Reasons to eat a vegan diet are growing and people are becoming more and more aware of the benefits. Beginning with the health’s sake, such as the reduction of heart disease, obesity and stroke, to how it is the most effective way to reduce your carbon footprint and how you can save countless species from relentless torture and slaughter; the list goes on.
I’m fairly new to the vegan way of life, I’m at about 10 months and I’d be lying if I said I haven’t cheated, but I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. About 18 months ago, the idea of vegetarianism was incomprehensible, let alone veganism. I love the taste of meat, I’ve been brought up eating it at least once a day all my life and whilst I knew about factory farming, I was sure that our family was exempt from the suffering because mum always bought ‘good’, free-range meat. I remember she once argued that if it wasn’t for animal agriculture, all these animals would never have had the chance to live at all so by eating meat we are giving them life. If it wasn’t for the detrimental environmental impact that each cow has, the misery and needless carnage that is each chicken’s life and the waning of my own health by consuming each bite of pig and cow fluids then maybe that could be a valid argument.
I wasn’t a bad person before I went vegan because I ate animal products; the phrase that constantly comes to mind, suiting me and I think a lot of people is ‘ignorance is bliss’. I simply wasn’t aware of the havoc my diet was playing on myself and the planet. During a visit to Nepal I saw first-hand the decapitation of helpless animals and whilst that was for religious reasons as opposed to food it brought home the fact that I was mindlessly taking lives every single day. I realised I could no longer put other animals through that because their meat tastes good. Henceforth I was pescatarian because for some reason I thought that fish were excluded from this affliction. Later on in the year I met a vegan couple who inspired me to challenge myself and take the step towards veganism. At first I was just curious as to what a vegan diet was like, I had heard that giving up dairy was good for the health and particularly skin, so vanity pushed me some of the way. It’s only since becoming vegan that I am learning more and more about the benefits of this karmic way of life. Over the past 10 months, here are some of the things I’ve discovered…
Firstly, as aggravating as it may be to hear, there is one and only one reason for non-veganism and that is; “I like meat, it tastes good”. A bunch of other arguments may have just popped into your head such as the ones below, so let me share my opinion.
- The ‘Natural’ argument
Okay, so we’ve been eating meat since the beginning of human existence, just like other carnivorous animals. However, the difference is that we have the intelligence to have found options which supply us with the same nutrients without harming animals or the planet. We spend so much of our time as a species trying to separate ourselves from the rest of the animal kingdom that to then use our animal instincts as an excuse to eat meat is a little ridiculous. Back in the day, we would eat meat when we could hunt it down, not breed animals to feed ourselves 3 times a day. With this in mind, the meat that we now eat isn’t exactly natural either.
Our parents were brought up on meat and dairy, just like we were. It’s a very foreign concept to be vegan. My mum believes in a balanced diet, including all of the food groups because for centuries that is what has been considered healthy. It’s not until now when people have been vegan for enough decades that we can see first hand the results of avoiding animal products. From healthier weight to an extra 10 years of life; the results are groundbreaking. Can we get all of the nutrients and minerals we need from a plant based diet? Cow’s milk = calcium, right? Wrong, studies have shown that not only can we not absorb the calcium in milk, but it actually depletes the calcium from your bones. Dark, leafy greens such as kale and spinach are much better alternative sources. To be honest, it’s weird that we consume dairy in the first place. Would you drink dog’s milk? Its no different. It’s produced by cows for their calves and thats as far as it should go. It’s no wonder that so many health issues derive from milk including cancer, acne, increased cholesterol, and weight gain. It’s simply not meant for humans.
But what about protein? My cousin is reluctant to go vegan because she’s worried she would gain weight because she wouldn’t get enough protein and therefore eat more in its place. Good news, there is a whole list of plant based foods which contain the protein we need to sustain us. For example, here are 5 foods that contain more protein than beef: Spirulina, spinach, hemp seeds, broccoli and peanut butter. For the cherry on top? They contain far less fat. In fact, vegan diets are lower in Calories, Saturated Fat and Cholesterol and contain higher dietary fiber, magnesium, folic acid, Vitamin C, Vitamin E and Iron. But be careful, the only thing missing from a vegan diet is vitamin B12 which can be easily supplemented with tablets.
