Being vegan is not only a way of eating, it’s a lifestyle that benefits us greatly, it goes beyond a name given due to eating habits and it is more than what you can and cannot eat because being a vegan is more than a diet, it affects our entire lives.
It is scientifically proven that a plant-based diet is better for our health. Many people think that being vegan is to eat only lettuce and tomatoes. Others may think that vegetables have no protein or certain nutrients that we need so if we don’t eat meat we will have deficiencies. But let me tell you these asseverations are not true. God designed this diet, and what God does is and always will be good. The diet of Eden, as I call it, is a nutritionally complete, balanced and adequate diet. The problem is not to know how to combine and choose foods. Nobody was born with a manual of how to eat, but Christians have the Bible as a guide*
Plants are full of colors and textures, variety of flavors and scents, shapes and sizes that make the vegan diet fun and full of options. I love to cook and try new recipes, so to know that what I am eating is also healthy and good for my body makes the cooking experience more than an everyday activity; it becomes art that is also medicine.
One of my favorite quotes is by Hippocrates “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”. I’m not telling you to stop taking medicines, you might really need them, but let me tell you that many diseases can be prevented with food and many symptoms can be reversed or decreased by what we eat.
What is this diet? The plant-based diet consists of fresh and dried fruits, nuts, seeds and oils, vegetables, whole grains and legumes. Those who eat only these foods are vegan, other vegetarians include dairy products and eggs in their diet, and those are called ovo-lacto vegetarians. In this blog I will include vegan recipes as well as ovo-lacto vegetarian recipes. But I cannot stop reiterating that the vegan diet is the best choice. Why? For the 10 following reasons:
1 – It is nutritionally complete and balanced. In plants we can find carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals. These include the nutrients needed for the proper functioning of all our organs. The main sources of carbohydrates are the grains, such as oatmeal, flour, pasta, rice, barley and quinoa among others. The whole grain cereals are the best ones because they contain fiber. It is always good to combine cereals with some source of protein like any kind of bean, tofu or other legumes. This combination provides all of the essential amino acids the body needs. In other words, whole grain + legume = complete protein. The main sources of fats are vegetable oils, seeds, nuts and certain vegetables such as avocado, olives, chocolate and coconut. The main sources of vitamins and minerals are fruits, vegetables and nuts but these are found in all plant foods. The recommendations are to consume 2 fruits and 3 vegetables per day and of different colors if possible; each color provides different phytochemicals that benefit different organs of our bodies. See? In plants we can have all the nutrients we need.1
2 – The vegan diet helps you lose weight and maintain it. Vegetables are low in calories and contain nutrients like fiber that gives a greater feeling of fullness, so that not only we eat less quantity but also less calories. Furthermore, according to an article published by the “American Diabetes Association” vegetarians are less obese than non-vegetarians. Therefore vegetarians also have a lower risk of obesity-related diseases such as diabetes 2.2,11
3 – It protects us from non-communicable diseases and certain cancers. According to “The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition” mortality and risk of coronary heart disease is 32% lower in vegetarians than non-vegetarians. Other studies showed a higher incidence of gastrointestinal cancers in people who eat meat. Vegetables are rich in vitamins and minerals that help have a stronger immune system to protect us from certain cancers. This diet is low in saturated fat acids and trans fatty acids that are harmful to the health of our arteries, and it also contains omega 9 fatty acids that increase HDL cholesterol (which is the one that protects us from cardiovascular diseases). Also, vegetables contain fiber that helps reduce the absorption of sugars in the blood. Studies show that vegetarians have 55% fewer cases of diabetes 2.2,3,4,11.
