|1. Why Vegan?||2. Nutrition||3. Environment||4. Ethics||5. Resources|
TL;DR: Plants give us everything we need, and nothing we don’t
Yes, but our body needs nutrients that only meat and dairy provide.
That is a myth. There is no nutrient that cannot be provided on an adequate plant-based diet. To quote the American Diet Association:
“Appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. They are appropriate during all stages of life, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes. A vegetarian diet can meet current recommendations for protein, n-3 fatty acids, iron, zinc, iodine, calcium, and vitamins D and B-12. They can be nutritionally adequate in pregnancy and result in positive maternal and infant health. A vegetarian diet is associated with a lower risk of death from ischemic heart disease. Vegetarians also appear to have lower low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure, and lower rates of hypertension and type 2 diabetes than nonvegetarians. Furthermore, vegetarians tend to have a lower body mass index and lower overall cancer rates.”
What about Protein?
It’s easy to get adequate protein on a plant-based diet. For example, cup of oatmeal contains 6 gm of protein, and a cup of kidney beans, lima beans or chickpeas contains 15 gm. Cooked lentils are even more protein-rich: a cup contains 18 gm. Almonds are one of the most protein-rich foods: a cup contains 32 gm of protein. With vegan meats like seitan or tempeh, tofu, and vegan cheeses easily available now, there’s no dearth of options for eating healthy on a vegan diet, while avoiding the cholesterol, trans-fats, pathogens, etc. that are commonly found in meat. Foods like broccoli contain less protein by weight, but more protein than meat on a per-calorie basis, so if you are looking to gain muscle or eat healthy while losing extra weight, vegan is the way to go.
But aren’t vegans at risk of B12 deficiency?
B12 is synthesized by bacteria occurring in the soil. The risk of B12 deficiency is not because vegan food cannot contain B12, but because in the modern supply chain, food is cleaned excessively and is stripped of some micro-nutrients, such as B12. Vegans as well as non-vegans have trouble getting enough B12. Many modern-day foods are now fortified with B12, which benefits vegans as well as non-vegans.
But we need Omega-3, and they’re found only in fish
Fish are often touted as a major source of Omega-3’s. But where do fish get their Omega-3 from? From eating oceanic plants, of course! A wide variety of plant foods provide Omega-3’s. A single tablespoon of flaxseed oil delivers 7200 mg of Omega-3. Regularly eating leafy greens like spinach is another good way to keep your levels high. All plants from the cabbage family – cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, etc. are also great sources.
What about calcium?
You’ve got all these ads on TV recommending milk for stronger bones. Actually, dairy is a terrible source of calcium. The stomach needs to release acids to digest dairy, and this needs phosphates. Our bones are made from calcium and phosphates, so if the phosphates are used for digesting dairy, the calcium is excreted via the kidneys. So not only can dairy cause kidney stones, but actually makes your bones weaker. Many plants are better sources of calcium than milk. The world’s richest natural source of calcium is a grain called ragi, or long millet. Dark leafy vegetables and soy milk are also excellent sources. If you’re eating a normal, varied vegan diet, calcium deficiency won’t be a problem for you.
Vitamins like K2 and D3 are not found in plants, are they?
Another myths about nutrition is that vitamins like K2 and D3 are found only in animal products. What isn’t mentioned is that these vitamins are produced within our bodies. Vitamin D is made when our skin is exposed to sunlight (UV light) at certain times of the day, and can be supplemented by foods such as mushrooms. Vitamin K2 is made by bacteria in our guts from Vitamin K1, which is amply available in leafy vegetables. In fact, a cup of kale contains nearly 7 times more Vitamin K than we need everyday.