Should You Give the Vegan Diet a Try for ‘Veganuary’?

Should You Give the Vegan Diet a Try for 'Veganuary'?

We’re midway through the global vegan campaign dubbed ‘Veganuary’, but there’s still plenty of time for you to hop on board and give up animal products for the month. If you’re not familiar with the Veganuary campaign, forgive the ridiculously silly name and look deeper at what’s at the heart of this movement aimed at getting people to give the vegan diet a whirl.

The vegan diet has come a long way from the dingy health food store on the edge of town that smelled like vitamins and wheat germ. Just a decade ago, hanging out at those places was pretty much the only way to keep in close proximity to tofu and lentils without being harassed for being the weirdo hippy-freak eating tofu and lentils.

But nowadays, the vegan diet is not just for old-school vegans who learned to accept the “hippy” comments (and it’s not just tofu and lentils anymore, either). Jennifer Lopez, Beyoncé and Al Gore are among the celebs that have been enjoying the benefits of the vegan diet, whether for health or environmental reasons. “There’s a reason for everyone,” the Veganuary campaign states on its website. “For most, a love of animals is the catalyst. Some people want to feel better about themselves and the impact they make on the world. Others would like to set themselves a challenge, and many combine Veganuary with their ‘New Year’s Resolutions’ and see trying vegan as the healthiest start to the year.”

Celebrities have made the vegan diet much more approachable for millions of people, but there are still awful stigmas attached to the diet and far too often, aggressive lambasting for what seems to be no other reason than the attacker’s own meat-guilt. You know the type; they’re the one who dangles bacon in front of your vegan face at a family gathering or takes a more passive aggressive approach and asks you that ridiculous question: “Where do you get your protein?”

What’s so great about Veganuary (still though, not the name) is also what’s so appealing about Meatless Mondays or the VB6 program (vegan before 6 pm). You don’t have to give up your meat, eggs and dairy products for good if you don’t want to, but you can enjoy lots of delicious plant foods that improve your health in numerous ways – from lowering cholesterol and losing weight, to glowing skin and boosting immunity. Or, perhaps you can take comfort in knowing that by reducing your meat intake for just one month you’re doing the planet a huge favor. Why? Because livestock animals use 80 percent of all agricultural land in the U.S. – almost half the land mass of the contiguous states. According to PETA, animals raised for food consume a startling amount of fresh water:

21 gallons of drinking water per day, while a cow on a dairy farm drinks as much as 50 gallons daily. It takes more than 2,400 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of cow flesh, whereas it takes about 180 gallons of water to make 1 pound of whole wheat flour.

Eating fewer animal products may not seem like it makes a big difference, but imagine the scale if millions of people here in the U.S. and millions more around the world all start reducing their daily intake of animal products. “Eating vegan makes a more positive impact than giving up your car; it can halve your greenhouse gas emissions and it will save wild animals from extinction,” the Veganuary campaign states on its website.

New years are about new habits, new lifestyles and being better people than we were last year. And we don’t have to give anything up to do that. Giving a vegan diet a try for a few weeks or a few days opens you up to new flavors and foods, new experiences and new ways of seeing our food supply. Isn’t it worthwhile to take a step back and reevaluate your diet and your impact on the planet? If Veganuary won’t work for you, consider Meatless Mondays or VB6 or make up your own program that encourages you to consume more fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Chances are good that you won’t regret it.

Find Jill on Twitter @jillettinger

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