4 – Lowers cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar. Did you know that eating nuts lowers cholesterol? The results of the Adventist Health Study that included 26,473 people for a period of 12 years showed that those who ate nuts five or more times a week reduced the risk of heart attack by 51% and had a reduction of deaths from myocardial disease of 48% compared to those who consumed less nuts. Dr. Caldwell, a physician and scientist recognized from the “Cleveland Clinic” prescribed a plant-based diet to 18 of his patients suffering from coronary thrombosis and 70% of them not only stopped the progression of the disease but the clogged arteries actually decreased! And what do you know about celery or garlic? Did you know that they could lower blood pressure? A study conducted by the Medical Center of the University of Chicago found that eating a quarter pound of celery per day for 1 week reduces blood pressure from 158/96 to 118/82!! .5,6,7
5 – It gives us more energy and keeps our brains alert. I experienced this firsthand. When I started college I used to eat meat every day, although during my childhood I never ate meat at home. When I decided to stop eating meat, I noticed the changes quickly. When I studied right after eating I didn’t feel tired as before, my mind was awake, my body was not “heavy”. I noticed an abrupt change in my concentration and productivity; I spent less time studying and got even better results than before. I was also going to the gym every day and never came back exhausted. The same was observed in New York when scientists got together and changed the lunch of 1.1 million public school students. They changed the menu, adding fruits, vegetables and whole grains. After one year, academic performance increased by 16% and the number of students with learning disabilities was reduced by 41%. Try it and see the results.8
6 – Reduces the risk of foodborne illness. In the USA every person is exposed to between 63-70 different pesticides residues in food per day. As a result, foodborne diseases are affecting 8 to 60 million people causing about 9,000 deaths per year. The main causative agents are the bacterias: Campylobacter jejuni, Salmonella, Escherichia coli, Listeria monocytogenes and Vibrio species – all bacteria found mainly in red and white meats, fish, seafood, dairy and eggs. Therefore, we can avoid poisoning by not consuming food derived from animals. Vegetables have fewer bacteria, chemicals and pesticides, and that is a fact. Some people have allergies to certain plants and those should be careful and avoid them. But know that there is a lower amount of vegan with foodborne disease than meat eaters. Also, I advise eating organic as much as possible since the new laws in the USA protect crops with GMO (genetically modified organism). But we will talk about that in a future article.9, 10
7 – It saves us money. Yes, it’s true. Organic food can be a bit more expensive, but it will ultimately save us money in hospital expenses, tedious treatments, medications, medical appointments and so much more that makes it totally worthwhile. There are even some employers that offer discounts on the health insurance for their employees with normal weight, blood pressure and lab results. Benefit that my husband and I obtained, and all thanks to a healthy vegetarian diet. Today, healthy eating really made a difference in our budget and I know it will in the future too.
8 – Help build stronger bones, reduces symptoms of menopause, gastrointestinal diseases and more! Vegetables are good source of calcium, especially almonds, broccoli, legumes and whole grains. Calcium is important for bone growth and to keep them strong. Studies found that there are fewer cases of osteoporosis in vegetarians. Also, vegetarians have nearly 3 times lower risk of gallstones than omnivores and similar results were seen with cases of kidney stones and kidney disease. There’s even a 50% fewer cases of diverticulosis and constipation and other gastrointestinal diseases and complications by simply eating plant-based foods and avoiding meat. This diet helps regulate some hormones such as estrogen. Also, studies showed that isoflavones found mainly in soybeans and their derivatives reduce the symptoms of menopause and hormonal imbalances. In Europe, where meat consumption is higher, about 80% of menopausal women suffer from hot flashes, whereas in China, where soy consumption is daily, only 18%.11, 12
9 – Adds more years to your life. According to Dr. Michael F. Roizen, people who consume saturated fatty acids, which are found in animal products, live less and their last years are with higher disabilities. It also ensures that animal products decrease energy, clogs arteries and weaknesses the immune system. He even mentions that those who eat meat have sexual and cognitive dysfunction at a younger age. Other studies showed that people who have lived longer had an active life and a plant-based whole grains’ diet.13
10 – Protects the environment and animals. First, the United Nations said that we are using nearly 30% of earth landmass to raise animals for our consumption; clearing about 260 million acres of US forests to grow grain in order to feed farm animals is resulting in the number one reason plant species in the USA are going extinct. Also, these animals are eating 70% of our grains and what do we get? To produce 1 pound of meat the industry uses 13 pounds of grain, 2,400 gallons of water and so much energy! Second, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) the runoff from factory farms pollutes our waterways more than all other industrial sources combined and that is not counting the fecal contamination that exceeds the entire US human population excrements and affects the water we drink and the air we breath. Third, we avoid animal suffering. The stress that animals suffer from birth until they die is very shocking and it appealed to my conscience. Not to be too extreme, I know it is a personal matter, but I always thought God created mankind and gave them the job of taking care of the animals… and what are we doing now? Do you see what I’m saying?*,14
I don’t want to convince you to stop eating meat and eat like me, but I do want to make you aware of facts so you can make a wise and informed decision that can benefit your bodies and make your lives more fulfilling and healthy. Think about your welfare and ultimately you will benefit everyone around you, they will not have to worry about big hospital bills and you will live to see your great grandchildren! God created us with the ability to care for our bodies and make decisions about our own future. I hope for a future full of life and good health, what kind of future do you hope for?
