11 Convincing Reasons that Going Vegan Isn’t Crazy

It can save you money while you still eat amazing vegan comfort food and more. See why more and more people are becoming vegan and learn how to make going vegan easy.

By Perri O. Blumberg
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    So what's going vegan?

    There are a lot of myths and misconceptions about what it really means to be a vegan. The veganism philosophy can extend beyond the plate ("I won't eat anything that has a bladder or a mother") to not wearing animal products (leather, suede, fur, wool, silk, feathers), and avoiding products with animal ingredients or testing ("cruelty-free" labels). Here, we debunk the fact from fiction.

    Even eating vegan part-time can benefit your health.

    Vegans and those who avoid animal products (even part of the day, or part of the week) often have low rates of obesity, and on average weigh 5 to 20 percent less than meat eaters. Vegetarian diets on the whole are linked to lower BMIs, reduced risk of type II diabetes and lower incidents of cardiovascular disease. Furthermore, increased consumption of fruits and vegetables lower rates of certain cancers, especially colon cancer.

    You'll get enough protein from plants.

    According to traditional dietary standards, a 140-pound woman should have 50 grams of protein a day, and for a vegan that might come from a cup each of cooked spinach (5  grams), lentils (18 grams), and tempeh (a soy product with 41 grams). (You can find more suggestions from the Vegetarian Resource Group.)

    In fact, large-scale research like The China Study have revealed that too much protein, namely animal protein, is harmful for your health. Other research shows that excess protein in your body can strain your kidneys or cling as fat. 


    Vegan recipes are cheap, plentiful, and tasty.

    Vegan diets can be extremely economical. Many vegans center their diet around grains, beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds, all of which can be purchased cheaply in bulk. Buying in-season veggies and fruits is quite easy on your wallet. Eating Vegan on $4 A Day outlines an entire day's-worth of nutritionally-complete, delicious meals that cost less than a take-out sandwich or double cheeseburger dinner.

    Plenty of grocery staples are vegan.

    PETA's comprehensive list helps identify what popular supermarket foods are vegan, including dark chocolate, Oreos (reformulated from a lard-based recipe), Twizzlers, Betty Crocker Bac-o's Bacon Flavor Bits and Kraft Taco Bell Taco Dinner.

    Surprisingly, these foods are not: Altoids (contain gelatin), BBQ Baked Lays ("natural flavor" with milk and chicken powder), and Kellogg's Raisin Bran (the vitamin D source is animal-based). Vegans ought to check non-dairy or lactose-free cheese closely, as some contain casein, rennet, and whey. Since cholesterol only comes from animal products, "cholesterol-free" is likely vegan.

    Other foods to watch: some wines are clarified with gelatin, isinglass (fish bladders) and albumin, and certain vodkas and spirits have ingredients like cochineal (food coloring from insect shells) and bone charcoal. Organic, biodynamic, or natural labels likely indicate vegan drinks; for a detailed list check out Barnivore.

    Change your plate, change the world.

    Nearly 20 percent of man-made pollution comes from the meat industry, putting factory farming ahead of transportation in contributing to the greenhouse effect. What's more, it takes about 40 calories of fossil-fuel energy to create every one calorie of feed-lot beef in the U.S. (compared to 2.2 calories of energy needed to create plant proteins).

    According to VeganOutreach.org, one person can spare about 50 animals per year by eliminating animals from his diet. In 2011, USA Today reported that nearly 50 percent of Americans are trying to cut down on meat, while approximately one-fifth of students are vegetarian, vegan, or trying to eat less meat. 

    Vegans make a winning grilled cheese.

    Vegan chefs took home the trophy at the 10th Annual Grilled Cheese Invitational with a nondairy cheese winner, and vegan bakers have dominated the butter-and-egg fest that is Cupcake Wars twice: Chloe Coscarelli and Doron Petersan both gained top honors with nondairy creations.

    So how do they do it? Petersan shares, "You can replace eggs and dairy in any recipe, if you know what you are looking for. Moisture and color? Try applesauce in your muffins. Lift and fluff? Use seltzer in place of milk in your pancakes. Chocolate cake with chocolate ganache? Use a recipe without eggs, like the ones in my Sticky Fingers Sweets! It’s not always about replacing dairy or eggs, but rather using science to recreate recipes so that you get the textures and flavors you crave without the animal products." 

