The Beginner’s Guide to Veganism

There are many celebrities who are very vocal about being vegan. There’s famed tattoo artist and entrepreneur Kat Von D and actress Ellen Page (star of Juno and Whip It). There’s also singer-songwriter Moby, politician Al Gore (remember An Inconvenient Truth?), and director and environmentalist James Cameron. But really, what exactly is veganism?

So What Is Veganism?

Veganism is a lifestyle choice. You abstain from the use of animal products and reject the commodity status of animals. This means the denouncement of all forms of exploitation of and cruelty to all animals, either for food, clothing, or any other purpose.

In 1944, Donald Watson of the Vegan Society of England coined the term vegan. It initially meant “nondairy vegetarian.” However, in 1951, it was redefined by society as “the doctrine that man should live without exploiting animals.”

In the United States, veganism earned great popularity in the 2010s. Many vegan stores started popping up. In addition, vegan products and options became easily and increasingly available in both restaurants and supermarkets.

Veganism vs. Vegetarianism

All vegans are vegetarians, but not all vegetarians are vegans.

Confused?

Vegetarians don’t eat meat, fish, or poultry. They rely on plants and other alternatives for food. However, there are some that still consume animal products, like dairy.

Vegans, on the other hand, are completely vegetarian. Along with that, they don’t use other animal products or by-products. These include eggs, honey, cosmetics, soaps, fur, leather, silk—anything at all that comes from animals.

Types of Vegans

1. Ethical

These are practitioners who care about both the animals and the environment. They don’t partake of any type of meat or any kind of animal by-product. Also, they don’t wear leather, silk, fur, or any clothes made from animals. In addition, they also don’t use cosmetics that use animals for testing. They also avoid shopping in stores that sell these products. And finally, they also don’t support the entertainment exploitation of animals in any way. This means zoos, circuses, aquariums, horse racing, cockfighting, etc. They are firm believers in equality for all living things.

2. Plant-Based

These are vegans who only eat food that’s from the ground. This means they have a very limited diet to vegetables, fruits, seeds, grain, legumes, and nuts. They also avoid consuming anything processed, refined, or greasy. However, some plant-based vegans might still wear clothes from animals. They might also still use cosmetic brands that conduct animal testing.   

3. Raw

Raw vegans are those who don’t eat meat or consume animal by-products. They also don’t eat anything cooked above 115℉ (that’s 46℃). They believe that we should get our food in its most natural, original state. And that means no killing, no processing, and no cooking. They believe cooking anything above 115℉ leads to loss of enzymes and nutrients.

4. Junk Food

I know. That’s weird, right? Yes, we mean the unhealthy junk food that’s chips, cookies, soda, french fries, chocolate, faux cheese—anything at all that does not harm animals. They are not particularly into the lifestyle for health reasons, but more on the ethical reasons of protecting animals and the environment. They can also smoke and drink alcohol.

Benefits of Going Vegan

Helps in Weight Loss

Cutting off all kinds of meat and other unhealthy products from your diet will ultimately make you lose a lot of weight. Vegans tend to be thinner, have lower body mass indexes (BMIs), and are less likely to obese or overweight. This is because vegan diets have higher fiber and lower animal-protein intake.

Vegan diets also have a natural tendency to reduce calorie intake. So you can eat all you want until you feel full; there’s no need to count your calories.

Improves Skin

Veganism can lead to healthy, clear, and blemish-free skin. Vitamins C and E are to thank for that. They are powerful antioxidants that neutralize harmful and skin-damaging free radicals. They also fight wrinkles, age spots, laugh lines, and crow’s feet. This gives off an overall healthy and more youthful appearance.  

Fights against Diabetes

A vegan diet is made up of plant-based food that naturally contains a healthy amount of complex carbohydrates and low fat content. These two factors control diabetes.

Vegans also have lower blood sugar levels, higher insulin sensitivity, and lower risks of developing type-2 diabetes. Studies also show that a vegan diet provides full relief of systemic distal polyneuropathy symptoms. This is a condition in diabetics that causes sharp burning pain.

Combats Certain Cancers

Veganism prevents some types of cancer, specifically of the breast, lung, prostate, esophagus, colon, and colorectal. Vegan proteins have a high concentration of nonessential amino acids. These help in lowering elevated lipid levels and hold back the development of cancer.

In addition, a vegan diet also contains fiber, potassium, antioxidants, and phytochemicals. All these protect the body against cancer.

Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Studies show that vegans have a lower risk of developing high blood pressure. They also have a lower risk of dying from heart disease. Going vegan also reduces LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol levels. The vegan diet also makes use of nuts and whole grains, which are heart healthy. Its other components also reduce strokes and ischemic heart disease.

Fights Arthritis

Studies show that those who switch to a vegan diet display great improvement in arthritis symptoms. These include joint swelling, morning stiffness, and pain. This diet contains natural antibodies. These antibodies possess anti-inflammatory and atheroprotective effects. The presence of fiber, carotenoids, and vitamins C and E also help fight arthritis.

Supports Bone Health

Who says only calcium from milk can protect and strengthen our bones? Contrary to popular belief, there are other properties that can do the job just fine. Vegan diets contain essential nutrients like vitamin K, potassium, and magnesium. All three contribute to bone health.

Take note that an acidic diet leads to the loss of calcium when we urinate. However, the potassium and magnesium content of a vegan diet provides alkalinity to the diet. This reduces bone loss.

Also, studies show that vitamin K reduces the risk of hip fractures. Veganism also reduces the risk of osteoporosis. And finally, it improves bone mineral density and bone formation in postmenopausal women.

Protects Animal Rights!

When you start practicing veganism, you not only help yourself, you help our animal friends too. We will be able to lessen the suffering and killing of poor, helpless animals. When you think about it, animals are not ours to use for food, clothing, entertainment, experimentation, or any other reason. We might not give it much thought, but they are also capable of feeling pain, pleasure, love, fear, sadness, and loneliness. Now it’s just a matter of us putting ourselves in their shoes.

Kate B. Forsyth is a writer for Be Healthy Today, who specializes in health and nutrition. Her passion is to help people get an overall transformation of health that lasts a lifetime. In her blog posts, she goes beyond research by providing health-concerned citizens doable and simple tricks to achieve a healthier lifestyle.

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