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5 reasons you should stop giving vegans so much flak

Ally Hirschlag is a producer/actor/writer who lives in Brooklyn, NY and buys way too many toys for her cats. She contributes to several publications, including Bustle, and The Nerve, and enjoys writing about all things woman. In her spar...

Going vegan could do even more than drastically improve your health

Currently the vegan population in the United States is rather small — just about 2.5 percent. As such, vegans tend to get a lot of flak from the meat-eating community. The reason for this treatment seems to correlate with why any minority receives such scrutiny — people have a hard time accepting something that goes against the norm. This often results in vegans either hiding their dietary proclivities or preaching them from the highest rooftops, which of course results in their being alienated even more.

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But what if I told you that going vegan had the potential to save the planet? How would that change your view of this small population sect that looks at all consumption of meat and meat byproducts as murder? From one non-vegan to another, I have to admit, there are a number of surprising reasons that vegans may have actually had it right all along.

1. I wasn't kidding — going vegan could save the planet

Right now, the food industry is responsible for 25 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions on our planet, most of which are due to livestock. According to a recent study by Oxford University, if we all were to go vegan by 2050, we could cut those emissions by 70 percent. And considering the crisis in which our environment currently finds itself, such a shift might be an eleventh-hour game changer.

2. It could add years to your life

According to a 2009 study conducted at the National Cancer Institute in Rockville, consuming more red meat (specifically processed red meat) is linked to a shorter life span. They looked at data spanning 500,000 people's medical records and found that the upper one-fifth of meat eaters had a much higher risk of premature death via heart disease and cancer than those who ate the least amount of meat.

Moreover, a vegan diet could actually lower your risk of contracting a chronic disease to nothing. A 2011 study at McGill University suggests that a plant-based diet could potentially reverse a genetic predisposition to heart disease. The American Institute for Cancer Research also suggests that a vegan diet can significantly lower your risk of contracting cancer, since it fights inflammation.

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3. A worldwide transition to veganism would save millions of lives

The Oxford study also looked at the relation of mortality and meat consumption on a global scale. According to their research, if we all cut out meat and meat byproducts, we would reduce the global mortality rate by 6 to 10 percent. That comes out to roughly 8 million people by 2050.

4. It could mean more money for everyone

Doing away with meat consumption nationwide would have a similarly substantial impact on our country's funds as it would on our environment. The above Oxford study estimates that the United States could save up to $30 trillion by 2050 if it did away with meat production. That would definitely help improve our growing deficit situation, don't you think?

5. It's the single best way to lose weight

Got a wedding in a couple of months for which you'd like to look at least 5 pounds lighter? Science says going vegan is the best way to accomplish that goal. Scientists analyzed 12 weight loss studies and found that people who followed diets that were mostly or entirely plant-based lost an average of 4 more pounds than other, more traditional diets.

So if seeing benefits on the short term is of utmost importance, consider that the next time you have a choice between a traditional steak and a portobello mushroom steak.

More: 7 clean eating mistakes you're probably making

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