Growing up I always had an affinity for animals, so it was no surprise to my parents when at age 16 I announced I was going to be a vegetarian. I think what did surprise them was that I stuck with it and even recently made the transition to a full-fledged vegan diet.
I believe the reasons behind my lifestyle choice are what have kept me on this path for over fifteen years, and hope they inspire you to do the same. So without further delay, here are my top four reasons to go vegan:
1.Health: Being vegan could save your life.
Studies have proven that following a plant-based diet dramatically reduces the risk of developing cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. Don’t just take my word for it. Read The China Study by Dr. T. Colin Campbell. It details the 20-year survey of diseases and lifestyle factors that produced more than 8000 statistically significant associations between dietary factors and disease. It is also recognized as the most comprehensive study ever undertaken of the relationship between diet and the risk of developing disease. I don’t know about you, but having watched these diseases destroy so many loved ones is reason enough to kick animal products out of my life for good.
2. Compassion:"Do to others what you would have them do to you."
I am not a religious person, but I do believe this is the cornerstone of compassion. I cannot, in good conscience, contribute to the torture and suffering of animals. Animals are intelligent beings that experience joy, sadness, and pain as intensely as humans do. I don’t believe they were put on this earth for us to eat. I have several friends who disagree with me on this and I won’t argue or try to change their beliefs. I will say this: There are over one billion people in the world going hungry needlessly, while the amount of vegetable protein fed to U.S. beef herd alone could feed almost two billion people! If the suffering of animals isn’t enough to elicit your compassion, perhaps the suffering of your fellow man is.
3.Environment: Save the planet!
It’s no secret that eating a meat-based diet contributes significantly more pollution, uses more land, more water, more energy and more deforestation then a vegan diet. Dr.David Brubaker, PhD at John’s Hopkins University’s Center for a livable future states: “The way that we breed animals for food is a threat to the planet. It pollutes our environment while consuming huge amounts of water, grain, petroleum, pesticides and drugs. The results are disastrous.” Going vegan can save countless species from extinction and save one acre of forest every year. I would like to leave the world a better place than I found it for future generations. Regardless of the outcome, though I hope and strive for the best, at the very least I can say that I tried.
4.Food: This is where the fun begins!
I’ll be honest; the initial transition period will be difficult. There will be moments when your cravings are so intense you’d sell your soul for a cheesy plate of nachos, a juicy burger, or a decadent dessert. That is what the substitutes are for. There is a vast array of faux meat, cheese, and dairy substitutes out there so you’re sure to find a few that will tantalize your taste buds. My personal fav’s are Daiya pepperjack “cheese” shreds, Lick’s nature burgers, and coconut bliss dark chocolate dairy-free “ice-cream." Why not take a trip to your local health food store and leisurely stroll through the aisles to see what strikes your fancy. The substitutes will get you through until you’re ready to adopt a healthier, whole foods plant-based diet. When following a vegan diet begins to feel like second nature it’s time to get cooking. Scour your neighborhood’s library shelves or surf the net and gather up an arsenal of vegan recipes with new and exciting ingredients you can try on a lazy Sunday afternoon. Yes it will take longer than popping a veggie burger in the microwave, but trust me, the results will be worth the extra effort.
Photo credit: flickr.com/photos/txberiu