A Healthier Social Climate for the Newest Generation of Vegans?

smcdonaldEnvironment, Health 2 Comments

VegansIn the last year, coverage of vegan eating and its many benefits has abounded in the mainstream media — from Oprah to Ellen to Dr. Oz and more. Most recently, former President Clinton talked with Dr. Sanjay Gupta on CNN about reversing heart disease with a plant-based diet.

In addition to helping lay to rest the funny “VAY-gun” mispronunciation, all of this positive attention is shining a spotlight on horrors of factory farming and helping demonstrate what the American Dietetic Association has recognized for years: vegetarian and vegan diets are “healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases.” In fact, studies have shown that a diet chock full of plant-based foods can reverse heart disease, prevent obesity, play a positive role in cancer prevention and even strengthen immunity. All of this is exciting news, and makes a profound impact for those who are concerned about the far-reaching impacts of our dietary choices.

How does this interest translate into actual food choices? According to a poll conducted for Vegetarian Times, 7 million Americans considered themselves vegetarian and an addition 22.8 million more Americans are “vegetarian-inclined.”  The foodservice marketing research firm, Technomic, released a poll indicated that 21% of college students now limit their meat consumption by sticking to a vegetarian or vegan diet, cutting out certain types of meat, or eating meat only occasionally. And a study sponsored by none other than the American Meat Institute found that 18% of Americans are “implementing Meatless Mondays.”

All of this is great news! But it’d be even better news if these healthier and more humane food choices lasted forever. Sadly, they don’t always do. What is the primary reason cited by ex-vegetarians for reverting back to eating meat? Interestingly, it was “health concerns.” This makes the recent profusion of health-based news, movies and resources around vegan eating vital for everyone, including the animals.

By highlighting the many health benefits of a plant-based vegan diet, we can help dispel dangerous food myths, like “milk is a necessary source of calcium.” The more we can inform others about these important issues, the more we can empower them to choose healthier and more humane foods–and to stick with it.

From the critically-acclaimed health documentary Forks Over Knives to the incredibly informative website NutritionFacts.org by the renowned Dr. Michael Greger to the recent special on CNN, “The Last Heart Attack,” plant-based eating is no longer being portrayed as a diet of omission, but rather one that is characterized by an abundance of delicious, healthful foods that are rich in flavor and vital nutrients. Looking for fresh ideas in the kitchen? Visit VegRecipes.org to get started today.

For a new, and increasingly vegetarian-friendly generation, 2011 may mark the year that started a dramatic change in both social climate and dietary wisdom for vegans — one that helps all of us choose healthier foods while also empowering younger generations to stay healthy for life through plant-based eating.

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