3 Reasons to Go Vegan for January
By RACHEL GRICE
"How do you know if someone is a vegan? Don't worry; they'll tell you."
Vegans have gotten a bad rap over the years. Sure, some relentlessly evangelize their cruelty-free practices to even the staunchest of carnivores, but most of them mean well.
I've been a vegetarian for 10 years and never once browbeat a friend or stranger into swearing off meat. For me, it was a personal choice (spurred mostly by the ick factor of Upton Sinclair's "The Jungle"), and I agree it's not the right diet for everyone. But everyone can benefit in a number of ways from reducing the amount of meat, fish and dairy they consume.
[Read More: Top Myths About Plant-Based Diets]
Even if you've been turned off from veganism before, there are plenty of reasons to consider it or simply taking a small step towards eating less meat and fewer animal products:
1. Improve your health. In general, studies have shown that vegans have lower cholesterol, a lower risk of type 2 diabetes and lower rates of obesity.
Of course, it's hard to isolate veganism as the sole cause of these outcomes, but since vegans tend to consume fewer processed foods and cut out animal fats and cholesterol in favor of more fruits, veggies and grains, their diets are significantly healthier than the Standard American Diet (aptly shortened to “SAD“ ).
2. Help the environment. It takes a lot of resources to produce the meat we consume. From the animal feed and farm equipment to the preparation and shipping, a lot goes into that steak or burger you're biting into.
In fact, Cornell University researchers found that it takes 40 calories of fossil fuel energy to produce one calorie of food energy from beef, while it only takes 2.2 calories of fossil fuel energy to produce one calorie of grain. Vegan diets also reduce your contribution to greenhouse gas emissions, as livestock and their byproducts make up 51 percent of these emissions annually.
3. Be kinder to animals. I'm not here to give you all the gory details of breeding, raising, caging and slaughtering animals — you can find all that and more pretty much anywhere on the Internet.
[Read More: The Problem With Cage-Free Eggs]
But it’s worth noting that one of the biggest benefits of the vegan diet is reduced cruelty to animals. Of course, that's not a benefit most Americans will feel directly, but for many people, it's sufficient reason to cut animal products out of their diet. At the very least, consider investing a bit more time and yes, money, to seek more humanely raised eggs, beef and pork.
So this year, for the month of January, I'm taking the Veganuary pledge (those vegans are so clever!), and even though we're already several days in, you can still take part. Ready to join me? Sign up for the challenge at the Veganuary website and while you're there, check out their product guide and their tips on navigating restaurants as a vegan.
Readers — I'll be collecting my thoughts about my month going vegan and sharing them here on the blog, but I'd love to hear about your vegan journey! Have you been a vegan for a long time or just starting? Are you vegetarian, flexitarian or just looking to cut down a little more on you animal-product consumption? Share your thoughts, stories and questions in the comments below!
Rachel Grice is an editor for Livestrong.com and certified yoga instructor who loves running on the beach, watching USC Trojan football and drinking red wine. Previously, she worked for Men's Health, FitPregnancy and People. Read more about her running adventures at thesoleofarunner.com.