What Is A Vegan? (And Why You Should Start A Vegan Lifestyle)
Veganism has been getting a lot more attention in recent years, however, it’s true meaning and value can often get lost.
Skeptics and critics have created a negative connotation surrounding the word vegan, so I’m here today to clear some of that up.
Let’s dive into what it truly means to be vegan, what vegans eat, and why vegans choose this lifestyle.
Some of the links in this post are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.
I am not a health professional, nor do I claim to have training in nutrition.
What is a vegan?
Simply put, a vegan is somebody who does not eat or use animal products.
We are a group of people who commit to a compassionate lifestyle by not contributing to the exploitation or cruel treatment of animals.
Unlike vegetarians, vegans do not eat eggs or dairy or any food that comes from animal origins (in addition to not eating meat).
There are different types of vegans, including:
- dietary vegans
- ethical vegans
- environmental vegans
- plant-based, whole-food vegans
- junk food vegans
- raw vegans
Veganism is a lifestyle, not a diet, that excludes the exploitation and cruel treatment of animals whether that be through the food we eat, the clothes we wear, or the products we use.
Engaging in a vegan lifestyle is a positive way to align your values of peace and compassion with your everyday actions.
What do vegans eat? (And what we don’t)
As you discovered, to be vegan means that you do not eat (or use) anything that comes from an animal.
So, what do you eat as a vegan? And what should you avoid?
Foods that vegans eat:
- plant-based milk
- plant-based cheese
- imitation meat
- dairy-free ice cream
The good thing about being vegan in the 21st century is that you can often find or make plant-based variations of all your favorite foods.
You do not have to give up cheese. Or milk. Or ice cream.
You simply have to seek out plant-based options!
Foods that vegans do not eat:
Vegans avoid the consumption and use of these animals for many reasons including health, environmental, and ethical reasons.
Why do people adopt a vegan lifestyle?
A person adopts a vegan lifestyle for the health benefits, for environmental factors, and/or for ethical reasons.
The health benefits of a vegan lifestyle
There are numerous science-based health benefits to a vegan lifestyle.
Most notably, though, are the decreased risk for 3 of the major causes of death: cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. People following a plant-based diet also have an easier time losing weight and maintaining a healthy weight.
Dr. Colin Campbell was one of the first doctors to bring to light that what we eat significantly effects our health in his book The China Study.
The China Study is said to be “the most comprehensive study of nutrition ever conducted and the startling implications for diet, weight loss, and long-term health,” and I highly suggest that anybody looking to improve their health read it.
For instance, alike the information found in The China Study, a recent 15-year long study by Oxford University revealed that vegans are 19% less likely to develop cancer than meat-eaters.
Similarly, individuals who adhere to a plant-based diet are 42% less likely to develop heart-related dieseases (as compared to omnivores).
And, lastly, vegans are 60% less likely to develope diabetes than meat eaters.
This science-based research very clearly establishes why a vegan lifestlye is the best way to live a long and healthy life.
For a more detailed analysis of the health benefits of a vegan lifestyle, I highly recommend watching What The Health on Netflix!
The environmental benefits of a vegan lifestyle
Before going vegan I had no idea how negatively animal agriculture affected the environment.
I mean, why would the farming of animals harm the environment?
Well, animal agriculture is linked to:
- climate change
- water shortages
- land shortages
I’ll briefly touch on each of these, however, Cowspiracy on Netflix is a fantastic documentary to dive deep into the environmental effects of animal agriculture.
Not-so-fun fact #1: Animal agriculture is responsible for 18% of greenhouse gas emissions, which is more than the entire transportation sector combined!
Livestock is also hugely responsible for the emissions of nitrous oxide into our environment – a greenhouse gas that is 296x more destructive than CO2.
If you’re concerned about the world ending in 10-12 years due to climate change (which you should be), a vegan lifestyle is the best way to make positive change every single day.
In fact, vegans save 20 lbs of CO2 from being emitted to the environment every single day we choose to fill our plates with plants instead of animals.
Not-so-fun fact #2: 91% of the destruction of the Amazon Rainforest is due to animal agriculture.
