Updated: Mar 15
A lot of people that change to a vegan diet start off being vegetarian. Why people decide to change is down to the individual, different people have different reasons. For some people they change their diet to get healthier, it could be that they’re worried about the environment or animal welfare. There are a few people that want to go vegan but don’t want to give up cheese. But, is one way of eating is better than the other? Is it good to get protein from eggs and calcium from milk? Does it make a difference to the environment in anyway? Let’s take a look.
What is the Difference Between Vegetarian and Vegan Diets?
Vegans are people that don’t eat or use any animal products, don’t wear animal skins, fur or feathers and do their best to live in a way that minimises any harm to the environment. You do get some vegans that are what I call "Vegan But" people, they’re vegan but they eat honey, they’re vegan but they wear leather, that sort of thing. Vegetarians generally follow a vegan diet but will eat eggs and consume dairy, but you also get vegetarians that eat eggs but don’t consume dairy, vegetarians that consume dairy but don’t eat eggs and vegetarians that eat fish, although they're really pescetarians, but some call themselves vegetarian . There are a lot of different ways of being vegetarian.
Vegetarian and Vegan Health
Health authorities have reported that both vegan and vegetarian children get all of the nutrients that they need, however children eating animal products, such as yogurt, eat more added sugar and fat, both of which are bad for you health. This doesn't mean that vegetarians are all going to be unhealthy as the added sugar and fat can be avoided. There will be some vegetarians that are eating a really healthy diet with lots of nutrients while a vegan could be eating sweets and biscuits all day. Generalisations like vegans are happier, vegetarians are fatter, vegans are vitamin deficient (this isn't actually true, vegans are getting their vitamins, people just say it a lot) aren't the truth for everyone, they will apply to a lot of people but not everybody. If you look at the food it is easier to understand.
Eggs, which a lot of vegetarians eat are not healthy, so much so that in America it is against the law for eggs to be called healthy, healthful, rich in protein, nutritious or even safe, because they're not any of those things. Eggs are high in calories, saturated fat and cholesterol, which makes them bad for your health. Also, eggs aren't allowed to be labelled as being safe because of the salmonella levels in eggs mean that it is very easy to get sick from the bugs inside eggs and millions of people get sick every year.
Dairy products like milk and cheese contain iodine and calcium which are good for bones and teeth and body functions, but with those you also get fat and hormones, chemicals made by the body, that we don't want or need. Cow's milk is made for calves to make them grow, very quickly, into a huge cow. Because of this it contains a lot of calories and things that calves need, humans don't have the same needs. Also, animals only make milk when they have a baby and as that baby grows the milk stops because the baby needs to start eating it's own food, at this point milk would be bad for it. But, what humans do is take milk from a cow when their own milk stops, it makes no sense. Milk is not necessary to our diet at all and, in fact, does more harm than good and has been found to be connected to several diseases and problems like acne.
How Does What You Eat Affect The Environment?
The best thing that humans could do for the environment would be to go back to how we lived in the days of cavemen. We'd live of off the land, eating what we found, living in houses made of mud, leaves and wood, no cars, no planes, no electricity, no television, no phone! But, obviously, that's not going to happen and so much damage has been done already, what we need to do now is limit further damage and try to undo what has been done and eating vegan will definitely help. We can use the carbon footprint of food as a measure of how bad something is for the planet, the smaller the carbon footprint the better as it means that less carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas which causes the planet to heat up, is being released into the atmosphere. The best way to reduce the footprint is to not eat meat or dairy. Below I've listed some foods with their carbon footprint and the amount of water taken to produce them:
One banana everyday 25kg or carbon, 3,334l of water
One glass of oat milk everyday 65kg, of carbon, 3,512l of water
Cheese, enough for one sandwich 3 times a week 201kg of carbon, 47,259l of water
Four eggs per week 43kg of carbon, 5,381
One glass of cow's milk everyday 229kg, 45,733l of water
To give you an idea of what this means eating one banana a day produces the same amount of carbon as driving a car 64 miles and the same amount of water as 51 showers, if you compare the banana to a glass of milk you see that there is a problem. As well as the amount of carbon produced and the water used there is also the amount of land used up. Far more land is used to produce animal products because we need land to keep the animals but also land to grow their food which is causing deforestation as forests are cut and burned down to create more farming land.
Ok, so I'm biased, I don't think that a vegetarian diet is good for anyone, not for your health, not for the animals and not for the environment. The facts when comparing the two ways of eating say that a vegan diet is better for you and the planet, also no one is forcing the animals to do anything that they don't want to. However, if you decide to eat that way that is up to you, we all make our own choices and we should try not to judge someone that does things differently to us and not force our views on them. Just know that you are making the best choice for you and that you are living the most positive life that you can.
What things do you do to reduce your carbon footprint? Do you reduce plastic use, recycle, use farmers markets? Let me know.