What Is a Vegan Diet About (And Why Should You Care)?

If you watched the Oscars recently you may have heard Joaquin Phoenix’s Oscar acceptance speech (he won best actor for his portrayal of Arthur Fleck in the movie Joker) where he spoke about the oppression of humans over cows for their milk and maybe thought to yourself, “he’s another one of those crazy animal rights activists vegans”. It has lead some people to wonder what is a vegan diet about and why you should care? If you look at the case for becoming vegetarian or vegan, there is much more to it than animal rights. Don’t get me wrong I get the animal rights aspect but selfishly, like many others I suspect, I went vegan for my health.

Maybe you have noticed the trend in Hollywood these days where a lot of actors are going vegan and often it is not a social statement, it’s actually because of their health. The simple fact is that a vegetarian and vegan diet has a lot of health benefits including but not limited to: reversal of heart disease, lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol, lower body fat / weight loss, increase energy, less risk for cancer, stroke, heart attack and Alzheimer’s disease to name a few.

For a long time, it has been a common fact that vegetarians live, on average, six more years than folks on a Standard American Diet (often referred to as SAD). I learned this fact in nutrition class back in 2007 when I was becoming a Certified Nutritional Consultant in the state of Virginia (100 hours of nutrition classes). However, the idea of living 6 years longer to the average 20 or 30 year old means very little it seems. On the other hand, the idea of not having open heart surgery when you are in your 50’s and 60’s, is a lot more immediate and profound reason to choose a healthier diet.

I recently saw a YouTube video of actor Samuel L. Jackson, talking about his experience going Vegan when he was in his 60’s facing such a choice. The idea of heart surgery was unappealing to Mr. Jackson, enough so that he adopted a strict vegan diet for over 6 months, lost a bunch of weight, got very healthy and only switched back because he was hired to play a role that he needed to be heavyset for, according to that interview. I do not know what Mr. Jackson is doing these days but I do see the trend of more and more celebrities trying a Vegan diet for their health including: former President, Bill Clinton; Simon Cowell; Beyonce; and Ellen DeGeneres. In fact, the Oscar event itself this year served a mostly vegan meal.

If you watch the documentary, Forks Over Knives, you will see the doctor that helped Samuel L. Jackson lose the weight and get healthy, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, a heart surgeon and former Olympic rowing champion who now coaches people on a whole-foods-plant-exclusive (a.k.a. vegan) diet. Dr. Esselstyn has been in other documentaries on food, Planeat, 2017 and has written books like Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease: The Revolutionary, Scientifically Proven, Nutrition-Based Cure.

Dr. Esselstyn isn’t the only doctor out there prescribing a vegan diet instead of pharmaceuticals. Doctors with like philosophies, books and programs to Dr. Esselstyn are Dr. John McDougall, Dr. T. Colin Campbell, Dr. Neal Barnard, Dr. Michael Greger, Dr. Joel Fuhrman and Dr. Dean Ornish just to name a few. Many of these new breed of doctors prefer to treat their patients with food rather than prescriptions and often work with their patients to take them off medicines, eliminating the disease and the side effects of the medicines. Dr. McDougall, who runs a 10 day live-in program in Santa Rosa, California, has even worked to push legislation to ‘train doctors on the proper diet for a human-being’, as he says.

What The WHO Says

The World Health Organization (a.k.a. the WHO) looked at the literature and concluded that the most widely studied diet that produces better health is the Mediterranean diet, which is a plant-based diet with a little meat and fish only.  They also concluded that every 50 gram portion of processed meat that you consume increases your risk of colorectal cancer by 18%. Moreover, the mayo clinic noted that a low-fiber, high-fat diet is a risk factor for colorectal cancers, as often associated with the typical Western diet, which is low in fiber and high in fat and calories.

In conclusion, trendy diets come and go but if you spend a little time looking into the science, it is clear to many that a vegan diet is the healthiest option for a human. Food is an industry and as such, they will try to create confusion enough to keep people from consuming their products so always look at who is funding the latest research and what biases they may have. I have found this very enlightening. The only precaution that I have found is that B12 may need to be supplemented when following a strict vegan diet and the increase in fiber may cause an abundance of gas and bloating until your body gets used to it – but hey there are simple over the counter products for that.

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10 Responses to “What Is a Vegan Diet About (And Why Should You Care)?

  • Nimrodngy
    6 months ago

    I love going to the gym and I have been doing this for about 6 years. I met a lot of vegan athletes and I always wondered if I could do that. Reading your article I want to say that you have provided some very useful information and I want to thank you for that. I would love it if you can recommend me some recipes that contain high quality protein and that can help me to have very good results after weight training. Thanks.

  • Parameter
    6 months ago

    Nothing is as important as living healthy, I have read a lot about veganism but of a truth you pointed out some basic facts that I feel is of high important , One a vegetarian live longer than the normal human who stays on an open diet , and above it having heart and weight related issues become a thing of the past. Thanks a million, you answered very vital questions in my heart

    • Patricia Sullivan
      6 months ago

      Hi Parameter, I am very glad to have been of service to you!

  • Pentrental
    6 months ago

    I’d take a vegan diet over pharmaceuticals any day and I respect doctors who are out there promoting it over pills. Unfortunately insurance companies tend to run things at hospitals, and pharmaceuticals are a major money-maker. I appreciate you bringing awareness about vegan diets as I totally agree that they are more in line with the Mediterranean diet, definitely one of the healthiest out there. Good to know that B12 may need to be supplemented. I haven’t heard that until now and it’s very helpful information. I look forward to reading more, great post!

    • Patricia Sullivan
      6 months ago

      Thank you for your comments Yes, B12 may require a supplement but it’s a small amount needed.

  • Chimmhogevagreenesnr
    6 months ago

    Hello there! This is an amazing article you’ve got here. I have also stumbled into an argument on this topic (why people go vegan) in a seminar and at that spot I immediately had interest in going vegan because Plant-based foods, by nature, contain no dietary cholesterol which prevents  raise blood pressure  as it makes cardiovascular diseases more likely. 

    • Patricia Sullivan
      6 months ago

      I am so glad that you decided to go vegan. It is much more heart healthy!

  • Evagreene
    6 months ago

    I and  my family are on vegan diet which  involves eating only food products made from plants and avoiding animal products. Animal products are important sources of protein, nonsaturated fats, iron, vitamins, and minerals in the standard diet of a person in U. S and other countries and it has been helping  me and my family. This vegan diet helps in loosing weight, its very rich  in nutrient, low blood sugar level, protect against cancer and lots of important as this article has explained. 

    But my question is, Does it  protect against Cancer? 

    • Patricia Sullivan
      6 months ago

      Studies do suggest that a vegan diet lowers one’s risk of getting cancer, particularly colorectal cancers!

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