Why Go Vegan? [What A Vegan Nation Will Require]
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Why Go Vegan? [What A Vegan Nation Will Require]
When we talk about vegans and the health effects of a plant-based diet, we’re often dealing with one key question: is veganism healthier? Also, why go vegan at all?
When we deal with this question on an individual level it can be quite complicated. However, when we talk about the whole population there’s no question – vegan diets are a better choice for the whole population.
So, today we’re going to talk about what a vegan national diet would look like. We’ll cover what it would mean for our health as well as the challenges. Also, what would need to happen before we could achieve it.
So, why go vegan? What a vegan nation will require is set out in our in depth look at the subject…
The American Diet and the Plant-Based Diet
The average diet in the English-speaking world is relatively poor. It’s filled with low-quality foods, and we eat too much and exercise too little. With a rate of overweight/obesity of 2/3, it’s clear that we’re living in a calorie surplus as a whole culture.
There are dozens of health problems linked to this and this is only a small selection:
- Blood pressure
- Thyroid problems
- Heart disease
- Digestive problems
- Reduced immune function
- Brain diseases
There are countless other risks that are all too common because of our diet.
We’re Doing It Wrong
The American-British diet gets everything wrong.
Our carbs are refined and fast-absorbing and full of sugars. We don’t eat enough wholefoods like vegetables, pulses and wholegrains. This is a contributor to both obesity and diabetes risk. The over-eating of junk carbs is a real cause for concern.
Dietary fats aren’t great either. While they don’t make you fat, too much of the wrong fats contributes to heart risk and blood pressure. Our balance of fats is far too heavy in saturates, and not the good kind you find in coconuts. Instead, we have deep-fried, battered nonsense and too much butter.
One of the biggest problems we’ll tackle today is that our proteins come from low-quality, over-processed, unhealthy animal foods. Foods like cheeseburgers, hot dogs and fatty cuts take priority over fish or high-quality plant proteins.
In other words, we’re eating too many calories and too few nutrients. This is exactly the opposite of a good diet.
The Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet
Really then, why go vegan? We’ve gone through the benefits of a plant-based diet before, but that’s about what you can get from it as an individual.
Today, it’s all about the population sized benefits. The things we notice about populations and their meat intake, as it relates to their most common causes of death.
Of the top 10 causes of death, 9 are the result of lifestyle. Of these, many are negatively affected by poor diet. You can reduce your risk of the most common causes of death by improving your diet. This is specifically based on your consumption of plant foods.
How Can A Plant Based Diet Improve Our National Health?
- Heart disease/attack
The risk of heart disease is tied to everything from cell health to blood pressure. The unifying factor in many of these problems? They’re directly affected by how many plants you eat! A diet that is rich in plant foods can reduce the risk of heart disease – the number one killer in the English-speaking world today.
Stroke is related to blood pressure and clots and a bunch of other obesity-risks. It is the second most common cause of death and equally well-regulated with a plant-heavy diet. The risk of common causes such as high blood pressure and deep-vein thrombosis are combated with plants.
Type-2 diabetes is the result of insulin sensitivity . Primarily as the result of over-eating with a large amount of refined carbohydrates. This is a problem because insulin is tied into the healthy functioning of the brain and heart. Disorder here can be fatal.
This is why its one of the leading causes of death. Plant-based diets directly combat insulin resistance and the adjusted levels of simple, complex and indigestible carbohydrates is key for regulating metabolic and hormonal health.
- Colorectal cancer
The most common cancer that your diet has a large effect on is colorectal cancer. This is a form of cancer that occurs in the lower digestive system. It is often in response to the stresses you place on the gut.
These stresses come in many forms but the most common is a lack of plant-fiber and an excess of low-quality meats and fats.
This is obviously more easily addressed in a plant-based diet because of the high intake of plant foods. Also because of the total elimination of highly-processed ‘pink’ meats like hot dogs – the key contributor to colorectal risk.
Whatever your diet, the intake of plant foods is directly related to colorectal cancer risk. Eat your veggies.
- Cancer: General Neoplasms
Neoplasm is the general name for any type of tumor or growth. This covers every type of cancer. This is appropriate because the way that we measure cancer risk has to be divided into two areas: general risk factors and strain-specific risks.
