Going completely plant-based with your diet shows that you are one with nature and you are against any form of animal cruelty. It also means that you are concerned about your health and wish to live a longer life.
Some people, however, think that completely eliminating meat from your diet may have adverse effects. In a study conducted by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2 in 3 vegetarians show signs of vitamin B12 deficiency compared to meat eaters. Opponents of veganism also consider it impractical and quite extreme, because it not only eliminates livestock from diet, but also other animal-related products, such as dairy, eggs or honey. But whether you are looking at political, philosophical or health beliefs, there are advantages and inherent disadvantages with a vegan diet.
List of Pros of Veganism
1. Provides options to unethical killing of animals
Animals are sentient beings, and most sources of meat in people’s diets, such as pigs, chicken, cattle and all warm-blooded animals can experience pain, fear and stress, according to scientific studies. So killing them can be likened to murder, which is against human laws. If vegetables provide a similar satisfying option, then there’s no need for animals to die just to satisfy a dietary preference.
2. Delivers complete nutrition
Animals may be the primary source of protein for most human beings, but a vegetarian diet is just as capable in meeting protein requirements, and in providing all essential amino acids that serve as the building blocks of protein. Unlike meat, plants also provide the fats, vitamins and minerals needed for overall wellness. Suffice to say that you’ll find everything you need for a healthy diet in plants.
Some opponents of veganism claim that human anatomy is not suited for a complete plant-based diet. But that was before people evolved to support a vegetarian diet. So, there really is no need to deprive yourself of the health benefits that vegetables offer.
3. Reduces the risk of developing kidney stones and gallstones
Gallstones and kidney stones are composed of oxalate, uric acid and calcium, which the body excrete due to high animal protein diet. In fact, this kind of diet is responsible for the highest rates of kidney stone occurrence in the United States. This means taking animal protein out of the equation will spare you from such health condition.
4. Lessens chances of developing a variety of health conditions
Vegetables are considered healthy for a lot of reasons. Leafy greens and beans, for example, are some of the rich vegetarian sources of iron. But, unlike iron found in red meat, it is non-heme and will not increase the risk of rectal and colon cancer. Other plants provide a non-dairy source of calcium that strengthens the bones and makes them healthy through better calcium absorption, without the side effects, such as GERD or heartburn. A high animal diet, on the other hand, will result in high renal acid levels that can only be neutralized by leaching calcium from bones. So it has the opposite effect than if you were munching on plants.
The risk of heart disease is also lower with a vegetarian diet. In fact, vegans have a 24% lower mortality rate than meat eaters, according to studies. Eating plants also lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of stroke, and prevent occurrence of hypertension. And, while eating meat, increases the risk of type 2 diabetes, veganism lowers it and even helps in glycemic control for diabetes patients.
5. Promotes a longer, healthier life
With all the health benefits that vegetables provide and the diseases they can help prevent, it is no surprise that vegetarians have a higher chance to live longer. Several studies support such a claim, one saying that veganism of 20 years will increase a person’s life span by 3.6 years, while another proves that it can increase life expectancy by over 7 years in men and over 4 years in women.
List of Cons of Veganism
1. Promotes cruelty in plants
Plants may not be sentient beings, but they still feel fear and know threat when they are dealt with it. So vegans are causing harm to plants when they eat them, as much as meat eater does to animals. Opponents of plant-based diet argue that eating meat is not unethical or cruel, but a natural part of life’s cycle, and every organism on earth dies one way or another.
2. Does not serve amino acids in one serving
Unlike vegetables, meat is an abundant and convenient source of amino acids, the building blocks of protein. In a single serving of eat, you get an adequate supply of amino acids, which is not something that can be said with vegetables. Meat also provide B vitamins, zinc and iron.
3. Lacks healthy saturated fats
Saturated fats are essential in enhancing the function of the nervous and immune systems, and the cholesterol found in it is needed for the serotonin receptors of the brain to function properly. Saturated fats are supplied by meat, which explains why a lot of vegetarians suffer from depression and anxiety disorder, as they don’t get a lot of it from a plant-based diet.
4. Has environmental impact
Soybeans, which is a staple protein source in a vegetarian diet, is a contributor of top soil loss in the U.S. Because farmers grow genetically modified soybeans, they have to douse their fields with huge quantities of herbicides that are toxic to fish and other plants. So the idea that veganism is good for the environment may not be entirely true.
Processed vegetarian protein is also contributing to greenhouse gas, more so than the pollution coming from farming meat, according to a 2010 report from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). This means, giving up animal-based diet will only reduce gas emissions by 7%, which is not reason enough to become a vegan. Proponents of veganism also claim that their choice of food can alleviate world hunger, but opponents beg to differ. After all, worldwide hunger is not due to abundance of meat in one country and the lack in another, but a matter of economics.
Going vegan is a matter of choice. But, if you are looking for a reason to switch to a plant-based diet, knowing the pros and cons will help you make an informed decision.
Natalie Regoli is a child of God, devoted wife, and mother of two boys. She has a Master's Degree in Law from The University of Texas. Natalie has been published in several national journals and has been practicing law for 18 years.