Vegan Diets

In recent years, vegetarian and vegan diets have come into the spotlight in the media. Vegan diets, especially, have been shown to be beneficial in many ways, as they include no meat or animal products at all. Animal products include eggs, milk, cheese, jell-o, and anything else that is made through or by an animal. A vegan diet will benefit the economy, a person’s health and animals (livestock). There are also serious proponents of an omnivorous diet (eating meat and meat products in addition to vegetables and grains).

These proponents make many claims about the benefits of an omnivorous diet, such as ‘meat is necessary because of the unique nutrients it contains,’ ‘one should not cut out any entire food group,’ ‘milking cows doesn’t hurt them, so why not drink it,’ and ‘livestock are raised to become food. ’ However, these arguments are not good. Nutritionally, a vegan diet is a good choice. Many sources state that as long as a person is careful to eat a variety of foods, like grains, leafy vegetables, and beans, he will be fine. Beans contain just as much protein as meat, which means that meat is not necessary.

If a person eats a variety of different plant products in a day, enough protein is nearly a guarantee. A carefully planned vegan diet is just as beneficial as an omnivorous diet, if not more so, as no single food contains any unique nutrients (Mangels et. al). Additionally, people with type 2 diabetes benefit more from eating a vegan diet than they do eating any other type of diet, and it may reduce their need for medication (Warner). Clearly, there is some serious nutritional benefit from choosing a vegan diet as opposed to an omnivorous one.

The biggest problem that vegans have with maintaining a balanced diet is their intake of vitamin B12. A deficiency here can cause anemia. However, supplements and a carefully planned diet can make up for vitamin deficiencies in “protein, iron, zinc, calcium, vitamin D, riboflavin, vitamin B-12, vitamin A, n-3 fatty acids, and iodine. ” According to the American Dietetic Association, “A vegetarian, including vegan, diet can meet current recommendations for all of these nutrients” (Mangels et. al).

All the scary stories in the news about vegans and vegetarians being hospitalized for nutritional deficiencies do not matter. A few people may not have taken supplements or consulted a doctor for nutritional planning, but it is easily possible to have a complete and balanced diet as a vegan. Milk seems like a naturally produced food. Cows produce milk all the time…and so humans are just helping them out by milking them, not hurting them. Wrong. Milking cows can hurt them. It’s not the process itself, but the fact that many farms use growth hormones to keep cows producing milk constantly.

Like humans, cows typically produce milk when they have babies. Farmers can introduce hormones to keep the cows producing milk all the time, thereby maintaining their supply to dairies (Feffer). Hormones are not only used in milk production, though. They are given to all kind of animals in order to prevent disease, promote growth, and more. There are chemicals used in slaughter houses. All of these uses can affect the people who then eat the animals or their products. Some scientists suggest that eating animals or animal products which contain these chemicals can cause cancer, E.

Coli, drug-resistant bacteria, and human immunity to antibiotics (Feffer). Yes, these animals are raised to be eaten, but at what cost to them and to humans? The animals are living in terrible conditions – overcrowded, disease-ridden buildings, where animals cannot get fresh air, exercise, or decent food. If there isn’t disease, it’s because the animals have been pumped full of antibiotics. In fact, 80% of the antibiotics in this country are given to animals to turn them into food, not to people to cure disease (Feffer). What is the effect of all of this on people?

Growth hormones can mess with peoples’ hormones, leading them into early puberty or causing disease. Most health organizations recommend that people eat a diet that is primarily based on grains and vegetables, and eat meat sparingly if at all, especially red meat. Reducing one’s consumption of meat can lead to decreased risk of cardiovascular or heart disease, decreased risk of some types of cancer, improved diabetes symptoms, and reduced severity in long-term illnesses such as multiple sclerosis. Red meat, especially, causes high cholesterol, heart disease, and other detrimental effects on the body.

Not to mention that a person who does not eat meat is less likely to be overweight; maintaining a normal weight is easier on a vegan diet, and that in itself has many health benefits (Wikipedia). Additionally, a vegan diet is actually better for the environment. According to a study done by the University of Chicago, 17% of all fossil fuels burned in 2002 were used in food production. Another part of that study states that a vegetarian or vegan diet is the most energy efficient, while a diet containing a lot of red meat was the least energy efficient.

Even more importantly, switching to a vegetarian or vegan diet would reduce CO2 output more than switching to driving a hybrid vehicle. A lot of greenhouse gases are emitted during food production, which means that eating meat is actually making the environment worse (Martin and Eshel). Also, land and resources are taken up in feeding and raising animals. Water, grain, and land are necessary to raise animals to be food; land that could be used to raise grain or vegetables.

This is a poor use of resources, as animals cannot produce as much food per amount of space as grain or vegetable plants could. What about the economy? 40% of the grain today is used to feed livestock, rather than people. It also takes 5kg of grain to produce 1kg of beef. This means that it is not an economically sound decision to use the grain to feed and produce animals, and that the grain would be better put to use for feeding humans. Additionally, the energy lost in processing the grains to become appropriate food for livestock is energy that is simply wasted.

Changing this around so that grain is given directly to humans could begin to solve the world’s hunger problem (Better Health Channel). Some experts say that as much as 90% of the U. S. ’s grain is used to feed livestock, and that it is as much as 16 lbs. of grain to produce 1 lb. of beef. This is a terrible waste of resources, as the U. S. could better help other countries in combating hunger by giving them grain, rather than using grain to feed animals. Being a vegan can solve a lot of problems for individuals and the world.

It will reduce an individual’s risk of disease, length his lifespan, and improve his overall health and energy. It will reduce greenhouse gases, prevent cruel treatment of animals on farms, reduce world hunger, and more. Vegan diets have benefits that far outweigh omnivorous or carnivorous diets. They are also perfectly healthy for all people to follow, and do not lack in any nutrient or cause any problems when properly followed. Vegan diets are the way to go in the future, as they will significantly impact and help all of the world’s problems.


Feffer, John.  “Chemical Farm.”  November 22, 2005. Accessed November 30, 2006. <>

Mangels, et. Al.  “Vegetarian Diets.”  American Dietetic Association.  2003.

Martin and Eshel. “Study: vegan diets healthier for planet, people than meat diets.” April 13, 2006.  The University of Chicago News Office.

Warner, Jennifer.  “Vegan Diet May Help Reduce Need to Take Medications for Type 2 Diabetes.”  July 26, 2006.  WebMD Medical News.  <>

“Veganism.”  Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  November 28, 2006.  Accessed November 30, 2006.  <>.

“Vegetarian Eating.”  Better Health Channel.  January 2006.  Accessed November 30, 2006.

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