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The idea behind veganism is simple: a diet that includes no meat or animal products like eggs and dairy. Whether people are choosing this diet for ethical reasons, or they feel that it will make them healthier, the vegan diet continues to grow in popularity. The question among nutritionists, however, is whether the diet really is any healthier for you than an omnivorous diet. Here, we'll examine some of the benefits and downsides of this diet.
- Lowers Cholesterol- Studies have proven that a diet that a diet comprised mostly of vegetables can significantly reduce LDL (bad cholesterol). Another benefit of a vegan diet is a lower overall risk of hypertension and Type II diabetes. The reason for this is simple--meats contain significant levels of casein, which is a known carcinogen that also increases cholesterol levels.
- Lowers Blood Pressure- Vegetarians and vegans on the whole have lower blood pressure and a significantly decreased risk of ischemic heart disease compared to non-vegetarians.
- Increased Antioxidant Intake-Because many American diets don't include as many vegetables as they should, vegans often have a much higher intake of dietary fiber, antioxidants and other plant-based nutrients.
- Potential interference with medical issues- For people with diseases like diabetes and osteoporosis, it is crucial to talk to a doctor before making a radical diet change such as veganism.
- Inconvenient at Restaurants- Even though veganism is gaining popularity, it's still pretty rare for restaurants to offer truly vegan options. This is especially true at chain restaurants, and diners/restaurants in smaller towns. Vegans often have to prepare their own food, or bring along pre-packaged options.
- Loss of essential vitamins and minerals- This might seem to go directly against the above statement, but while a vegan diet does provide more antioxidants and certain nutrients, there are some amino acids and nutrients (B12, for example) that only naturally occur in meats and fish. Vegetarians and vegans are also at risk of iron deficiencies. People undertaking a meatless diet should consider buying supplements to ensure that they are still getting proper nutrition.
- Cost and Time- One of the special challenges that vegetarians and vegans face as they adapt to the challenges of their new diet is that it can be expensive and time consuming. Relative to the rest of the world, America has fairly expensive produce. Farmers markets and community gardens are a popular way to avoid some of these costs. As for the diet being time-consuming, many vegans prepare meals and snacks ahead of time, often picking one day of the week in which to do their cooking. It's not impossible, but you do have to think ahead.
Is Veganism for You?
We've looked at some of the pros and cons of the vegan diet, and now the decision is up to you. Here are some important things to consider before you make the switch:
-If you are considering making the change to a vegan lifestyle, it is important to consult your doctor about potential risks and challenges you might face.
-Educate yourself about proper nutrition. Meats are a complete protein--in the proper combination, vegetables and grains can provide the same nutrients, but it's important to know what those combinations are.
-If you're concerned about the damaging aspects of meat consumption, another possibility is to simply moderate how much meat you are consuming. Switching to low-mercury fish like salmon is a tasty and healthy alternative to red meat.
Best of luck in whatever diet you choose!
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