The Rise In Vegan Lifestyles & How You Can Join The Movement
The vegan lifestyle, the conscious choice to avoid animal products, has been one of the most popular movements over the past several years. Interest in adopting a vegan lifestyle increased sevenfold from 2014-2019, with no signs of slowing down. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought even more attention to the idea of going plant-based, as people start to pay more and more attention to their own personal health and people become uncertain about the conventional food supply.
In recent years veganism and sales of vegan-related products has seen explosive growth in the market. Whether fueled by pandemic-related health fears or increasing interest in a healthier, environmentally-friendly lifestyle, companies in the vegan market have seen increased interest in their products, such as faux meats. According to market research, plant-based food sales have increased by 90% compared to the same time last year.
Why Are People Moving Away From Animal Products?
So why are individuals moving away from using animal products in their diet and food preparation? According to studies from FONA International, there are a variety of reasons:
- A decreased trust in the food production process and industries that prepare food from animal products.
- Pandemic-related fears of supply chain interruption and a desire for a healthier lifestyle to prevent the risk of illness.
- The growth of protein-rich diets for fitness, with protein being found in plant-based sources.
- An increased interest in stopping the effects of environmental damage and climate change brought by the animal production industry.
Of the generations surveyed, Millennials and Generation Z are those most likely to consider or hold to a vegan lifestyle. In surveys from Acosta and Aramark respectively, both 79% of Millennials and 79% of Gen Z reported eating plant-based meals at least a few times a week.
The Benefits of Going Vegan
As research becomes available regarding vegan lifestyles, more and more benefits are coming to light. Science says avoiding animal products may reduce the risk of many of the most troubling causes of illness and death. Here’s what the research says:
- In patients with coronary artery disease, a vegan diet improved markers of inflammation more efficiently than the American Heart Association recommended diet.
- A vegan diet quickly reduces homocysteine levels, which are inflammatory markers associated with heart disease.
- Vegan diets increase glucagon activity, which are associated with a reduced risk of cancer, obesity, and cardiovascular disease.
- Vegetarian diets, which may include eggs and dairy products, appear to protect against cardiovascular diseases, cardiometabolic risk factors, some cancers and total mortality. Vegan diets may deliver the same benefit and may also be preventive against obesity, hypertension, type-2 diabetes, and cardiovascular mortality.
- A large meta-analysis showed that vegetarian diets protect against ischemic heart disease and cancer, and vegan diets almost doubled protection rates against cancer.
The scientific evidence is compelling, but how do vegans feel in their day to day life? Individual results vary, but people report increased energy, mental clarity, and better sleep.
The Drawbacks of Veganism
Going vegan is as simple as choosing to start avoiding animal products. To truly experience the benefits of veganism, you must be aware of and address potential nutrient deficiencies. Luckily, your needs are easily met with supplementation.
One of the main drawbacks of veganism is the work required to ensure that you are taking in the necessary nutrients to be healthy and thrive. There are some nutrients that aren’t as plentiful from plant sources, so you’ll have to be intentional about getting an adequate supply. These include calcium, vitamin B-12, omega-3 fatty acids, choline, and others. Without replacing these vital nutrients in your diet, you may experience negative consequences such as muscle loss, bone weakness, reduction in mental acuity, and more.
In order to overcome these drawbacks, it is important to educate yourself on ways to add these nutrients back into your daily diet through other means. The easiest way to do that is to work with a dietician who can help guide you.
There’s no need to overwhelm yourself with nutrition concerns over the first few weeks. Get into a groove first, then assess your nutrient levels.
Environmental Factors Related To A Vegan Lifestyle
One major reason that some choose to pursue a vegan lifestyle is the chance to give back to the environment through everyday actions. The manufacturing and production of animal products for consumption and other purposes leave a much larger impact on the world than most people realize. While the world’s population has doubled since the 1960s, the amount of animal byproducts produced for food has more than quadrupled in that same time.
For example, consider the process involved in processing meat for production and sales. Huge quantities of both water and crops are required in order to feed the various animals raised simply for consumption. In order to access enough grain and feed for the number of animals raised in production, plants have a direct connection to environmentally irresponsible actions such as deforestation and destruction of habitat.
A great deal of water is required to raise animals for food, and in many parts of the world, water scarcity is a growing problem. According to research, 15,500 liters of water are used to produce just 1kg of beef. Compare that number to the 180 liters for 1kg tomatoes or 250 liters for 1kg of potatoes.
The supply lines to transport the vast number of animal byproducts across the country also adds to the CO2 emissions that are leading to pollution, the deterioration of ozone, and the increase in global warming.
In light of the statistics above, it’s easy to see how those who move to a vegan lifestyle will see the benefits of a healthier diet and play an integral part in protecting our environment and bringing hope back to the world every bite.
How To Get Started On Your Vegan Journey
If you are ready to start your own journey toward veganism, your first question may be how?
While you could drop your animal byproduct consumption cold turkey, the best method to ensure success in changing your lifestyle is one baby step at a time.
- A great way to start dipping your toes into a vegan lifestyle is by starting a routine such as “Meatless Mondays.” By picking one day a week to follow a vegan diet, you can experiment with various vegan dishes without the pressure of going full-vegan.
- Slowly remove animal ingredients from your regimen, and experiment with new, unfamiliar replacement foods.
- Follow and connect with vegan lifestyle communities online to increase your knowledge of the vegan movement, and build your community of accountability partners.
By taking the process slow and decreasing your reliance on animal products over time, you can grow accustomed to your new lifestyle with ease. Before long, you will be on your way to enjoying the range of benefits of a vegan lifestyle!