A vegan diet, which was once considered fringe, is rapidly increasing in popularity across the United States. A Nielsen survey found that 39% of Americans want to eat more plant-based foods, and 14% believe there’s no reason to eat meat at all.
Going vegan means completely giving up animal products, such as meat, fish, eggs, cheese, yogurt, and milk. Since Americans have one of the most meat-heavy diets in the world, the idea of cutting out animal products might feel intimidating.
If you’re curious about trying a vegan diet, medical research findings suggest it might be worth pursuing. There are multiple health benefits associated with giving up animal products and eating more plant-based foods. And with a little more knowledge under your belt, going vegan won’t be as difficult as you might think.
Benefits of Eating a Vegan Diet
Some people go vegan because they can’t tolerate the idea of contributing to the death of an animal. Others are concerned about how animal agriculture contributes to climate change and become vegan in an effort to help the environment. Many people switch to a vegan diet because they want to improve their health.
Research has found that cutting out meat can reduce a person’s risk of cancer, Type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. People who don’t eat animal products tend to weigh less, have lower cholesterol and blood pressure, experience less arthritis pain, and live longer.
With all of these potential health benefits, it’s no wonder the vegan trend keeps growing. A vegan diet can improve a person’s health primarily because it involves two major changes: eating fewer animal products and eating more whole, plant-based foods.
People who avoid animal products and eat a diet rich in plant foods tend to consume more nutrients, less saturated fat, and more fiber. These differences likely cause the differences in health found between vegans and omnivores.
Some studies suggest that reducing animal product consumption rather than cutting it out completely also provides some health benefits, though to a lesser degree. For example, removing or reducing certain meats from one’s diet can reduce cancer risk.
According to the World Health Organization, processed meat is carcinogenic, and red meat is probably carcinogenic. Research has connected both with colorectal cancer. As a result, reducing your consumption of processed and red meat could reduce your risk of colorectal cancer and, potentially, other cancers as well.
Is a Vegan Diet Expensive?
A common misconception about vegan diets is that they are expensive or inaccessible to the average person. This idea probably comes from an association of vegan diets with high-end vegan specialty foods, such as oat milk, nut cheeses, and meat alternatives.
The reality is, a person doesn’t have to buy specialty health foods or imitation meat and cheese products to maintain a vegan diet. Instead, they can opt for healthy, unprocessed sources of plant protein. These foods tend to be healthier and much less expensive than both animal products and their alternatives.
Here are some affordable food items that are also protein-rich:
• Beans, especially lentils
• Edamame (soybeans)
• Nuts and nut butters
• Oats and oatmeal
• Wild rice
Transitioning to a Vegan Diet
If you’re interested in transitioning to a vegan diet, consider doing it gradually. There’s no rule that says you must become 100% vegan overnight. An effort to be super strict from day one could frustrate you, and you might give up altogether.
To begin your plant-based journey, reflect on your current diet and write down all of the animal products you currently consume. Instead of overhauling all meals and snacks at once, start with one meal, such as breakfast. After you’ve eaten a plant-based breakfast every day for a couple of weeks, choose another simple change toward veganism that you can implement.
Gaining the support of others can also help as you become vegan. Community events such as Meatless Mondays, in which people are vegan for one day each week, and Veganuary, in which people become vegan for the month of January, can provide motivation and accountability.
Becoming vegan doesn’t have to be daunting. If you’re interested in transitioning to a vegan lifestyle, whether for your health, the environment, or the animals, keep your purpose in mind to remain motivated.
If the shift to veganism feels difficult at times, remember that you don’t have to change everything overnight. Be patient with yourself, give yourself time, and trust that you can do it.
Cheap Plant-Based Groceries To Save You Money
Beans & Lentils – You’ll save the most by purchasing dried beans in bulk, but canned versions can be budget-friendly.
Rice – It’s cheap and can be bought in bulk to save even more. When combined with beans, it forms a complete protein profile.
Bananas – These are probably the cheapest fruit you can find. You’re paying cents per pound. If you have too many, bananas freeze well to be used later in smoothies.
Oatmeal – This is a good source of iron and a filling breakfast food. Combine with bananas for an inexpensive daily breakfast.
Written by: Jay Summer