Veganism is on the rise, but is it actually healthy?
Veganism is a diet which excludes all meat, and all animal products; no cheese, chicken, fish, milk, eggs, red meat, etc. With veganism becoming more popular, there are a lot of people asking, is veganism healthier? Is eating meat bad? Am I slowly killing myself? Let’s take a look at the science.
But before that, a quick note. This is an area of research that’s much politicized, meaning you are going to find studies that directly conflict each other. They find the exact opposite thing. There are also studies that draw conclusions that don’t match what they found; this tends to happen when researchers funded by groups interested in promoting their own agenda. So as always, you have to be a critical thinker.
So is veganism healthy? The short answer to that is yes. Veganism can be one of the healthiest ways to eat. Vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds, these are all vegan staples that makes your body happy. They can provide all of the nutrients, yes even protein that you need, without a ton of calories, salt, sugar, and harmful fats.
Plants are good for you. They are great for you, and they will help your body to thrive. The Oxford Vegetarian study done in the 80s, which is one of the largest done on vegetarians and vegans to date, found that vegetarians and vegans have lower rates of cholesterol and rather lower risk for heart disease. After adjusting for variables like smoking and social class, death rates were lower in those who didn’t eat meat and in those who only ate fish.
However, they also found that vegans and vegetarians were more likely to have vitamin and mineral deficiency. So here lies the cautionary tale; depending on your personal situation, your nutritional needs may be more challenging to meet with a vegan diet.
For the average person, there main source of calcium, vitamin D, protein, vitamin B12, zinc, and iron all comes from meat and dairy products. So this means that vegans have to be on top of their nutrition. It’s especially true for children and pregnant women who are two groups that a vegan diet is a higher risk for.
So without planning or consulting with your doctor, what was once a healthful diet can become quite a toxin diet on the body and even impair a child’s growth. So should you become a vegan? Maybe, maybe not. Diet is a personal choice and it’s not simply a matter of what’s healthiest. There are philosophical, environmental, and class implications to consider as well. We all have the right to make decisions about our bodies and that should be respected.
Most studies out there indicate that eating more plants and fewer animal products is generally good for you, so if you want to be healthier, you can start by making those small changes. Many nutritionists will say that you can reap some of the benefits of a plant based diet without eliminating meat from your diet by opting for moderation and a healthier balance.