Veganism has been becoming increasingly popular every year, and has reached new heights in 2021. There are many reasons as to why it has become so popular, especially its focus on improved health, decreased risk to the environment, and decreased harm to animals.
For Your Health
The number one reason for many people adopting a vegan diet is due to health and longevity; replacing meat and dairy with plant-based whole foods reduces the probability of developing many deadly chronic diseases. Meat consumption has been linked to significantly increased risks of breast cancer, prostate cancer, colorectal cancer, and type 2 diabetes. The common thought process that animal protein is necessary for muscle building and overall health has been debunked. Fruits and vegetables hold significantly higher micronutrients per calorie than animal products. Overall, a plant-based diet will significantly reduce the risk of nearly all major chronic illnesses, and also increase the average expected lifespan by a decade. Dr. Campbell, a biochemist who specialized in the effect of nutrition on long-term health, says, “It’s never too late to start eating well. A good diet can reverse many of those conditions as well. In short: change the way you eat and you can transform your health for the better.”
Through my personal transition as a vegan, I was able to go to the gym more without feeling as sore and felt much more energized every morning. Although I was originally a vegetarian, the transition to veganism still had a profound effect on my health, skin, and emotions; I can only imagine the effect it would have if I had transitioned from eating meat to eating vegan foods! I was also extremely lucky to go vegan at a time when there are so many options available—from vegan milks all the way to vegan meats. I never felt deprived of any foods I used to have as a vegetarian. Here are a few vegan options I’ve used to replace dairy. You can find these at most of your local health food and grocery stores:
1. Forager Probiotic Cashewgurt: This drinkable yogurt comes in many different flavors, but the strawberry one is my favorite. Not only is this drink delicious, but it is packed with as many probiotics you would get from regular yogurt!
2. Forager Organic Dairy-Free Cashewgurt: I know, Foragers again! The unsweetened, plain version is my personal favorite. Whenever I eat or cook certain Indian dishes, I love to have this on the side. It tastes exactly like regular yogurt (but is healthier, and no animals are harmed!) This can also be found at Whole Foods.
3. Violife Cheese: This cheese melts just like regular cheese, and tastes absolutely amazing. I use this for homemade burritos, pizzas, baked potatoes, grilled cheese, and mac n’ cheese.
4. Tofutti Sour Cream: There are so many different brands of sour cream, but this brand is my favorite. This sour cream goes so well in any meal whether burritos, cheesecake, or macaroni salads.
5. NadaMoo! ice cream: This brand has tons of exotic ice cream flavors, but the Maple Pecan is out of this world. Not only does it taste like butter pecan ice cream, but it only uses agave as the sweetener, making it healthier than dairy ice cream.
For The Environment
I have always been a “Go-Green” advocate, encouraging my family and others to recycle as much as possible and bringing reusable cups to coffee shops. However, I realized I was not helping our world as much as I could when I was consuming products from an industry that was most detrimental to the environment: the dairy industry.
Animal agriculture is the leading cause of deforestation, ocean dead zones, and species extinction. One third of the earth’s fresh water, 18% of total greenhouse gasses produced from human activities, and up to 137 plant, animal, and insect species are lost as a result of accommodating for commercial livestock. Raising animals for food produces more greenhouse gasses than all cars, planes, and other forms of transportation combined. A person who eats a vegan diet saves 45 pounds of grain, 30 square feet of forested land, 20 pounds CO2 equivalent, and 1,100 gallons of water per day. On the contrary, it takes 660 gallons of water to produce one hamburger, 30 gallons to make one glass of milk, 50 gallons to make two slices of cheese, and 109 gallons to make one stick of butter. Overall, new research has concluded that a vegan diet produces a 42-84 percent lower burden on the environment than the diet recommended by the U.S. government.
For The Animals
This is the primary reason I became vegan. Growing up, I was not educated about animal cruelty. I had always believed that people were vegan just to be healthier, and at the time, that was not enough of a reason for me to become one. After watching videos about how animals are treated in the meat and dairy industries, my heart broke and I decided to go vegan “cold turkey.”
Just like all human beings, cows, fish, pigs, and other animals experience pain: The day a mother dairy cow gives birth, she moans as her baby is taken away from her. At factory farms, cows are forcibly impregnated, and are kept in a constant cycle of pregnancy, birth, and lactation. As male calves are not able to produce milk, they are not useful to the dairy industry and are instead sold for veal production. When cows are no longer able to produce enough milk, they are slaughtered in order to make beef.
In 2015, in the United States alone, a staggering number of animals were sacrificed to the meat and food industry. The statistics are shocking:
- 30,676,000 cows
- 512,000 calves
- 118,304,000 pigs
- 2,332,600 sheep
- 8,822,695,000 chickens
- 27,749,000 ducks
- 232,398,000 turkeys
Every year, over one trillion fish are killed for human and livestock consumption globally. More animals are killed every week than the amount of humans that have died in all wars and genocides combined in recorded history.
There are many reasons that veganism has become so popular over the past few years, and the number of people choosing this diet is continually rising. It’s the number one way to increase your health, help the planet, and save millions of animals from being slaughtered, so if you have not already, I urge you to “go vegan” and change the world!
–Aastha Saggar, MPH for the Veggie Fest Team
With a Master’s in Public Health, Aastha Saggar focuses on how the meat industry has contributed to one of the biggest public health crises in the world. Her enthusiasm for the vegan diet relates to her compassion for animals and to the knowledge that many epidemics occurring right now in the U.S.A. are related to unhealthy diets and lack of exercise.