Greek omelettes. Eggplant Parmesan. Chicken piccata. Those were hard to give up. When I ate those foods as a kid, I wasn't haunted by tear-stained cow eyes. I was enjoying home-cooking with lots of love.

It was hard to trade in those childhood favorites for a vegan diet. But as I've grown up, I've opened my mind up to new information about the impact of my food choices.

Though I may miss many a Sunday morning brunch food, I'm passionate about veganism. There are so many causes that have influenced me to change my diet. It started with a few TedTalks, and cancer runs in my family, so, learning how a plant-based diet can prevent cancer cell growth blew my mind.

Being able to take control of my disease risk was enough for me to make the change. But what's really cool is, once one cause leads you to go vegan, you're opened up to a world of new information about the impact of your food choices.

At James Madison University alone, there are over 100 vegans and vegetarians. Their reasons for embracing the veg life are as diverse as the foods on their forks, and they're excited to share their cause with you.

I Went Vegan for My Health

While meat and dairy consumption in moderation can lead you to a balanced and healthy diet, veganism can be great for your health.

Taking meat and dairy out of your diet reduces your risk for cardiovascular disease, cancer, Type II diabetes, arthritis and more. A nutritious and balanced vegan diet (rather than one that just replaces bacon with 'fakin' and ups the ante on Oreo intake) is also linked to a lower BMI and a longer lifespan.

I Went Vegan Because Every Living Being Deserves Peace, Love, and Compassion

You will meet many a meat-free person who decided to ditch animal protein after seeing a slaughterhouse. It's a very personal decision, but many vegans believe that because we can live a healthy life without animal products, there is no need to harm them. Veganism shows compassion for all living beings.

I'm Vegan Because Animal Agriculture is the Largest Contributor to Climate Change

Yup, more than cars, buses, planes and trains. Animal agriculture accounts for 30% of greenhouse gas emissions on our planet. Plant-based diets are more sustainable and less taxing on our ecosystem.

I Am Vegan Because the Meat/Dairy Industry Exploits People Too

The documentary Food, Inc. is one of many great Netflix finds on this less prominent reason to ditch meat and dairy. In the United States, a large population of factory farm employees are undocumented citizens who are exploited to work in poor conditions to avoid deportation.

Factory farm workers are also regularly exposed to health hazards such as ammonia and hydrogen sulfide, which can damage the respiratory system.

Veganism Brought Us Together #Friendship

While no one goes vegan solely to have a veg fam for potlucks and pasta dinners, the vegan community is strong and growing. Bonding over the struggles and benefits of an animal cruelty-free diet is empowering.

JMU students who are vegan, vegetarian, or even curious about more sustainable and animal friendly eating can join Food for Thought for a network of friendly faces. Many colleges around the country have similar clubs, or students waiting for the support to start one!

Whether you're looking for a bomb mac & 'nooch' recipe, need recommendations on B-12 supplements, or just want friends who advocate for same causes as you, know that you can go vegan without going it alone.

Whether you're vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian, or participate in Meatless Monday if the entree sounds edible, it's important to know that your food choices matter. 

Though it can shock and amaze how easily they'll turn down pizza at the pregame, vegans aren't superhuman. They eat their Ben and Jerry's one pint at a time (dairy-free flavors FTW).  There's simply a passion behind their dietary choices.

And while no single diet is the ultimate fix for everything on earth, veganism does make an impact. I like to think of it as one small bite for me, one big step for all kinds.