An Introduction to Veganism: What is a Vegan Diet, and What is the Point?

A vegan diet revolves around the consumption of plants and the avoidance of any animal products. Individuals who subscribe to this diet and way of life have an impact on:

What Does it Mean to Be Vegan?

When someone shares that they’re vegan, it means that they don’t eat or use any animal products. Animal products go beyond meat and include things like milk, cheese, butter, eggs, fur, and skin that’s used for leather. There are also several animal products commonly found in cosmetics, including lanolin (oil from sheep wool) and gelatin (rendered animal bones). 

So, what do vegans eat? It’s simple. Vegans eat plants, from apples to mangos and nuts to zucchini. This diet is full of grains, protein from plants, greens, fruit, and healthy fats. This is why veganism has earned the nickname of the “plant-based diet.” Some people adopt this term when they don’t adhere to a strictly vegan lifestyle and only follow a vegan diet. 

3 Ways Being Vegan Creates Positive Change

Your health, the environment, and the wellbeing of animals can all experience improvements when you transition to a vegan diet. 

A vegan diet contributes to health improvements

Picture an omnivore or carnivore’s plate of food. You probably see meat, a starch or grain like rice or potatoes, and perhaps a side of vegetables. At most, there are three different colors on that plate: Shades of brown, white, and green. 

Now picture a plate of grains, vegetables, and plant proteins. For example, you could have a plate of tri-color quinoa, green spinach, red or brown roasted chickpeas, bright green slices of avocado, and purple cabbage. A vegan diet is a diet of abundance and variety. The wider the variety of color in your diet, the wider variety of nutrients you’ll absorb. 

Vegan sushi with sweet potato, kanpyo, tofu, asparagus, cucumber, avocado, and lettuce

The inclusion of a wide variety of nutrients combined with the exclusion of meat and dairy contributes to significant health benefits. A review of scientific research indicates that vegans have a wider variety of healthy bacteria in their digestive systems, meaning that they have well-supported immune systems and overall digestion (Glick-Baur & Yeh, 2014). Vegans also have a lower risk for developing health conditions such as metabolic syndrome (Marrone et al., 2021).

A compilation of research studies shows that vegans have:

  • Lower cholesterol
  • Lower body mass index (BMI)
  • Lower risk of heart disease
  • Lower risk of cancer
  • Lower levels of glucose

(Dinu et al., 2017)

Finally, it’s important to note that vegans are able to benefit from these health improvements while achieving more than an adequate protein intake and a nutritionally-complete diet as long as they supplement with B12, despite popular belief (Wirnitzer, 2020).

Sometimes, however, people adopt a vegan diet when they learn about the harmful effects of consuming meat and dairy. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recognizes red meat as carcinogenic to humans. As you may already know, carcinogens can cause cancer. In fact, the consumption of red meat and processed meat increases people’s likelihood of developing colorectal cancer by at least 20% (Aykan, 2015).

Dairy also causes negative health side effects. A common one is lactose intolerance. The enzyme in dairy, called lactase, leaves our bodies when we’re no longer dependent on milk as our source of nutrition. Once we lose that enzyme, our bodies aren’t able to process dairy effectively. The continual consumption of dairy products can cause significant and painful digestion issues. 

Think about it – We are the only species that relies on another animal’s milk (full of growth hormones) as a dietary staple! It’s completely normal if your body is not able to comfortably digest dairy, because it was designed to help baby animals grow.

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Any contribution is greatly appreciated!

– $6.00 allows us to buy a bag of litter
– $25 helps us buy 12 cans of cat food
– $100+ allows us to fund general medical procedures for any felines that we foster on our own

Thank you so much for considering a donation! 🙂

Any contribution is greatly appreciated!

– $6.00 allows us to buy a bag of litter
– $25 helps us buy 12 cans of cat food
– $100+ allows us to fund general medical procedures for any felines that we foster on our own

Thank you so much for considering a donation! 🙂

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Transitioning to a plant-based lifestyle helps our environment

The cost, land space, and other environmental effects of raising animals as commodities is taxing on our environment. Animal agriculture takes up so much liveable space on our earth, which could instead be used for humans. Cows, pigs, and other animals raised for consumption require a lot of grains, which could instead be used to feed humans who experience food-insecurity. 

Cows produce methane, which is a major pollutant of our atmosphere. In fact, the production of beef alone has been found to be one of the most significant sources of:

  • The demand for energy
  • Land space
  • Water usage and contamination
  • Contribution to ozone depletion

(Asem-Hiable et al., 2019)

If more people choose to skip this aisle at the grocery store, the decreased demand for beef could lead to a decrease in the harmful environmental effects of beef production. 

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The land and our atmosphere are not the only things being damaged by using animals as commodities. Our oceans are also suffering greatly. Not only are our oceans negatively affected by the runoff pollution from animal agriculture, but there is a serious overfishing issue. 