For example, lung cancer has a general mutation-risk rate (based on your overall cell and metabolism health) and then the specific risks like lifestyle and smoking. Diet plays directly into the general risk rate for every type of cancer. This is because it dictates and regulates the risk of oxidative stress and cell-death.
A plant-rich diet contains a lot of antioxidants. This is a fancy name for anti-cancer nutrients that are found in disproportionately huge quantities in plant foods.
Everything from vitamin A to K are found in plants and are crucial in protecting you from all-type cancer risk. With additional supplementation of products like creatine and vitamin D, you can further protect your cells on a plant-based diet.
Why go vegan? Your health is clearly a major factor.
What Needs to Change?
A vegan diet isn’t easy by itself, and it’s even tougher for the challenges that we face in our culture today.
While we’ve made some amazing changes over the past 75 years, it’s clear that our diet and food culture is one area that’s slipped. With an increased demand for convenience and craving-satisfaction, we’ve changed why we eat.
The begin question is this: what needs to change for us to live a happier, healthier life on a plant-based diet? What do we need to do to improve our national health, reduce the risk of uncomfortable later life and, ultimately, death?
Fast Food: Convenience Culture and Nutritional Choices
The way that we eat isn’t the only variable in how we diet. But it does play a big part in the types of foods we choose.
If you don’t want to cook, you’re going to reduce the nutritional quality of your diet. By treating food and cooking as a process to make efficient and minimize, you’re going to miss out on the benefits of healthy food.
If your priority is to avoid cooking or dash between scheduled events, that drive-thru might be the reasonable choice. This is because we put the convenience of food above the value of it and what it does for our body, mind, and long-term health
When you are more worried about the ease of your food than the quality, you’re going to eat junk food.
Fast food isn’t just named that way because there’s no ‘waiting’. It’s because you can grab a cheeseburger in 5 minutes while a top-quality meal can take half an hour to prepare.
We need to change these habits and build a better relationship with food. A better diet requires better choices and habits. This often means giving yourself an easier route to the behaviors you want.
By living a life of convenience and being impatient, we’ve ruined our dietary habits and twisted the purpose of food from fuel to satisfaction or the sugary, high-fat taste.
We get to choose what we pass on to the next generation.
If nothing else, we should pass on the knowledge and lessons that we learned from our own health and diet.
One of the biggest problems is how much we know about diet and nutrition.
This is obvious from the number of insane fad diets we’ve seen people try and fail. This goes to show that our understanding of nutrition is awful. Everyone should know how their body works and how to control the variables in health, wellbeing, and body fat.
If you don’t know how your body works, you can’t be expected to manage your own weight effectively.
It’s a process that takes some understanding and tracking – it requires an effective education. While everyone’s talking about common core and reform, we need to improve the nutrition science in schools to improve our national diet and keep healthy.
This is a way we can improve the world for our children, keep them healthy, and save the nation billions in healthcare costs (which make up 61% of healthcare costs paid by the government). It’s a small investment in our long-term success and wellbeing as a nation.
Our Relationship with Food
Around 30 million Americans present symptoms of eating disorders – a significant number.
There are millions of people who use food as comfort, stress-relief, who binge and experience food-related guilt. These are all problems in themselves. They form the basis of eating disorders when taken far enough.
Just like improving your individual relationship with food is key to sticking with a healthy diet, we need to evolve our collective relationship with food to improve our national diet. This means a different media representation. Also, a different ground-up approach to food culture, and trying to discuss what we’re doing wrong.
If you lean on food to compensate for stress in other areas of your life, you have a poor relationship with food.
Why go vegan when you can stuff your face full of unhealthy choices that are awful for your well being!
It’s this type of stress-feeding that leads us to binge eating disorders. We need to put effort into dealing with the behavior change in our diets. We must understanding the nutritional science.
Learn to Love Produce
The raw ingredients that make up your foods are important. The way we shop and eat now relies on processed foods. They’re not awful in moderation, but a diet that relies on these types of food will continue to lead to poor nutrition and poor eating habits.