    You can ease into it (and out of it).

    There's the Vegucated challenge, with daily email support around a plan that helps users eat vegan for a month, or eliminate different food groups each week; another popular option is the 28-day Engine 2 Diet.

     

    Veganism is not a fad diet.

    It may have gained momentum recently as a backbone of certain environmental and health movements, but veganism existed in ancient India and Greece, and is part of many religious beliefs such as Buddhism and Seventh Day Adventists. 

    Vegans who eat well don't need to buy additional supplements.

    There's just one: To help with brain and nervous system functions, vitamin B12 is key. Since B12 only occurs naturally in animal-sourced foods, vegans can instead eat fortified nutritional yeast and often sprinkle it over pasta, tofu ricotta, or fresh popcorn for a buttery taste. 

    Guess who's gone vegan?

    It's not as extreme as it once was: a 2012 Gallup poll found that 5% of adult Americans consider themselves vegetarian and 2% vegans. They've joined the likes of dozens of public faces: actors like Alec Baldwin to Woody Harrelson; politicians like Bill Clinton; and top athletes including Brendan Brazier, Scott Jurek, and Carl Lewis, and Mike Tyson.

    You can make friends!

    Even if you're the only vegan in your personal circle of family and friends, a simple search on Meetup.com for "vegan" yields thousands of events across the country, from vegan potlucks to "Vegan Ladies Who Lunch" to "Raw Vegan Singles."


    Sources: Marisa Miller Wolfson, director of documentary film Vegucated; Ashlee Piper, manager of the Vegucated community Doron Petersan owner of Sticky Fingers Sweets & Eats and author of
    Sticky Fingers' Sweets; Chef Chloe Coscarelli author of Chloe's Vegan Desserts (Feb 2013) and Chloe's Kitchen, Skinny Bitch; Crystal Tate, President of Food for Lovers, Inc.; Brendan Brazier vegan athlete and founder of Thrive Forward; Gena Hamshaw, clinical nutritionist and founder of choosingraw.com; Rip Esselstyn, author of The Engine 2 Diet, Daiya Foods, The Vegetarian Resource Group,  PETA.org, The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, Gardein, Freekeh Foods, Lisa's Organics.

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    Your Comments

    • snake

      Nice to know Mike Tyson has given up his taste for human Flesh

    • MizzDjinn

      Yes, fortified nutritional yeast can be a source of B12. If it’s stored properly. B12 breaks down in light, and it’s sold in bulk in many stores in those large clear plexiglass bins. Nut Yeast needs to always be stored in a cool, dry, DARK place.

      • Marie Roxanne

        I store my nutritional yeast in the fridge but I cannot control what happens before it comes into my home, such as you mention, selling it in bulk in bins in full light and room temperature.

    • Joshua Thirteen

      Vegans don’t eat any animal products including cheese. You seeme to have them confused with vegetarians. Btw some of the unhealthiest foods,Doritos, fries, candy, etc are vegan. Vegan or vegetarian diets are not inherently healthier, they a healthier only if you choose to eat a healthy diet, which you can do while including meat as well.

      • http://www.facebook.com/jacinth.verakess Jacinth Verakess

        Just as an FYI…there are multiple brands of soy based cheese….my nearest store carries one called Veggie Slices…also comes shredded. That stuff doesn’t melt the best, but there was a soy mozzerella I found in California that was delicous & melted beautifully.
        In the concept of healthier or no, most vegens I know wouldn’t touch oreos, doritos, etc with a 10′ stick – they eat that way TO be healthier, so naturally they skip the junk food. And honestly, most of their (my friends) concern with meat & why they avoid it, is the hormones that get pumped into them. They don’t wish to eat all the crap that gets added to our food. – so they eat organic vegen.

      • beccadoggie10

        Vegans eat a plant based diet! I started eating vegan after reading Dr. Neal Barnard’s book, Food That Fight Pain because I suffered a spinal fracture and a local neurosurgeon wanted to inject me with cortisone steroids in my spine for the rest of my life. The 3 week diet espoused in the book became the basis for my eating for over a year and counting. Lost was the pain and inflammation, 65 pounds and counting, a heart murmur, cholesterol levels became normalized were as they were at 300, but the most amazing thing to me was the weight just came off –I would lost 5 or 6 pounds a week and was not even crashing. And the severe pain from the spinal fracture just disappeared!

