Becoming Vegan or Vegetarian

March 27, 2012

What do two-time U.S. Open champion Venus Williams, acclaimed actress Anne Hathaway, and Broadway/Glee star Lea Michele have in common? Aside from being an incredibly talented group of young women, each one of these individuals for ethical or health purposes chooses to be vegan or vegetarian. It’s impossible to ignore that in recent years, concerns with health issues, diabetes, and obesity in American have increased. Perhaps in response to this, the number of proclaimed vegans and vegetarians, as well as the availability of vegan and vegetarian products, has blossomed. Choosing to live as a vegan or vegetarian depends on personal preference and lifestyle. Veganism, or the omission of any animal products from one’s diet, is popular for both health and ethical reasons. Veganism has been shown to decrease the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The lack of protein intake from meat can be easily substituted in a vegan diet with nuts, beans, and tofu products. Additionally, many vegans choose to refrain from eating animal products because of increasing evidence, including under-cover footage of slaughterhouses, of the inhumane way in which animals are raised, fed, and slaughtered. Vegetarianism differs from veganism in that they consume non-meat dairy products like cheese and yogurt, and sometimes eggs and fish. Similar to vegans, vegetarians choose their diet or ethical and health based reasons. The consumption of dairy products does not involve the slaughtering of animals in order to be produced.* Also, dairy products are an excellent source of calcium and probiotics (beneficial bacteria that boost your immune system), which is why vegetarians include dairy as part of their daily diet[1]. In 2010, the U.S. Department of Health stated that vegetarian diets are associated with lower levels of obesity, a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, and lower total mortality[2]. Whether one chooses to maintain a vegan/vegetarian diet for ethical reasons, often centered on the cruel conditions in which animals are raised, fed, and slaughtered, or for health reasons like losing weight and decreasing the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes, the increasing popularity of this trend is undeniable. When done right, it can be very rewarding; a healthy body lends to a healthy mind. Now more than ever, it is easier to practice a vegetarian diet with phone apps like “VegOut," which names and rates vegetarian or veg-friendly restaurants nearest your current location, and “Vegan Express," which provides a list of Vegan options from various restaurant menus. UVA dining halls label each item they offer as either vegan or vegetarian. High-end vegan and vegetarian restaurants are popping up in big cities, and vegan foods are beating out non-vegan cuisine in taste competitions. It’s turning out to be one of the biggest years for veganism, and whether this is the year for you to try your first vegan item or to enjoy a full blown veg. diet is up to you. For further information, including an example of a full day’s menu on a vegan or vegetarian diet, visit: Additional suggestion for viewing: Documentary Film Food, Inc. Citations:

  1. Anne Hathaway:
  2. Venus Williams:
  3. Lea Michelle:
  4. Vegout:
  5. Vegan Express:

[2] "Building healthy eating patterns", Dietary Guidelines for Americans, United States Department of Agriculture, 2010, p. 45. By: Tasia Potasinski, Iris Intern
*Editors Note: After this article was published, it was pointed out to us by a reader that, "the consumption of dairy products does not involve the slaughtering of animals to be produced," is a common misconception. For more information on the production of dairy products, click here.  

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