Yep, the entire Amazon Rainforest has almost been destroyed so people can consume steak and chicken wings.
The amount of land that has been reallocated to the animal agriculture industry for livestock grazing and feeding is insane and equates to 1-2 acres of rainforest being cleared EVERY SECOND.
But, you can save 30 sq ft of forest every single day that you choose a vegan lifestyle!
When considering animal agricultures detrimental effect on our environment, we must also take into account the number of resources needed to produce meat and dairy.
For example, animals must be fed large amounts of grain throughout their short lives. And, to grow grain, you must water it.
In addition to the water being used to grow feed for livestock, animals need to drink water every day to survive.
Which leads us to our not-so-fun fact #3: 55% of water in the United States goes to animal agriculture.
By going vegan though, you can save 1100 gallons of water every single day.
Alike animals need for water, they also need land.
Not-so-fun fact #4: 45% of Earth’s total land is being occupied by livestock.
And, due to animal agriculture, one-third of Earth’s land is now unsuitable for growth, or in other terms,
The bottom line is, the way we use our land to produce food is not sustainable.
Imagine how many people we could save from going hungry if we used the land currently occupied by livestock for plants! And, think about all the grain that is being grown to feed livestock – if reallocated to humans instead of animals, we could likely solve world hunger.
The ethical reasons to adopt a vegan lifestyle
Vegans believe that all living creatures deserve the same opportunity to live and be free.
You see, I think we can all agree that we try our best each day to not harm others.
So, why doesn’t that moral of spreading compassion translate to our plates?
We often forget how the food we eat ends up on our plate and that lack of consciousness translates to the continuation of the cruel treatment of animals.
For some reason, we have grown as a society to accept and normalize the exploitation and enslavement of innocent animals.
Think about it for a second. If you found out that your neighbor was grilling their dog for dinner, you would likely be horrified.
So, why is it not ok to harm dogs and cats but it is accepted and encouraged to kill cows and pigs?
At the end of the day, we do not need meat and dairy to survive.
And, it is not our right as humans to take the lives of innocent animals every single day.
Why should you start a vegan lifestyle?
Whether it’s the health, the environmental, or the ethical reasons to go vegan that resonate with you, adopting a vegan lifestyle will make you feel good, look good, and do good.
It’s a win-win-win.
Physically, you will feel good because you are filling your body with healthy fruits, vegetables, and grains that are easy to digest and have all the nutrients you need to thrive.
Mentally, you will feel good because you will align your values of compassion with every aspect of your life.
You will look good because fruits and vegetables keep you lean and radiant.
And, you will do good by your health, the animals, and the environment.
Vegan resources to rock your transition
After learning many of the things outlined in this post, I decided to go vegan overnight.
And, with the right resources and information, I can truly say that it was easy.
To help you thrive as you transition to a vegan lifestyle, I’ve rounded up some of my favorite resources.
First, every single person, whether you are going vegan or not, should watch these videos & documentaries:
- The Best Speech Ever
- Leading Causes Of Death
- What The Health Documentary
- Forks Over Knives Documentary
- Earthlings Documentary
The mind-blowing information in these videos and documentaries are truly life-changing.
These are some awesome books covering much of the same information, but we all learn differently so I like to include them:
Next, to help you create delicious plant-based meals (since this is totally foreign to most of us), these are my favorite vegan cookbooks:
And, to introduce you to plant-based food and cooking without any of the fuss, I highly recommend Purple Carrot.
Purple Carrot is a 100% plant-based meal subscription box that will deliver delicious recipes and ingredients straight to your door.
This is a fantastic way to explore a plant-based diet and discover that eating vegan is not only attainable but delicious and easy.
So, to recap: Being vegan means that you do not consume or use any product that is of animal origin.
Vegans do not eat meat, fish, eggs, or honey, nor do we purchase products that contain animals or were tested on animals.
Most people adopt a vegan lifestyle for one of or all three reasons: health benefits, environmental effects, and ethical alignment.
Feel good. Look good. Do good. GO VEGAN!
Join the vegan community and conversation below!
JOIN THE WHO SAYS WHAT COMMUNITY!