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Wellness

10 BENEFITS OF A VEGAN DIET

Brittany McCallum

It’s been over seven years since I've eaten a piece of meat. I quit eating chicken, beef, and pork while I was a sophomore in college (never was much of a seafood eater). As an assignment for class, I had to attend a film festival. Randomly, I chose to see the screening of Food, Inc. The documentary exposed the dirty side of meat production in the United States and it bothered me so much that I gave up eating meat right on the spot. The information addressed in Food Inc. truly shook me to my core. That was a night I will never forget! I walked out of the theater and grabbed dinner with friends in a cafeteria on campus. Instead of reaching for the usual late night burger and fries, I found myself walking from station to station trying to find a filling alternative. Since that night, I haven’t experienced any cravings toward meat. As a matter of fact, after becoming more educated on food, I ultimately cut out dairy and all other animal products. Throughout the years, I’ve made a complete lifestyle change, and my body couldn’t be more thankful.

Being vegan is super healthy and great for the environment! If you’re on the fence about making the switch, here are 10 reasons that helped with my decision:

1.    Vegans live longer 
Research shows plant-based eaters live six to nine years longer than those who eat meat. 

2.    Vegan diets are low in saturated fat and cholesterol
Information from the book, The Vegan Diet as Chronic Disease Prevention, suggests that average American's cholesterol level is 210 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL), which is higher than the medically acceptable range of 150-200 mg/dL. The average cholesterol of a vegan in the US is 146 mg/dL.

3.    Reduce the risk of life-threatening illness (such as diabetes, cancer or heart disease)
An article published in Food Technology, explains that plant-based diets either minimize or completely eliminate people's genetic propensity to developing chronic diseases, such as diabetes type 2, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.

4.    Better skin
Removing dairy from my diet has done wonders. My skin glows and I've noticed a remarkable reduction in blemishes. Grains, nuts and dark leafy greens are great sources of vitamins A and E which benefit the skin.

5.    Weight management
My weight dropped significantly when I first cut out meat. Since then, eating clean has helped me maintain a healthy size. 

6.    Vegan food does not contain antibiotics, growth or sex hormones
According to the Environmental Working Group, "80% of all antibiotics consumed in the U.S. go to livestock." Animals are treated with antibiotics and hormones to enhance growth rates and prevent infections. 

7.    Protect our planet
Cows expel methane, a greenhouse gas that is 23 times more potent than CO2. A study shows that 16 times more fossil fuels are needed to create one steak than to produce a plate of broccoli, eggplant, cauliflower & rice. According to Peter Scarborough and his colleagues at the University of Oxford, a vegan saves 1.5 tons of CO2 compared to the average American diet.

8.    Save water
According to GoVeg.com, "it takes 300 gallons of water per day to produce food for a vegan and more than 4,000 gallons per day to produce food for a meat-eater. Additionally, food for a vegan can be produced on 1/16 an acre of land, compared to over 3 acres to produce food for a meat-eater."

9.    Save money
Don't be turned away when you hear that eating healthy is too expensive! It's not! Fruits and veggies are generally much cheaper than meats and dairy items. Even if it was costly, the nutritional value and benefit to your personal health will largely outweigh the cost.

10.    Feel better
Following a vegan diet makes me feel better physically, and cutting out dairy has tremendously reduced bloating. Now, when I indulge in a cheat meal, my body feels bad! Cravings for junk food leave me with headaches and terrible stomach pain.

It’s not as hard as you think! A vegan diet is simple! Eat more plants!