Veganism is a dietary choice that consists of a plant-based intake of all the essential nutrients that humans need for a healthy life. The vegan guideline is a simple one: abstain from all animal products (poultry, meat, seafood, dairy, eggs, etc.). A vegan diet can be composed of various elements within this framework including fruit, vegetables, nuts, whole grains (including most types of bread), and legumes. This diet is beneficial not only to the lives of animals that are spared, to the planet through the reduction of the methane footprint created by the animals raised to be consumed, but is also hugely advantageous to the health of the person who follows this diet. This post will focus on this benefit.
The most groundbreaking scientific literature on the benefits of a plant-based diet was authored by T. Colin Campbell, PhD and titled The China Study. First published in 2005, this comprehensive manual on human health and nutrition began with research in the 1970’s on a wide variety of counties in China (hence the title) in which people followed a similar diet. This test group over ten years time demonstrates a clear source of varying health patterns due to modes of consumption by the group. The exhaustive research conducted concluded that people who ate more plants and less animal products were healthier.
On a very basic level, a plant-based diet makes you slimmer. According to Campbell and The China Study, the vegan participants of this and virtually every study on diet are slimmer than their meat-consuming counterparts. Eating less meat and animal product will make you lose weight and look great faster than any other diet that attempts to control carbohydrates, healthy fats, or other factors commonly associated with weight loss in the mainstream of gastronomy.
Perhaps the biggest misconception about the health aspects that a vegan diet boasts is the amount of protein intake that a vegan misses out on without animal protein. Especially in Western societies, the cornerstone of what is considered a healthy and balanced diet includes the protein from animal meat. However, this is hugely inaccurate, and a more specific glance at this shows a disturbing truth: the protein from animals is actually dangerous. According to Campbell, blood cholesterol increased into a negative range when the subject in question consumed animal protein, whereas plant protein decreases the level of this unhealthy cholesterol. Not only that, but unlike the lean and healthy protein from plant-based foods, animal protein always comes with an gargantuan serving of unhealthy fat.
If you really think about it, this makes sense. When you are eating a dead animal, you are consuming their flesh. While this is euphemistically approached in society, through ‘burgers’ and other devices to hide this fact, you are consuming something that was previously animated and alive, breathing and feeling. They too consumed food, and thereby had levels of fat, muscle, and other components of a living mammal. When you consume this creature, you are consuming the total sum of their life, and thereby consuming their health and sickness at the same time. This profoundly alters your physical chemistry. The same applies for dairy products: when you consume milk, you are consuming the fluid that is meant to grow calves into cows. The purpose of this substance is to do so (humans do this as well), and the effects of this within the human system are not beneficial to good health.
Furthermore, The China Study also unveils perhaps the most fear-inducing element of continuing to consume animal products. People who consume animal products are more likely to develop tumors and therefore get cancer. Nothing is more of a risk to good health than to avoid this horrible and fatal disease. As stated by Campbell, “a pattern was beginning to emerge: nutrients from animal-based foods increased tumor development while nutrients from plant-based foods decreased tumor development.” Not only are animal products wrong ethically for the animals, bad for cholesterol levels, and detrimental to the planet, but they are directly scientifically linked to one of the most fatal diseases known to humankind.
This is just the beginning in terms of knowledge of how plant-based food is good and how animal-based foods are not good for overall health. There is a temptation to remain in the traditions of society: the comfort of milk and cookies and night before bed, or the classic steak frites for delicious dinner. However, these are not only outdated foods that cause the animals we eat and the planet harm, they directly destroy the health of their consumer. It takes a shift in consciousness about health and food to create this change, but ideally if veganism and plant-based foods can become increasingly popular (as the trend now stands), the world’s health and environmental sustainability can be salvaged. Someday, we may be lucky enough to look back and laugh at our steak dinners and cow’s milk desserts, just as many people now look at cigarettes and wonder how doctors ever prescribed them to treat sore throats. A plant-based diet is the beginning of a more compassionate future.
Campbell, T. Colin, PhD. China study the most comprehensive study of nutrition ever
conducted and the startling ... implications for diet, weight loss, and long-term. Dallas, TX: Benbella , 2006. Print.