral vegetarians. Ethical vegans or moral vegetarians deny cruelty to animals and rely on non-animal usage completely to avoid subsequent harm to fauna.
- Environmental Vegans – In order to build a sustainable environment, environmental vegans curtail the dependence on animals for food requirements, etc. to have a direct bearing on environment in terms of water, land usage and industrial farming methods.
- Whole-food Vegans – Type of vegans consuming a diet rich in whole food items including fruits, vegetables, leguminous plants, nuts, seeds, dietary fibres, etc.
- Junk-food Vegans – Vegans relying excessively on junk and processed food vegan meals including vegan meats, fries, non-dairy ice cream, frozen desserts, etc.
- Raw-food Vegans – Group of vegans consuming food that are chiefly raw or are cooked at temperatures below 118 degree Fahrenheit.
Why Do People Adopt Veganism?
Vegans are inclined to the avoidance of animal products owing to several reasons.
Ethics – Ethical vegans find it a moral responsibility to abstain from the consumption of meat and use animals as commodities for marketing purposes. Bounded by the belief that all creatures have the right to life and freedom, they are subversive to the notion of ending a living organism’s life for the mere purpose of consuming its flesh, using its skin or wear clothes derived from animal parts, as we can always find a means to alternatives.
Impact on Health- People choose veganism for its numerous health benefits. Research has shown that plant-based diets have a positive effect on health, reducing the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer and premature deaths. Reducing the intake of food rich in animal products over time limits the cause of Alzheimer’s disease and cancer. Animal products solely dependent on meat, cheese and butter form an essential component of saturated fats. Saturated fats from a chemical point of view are fat molecules saturated with hydrogen molecules and replacing such foods with healthier alternatives can lower your blood cholesterol levels.
As per the Journal of the American Heart Association, plant-based diets higher in nutrient-dense plant foods and lower in refined carbohydrates and animal products are linked with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease mortality and all-cause mortality, though not incident cardiovascular disease.
People also choose to depend on a vegan mode of living to limit the effect of antibiotics and hormonal changes from modern animal agricultural practices. Vegan diets are considered essential to lose weight and lower Body Mass Index (BMI).
Impact on Environment – One can imagine the vast amount of resources in terms of water, land, energy and food requirements to raise cattle for meat. Animal agriculture is a cause of concern globally as the practice involves the emission of greenhouse gases contributed by agriculture (9 percent) and livestock (roughly 4 percent). To grow crops for cattle, clean up factory farms and provide water to animals for drinking purposes amounts to an abundant consumption of water. Reportedly, a single cow can drink up to 50 gallons of water in a day, doubling the amount in hot weather and it requires 683 gallons of water to produce a gallon of milk.
Why are we facing a Shift to Vegan Mode of Living? (Health Benefits Of Veganism)
People throughout the world are realising the benefits and cultural significance of veganism. Vegan diets are complete in themselves and can fulfil the requirements of major nutrients that an average person require. Studies have correlated vegan diets to major health benefits, reducing dependence on animal fats, which is a major cause of chronic diseases.
Vegan Diets are Associated with Improved Functioning of Heart -
A well-balanced vegan diet comprising of fresh fruits, vegetables, legumes and fibres is associated with reduced risks of heart disease. Studies drawing a line of comparison between vegans and vegetarians and the wider population emphasise on vegans gaining from up to a 75 percent lower chance of developing high blood pressure.
Vegans are also susceptible up to 42% lower risk from dying due to a heart disease. Moreover, vegan diets are more useful and effective at controlling blood sugar levels, LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol levels as compared to general diets.
Cutting Short Cancer Risk –
World Health Organisation reports about one-third of all cancers to be prevented by using self-control measures and diet patterns. Legumes are said to reduce the risk of colorectal cancer by about 9-18 percent. Research points out the benefits of eating fresh fruits and vegetables per day to lower risk of dying from cancer by about to 15 percent.
Vegans depending more legumes, fruits and vegetables, benefit from a 15% lower risk of developing cancer. Vegan diets are rich in soy products, which offer an effective protection against breast cancer. As vegan diets are away from smoked or processed meats and meats cooked at high temperatures, which promote certain types of cancers, abstaining from the consumption of certain animal products may help limit risks of cancers like prostate, breast and colon cancers.
Aid Weight Loss –
People trying to lose weight and gain momentum are turning to vegan-based diets. Observational studies indicate vegans to have lower body mass indexes (BMIs) and are thinner as compared to non-vegans.
Vegan diets rich in dietary fibres and roughage help in bowel movement and prevent constipation. This improves digestion and increases metabolic rate. It is interesting to note that vegans lose more weight than people on a limited calorie diet, even while eating fully.
Studies observing impact of five different diets conclude that vegetarian and vegan diets were as-well suited as semi-vegetarian and Western diets. Vegans are at a considerable advantage as even while not following a perfect diet, the vegetarian community tends to lose more weight than those depending on a standardised Western diet.
Vegan Diets Lower Blood Sugar Levels and Enhance Kidney Functions –
Vegan diets are associated with lower blood sugar levels, higher insulin management, and up to 50 to 78 percent reduced chances of developing type 2 diabetes. Studies from American Diabetes Association (ADA) reveal vegan diets to lower blood sugar levels in people with persisting diabetes. Diabetics who carefully plan their meal and exchange meat for plant protein can eliminate risk of poor kidney functions.
Several studies indicate vegan diets to be effective in providing full relief in cases with systemic distal polyneuropathy symptoms which lead to shooting, burning pain in diabetics.
How to Plan a Vegan Diet?
Elaborating on the benefits one derive from a vegan meal along with a slew of measures to follow while planning to opt for one, Shakti, Dietician/Director, Goodways Fitness speaks to Onlymyhealth, “In the midst of coronavirus pandemic, vegan diets are gaining prominence as it is likely that we may consume certain forms of virus directly or indirectly through foods we eat. Vegan diets have essential herbs in them which detoxify our body and increases immunity. A proper combination of pulses along with fresh fruits, vegetables, soybean and nuts fill the gap for proteins in our body.” Speaking on a general diet plan for vegans, she adds, “A general diet comprising of vegan elements should be complete with green vegetables, spinach, etc. as they are rich in calcium and phosphorous. People traveling outside and those willing to lose weight can opt for dishes like idly, uttapam, plain dosa, etc. Usually a bowl of rice with added vegetables or plain chapattis are vital for a vegan meal.”
Opting for calcium rich plant-based foods along with components rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, zinc and iodine can limit deficiency in our body which can trigger other diseases. Hence, one msut plan their meals carefully.
(Written by Shivani Priyam, Sub Editor, Onlymyhealth)
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