Processed foods aren’t evil, but they represent everything wrong with our diets. This is: low-quality foods, very dense in calories, and the epitome of convenience-culture.
We need to fall in love with the process of shopping for, and using, natural produce. Whole plant foods are the exact opposite and they provide you with everything you need with very few calories.
Learning to buy and prepare delicious, healthy meals is enough to make a weight-loss diet easy. A healthy lifestyle change is one you can sustain. Learning to cook with these foods and make great meals might not taste like a diet!
This single switch is key to all the health benefits we mentioned above, it can be an easy way to make your diet work,. Also, it has huge positive effects on the environment. T
here are no negatives to eating more plant foods – whether you use a plant-based diet or not.
Improving Key Supplements
One of the most important things that we need to happen is an improvement in the cost and effectiveness of vegan supplements.
We’ve already discussed this at length before when discussing supplements and the challenges of a perfect vegan diet.
Supplementation isn’t optional for the best health. We need to supplement key vitamins and minerals to stay healthy. If you want to dig into the “what and why”, you can read our supplement guide. In the meantime, this is a brief run-down of what we need:
Vitamin D is the most commonly deficient vitamin. You can’t get enough, safely, without supplementation. Vegan options are limited on the market, but they do exist – we just need cheaper, easier alternatives. This just requires market-demand, so make sure to let the companies know you want them!
Omega-3 Fats are crucial for the way your brain works, and how your body handles inflammation and stress. If you’re deficient, you’ll run into all sorts of problems from degenerative brain disease to joint injuries.
Obviously, vegans don’t pop cod liver oil capsules. This makes it a real challenge, as plant-sources are almost-useless. The science is coming through for more- and more-effective supplements from algae. But we need these to be better and more available before everyone can enjoy the benefits of the optimum vegan diet.
Creatine is cheap and effective. All we need to do is understand that it’s not just for gaining muscle: it’s a crucial ingredient in muscles and healthy cells. We need to change the way we look at this crucial compound and its anti-cancer effects so that it can become a health supplement, not a bodybuilding trope!
There are 3 more compounds that we need to better-understand for effective plant-based dieting on a national scale. These are zinc, magnesium and ALCAR.
Zinc and magnesium come together in ZMA (a dietary supplement), and they’re essential minerals – and commonly-deficient ones at that. They’re related to ALCAR because these are all found in animal-foods.
It is important that you include these 4 key supplements in any vegan diet. They’re the trade-off that we deal with for the benefits discussed above.
No diet is perfect by itself and understanding that, rather than acting like plant-based eating is a solution to every problem, is how we build a vegan diet that would benefit the whole country.
This cultural shift in the way that we look at, and discuss, supplements is a big player in the way that we shape our diets. If we treat essential supplements as a tool for strength training, we rob everyone else of the chance to gain those benefits.
They’re effective for the general population. This is why we need to talk about their effects on health and longevity, not just athletic performance.
If we want to help people enjoy the benefits of a plant-based diet, we need to acknowledge where it’s lacking and how we can address it.
There is no perfect diet, so it’s important to understand what we’re missing and how we should change.
It can be easy to discuss the many, many plant-based benefits as if they fix everything in the body. The reality is that we need to improve many areas of our food education and culture before we can adopt this type of diet whole-sale and improve national health.
There are many reasons to switch to a plant-based diet, and rare cases where it’s not the best choice.
We need to make this switch as easy and sustainable as possible. This means educating people to make the choices that are best for their health. Also, without interference from disordered eating or a backwards dieting culture.
To make a plant-based diet more popular, we have to reduce the difficulty and really improve the benefits.
To wrap up our Why Go Vegan article, it’s about educating and reducing the blocks that have led us to our current situation. We need to make it easier to celebrate the benefits of plant foods and help people adopt the change!
Professional sport/fitness writer at ApexContent.org, weightlifter and S&C enthusiast. Liam has over 5 years experience in coaching positions, learning under the best mentors and sport coaches in Britain. At the same time developed a love for relentlessly researching and writing scientifically backed content in health, fitness and sport performance.
Liam wears many hats, but they’re unified by a love for competition, performance, and engaging writing. You can throw abuse (and questions) his way in the comments and he’ll be happy to help you!