No meat, no problem: Vegan lifestyle becoming more popular

Vegan chocolate raspberry cake created by Maya Amjadi

 

A new lifestyle is becoming more popular in America. More people have started to reduce their consumption of meat in their daily meals or have started a plant-based diet. Since 1997, the vegan population in the United States grew from one percent to about 10 percent. What many people don’t know is that there is a wide variety of preferences among those who eat most plants. Three common categories  are veganism, vegetarianism and flexitarianism.

Flexitarian is a word created to describe people whose diet is almost vegetarian, but sometimes includes meat, mostly fish or poultry. In 2003 the American Dialect Society voted this term the year’s most useful word.  Vegetarians are people who do not eat or do not believe in eating meat, fish, fowl, or, in some cases, any food derived from animals such as eggs or cheese. Instead, vegetarians subsist on vegetables, fruits, nuts, grains, etc. And vegans are a variation of vegetarians who omit all animal products from the diet, without exceptions.

Some people hesitate about having a plant-based diet because they worry about don’t getting all the necessary nutrients and vitamins — like B12, iron, protein, calcium and zinc — that are found in animal products. But the truth is that having a balanced vegan diet can be healthier than having a meat-based diet, and it is easier to get the necessary amount of each essential nutrient the body needs because of the big variety of food a vegan has to eat.

As vegans don’t eat animal products, the chances of having heart disease and diabetes are few since they don’t eat bad cholesterol and saturated fat and have lower blood pressure. Another benefit is less risk of colon cancer since fiber normalizes the intestine, drastically decreasing its prevalence among vegans. This is also one reason they accumulate less calories and are skinnier, but it doesn’t mean they eat less or are hungry all the time. Fiber has high nutritional value. It makes the digestive system work better and improves metabolism. It is also important to eat a lot of small meals during the whole day, and not few big meals. Another benefit for vegetarians is the fast and healthy loss of weight.

Omitting all animal products from the diet without a nutritionist and a balanced diet can be dangerous, though. Vegetarians worry more about the lifestyle they have, so they usually keep themselves healthy by not eating a lot of fried food or sweets, otherwise their metabolisms would still be slow and some nutrients would be missing. It’s important to be aware of the nutrients a body needs before embarking on a new diet, however. Those who simply quit eating animal protein without replacing the nutrients can be at risk for anemia, loss of hair and muscles, weak nails and apathy, so be sure to have a professional’s oppinion.

Beginning a vegetarian diet means to have a new lifestyle, so the sooner one starts it, the better it will be and the less one will suffer from some health risks later in life. For people who are used to eating meat for a long time, it may be harder to stop, and they may lose weight faster because their metabolism is used to digesting more fat than fiber, so the body will feel the impacts fast and will start to answer to them differently.

Vegetarian habits are not only good for the body, but also help to minimize the impacts in the environment. One pound of beef, for example, needs 2,500 gallons of water and beef farms are also responsible for the a large part of the carbon in the atmosphere. Reducing the consumption of meat would decrease the greenhouse effect, reduce global warming, preserve more water and save more space for local nature.

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