Many people believe that a vegan diet is a more expensive lifestyle. I guess that’s because veganism tends to go hand-in-hand with organic and wholefoods, but it doesn’t have to be that way. From personal experience, I’m a student spending less than £15 a week on vegan food and I feel well-fed most of the time. I’ve found meat and dairy are the expensive products in supermarkets anyway.
Restaurants can be a hassle sometimes but more often than not they serve a vegan option or something that can be turned vegan, you can even make your own main from a selection of sides. Vegan and vegetarian restaurants are also amazing and something I never would have discovered without going vegan, try looking up vegan restaurants in your area and see what you discover. You could even try to drag some of your non-vegan friends and family there too!
There’s a belief that vegan food is bland and boring, which can be true if all you eat is lettuce and roast vegetables, but if you get creative then the (plant) world is your (vegan) oyster. There is a whole bunch of vegan cookbooks awaiting you and a gazillion recipes online to get the idea rolling and your mouth watering. I now have several staple meals that I make in bulk to last me the week. My favourites are vegan Mexican chilli, falafel, ratatouille and lasagne, but you’ll discover what works for you. Also, dark chocolate will grow on you, I promise.
There is also the inconvenience of not being able to eat what everyone around you eats. This is the one struggle I have found being vegan. I was brought up to not be difficult when it came to food, and a vegan diet is about as difficult as it gets — unless of course most of the people you eat with are also vegan. However, I’ve found most people to be accommodating and if its really an issue I’ll bring my own food.
Veganism is a constant source of curiosity for meat-eaters as to how anybody could possibly give up the best part of each meal. At family get-togethers I get question after question; and they’re always the same:
“So why are you vegan?”
“How long have you been vegan for?”
“Do you like meat?”
“But how could you give it up if you like it?”
“What if you were stuck on a desert island?”
Blah blah blah bleugh.
These questions seem to be unavoidable. However, It’s entertaining wiping the smirk off their faces when I give solidly researched and scientifically backed-up reasons as to why I’m vegan that they can’t argue against. You can find many benefits of the vegan lifestyle from websites such as cowspiracy.com, vegansociety.com, freefromharm.org and many others.
The vegan community is small but growing and that is thanks to gentle persuasion. The vegan reputation is a little bashed due to extremists and social media, people have said to me, “Eugh I just hate those vegans who are like ‘ew I just can’t stand to be around someone else eating meat’”. I try to avoid adhering to this stereotype it as much as I can. If someone asks me about veganism, then I explain my beliefs, but if they don’t want to hear it then I don’t talk about it. I believe that it’s not up to me what other people eat, they’re the ones eating it and that’s their decision. Ironically it’s the meat eaters who more often are telling me what to eat than vice-versa.
The final advice I can give is don’t be too hard on yourself. If you’re vegan but can’t resist a muffin once a month-or-so, you don’t need to beat yourself up about it. My friends often hear me exclaim how much I love a good helping of ham or seafood, and several of them then tell me that I’m not vegan because I like meat. ???. Sure I enjoy it, but that doesn’t mean I eat it. I’ve found I’m more successful at life-changing decisions if I take things slowly. I started by just making vegan choices when I was cooking for myself and eating out, but eating meat if it was put in front of me. I then moved on to only cheating every now and then if I really couldn’t resist some milk chocolate. I’m currently challenging myself to see how long I can go without eating anything non-vegan – step by step!
Saving the planet and all its lifeforms is bigger and more important than a piece of succulent steak. If you’re thinking, “but how much difference can one person really make?” then I’ll leave you with a quote from Ghandi; “Be the change you wish to see in the world”. With the new year upon us, now’s the time to replace your fridge with kale and introduce a vegan diet into your life. Challenge yourself to a thriving future for you, the planet and the animal kingdom.