Reasons To Be Vegetarian – Benefits of Being Vegetarian￼
Is Going Vegan Better For Your Health?
The desire to become vegetarian is becoming more common, and worldwide, the number of people choosing to be vegetarians is on the rise daily. Research and interviews show that people’s reasons for becoming vegetarian vary from weight loss, health, allergies or environmental factors. Below are some Vegetarians’ discussions on the journey, their challenges, motivations and reasons for embarking on the vegetarian lifestyle.
“There are no defined focal points for Veganism. People go vegan for different reasons, including religion, health, justice, and the environment. Animal welfare is another reason for becoming a vegan. Non-human animals are also sentient beings; they possess emotions like humans do and deserve respect and care.
Everyone has his own unique vegan story. I have a friend who has been vegan since birth because of his religious beliefs. The same ‘uniqueness’ applies to every other vegan. Going vegan was at the top of my new year’s resolutions; it served as a means of fostering my relationship with the environment and playing my part in procuring a world without climate disasters. I went fully vegan in May 2019, after an initial four (4) months of rough transitioning. A mixture of feelings has characterised it. I came to understand that the process of transitioning takes time, so I never felt terrible whenever I slipped. At first, I was more of a Flexitarian (switching between meat and plant-based meals). But, with the help of guides and the introduction of some meat alternatives, it became easier for me to transition.
Nigerians have a lot of misconceptions about Veganism, especially in viewing vegans as ‘leaf-eaters’. Since meat consumption has become a deep-rooted culture in Nigeria, bringing the vegan discourse into the picture is a ‘No-No’ for the majority. Nonetheless, re-orientation and enlightenment have proven effective in changing the narrative. Vegan products are not readily available in Nigeria, except for significant malls in cities where they can be found; then, the question of ‘affordability’ pops up – ‘how much do they cost?’. Vegan products are most times way over the budget of the average Nigerian, making it a luxurious item on the cart. With a rise in the number of vegans, the availability of these products and regulation of their prices will ensue.
According to Dr Walt Willett, Professor of Medicine (Harvard University), we could eliminate the worst cases of world hunger today with just about 40 million tonnes of food. Farm animals consume up to 760 million tonnes of food; food production is in surplus of the amount needed to feed humans – it just doesn’t get to everyone in need. The United Nations also states that farmed livestock accounts for 14.5% of all artificial greenhouse gas emissions, roughly equivalent to the exhaust emissions from cars, trains, ships and aircraft. To a report in the journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), if we all went vegan, the world’s food-related emissions would drop by 70%, and economic savings would be up to £440 billion by 2050.
Being vegan does not necessarily translate to being healthy. For example, vegan diets are generally low in Calcium, Iron, Zinc, vitamin D, vitamin B-12 and omega-3 fatty acids. Thus, following a vegan diet, it is vital to incorporate various plant-based products – nuts, seeds, beans and pulses in your meal. Unfortunately, there are also a couple of vegan junk foods that might not contain vital nutrients”.
~Borokini Joshua; founder of NaijaGoesVegan.
“Becoming a vegetarian is a convenient lifestyle for Nigerians! Most of our traditional Nigerian dishes are vegan-friendly with large amounts of plant-based ingredients- rice, beans, yam, sweet potato, Irish potato, pasta, plantain, vegetable stews with swallow etc. Remove the meat, fish, chicken, or prawns, and it becomes vegan. There are great plant substitutes for meat or animal products. The most common challenges people face while being a vegan in Nigeria are knowing how to prepare a variety of strictly plant-based meals, having time to cook healthy home-cooked meals, sourcing affordable packaged items in shops and finding restaurants that support the lifestyle. Vegan In Nigeria is working to solve some of these challenges with educational content, our monthly meet-up events, working with establishments to add more vegan options to their menus, and highlighting where to source specific items and the brands that provide products that support a vegan lifestyle.
I transitioned from an omnivore diet while defining what it means to be healthy and after researching the impact of animal foods on the human body. I decided to take my health seriously immediately, but the transition took about five months. I recommend those interested in changing to a vegan lifestyle start by adding more plant-based foods and making small gradual changes daily. I have been vegan for almost 2.5 years. Since going vegan, I have experienced many benefits from my lifestyle- more energy, mental clarity, sensitivity and compassion towards all living beings. I rarely am sick, but the recovery time is quick if I become ill. I don’t suffer from common ailments like headaches or constipation.
The Vegans in Nigeria community aims to promote food consciousness and healthy living. The method we use to achieve this is plant-based. Studies have shown that whole food plant-based lifestyle can prevent and often reverse many prevalent chronic diseases in Nigeria – cardiovascular (heart) disease, diabetes, cancer, respiratory disease, obesity, etc. People need to connect the things they consume and the health issues they have. You are what you eat, and the body constantly tries to communicate its disease state with symptoms such as headache, gas, heartburn or chronic pain. If these messages are ignored, it manifests into diseases that can become fatal. We want to do our part and help those looking for real solutions. Your health is your wealth, and prevention is better than cure.
The lifestyle changes required to be considered a true vegan would include giving up consuming animals as food, stopping wearing animal fur or skin (leather), do not support animal labour or slavery by going to zoos, aquariums or riding animals, not torture or beating animals, respect the earth/environment by not destroying it with animal farming. I would also recommend people be mindful of the plant food types and try to avoid acidic food items. Stay away from food with toxic chemicals like monosodium glutamate (MSG) & genetically modified organisms (GMOs). That means all the brands of spice cubes and getting to know your local farmer and how your food is produced. Instead, try to cook as our ancestors did with fresh herbs and spices!
Now more than ever, Nigerians need to try a vegan lifestyle. The vegan movement is growing globally, and it’s only time for Nigerians to join it. Go vegan for your health, the health of your family and friends, the benefit of your environment or community, the animals that do not deserve to be raised only to be slaughtered, spiritual enlightenment, to lose weight, or to feel great. There are many reasons one could choose, but more importantly, don’t just eat for the satisfaction of taste or to fill your belly; eat to nourish your body with vital minerals.
It’s essential to have some support system in place. That could be go-to meals that can easily be prepared when hungry, a sense of community made up of family or friends that encourage your new lifestyle, and balancing your diet, so you aren’t consuming a lot of fried foods, starch or empty carbs. Food is medicine, and if you perceive it as such, you will eat foods that will benefit your body and help it be the best it can be. For example, when I changed my lifestyle, I had people that encouraged me and were willing to teach me how to make sure food. My mom would also support me by purchasing fresh vegan produce for the house anytime I visited my family home.
Something unique happens when you go vegan, and your body’s cravings change. You don’t crave those things you used to and instead will crave other things. Like I will sometimes crave my mushroom suya or vegan omelette. My body craves raw and fresh food items like fruits, salads, wraps, vegan sushi in the hot summers and warm/savoury things like tomato basil soup or quinoa porridge in cooler climates. They say it takes 21 days for something to become a habit. If I had a goal for training my tastebuds, I would aim for at least 21 days. To successfully transition, it’s better to gradually add more plant-based foods while reducing meat/animal intake. Try going meatless for one meal or one day, then one week. Once you are successful, try one month or as long as possible. It may be helpful also to seek professional support. Being a vegan is just a different perspective on food and living. It’s not only healthier but can be tasty and fun”.
~ Bolanile Olatunji
These two interviews with Nigerians have shown that going vegetarian is very good for health and is not a myth. On the contrary, it works actively in giving a longer life span and helps in various aspects of human lives.
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