Factory farming has completely changed the way we consume food. Now, factory farming is not always a bad thing – in fact, it might even be applauded for providing enough food for the Earth’s growing human population. But there is a dark side to this method of production, particularly when it comes to animal exploitation for meat…
An astonishing 56 billion land animals are killed every year for the sake of feeding humans, which includes egg-producing chickens, milk-producing cows, and the offspring of both species. Additionally, the widespread reliance upon factory farming in the meat production industry is causing rapid climate change on a global scale. Eating vegan for even one day out of the week, allows you to save the lives of 33 animals per month while reducing 600 pounds of carbon emissions.
All this aside, the major driving factor for adopting a vegan lifestyle is usually motivated by health concerns and a love of animals. But whatever the reason may be, committing to a strict vegan diet is quite the challenge. Below are some tips and tricks to get you started on the path toward your new goal.
History of the Vegan Diet
It is hypothesized that vegans have been around for thousands of years. The Greek philosopher Aristotle wrote heavily about the need to refrain from eating meat for ethical reasons. However, mainstream veganism began in England in the 1940’s after a handful of members of the Vegetarian Society decided that non-dairy vegetarianism was the most suitable way to devote themselves to the society's goals. George Bernard Shaw, a celebrated playwright, is noted as one of the first celebrities to promote a vegan lifestyle.
Since then, celebrity vegans and PETA have been the main face of veganism. People like Morrissey and Johnny Marr of the highly influential English band The Smiths, Joaquin Phoenix, and Pamela Anderson have all spoken out against eating animals, as well as the purchase of consumer goods which either use animal products or permit Draize testing. The conversation surrounding veganism and vegan foods has also evolved throughout the years, and it is now paying considerable attention to its beneficial impact on the environment.
Benefits of a Vegan Diet
You are making a direct impact on the future of climate change. You can’t say much about the global effects of most non-vegetarian diets, but science is firm on the evidence surrounding humanity's carbon footprint. The transportation required to bring food to livestock, the massive amounts of CO2 emitted by factory-farmed animals, the transportation between the farm and the slaughterhouse, and the transportation of meat products to grocery stores and supermarkets around the world all come together to classify meat production as one of the biggest contributors to CO2 emissions, just below vehicles and fossil fuels. Additionally, forests are often clear-cut to make way for factory-farmed housing of animals, which also impacts the amount of CO2 that’s absorbed by plant life.
You are eating a healthy, delicious diet. It’s still possible to eat a rich, delicious diet by adding a wide variety of legumes to your vegan recipes. Variations in color, density, and flesh type indicates that there’s a difference in nutrients from one example to another, ensuring you’re not missing out on what your body needs.
Your risk of heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, and high cholesterol lowers significantly. Studies have shown that the regular consumption of plant foods can reduce the risk of some of the most prevalent health issues Americans face today, cardiovascular diseases being only one example. Plant foods also provide a wealth of health benefits, due to the higher concentration of nutrients like Vitamin D.
Eating a vegan diet can help you maintain your weight or lose unwanted weight. Sometimes your doctor will recommend that you lose weight to help alleviate a certain health condition. When you learn how to cook and eat within a vegan lifestyle, you’ll cut out some of the most calorie-dense non-vegan foods and swap them out for filling, delicious, nutritious, and calorie-effective foods.
You are supporting animal welfare on a local, regional, and worldwide scale. When it comes down to the ethical reasons behind veganism, the love of the animals comes first and foremost. Most vegan activists will stress that every animal that’s saved ultimately counts towards a cleaner conscience. So, why not get started today?
What to Eat
As a rule of thumb, all fruits and vegetables are considered the backbone for a healthy vegan diet. If you’re on a budget, buying food products at the best prices at the store might be tempting. Many vegans decide to opt for organic foods because of the impact that pesticides and fertilizer usage has on animals and the planet.
You might also want to consider the way that vegetables are grown, harvested, and packaged. If you’re eating vegan items solely for health purposes, this might not be a significant thing to think about. However, if you are going vegan for ethical reasons, buying plastic-free, locally-grown, organic fruits and vegetables might be your best course of action.
If you need more proteins in your meal plans, nuts, beans, and seeds are your best friends. These can contain as much protein as animal products, quite possibly even more. Throwing these into stir fries, using flax or soy milk for your morning cereal, or falling back on classic tofu can be a game changer.
If you have dietary restrictions due to allergies, be sure to check the packaging prior to eating nuts or soy products. Milk and butter products from sunflower seeds is a vegan favorite for those allergic to nuts. Cauliflower can be used as a brown rice substitute for those allergic to gluten.
For cooking oils and fats, stick to plant oils. Olive or coconut oil are tried and true standards for vegan fry-ups, but sometimes specialty oils – like sesame or peanut oil – can provide a quirky touch to the simplest of dishes.
Be sure to read the label if you’re looking for pasta. Although most mainstream pastas are vegan, some specialty pastas might contain dairy products, whey, or squid ink. Many organic brands will clearly label their products as vegan-friendly, so be on the lookout for the “V” label to indicate whether you can have it.
Use the same caution if you’re purchasing bread of any kind. Many breads are vegan, but some sneak in egg or milk ingredients.
Finally, there are delicious processed foods for vegans out there, but a word of caution: Not all processed foods, even vegan products, are good for you. Always check the label to ensure that they are completely vegan and not just vegetarian.
Ingredient Swaps for Classic Comfort Vegan Entrees
Scrambled eggs can be made with Crumbled tofu and fried with curry, turmeric, cumin, celery, salt, and brewer’s yeast to have the same taste.
Pulled pork's texture can be recreated with Jackfruit slow-cooked and pulled apart. Then just served with vegan barbecue sauce of your choice.
Macaroni and cheese's comfort feelings can be found with a vegan macaroni noodle make with brewer’s yeast, a creamy nut sauce, and vegan breadcrumbs and will have the same effect.
Meatballs can be made with fried kidney beans make into balls and cooked into whatever you wish.
Final Notes on Veganism
As with any diet, it is best to check with your doctor prior to making any changes. If you’ve gotten the green light to go vegan, or if you have been encouraged to adopt this lifestyle, researching meat substitutes is one of the best steps you can take to get excited about a plant-based diet. With proper planning, encouragement, and access to healthy and diverse meals, eating a vegan diet is no harder than any other diet out there. Going vegan allows you to receive many added benefits for your health, as well as the health of the animals you love, and the planet we all live on.