Young Woman Buying Vegetables at Local Market

Mass media has made veganism more visible than ever before. It has been the topic of blog posts, YouTube channels, websites, health articles and television. The recent media interest in the plant-based diet has lead more people to consider veganism as a serious lifestyle choice. In 2009, one percent of people in the U.S. were vegans, and that number grew to 2.5 percent by 2013. While the vegan population is still relatively small, this was a significant growth within a three-year period, and it suggests that veganism is still steadily growing in the U.S. today.

It is very unlikely that the majority of Americans will adopt a vegan diet anytime soon, but we are at least moving in a positive direction and becoming more health conscious. Vegan media attention has not converted everyone to plant-based diets, but it has at least garnered interest from the public and has made people more aware of the importance of adding produce to their diets.

Veganism offers several benefits to those who practice it, but it is not necessarily for everyone. Many are perfectly happy and healthy eating meat. What is important is that we consider the benefits of veganism and at least adopt the idea of adding more plant-based foods and less meat in our diets.

A popular benefit to the vegan diet is that it tends to be lower in bad cholesterol and saturated fats, so in turn, vegans tend to have a lower BMI than those who are not.

This particular benefit is frequently mentioned when talking about a vegan diet, which can influence people to consider switching diets for weight-loss purposes. However, a vegan diet can be so much more than just a way to lose weight. It has other benefits that can help people’s overall health.

A plant-based diet can provide higher dietary fiber levels and higher levels of vitamin C, potassium and magnesium than the standard American diet. Some research also suggests that a vegan diet can also lead to lower rates of chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure. These benefits can lead many to believe that by simply being vegan they are practicing a healthy diet, but is it enough just to consume vegan food?

A vegan diet can be highly nutritious, but its effectiveness is heavily dependent on how a person practices it. If someone’s vegan diet consists of mostly refined grains, sugars, starches and trans fats, then their vegan diet is not necessarily better than a diet that includes meat and animal products. Even when vegan diets exclude these processed foods, there are still potential problems that can arise.

For example vegans are more susceptible to having decreased levels of calcium, vitamin D, iron, zinc, omega-3 fatty acids and B-12. These decreased levels of essential nutrients occur when meat is taken out of a diet without a proper protein replacement that holds the same nutritional values that meat provides.

For these reasons, dieticians and physicians caution veganism especially for people who suffer from anemia, women who are nursing or pregnant and children. For the general public, a vegan diet can be great, but it requires a lot of effort and planning to get the necessary daily nutrients. Before choosing to follow a vegan diet, it is highly recommended to visit a dietitian for advice about how to practice a healthy vegan diet. A vegan diet can take some extra effort and it can be great for everyone if done properly, but is it attainable for all who want to participate?

Many people can find it very difficult to give up meat and replace their protein intake with legumes, especially when they do not find them tasty. Even when people enjoy legumes like beans, edamame and lentils, it can get boring and options can feel very limited. For this reason it’s important to explore more foods and different recipes to spice up vegan meals.

A vegan diet requires more time, planning and discipline than the average diet. While a well-balanced vegan diet can be good, it is not for everyone. The extra time and effort it takes for a healthy vegan diet can discourage people who have very fast-paced and busy life styles — this is perfectly okay.

The important thing to consider about veganism, whether you adopt the diet or not,  is the benefits provided when less meat and more produce is consumed. Everyone can work on improving their diets, but reasoning to drastically alter your diet should be valid and not trend-focused.

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