        Unfortunately, I have osteoporosis and another rib was spontaneously fractured more recently. I need sources of vitamin K2–fermented soy that is certified organic. Any recommendations?

        • erin

          AWesome so happy for you;-)

          • Erinn Sneed

            Happy for you improved health

        • Michelle

          Tempeh is a fermented soy product, as is miso. Look for organic brands (most miso is, and Trader Joe’s carries organic tempeh) as you said, and you’ll be good to go!

          • beccadoggie10

            There is no Trader Joes where I live in South Louisiana.

            • Heleen

              Some kroger stores have it too! Check the natural food section :) Good luck!

            • beccadoggie10

              Thank you everyone for your help and best wishes.
              All I can say is that when I eat animal protein, regardless of the source, I feel immediate pain and inflammation and when I eat a healthy plant based diet (and I am exercising regularly with Pilates) the pain disappears.

              With the environment as poisoned as it has become due to herbicide intensive agriculture, there is no animal that if safe to eat, be it farm raised or wild because they all drink water contaminated with pesticides regardless of where we live. And, it is raining pesticides.

              Eating livestock or wildlife may have been healthier during the earlier part of the last century but, more and more studies have confirmed that eating meat increases the risks of cardiovascular disease, certain cancers, and other health problems.

              For the most part, I simply feel better avoiding the ingestion of meat including wild salmon, which within 4 hours made my body scream in pain. I did not know I had an “allergy” to meat until I had been eating vegan for almost 2 years and after I fractured my spine.

              This is certainly better than being on drugs with severe side effects. I simply eat lots of collard greens for calcium, or make a large vegetable stew with beans, various vegetables, and mushrooms. In fact, due to a major change in the way I now eat, I don’t need flu shots and have not had even a cold in the past 3 years.

              If the biotech-pesticide industry will allow us to eat healthy without getting sick from their poisons, we can have a healthy quality of life.

      • Helen Tam-Semmens

        Not true. You may want to watch the documentary Forks Over Knifes for scientific evidence of how meat and dairy causes cancer, heart disease, etc. People got cured by becoming a vegan, not eating
        less meat and dairy. All my friends who watched the documentary were ‘floored’
        (their words) by how much misinformation we are given. Most of them are
        transitioning to be a vegan now. I myself have been cured of my
        incurable autoimmune disease Rheumatoid Arthritis after I became a
        vegan.

    • Goodmoniey

      #10 says “Vegans who eat we’ll don’t need to buy supplements” Then underneath that it says you need to supplement with B12. So…which is it? This is poorly written. Also, it says the vegan diet is healthy, but then it says hey, guess hat? Oreos and Twizzlers are vegan, woo-hoo! If you’re eating well, you are NOT eating vegan junk food! The vegan diet is not the best for wellness. Eating mostly vegetables and grains, with a little animal protein to provide B-12 , vitamin D and other essential nutrients is best

      • libertyfreedompatriot

        Exactly — humans function best in the long-term with an omnivorous diet. Yes, Americans eat too much meat, but eliminating all animals products is foolish and unhealthy.

        • Phoots

          It certainly is not. It is MORE healthy to eliminate all animal products.

        • Helen Tam-Semmens

          No, not true. You may want to watch the documentary Forks Over Knifes for scientific evidence of how meat and dairy causes
          cancer, heart disease, etc. People got cured by becoming a vegan, not
          eating less meat and dairy. All my friends who watched this are ‘floored’ (their words) by how much misinformation we are given. Most are transitioning to be a vegan now. I myself have been cured of my incurable autoimmune disease Rheumatoid Arthritis after I became a vegan.

      • Helen Tam-Semmens

        No, you can get B12 from fermented veggies, such as sauerkraut and kimchi. And you don’t a lot of them. Vegan diet is actually extremely healthy. I can attest to that. Ever since I become a vegan, my incurable autoimmune disease Rheumatoid Arthritis is completely gone. And my cholesterol numbers, blood pressure, etc, are all perfect now, which has never happened before. Watch the documentary Forks Over Knifes for scientific evidence of how meat and dairy causes cancer, heart disease, etc. People got cured by becoming a vegan, not eating less meat and dairy.