* Diet of Eden: Genesis 1:29. Care of animals: Genesis 1:28. Holy Bible New International version.
1 Lopez/Suarez. “Fundamentos de Nutrición Normal.” El Ataneo P. Garcia S.A.L.E.eI. Primera edición. Septiembre 12, 2004. Argentina.
2 Tonstad, Serena/Butler, Terry/Yan, Run/Fraser, Gary E. “Type of Vegetarian Diet, Body Weight, and Prevalence of Type 2 Diabetes.” Diabetes Care, volumen 32, numero 5, Mayo 2009. Online. PDF de http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/32/5/791.full.pdf+html, Abril 26, 2013.
3 Tanmango-Bartley, Yessenia/Jaceldo-Siegl, Karen/Fan, Jing/Fraser, Gary E. “Vegetarian Diets and the incidence of Cancer in a Low-risk Population.” American Association for Cancer Reaserch. Online. PDF de cebp.aacrjournals.org, Abril 24, 2013.
4 Fraser, Gary E. “Vegetarian Diets: what do we know of the effects on common chronic disease?” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Online. PDF de ajcn.nutrition.org, Abril 24, 2013.
5 Foods that Harm Foods that Heal. Reader’s Diagest Association, Inc. 1998. Pleasantville, New York, USA
6 Creation Health Seminar Personal Study Guide. Florida Hospital, Mission Development. Segunda edición. 2011.
7 Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine. Nichael Murray, N.D., Joseph Pizzorno, N.D. Revised. Segunda edición. Prima Publishing, Rocklin, CA, USA.
8 Callem J. “Mean Streets or Mean Minerals?” The Nutrition News from IAACN 20120 #7. Online. PDF de http://www.iaacn.org/The%20Nutrition%20News%202010.week7.pdf , Abril 26, 2013
9 Schafer K.S./Kegley S.E. “Persistent toxic chemicals in the US food suply.” J Epidemiol Community Health 202; 56:813-817. Online. PDF de http://www.jech.com, Abril26, 2013.
10 Altekruse S.F./Cohen, M.L./Swerdlow, D.L. “Emerging Foodborne Diseases.” Centers for Disease Control and Precention, Atlanta, GA, USA. Vol. 3, No. 3, Julio-Septiembre 1997. Online. PDF de http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2627632/pdf/9284372.pdf Abril 26, 2013.
11 Vesanto, Melina/Davids, Brenda. “Becoming Vegetarian: The Complete Guide to Adopting a Healthy Vegetarian Diet.” Capitulo 2: Maximazing the vegetarian advantages.
12 Setchell, Kenneth D.R./Cassidy, Aedin. “Dietary Isoflavones: Biological Effects and Relevance to Human Health.” The Journal of Nutrition. Online. PDF de http://jn.nutrition.org/content/129/3/758S.full.pdf+html Abril 26, 2013.
13 Roizen, Michael F/La Puma, John. “The Real Age Diet: Make Yourself Younger with What You Eat”. HarperCollins Publishers Inc., 10 East 53rd Street New York, NY 10022. Primera edición. 2001.
14 Meat Production Wastes Natural Resources, PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. Online. http://www.peta.org/issues/animals-used-for-food/meat-wastes-natural-resources.aspx May 15,2013
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