5 Reasons To Go Vegan
by Lisa Sykes, Director of Sustainability, Universal Companies
As an introvert, I’ve always felt more comfortable in the company of my dogs than with other people. Whether a kitten or a squirrel, animals trigger an audible, spontaneous “Aww!” from me. I want to scratch them behind the ears and show them kindness. This is just who I am, so going vegetarian in the early ’90s wasn’t a huge leap.
Then, in 2010, I picked up The World Peace Diet: Eating for Spiritual Health and Social Harmony by Dr. Will Tuttle. This amazing book revealed how my food choices impact the environment, my health, and my ability to take a more contemplative, spiritual path.
I converted to veganism before I finished reading it.
Everyone has different reasons for making big life changes. Sure, it would be easy for me to tell you, “Read The World Peace Diet,” but that doesn’t give you a why. And this post isn’t really about the book–it’s about the benefits of a plant-based diet. For the sake of brevity, I’ll mention only five of them:
1. Reduces Your Carbon Footprint
The Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies indicates, “Cattle ranching is the largest driver of deforestation in every Amazon country, accounting for 80% of current deforestation rates. . . . Because cattle use energy to convert grass into protein, several times the amount of land is needed to produce an equal amount of beef as poultry, and about 10 times the amount of land than needed to produce grain.” As WeForest points out, “Through rampant deforestation and destruction of half of the earth’s topsoil, we have destroyed much of the planet’s ability to capture CO2.” Without trees and topsoil, GHGs drift upwards into the atmosphere.
Though these statistics sound grim, you can do something about it. Even if you don’t commit to a vegan lifestyle, trying it 1-2 days a week still reduces your carbon footprint.
2. Lowers Your Risk of Type 2 Diabetes and Heart Disease
In a review published in JAMA Internal Medicine, clinicians analyzed nine studies on plant-based diets and rates of type 2 diabetes. When participants adhered to a plant-based diet, the risk of diabetes dropped. A diet high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and legumes offered beneficial nutrients and antioxidants to reduce cholesterol and fattening foods that are associated with weight gain, and consequently, type 2 diabetes.
One of the indicators for cardiovascular risk is hsCRP (high-sensitivity C-reactive protein), a protein the liver produces when the body is fighting off infection or experiencing inflammation. A high level of hsCRP could be a marker for atherosclerosis (cholesterol along blood vessel walls), which is associated with inflammation. Some clinical trials show that a vegan diet reduced hsCRP by 32%.
There are many more studies available, including The China Study, comprehensive research conducted between Cornell University, Oxford University, and the Chinese Academy of Preventative Medicine. It’s a deep dive on human nutrition that links its findings to the reduction of chronic diseases. If you prefer not to read 400 pages of research, there’s a good summary of it on Well + Good.
3. Beautifies Your Complexion
Dermatologists and estheticians agree that dairy isn’t good for the skin, especially acne-prone conditions. Additionally, non-organic meat can cause hormone imbalances, which may lead to breakouts.
Because they’re vitamin-rich and hydrating, fruits and veggies are great for a glowing complexion. A whole foods vegan diet requires an increase in fruits and veggies, so by the addition of these and the absence of dairy and hormone-laden meat, you may notice a brighter, clearer complexion.
If skin care is a major reason for fully or partially adopting a plant-based diet, also consider drinking more water. Hydrated skin plumps fine lines and wrinkles, helping you look more youthful and well-rested.
4. Inspires Contemplation + Spirituality
In both Eastern and Western monastic traditions, abstaining from meat is required, especially during long periods of prayer and purification.
As Will Tuttle explains in The World Peace Diet, “Meditative practice and compassion towards animals may be seen in the concepts of samadhi and shojin in the Zen tradition. . . .Samadhi refers to deep meditative stillness. . . .Shojin is ‘religious abstention from animal foods’ and is based on the core of ahimsa, or harmlessness, the practice of refraining from causing harm to other sentient beings. Shojin and samadhi are seen to work together, with shojin purifying the body-mind and allowing, though certainly not guaranteeing, access to the spiritually enriching experience of samadhi.”
Dr. Tuttle also points out, “In the Catholic monastic traditions, the most contemplative, such as the Cistercians, tend to require monks to abstain from animal flesh.” Cistercians follow the Rule of St. Benedict, a fifth-century monk known as the Father of Western Monasticism. When St. Benedict opened monasteries, he decreed “no meat” in the Rule.
These two extremely brief examples in no way summarize this exhaustive area of study. However, chiefly for the Zen tradition, the take-away is that harmlessness reduces violence in the world while increasing your ability to practice contemplative mediation.
5. You’ll Eat Great Food
When switching to a plant-based diet, just make sure you take B12 and omega 3 supplements.
There are fabulous vegan vitamins that contain both of these essential nutrients. Nutritional yeast (a.k.a. “nooch” or what I call “vegan crack”) contains 30-180% of your recommended daily for B vitamins. Just read the label to make sure you’re getting plenty.
Ready? Start Here!
If you’re curious and want to learn more, there are many resources on this subject, but this article in Reader’s Digest is a great start. It provides easy tips and great advice.
If you’d like to dig even deeper, I’ve compiled the list below. I hope you enjoy discovering new, interesting information as much as I did.
Will Tuttle, PhD
Dr. Will Tuttle is a former Zen monk with a PhD from UC-Berkeley and a vegan since 1980. His writings, music, and presentations focus on compassion, creativity, intuition, and the intersection of social justice, animal liberation, and environmental, health, spiritual, and peace issues.
John Robbins writes about the connections between diet, physical health, and environmentalism. He is the recipient of the Rachel Carson Award, the Albert Schweitzer Humanitarian Award, the Peace Abbey’s Courage of Conscience Award, and Green America’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
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Meet the Author
Lisa Sykes, Director of Sustainability, Universal Companies