Veganism. The Eternal Dispute. We Asked Experts About the Pro's and Con's.
November 1st is the International Vegan Day
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Veganism. A lifestyle that is celebrated by many, others can't even hear about it anymore. In this article you will learn about what the essence of veganism really is, what positives does it bring, what to look out for in the vegan diet, which celebrities promote it, and much more.
Veganism as nutrition and a way of life
Opponents of the vegan diet think that vegan is a person who simply does not eat anything at all. In fact, the definition of veganism is very broad and certainly doesn't only revolve around eating habits.
The Vegan society describes veganism as a lifestyle that steers away from all products derived wholly or partly from animals such as meat (including fish, shellfish and insects), dairy products, eggs and honey. At the same time, it is a philosophy that tries to reject products in the production of which animals have been "used", whether they are food, clothing or cosmetics (like leather, cosmetics tested on animals, etc.).
Vegan philosophy cares about animal rights from multiple perspectives. According to some vegans, they don't support the exploitation of animals in the form of horse or dog races, they also avoid visiting zoos. Support of animal shelters is the most suitable alternative.
The first use of the word vegan
International Vegan Day has been officially celebrated since 1990, but its history goes way back. The first person to use the word "vegan" was Donald Watson in 1944 Britain. The impulse for him to become a vegan was the experience on his uncle's farm, where he often witnessed the slaughter of animals. In 1944, he founded The Vegan Society with his wife and several friends, for all those who sought a lifestyle without animal products. For the benefit of humans, animals and the environment.
At the time the critics predicted that Watson would't live long with such a "diet". Despite their projections, Watson lived to a respectable age of 95.
Benefits of veganism
If we look away from the environmental and ethical issues and focus only on nutrition, a purely plant-based diet can provide a number of benefits, according to nutritionist Miloslav Sindelar from the Institute of Modern Nutrition. "Studies show, for example, that a purely plant-based diet in the adult population reduces the risk of metabolic syndrome, some diseases of civilization and also helps to effectively reduce weight," he says.
According to him, however, it depends on what groups of people are we comparing with. "If you compare a group of vegans with the general population, people on a vegan diet will usually be healthier on average, but this is because they are often also more interested in their lifestyle than the general population, play more sports, do not smoke and do not drink alcohol," he adds. According to him, there have been no quality studies so far that would have shown significant health differences between the group consuming meat or animal proteins and between vegetarians.
Environmentally speaking, a number of studies have come up with interesting results. For example, the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published a study in 2016, according to which the emissions associated with food production would be reduced by up to 70 percent after people switch to plant-based diets.
The drawbacks of veganism can often be overlooked
According to the nutritionist, the biggest problem of vegan eating is the elimination of entire food groups (meat, eggs, dairy products, etc.), which have demonstrably positive effects on the human body and their removal from the diet can lead to a deficiency of important substances in nutrition.
"In vegan diets, there may be a risk of a total lack of protein in the diet - for example, according to a 2017 study, about 27% of vegans had a very low protein intake (below 10% of total energy intake)," says the nutritionist. He also adds that deficiency for other substances such as essential omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B12, vitamin D, calcium, zinc, iodine or iron may occur. Another disadvantage is the excess of fiber, industrially processed foods or omega-6 fatty acids.
"Of course, it depends on the overall composition and processing of the food - the vegan menu can be composed very sensibly," he adds.
Although vegetable proteins are not capable of fully replacing animal proteins, their deficiency can be compensated by the right combination of individual sources: “Cereals, for example, are poor in lysine, but legumes contain a sufficient amount of it. This means that if we don't rely on only one or two sources of plant proteins in our diet and combine them throughout the day or even throughout the week, w'll be able to compensate for this 'lower nutritional quality' very effectively. "
Kids as vegans? Experts disagree.
A big topic is vegan eating in children and teens, and in this case, the experts can't seem to agree.
According to Miloslav Sindelar, there are specific situations (child development, pregnancy or breastfeeding) where the diet should be as diverse as possible to cover all nutritional requirements, which vegan diet, by its very nature, cannot possibly meet.
Pavel Kohout, Head of the nutrition center at Thomayer Hospital, agrees with this opinion. "The biggest problem is that the child can't make a decision. It is completely dependent on parents, who sometimes understand that, but often do not understand all. An assorted diet is significantly less likely to harm a child than a purely vegan diet. Until the child is three years old, it is a lifestyle that should be completely banned, " Kohout said.
The psychologist, nutrition consultant and co-founder of the Vegan Fighter project, Iva Linda Maruscakova, has the opposite opinion. She claims that veganism or a balanced plantbased diet is recommended by leading health organizations as suitable and sufficient for children. For example the British National Health Service. “They recommend a balanced plant diet for all ages. Even for children, nursing mothers and children under three years."
Famous vegans most often fight for animal rights
The vegan diet is also favored by many celebrities, some of whom have shared their reasons publicly. One of the best-known promoters of this lifestyle is the Oscar-winning actor Joaquin Phoenix, who has been a vegan since he was three years old. "We feel entitled to artificially inseminate a cow and steal her baby, even though her cries of anguish are unmistakable. And then we take her milk that's intended for the calf and we pour it in our coffee and our cereal. And I think we fear the idea of personal change in this, because we think we have to sacrifice something, to give something up," the actor said in an emotional thanksgiving speech.
Other celebrities promoting veganism include singer Billie Eilish, actress Natalie Portman, actor Woody Harrelson and athletes Lewis Hamilton, Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams.
A well-known promoter of veganism and animal protection is the American composer and singer Moby, who also lectures and writes books on veganism from time to time. He opened a vegan restaurant in 2015, donating all of his profits to animal welfare organizations.
Myths spread by vegans and their opposition
The vegan diet and its supporters are often faced with false myths that swarm around the topic. Among the best known are that the vegan diet is expensive and difficult to obtain, that cow's milk is irreplaceable or that the vegan diet consists only of vegetables and fruits.
However, vegans also often resort to fabrications in an effort to promote the vegan diet. Among the most common myths is, for example, that our closest relatives such as chimpanzees and gorillas are vegans, or that veganism is the most ecological, and anyone who is serious about saving the planet should be vegan.
The Institute of Modern Nutrition, for example, has spoken out against these myths, and you can read their arguments in their article.
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