Anything in life comes with a set of pros and cons, including leading a plant-based lifestyle. For many the abuse of animals outweighs any of the cons and that is absolutely fine but not everyone is at the same stage in their life or has the same priorities.
For me there are definitely more pros than cons of a plant-based lifestyle but I still have not managed to get it right to be completely vegan and if I am brutally honest I am not sure if I will but I am trying to make changes that will still make a difference in my overall health and the planet.
Pros of a Plant-based Lifestyle
Risk of illness in vegans is reduced
It has been proven that following a plant-based diet reduces the risk of illnesses like diabetes and hypertension. Generally people who follow a plant-based diet are focused on their overall health and very often are also active which does also improve their health and wellness.
There are a lot protein options
Veganism has increased in popularity over the last few years which means that there are a lot more options available. Most large retailers in South Africa have vegan brands that include meat alternatives, convenience meals, plant-based milk and more.
Plant-based diets are high in antioxidants
Obviously plant-based diets are rich in fresh fruit and vegetables, which are great sources of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Vegans are generally open to trying new fruit, vegetables and legumes, increasing their sources of antioxidants.
You might lose a little weight
When you shift from a diet that was meat heavy and included high-fat cheeses and indulgent dairy desserts, it is possible that you shed a few kgs. Losing weight shouldnt really be the main reason you start a plant-based diet but it could be one of the benefits.
Meal times become more mindful
Shifting to a plant-based diet is going to take a certain amount of willpower but when you are more mindful about what you are putting in your body you start to shop more sustainably and intentionally. Being mindful when you eat also means you enjoy your the food you are preparing a lot more.
Growing vegetables is more sustainable than meat
Meat farming and production puts a lot of strain on our natural resources – it uses a lot of water, is responsible for pollution and deforestation and obviously their is the abuse of animals. While the production of fruit, vegetables and grains also uses natural resources, the impact is nowhere near as damaging as that of meat.
You learn new recipes
This has been on of the best things for me – trying out new recipes and using herbs and spices to add flavour. Initially I stuck to mainly curries because it was easy but now I am making a whole lot of different foods, which makes meal times interesting. Trust me there is so much more to eat than just salads!
Vegans tend to have better digestion
Most people on a plant-based diet naturally get in more fibre on a daily basis than their meat eating partners. Fiber is important for a healthy digestion, vegans often have healthy digestion and bowel movements.
It is kinder to the animals
This is one of the biggest pros of following a plant-based diet, no animals are abused or harmed. Even if the animals lead a free-range life at the end of the day they still get slaughtered – so there really is no happy ending.
Cons of a Plant-Based Diet
It is an adjustment and you might get hungry
Cutting out meat is an adjustment, especially if you had an animal product with most of your meals. It can result in you feeling hungry in the beginning and you figure out what to eat and how much. What often happens is that people tend to binge of unhealthy foods like chips or other processed vegan food and this is not healthy and the reason a lot of people switch back to meat.
Getting the nutrients you need can be challenging
A plant-based diet is rich in a range of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that are very good for you. But getting in enough calcium, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B-12 and folate can be challenging – not impossible but challenging.
Eating out is difficult
I can say from experience that finding a vegan alternative is much easier when eating out than finding a gluten-free alternative but both can be challenging. Most restaurants do now have vegan or at the least vegetarian options but it is events and parties that can be tricky because you often don’t know what is going to be on offer.
You learn new recipes
This is a pro and a con depending on how you feel about cooking and how important convenience is to you. By convenience I mean familiar. I can cook a spaghetti bolognaise or my chicken peanut butter curry in 20 minutes because I know exactly what needs to go into, I have made it a million times. Trying out new recipes takes planning and practice and time and for many this just isn’t a priority (and that’s ok) but it does mean switching to a plant based diet becomes hard.