There are many reasons to become a vegan. See how US dietary guidelines are increasingly becoming more plant-based and why.
What are the benefits of a vegan diet?
2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans
Let us first consider the dietary guidelines put forward by the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee endorsed by the USDA (US Department of Agriculture) and The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in 2011: 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
I use these guidelines as the basis of my analysis because most people tend to believe what the “authorities” say, and also no one can say things such as; oh that’s just your belief – what evidence do you have? – where do you get your information from?
According to these guidelines, “It provides guidance for choosing a healthy diet and focuses on preventing the diet-related chronic diseases that continue to affect our population. Its recommendations are ultimately intended to help individuals improve and maintain overall health and reduce the risk of chronic disease.” (page vii)
Whoa! a healthy diet can PREVENT chronic diseases??? This is revolutionary. But is the world listening? Most still believe that what you eat has little or nothing to do with your overall health.
After its science-based research, Its recommendations were:
- Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.
- Make half your grains whole grains.
- Move to low-fat and fat-free milk or yogurt.
- Limit saturated fats and trans fats, added sugars, and sodium.
a. Consume less than 10 percent of calories per day from added sugars.
b. Consume less than 10 percent of calories per day from saturated fats.
c. Consume less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) per day of sodium.
Harvard’s Healthy Eating Plate
The Healthy Eating Plate, created by nutrition experts at Harvard School of Public Health was designed to address deficiencies in the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s MyPlate above. They recommend eating whole grains exclusively such as whole wheat, barley, quinoa, brown rice over the more popular white rice, white rice and refined grains. They also advise to limit dairy products and avoid red meat and processed meat like bacon and sausage.
Yes, none of the information presented here thus far advocates a vegan diet. This is true. While they both limit the amount of dairy products, it is still on their plates. This is a far cry from a vegan diet however. A vegan avoids dairy products all together.
The fact that both these recommendations limit dairy products is good evidence to conclude that dairy products are not good for us. Why eat something that is not good for you at all? Both agree red meat is a problem since they both use the word “avoid”. Therefore, no need to worry about red meat. This leaves chicken and fish to deal with.
The Harvard recommendation goes so far as to say chicken and fish are healthy! Are they healthy? Did the nutrition experts at Harvard School of Public Health cite why chicken and fish were healthy? They simple claimed it was a good source of protein. But let’s see what other experts say about chicken and fish.
It must be noted that access to scientific research on this and many issues is prohibitive because of the very high costs. These costs vary and could range anywhere between $5000- $35,000 for subscriptions to medical journals, in some cases this represents the cost per journal. What’s even more alarming is that this research is paid for by U.S. taxpayers. Publishers acquire this research free of charge, retain the copyrights, even though the public funded the research. So we pay for the research and then we have to pay for it again if we want to read it.
There have been attempts to circumvent this, most notably Alexandra ElBaKyan’s efforts in early 2011 with the establishment of Sci-Hub. However, this continues to this day to be true.
The Protein Debate
There is no need to despair however because there are a number of studies to cite regarding the intake of proteins derived from animals versus those derived from plants.
A notable huge Harvard University study: “Association of Animal and Plant Protein Intake With All-Cause and Cause-Specific Mortality”, with over 130,000 participants over a 36-year period, concluded that high animal protein intake was positively associated with cardiovascular mortality. This was true for red meat, fish, chicken, eggs and dairy products. Not just red meat.
According to Dr. Garth Davis from his groundbreaking book Proteinaholic;
“People whose diets are high in animal protein have significantly higher rates of chronic diseases: hypertension, cancer, diabetes, heart disease.”
Here are some other resources to check regarding animal protein versus plant protein as well as whether chicken and fish is healthy.
While it is true that fish contain Omega 3 fatty acids, both chicken and fish contain significant levels of saturated fats, trans fat and cholesterol. The same ingredients we are told by the USDA to limit.
Would it not just be better to avoid these?
This article is by no means exhaustive. It is impossible to cover all the literature on this subject in one article. However, I do hope this helps in pointing people in the right direction. When deciding whether to go vegan it is very important you look at the science behind the choices you make. Don’t just go with someone’s opinion. This is what I have tried to do in this article.
It must be noted that the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) had presented their own version of what a healthy plate should be at the White House in 2009. This was followed by a lawsuit against the Federal Government by the PCRM. By 2011, as stated above, the USDA released the Choosemyplate version. Things are changing and the science is breaking through.
Heart Disease and Cancer (Prostate for men and Breast for women) are, by far, the number 1 and 2 leading causes of death in the US (1980-2016). These diseases are known as chronic or lifestyle diseases and a vegan diet has been shown to both prevent and reverse these leading causes of death in the U.S.