This movement has emerged recently and went viral amongst the youth but is not new. The philosophy of ethical vegans lies primarily in refusing to view animals as a commodity that humans can use and take advantage of freely. It is viewed as animal exploitation and cruelty. Thus, they do not just abstain from eating animal-products; they completely steer clear from using animals for any purpose, like wearing fur, leather or testing products (make up, cosmetics, etc..) on animals. Basically any activity that could harm a creature is considered against vegan ethics.
Nevertheless, the term “environmental veganism” refers to refraining from using animal products, given the fact that industrial farming of animals contributes in damaging the environment and directly to climate change. In fact, according to this recent peer-reviewed journal article, ‘A vegan diet is probably the single biggest way to reduce your impact on planet Earth, not just greenhouse gases, but global acidification, eutrophication, land use and water use.’ Vegans abstain completely from consuming any meat, meat by-products (gelatin, broths, etc..) or animal by-products (like eggs and dairy. Honey however is somewhat controversial and will be discussed in another post.)
In a way, both could make an ethical, political, environmental or cultural statement.
What Makes a Diet Vegan?
While the bottomline of being a vegan is to exclude all forms of animal products in diets, there are varieties in what to feed yourself instead.
For example, a whole-food vegan diet is based on depending solely on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, and whole plant foods in general.
While raw-food vegan dieters consume raw fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and plant foods that are cooked at temperatures bellow 48C.
Likewise, there is the thrive diet, which is inspired by the raw-food vegan diet; people who follow this one tend to eat food that is minimally cooked at low temperatures.
While there is the 80/10/10 diet, also called low-fat or fruitarian diet, that basically limits the consumption of fat-rich plants like nuts and avocados; followers of this diet rely on raw fruits and soft greens.
A diet similar to the 80/10/10 is the starch solution; they both have the same concept but, instead of fruits, the consumption mainly focuses on cooked starches like potatoes, rice and corn, making it a high carb diet.
Contrastingly enough, the worst type of them all is the junk-food vegan diet. While vegan diets are supposed to improve health, this diet lacks healthy food and relies on heavily processed vegan foods, mock meats and cheese (like tofu), fries and vegan desserts.
While there are more, these are the most common types of vegan diets.
Is it Healthy?
While some reviews proved that those who follow a vegan lifestyle are less prone to chronic diseases than those who do not, an unbalanced vegan diet could lead to several deficiencies on the long term. Inarguably, vegan diets are higher in magnesium, folic acid, dietary fiber, vitamins C and E, and iron. However, these diets tend to deprive their followers from many things such as omega 3 fatty acids, vitamin D, calcium, zinc, vitamin B12 and dietary energy. Deficiencies in some of these like vitamin B12 for example, could cause blood disorders and conceivably irreversible neurological damage. However, supplements can be taken.
Thus, not anyone is fit to vegan dieting; the German Society for Nutrition advices against vegan diets for children, adolescents, pregnant and breastfeeding women. These people could face serious health issues as their bodies need to be nourished with certain elements that a vegan diet will not provide.
Ultimately, going vegan seems to be the most environmentally friendly diet and a healthy, cruelty-free lifestyle.