Now is a pretty exciting time to be a vegan. More people than ever before are embracing this style of eating, and plant-based choices abound in stores and restaurants. Chances are good that even those of us not sitting down to a vegan Thanksgiving on Thursday will have plenty of plant-based dishes to enjoy.

Such vegan abundance reflects an increase in the number of people eating vegan food, whether they consider themselves vegans or are omnivores who want to eat more plants.

In April, Google – the company that can map the spread of the flu based on search terms – spotted a spike in searches using the term vegan. This summer, market research firm Mintel found that 36 percent of Americans regularly buy meat alternatives. Along similar lines, Technomic, another market research firm, reported that 23 percent of diners want vegan burgers when eating out.

Of course savvy chefs have noticed these trends. The 2013 National Restaurant Association’s “What’s Hot” report found that 56 percent of the 1,800 chefs surveyed listed vegan entrees as a top trend.

And according to Travel+Lesiure magazine, Portland is home to one of the top vegetarian restaurants in the country: the very vegan-friendly Green Elephant.

In my experience, the fact that vegan eating has become almost mainstream has everything to do with the dramatic health benefits to be gained from eating more plants and the delicious diversity of today’s vegan cuisine.

This all adds up to a lot of reasons for vegans to be thankful.

One of my favorite Thanksgiving traditions is the custom of going around the table and having each person express their gratitude. For instance, I’m thankful for the fact that I live during a time when it is so easy to eat a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, much of it grown close to home, and that I’m surrounded by other people who appreciate vegan food.

Wanting to know what inspires gratitude in other vegans, I reached out to a few well-known Mainers who eat a plant-based diet and asked them.

Let’s go around this virtual Thanksgiving table and see what they have to say.

— “I’m thankful for all that we have here in Maine, especially the small farmers. I’m grateful that I was able to pick fresh organic kale from my kitchen garden each day to supply myself and my family with twice a day servings. I’m also thankful for the Maine-grown, pesticide-free beans from Green Thumb Farms and the fresh tempeh from Lalibela Farm.” – Meg Wolff, author of “Life in Balance” and “Becoming Whole”

“I’m thankful every day for the growing enthusiasm with friends and family taking control of their health. Adopting a plant-based diet is instrumental in this shift, and I’m so grateful to be at the forefront of this movement here in Maine.” – Chris McClay, owner, Modern Vegan, which provides meal delivery and cooking classes

“I’m thankful for the fact my wife is vegan, for the 50 pounds I don’t carry around anymore, for the ability to run my road races faster and actually setting a personal record this fall in a 5K, for the fact I never get sick, for my cholesterol being under 100, for the documentary ‘Forks Over Knives,’ for all the new friends I’ve made, for local nutritionist Sara Sullivan giving my family delicious and healthy recipes and for local author Meg Wolff for getting me started on a plant-based diet.” – Jeff Peterson, WGME-TV news anchor and “That Vegan Thing” columnist

“I am grateful for all critters, apple crisp, rainbow chard, our veg-friendly city of Portland, green juice, a growing movement toward plant-based eating and all of our local farmers who grow a bounty of RAWlicious produce for us year round.” – Elizabeth Fraser, founder of the Girl Gone Raw cooking school and co-founder of Kids Gone Raw line of foods

“I am thankful for the bees that pollinate our incredible, edible world.” – Maggie Knowles, co-founder of Kids Gone Raw and Pure LOVE Chocolates

“I’m thankful to know that the best diet to avoid cancer, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, mental decline and other common diseases in affluent cultures is the same simple diet that lets animals live and protects the environment. I love it that it’s all the same plant-centered diet; that choosing real, whole, natural food can prevent and sometimes cure what ails us and can support radiant health for people and the planet.” – Susan Lebel Young, author of “Food Fix: Ancient Nourishment for Modern Hungers”

“I am thankful to have participated in the journey of several new plant-based eaters and witnessed first hand, how positively a whole-foods plant-based diet impacts one’s health and well-being. I am particularly grateful for what they taught me.” – Kirsten Scarcelli, certified health and nutrition coach

Avery Yale Kamila is a freelance writer who lives in Portland, where she is thankful that her mother-in-law hosts a very vegan-friendly Thanksgiving dinner. She can be reached at:[email protected]Twitter:AveryYaleKamila