By Navid Eghbali
Twenty years ago, if one was to walk up to a random person at school and mention veganism, there’d be a high chance that person would have a puzzled look on their face. Nowadays, any random person on campus would know what veganism is and would probably have his or her own opinion about it. Veganism has progressed exponentially over recent years, especially in the area our school is located, and it has gained a massive amount of passionate supporters for multiple reasons. Although many people have a basic understanding of what veganism is, I want to shed light on the genuine effects of simply following a plant-based diet.
I’m sure the average student here knows that many people adopt a vegan diet because of animal cruelty and environmental reasons. There is already indisputable evidence that being vegan lowers your carbon footprint and greatly minimizes a person’s effect on the urgent and ever-growing problem of climate change, so I won’t bore you with the statistics. Especially since we go to UCLA, it is impossible not to see a poster or infographic around campus that talks about how veganism is one of the easiest ways to slow down global warming. If this doesn’t already make you immediately want to be vegan, meaning that you do not care about the planet you call home, perhaps some of these other consequences of veganism will break through your shell of ignorance.
Most, if not all, college students care about trying to spend the least amount of money on everything possible because of the looming threat of student debt in the near future. If you do not want to be in any more student debt than you will be due to unnecessary purchases that waste your money, listen up. It should be clear to any person that has set foot inside a supermarket that vegetables, fruits, and grains are significantly cheaper than meat and dairy products. Consumers of meat and dairy products waste a huge amount of money every year on foods that are less nutritionally beneficial than vegan foods and contribute to all of the major health concerns in the world today. The packaging used for these products is also a considerable contributor to air and water pollution and animal endangerment. Picture this: A healthy college graduate with little to no student debt ready to take on the world or a financially unstable anti-environmentalist who is forced to live in deficiency all because he or she can’t give up a burger. All joking aside, in the long run, the cumulative effect of following a plant-based diet will have a major impact on not only your savings for the rest of your life but also the environment you and every other human live in.
Heart disease, cancer, stroke, alzheimer’s, the list goes on and on. It is hard to find one disease that eating meat doesn’t increase your risk for. Especially since meat and dairy products are extremely processed nowadays, they are horrible for your body and will pose serious health problems that can make you and your loved ones’ lives living hells. Now that so much research has been done on the topic, it is impossible to argue that an omnivorous diet is healthier for your body than a plant-based one. Research has also shown that veganism undeniably poses numerous health benefits since it automatically cuts out many processed foods, refined carbohydrates, and sugar that people generally regularly consume in omnivorous diets. Perhaps the cure for all of these incurable diseases has been right in front of us all this time. Studies have even shown that a global vegan diet would result in 8.1 million fewer human deaths per year! Developing life-threatening diseases and dying far too early is unfortunately on many peoples’ minds, but by making a simple diet choice, all of this human suffering could be greatly reduced.
I also want to talk about what veganism will do to your mind. Plant-based diets have been proven to treat and help people recover from depression and anxiety, two things almost every UCLA student has experienced. Many people in our school talk about the importance of mental health awareness, but no one really discusses or even knows where mental health issues come from. Most depression and anxiety patients feel the way they do because of an imbalance of neurotransmitters or because of toxins produced by certain gut bacteria that feed off of things only found in animal products. Because of the increase in certain nutrients and decrease in animal proteins, veganism will help to regulate neurotransmitters and hormones and physically change how your gut operates! We all know that legitimate help for mental health is hard to come by, so if you want to actually have an impact on reducing anxiety and depression or genuinely care about the mental health of your friends and family, perhaps start by eating and promoting more plant-based foods.
Lastly, it is estimated that around 925 million people around the world suffer from the effects of hunger daily, with 870 million of them suffering from malnutrition. That is close to three times the population of the United States. The reason I bring this up is that there is certainly enough plant-based food produced on earth to feed all of these people but a majority of it is actually used to feed livestock that people in affluent countries eat. To really sum up how crazy this sounds, researchers calculated that if all of the world’s plant-based foods produced on earth were fed only to humans and not livestock, it would feed an additional 4 billion people! It should be clear that even reducing the amount of meat and dairy products you eat will have a huge effect on solving world hunger and helping fellow humans that face life-threatening hardships just because they weren’t born in a country like ours. It is truly amazing how many problems in peoples’ everyday lives and the world, in general, can be helped or even solved by following a plant-based diet. Even if you don’t possess the moral incentive to help and protect the environment, animals, and people around you, take into consideration the personal determinants a meat and dairy-based diet can have on your life. Many people who follow meat and dairy-based diets knowingly indulge in wasteful excess at the expense of their health and the prosperity of others. A shift to a plant-based diet will inevitably cause people to live cleaner, simpler lives and help the world become an overall better place.