    • cpn2003

      Thank you Readers Digest for publishing this valuable info!

    • http://www.facebook.com/arthur.stordahl Arthur Stordahl

      One does need to do their homework. Proper diet is not a veg here and fruit there, alittle work and do not forget the good fats! Much needed~ran into a problem here, fix was avocado, coconut milk. No gummy worms and mountain dew! Old boss, self proclaimed vegan, only noticed the former foods(?) ha

      • Likta Spankya

        Just keep in mind that this isn’t a vegan-only issue. Everyone needs to do their homework when it comes to nutrition, regardless of whether or not their diet includes dead animal pieces & animal excretions.

    • M.A.

      I think vitamin B12 is also found naturally in soil and vegans (fresh veggies from the garden sometimes have B12 on them?) and there is also a vegan source of B12 (or so I have heard) … in any event, B12 is not exclusively sourced from animals. :)

      • Jimi Squirrell

        Although there may be some B12 in soil there isn’t enough to get what you need. However to fulfill your dietary needs all you have to do is eat breakfast cereal or marmite regularly! :)

    • AJ

      B12 is actually created in soil from bacteria. The reason we most people can be deficient (both those who eat animal products and those who don’t) is because our food is too clean. 

      • Nava1114

        if it’s derived from bacteria, then, it can never be considered a vegan source as bacteria are living organisms…

        • Nava1114

          or would it not matter since bacteria aren’t sentinent
          beings??

          • Christine

            You do realize that vegans don’t eat animal products due to health reasons, and some due to animal cruelty and/or environmental reasons. This has nothing to do with living organisms like bacteria. What’s your next comment going to say? Vegans aren’t allowed to have friendly bacteria in their guts? lol

            • Em

              It’s not “some” that are vegan because of ethics/animal cruelty: a VEGAN is a person that avoids all animal products (incl. leather, silk, and cosmetics with animal-derived ingredients) for these exact reasons. A person who merely avoids animal products for health reasons is NOT “a vegan”, they are someone who eats a plant-based diet.

            • Anon5896

              You are forming the vegan philosophy and diet into one conglomerate, they are separate.

            • Christine

              It’s interesting, I support ALL reasons for eating vegan, but I think some people here need to step back with the emotions because the forceful, angry comments about what a vegan *really* is alienates those that are trying to move towards this lifestyle. We should embrace EVERYONE who is making an effort to eat fewer animal products, for whatever reason, not feel we need to ‘educate’ them on the definition. This negative approach is hurting this movement and if we are truly vegan (aka we care about animals) then we should be thrilled with every step that people take towards this lifestyle, not criticize them. Just sayin….

        • Malware

          You realize that fruits and vegetables etc. are living organisms right?

          • Guest

            But not sentient organisms.

          • guest2

            They do not have nervous systems

        • Helen Tam-Semmens

          Do you realize that you have more bacteria living inside your body with you than human cells? So what’s a few more or a few less?

        • no

          vegetables are also living organisms tho…

        • Alkan23

          Funniest misconception I’ve seen in a while… Lol.

          Plants are living… Plants are a much much more complex form of life than bacteria.

          I think you personified bacteria in your mind, so you thought of them as little animals when they’re little cells.

          Consciousness is the main distinguishing factor.

      • Likta Spankya

        The recommended daily intake for B12 is miniscule (1.5 – 3 µg/mcg).
        That means a single 1000 µg B12 tablet can last for 1.5 years at a cost of less than 4¢ (if you were to crush it and take a tiny bit each day).
        In other words, an entire lifetime of B12 could cost less than $3.
        The stuff is so ridiculously cheap, they should just add to salt or something, like they add iodine.

        • Liz

          Actually, vegan dietitian Jack Norris recommends 25 to 100 ug per day or two 1000 ug doses per week. The amount your body uses and the amount you need to ingest in order to absorb enough are totally different.
          While B12 is undoubtedly very cheap, we need more than you suggest!

    • James

       It should be titled…. ”Eating like we (Americans) do is Crazy.. “ 

    • http://supercarrot.com/ supercarrot

      oops!  you said nutritional yeast gives a buttery flavor, but it’s actually a cheesey flavor. (and so good!)