Categories Health Fitness and NutritionVegetarianism

Do You Have To Be Vegan To Be Healthy?

[dropcap]I[/dropcap] often hear that people who consume animal products of any kind are all unhealthy because… reasons? But is this true? Not exactly.

Now while the consumption of processed meat, red meat, egg yolks, and milk are full of bad saturated fats, and while the consumption of plant-based foods, even nuts and seeds, which are also high in saturated fats, the consumption of lean chicken and moderate amounts of fish have beneficial effects on diets. This is why, despite being vegan myself, I believe the best kind of diet one can eat is a Mediterranean-style diet.

Barley and Lentil soup is healthy, and is both Vegan, and Mediterranean.
Barley and Lentil soup is healthy, and is both Vegan, and Mediterranean.

The Mediterranean Diet is a diet that focuses on plant foods like nuts, greens, beans, and legumes, but also includes chicken, fish, and healthy fats like Olive Oil.  Despite the evidence that a Vegan diet filled with whole foods, legumes, soymilk, and dark leafy greens is the healthiest diet we can find, according to the Adventist Health Study 2, a Mediterranean diet devoid of red meat, egg yolks, and dairy would be a really healthy diet.

For many, a vegan diet might seem a bit too extreme, or otherwise they might not want to deal with the overbearing mocking and teasing that many people face from family and friends when eating vegan or vegetarian. So for them, they can eat fish and chicken in moderate quantities without sacrificing dignity, or without succumbing to a diet completely devoid of animal products.

Now for many in the Vegan community, this can be seen as a cop out. I personally don’t care. Compared to the American diet of unhealthy foods, processed meats, hotdogs, hamburgers, fries, butter, icecream, and the like, a dairy, egg, and meat-free¬†Mediterranean diet is a multitude better than the average American diet, and that is really all we can ask for in terms of health: Better than we were before.

In fact, even Harvard says that Milk, Cheese, Dairy, Red Meats, and the like should be limited while other proteins, such as beans, legumes, nuts, fish, and lean chicken should be eaten instead. And even MyPlate.gov includes Calcium-fortified Soymilk, Almond Milk, and even Kale as dairy sources. And while it is 100% POSSIBLE, and even RECOMMENDED by Harvard that lots of plant-based proteins should be included in your diet, including beans, nuts, and legumes.

That said, being Vegan itself does not necessarily mean healthy either. In this day in age, processed plant foods (I personally love Boca, but it is still processed and highly salty) high-sugar cookies and brownies, vegan cookie dough, vegan mayo, Vegan Icecream, Vegan Cheese, vegan chocolate and candy, etc, I would say that it is still quite easy to be Vegan yet stuff yourself with Vanilla Sweetened Soymilk and Captain Crunch Peanut Butter Crunch, Oreos, or Spicy Sweet Chili Doritos, all unhealthy foods that can increase caloric consumption, lower nutritional value for the day, and even increase your risk for Obesity and the related issues associated with that as well. So you can be Vegan and not be healthy, so no, being vegan does not automatically equate to health.

And that is one issue I see with claiming veganism is automatically more healthy because… veganism! Veganism simply stands for abstaining from animal products, while the Mediterranean diet is a type of diet that includes a lowering of saturated fat, increasing healthy fats, and eating more plant-based. You can’t really be¬†Mediterranean and eat unhealthy easily, but you can be Vegan and easily eat unhealthily.

ETHICALLY speaking, however, the consumption of chicken and fish would cause suffering to even more animals due to the fact that chickens and fish are smaller, and more die as a result. In terms of health, it is good to eat poulry and fish, but in terms of ethics, it is probably worse. So make that decision for yourself. I personally recommend a plant-based diet.