Overfishing occurs when more fish are taken from the ocean than can be recreated within a year. This issue, as well as the issue of fishing from our oceans in general, has caused sealife and their habitats to dwindle. Sadly, the outcome has so far been the demise of a third of the world’s fish population (Sumaila & Tai, 2020).

But our planet’s physical space is not the only factor that deserves our respect.

Veganism respects animals

Subscribing to a vegan lifestyle means that you are no longer responsible for animal suffering for the sake of humans’ desire to consume. Not eating animals means that the demand for animal protein decreases, resulting in fewer animals who are bred and born to become commodities. 

If fewer animals are created for meat and dairy production, this means that there will be fewer animals that experience health problems that occur as a result. Artificial hormones given via injections, excessive antibiotics, biologically-inappropriate diets, and stress wreak havoc on an animal’s wellbeing. 

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Many animals also feel fear and pain just as much as they feel emotions like excitement and comfort. Once people are aware of this broad capacity for emotions and body states, they feel uncomfortable being a part of the suffering and exploitation of animals. 

If for no other reason, consider transitioning to a plant-based diet so animals can experience the respect that they deserve as our fellow creatures that share this planet with us. We need to stop treating them as objects and instead understand that they are individuals. 

Is a Vegan Diet Right for You?

From an inner perspective, only you can answer this question. From a biological and medical perspective, however, you’ll have to think carefully. The main areas of concern when switching to a vegan diet are deficiencies in protein, vitamins, and calcium. 

How much protein you actually need depends on your own unique habits and genetic makeup. Talk to your health care provider or a registered nutritionist to make sure you consume the appropriate amount and types of plant-based protein sources. 

You also need to make sure you’re still getting the right balance and amount of vitamins. Most importantly, you’ll want to consider supplementing your diet with vitamin B-12. B-12 is a vitamin that’s created by microorganisms. It is commonly consumed via fortified foods and eating animals that consume these microorganisms. B-12 is necessary for your body’s overall functions, and taking a B-12 supplement daily is an easy way to make sure you’re getting enough. 

Finally, there’s a lot of confusion and concern about sufficient calcium intake. While it’s unclear exactly how much calcium one person needs for healthy bones, many vegans don’t even have to think twice about getting enough calcium. You can use fortified plant milks, raw food sources like green leafy vegetables, and/or take a supplement to ensure adequate intake. 

Adopting a vegan diet is a big step with a big impact. I choose to be vegan because animals and their products are not mine to consume. I see them as “someone” instead of “something.” But I wasn’t always vegan, nor do I subscribe to the idea that everyone must have a strictly plant-based diet. I simply believe that living a life that’s compassionate to animals can empower you to take actionable steps toward an eco-conscious future.

If you’re ready to take action, start small. Begin by cutting one thing out of your diet at a time and find a way to replace the nutritional element. Be sure to make time to pause and reflect on why you’re making these changes and how you feel about them. 

Vegan-specific resources will be live on the website soon! In the meantime, check out Why You Should Adopt Instead of Shop and Should You Declaw Your Cat for more animal welfare topics. 

Disclaimer: This post contains information based on scientific research studies and personal experiences. The information cannot be used in place of medical advice. Please consult a medical professional before making significant dietary changes. 


Asem-Hiablie, S., Battagliese, T., Stackhouse-Lawson, K.R., Rotz, C.A. (2019). A Life Cycle Assessment of the Environmental Impacts of a Beef System in the USA. The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment, 24, 441-455.

Aykan, N.F. (2015). Red Meat and Colorectal Cancer. Oncology Reviews, 9(1), 288.

Dinu, M., Abbate, R., Gensini, G.F., Casini, A., & Sofi, F. (2017). Vegetarian, Vegan Diets and Multiple Health Outcomes: A Systematic Review with Meta-Analysis of Observational Studies. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, 57(17), 3640-3649.

Glick-Bauer, M. & Yeh, M.C. (2014). The Health Advantage of a Vegan Diet: Exploring the Gut Microbiota Connection. Nutrients, 6(11), 4822-4838. 

Marrone, G., Guerriero, C., Palazzetti, D., Lido, P., Marolla, A., Di Daniele, F., & Noce, A. (2021). Vegan Diet Health Benefits in Metabolic Syndrome. Nutrients, 13(3), 817.

Sumaila, U.R. & Tai, T.C. (2020). End Overfishing and Increase the Resilience of the Ocean to Climate Change. Frontiers in Marine Science, 7, 523.

Wirnitzer, K.C. (2020). Health Benefits and Advantages to Athletes and Physically Active People: A Narrative Review. International Journal of Sports and Exercise Medicine, 6(3), 1-32.

Exploring animal welfare one foster kitten at a time

One response to “An Introduction to Veganism: What is a Vegan Diet, and What is the Point?”

  1. […] it’s helpful to know that vegan products aren’t necessarily cruelty-free, and vice versa. Sometimes these labels go hand-in-hand, but […]


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