A Plant-Based Diet for Good Health
A plant-based (vegan) diet that excludes meat and dairy can help to prevent, reduce or eliminate many lifestyle-related conditions such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Freer from the burden of disease, people are able to pursue their goals and live a more enjoyable life.
Making the Change
Human beings are creatures of habit which can be helpful or harmful to our well-being. Some experts say that if we can adopt a positive new behavior for just 3 weeks, that new behavior often becomes a permanent habit. There is no one right or wrong way to change your eating habits. Some people make the change all at once and some eliminate their intake of meat and dairy slowly. A great way to begin is by adding a vegan meal or two to your daily routine.
A well-rounded plant-based diet includes fruits, vegetables, grains and legumes (beans, peas or lentils), nuts and seeds. These food groups provide all the energy, protein, minerals and fats necessary for excellent health. As humans, our anatomy is ideally designed to digest plants. Like other primates (chimpanzees, gorillas), humans have the teeth and intestinal system of a plant-eater, which is very different from the anatomy of a meat eater (e.g. lion, wolf). Animal foods contain saturated fat, cholesterol and other substances that can be harmful to health, and contain none of the fiber that is necessary for good health. Protein has been linked in our culture to meat and dairy; however, all plant foods contain protein and those who eat enough calories to maintain a normal body weight will consume enough protein to maintain good health.
For the person already in good health who chooses a vegan diet, Vitamin B-12 is the only supplement that is absolutely required. Vitamin B-12 is an essential nutrient for human health. Vitamin B-12 is not an animal product. In nature, it is made by certain forms of bacteria present in soil or in the intestines of animals. Since vegans do not eat animals, and since modern living conditions limit our contact with soil bacteria, vegans need to find a convenient source for this nutrient. Vitamin B-12 is easy to obtain through over-the-counter tablets. It is also added to many food products, such as cereals and plant milks.
There are hundreds of important nutrients that promote good health. Any diet, whether it includes animal products or not, can be deficient in nutrients if it does not contain a variety of foods or contains too few whole foods and too many processed foods. We encourage those who have actual symptoms of illness to consult a physician. Whenever possible, identify health professionals who are knowledgeable about, or will support, the decision to eat a plant-based diet.