Recently, vegan diets have experienced in increase in popularity. A vegan diet is associated with many health benefits because they are higher in dietary fiber, magnesium, folic acid and vitamins. With that being said, in America we are experiencing a dietary health epidemic. If you had to guess, what do you believe to be the number one cause of death in America? I am sure many of us would suggest cancer or homicide. But, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States. If there are many health benefits that come from adapting a balanced vegan diet, can a vegan diet prevent the number one cause of death in American – heart disease? Current studies and research has shown that a vegan diet can indeed reduce the risk of heart disease.
When I say a vegan diet I am implying a balanced, vegan diet rich in whole plant based foods such as, vegetables, fruits, beans, whole grains and nuts. Technically, you can drink beer, eat potato chips and other processed foods all day and consider yourself a vegan, but this would not be a balanced vegan diet recommended by most plant-based doctors. Those who follow this recommended diet have lower cholesterol, blood pressure and plasma lipids, which are all significant risk factors for heart disease. I could flash successful clinical studies and bore you to death, but instead, we should try to understand why most Americans aren’t adapting a vegan diet when clinical studies prove this can prevent the number one cause of death for Americans.
To be sure, I understand that most people believe we are designed to eat meat. I think the main reason people believe this is because they think we’ve always been doing it. However, if we look at our paleolithic ancestors, it’s been noted they had more of a fiber intake than we do now. I am not implying they did not eat meat; of course they did. Our paleolithic ancestors were scavengers and practically ate whatever they could get their hands on. The debate focuses on what is ideal for humans to eat? My research has led me to suggest that physically an herbivore diet is more ideal. Cholesterol can only be found in animal products. Herbivores and humans do not need any cholesterol because we make all the cholesterol that we need inside ourselves. Getting cholesterol from animal products is where we run into health problems like heart disease. This isn’t a result from a slice of pizza, but perhaps too many slices of pizza. In a study published under the U.S National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, cholesterol was 44 percent lower among vegans than among omnivores.
To be certain, people do worry about deficiencies when going vegan. Honestly, this is a reasonable worry that one would have. Most people worry if they would get enough protein from a vegan diet. However, protein can be found in all whole foods. If you are getting enough calories, you will get enough protein. Protein from plant-based foods is healthier than animal based protein. Animal protein is rich in cholesterol, saturated fats, hormones and antibiotics. As noted previously those are all linked to a risk in heart disease. If it is your health that you are worried about, I would be more concerned with the health implications that have been directly linked to animal products. As long as you are eating enough calories from the right balanced vegan diet, you will not suffer from any deficiencies.
Of course tradition and food tradition are a very powerful part of American social life. However, changing your traditional food choices can be very rewarding. At first, it will be hard and different. Buying foods to support a vegan lifestyle will not necessarily be as cheap as ramen noodles and frozen pizza. But, think of the expression, “pay for it now or pay for it later.” You can pay for it now in produce and fresh fruits or you can pay for it later in the form of bills, medicine and hospital visits. Although the total mean of what heart disease costs per patient varies on conditions, according to the Center of Disease Control and Prevention it is estimated that by 2030 annual direct medical costs associated with heart disease will rise to more than $818 billion while lost productivity costs could exceed $275 billion. Despite the misconceptions, heart disease is largely preventable. I am sure most can agree this epidemic is costing America more than just lives.
I think the reason people let fear and tradition prevent them from adapting a healthier life style is because as a society we haven’t fully made the connection that what we eat can prevent not only the number one cause of death in the United States but much more. It is very easy for us as a society to walk into our supermarket, pick up a package and take it home without thinking to know what is really inside or what that package will do to not only your own, but your family’s health. Hopefully, the more our society becomes aware that heart disease is indeed preventable with a balanced vegan diet, we will see a decline in this epidemic.