For many, the vegan diet is not all about having an undying passion for animal rights. Although, animal welfare is a concern for most vegans, the health benefits of the diet and lifestyle transcend any moral or political agenda. Following a well-planned plant-based diet is a cornerstone to longevity and the prevention of a number of genetic diseases common throughout North America. The nutrition derived from a balanced vegan diet helps to increase your body's energy levels and protects against sickness and disease. Meat and dairy products contain high levels of saturated fat (in case you didn't know, that's the bad stuff), and this has a negative impact on cardiovascular health. Replacing meat and dairy products with nuts, grains, and legumes will reduce your risks of heart disease and strengthen your cardiovascular system. In fact, eliminating animal products from your diet will eliminate your intake of all dietary cholesterol. This is a good thing for your blood pressure! A well-planned vegan diet eliminates the foods that cause unnatural weight gain, thus it is also beneficial in maintaining healthy body weights and a lower body mass index (BMI). Increased levels of energy and improved athletic performance have also been reported by many who subscribe to the vegan diet. Some of the world's top endurance athletes are vegan, including Brendan Brazier, who's web site and books are "A guide to optimal health and performance through plant-based whole foods".