Monday, May 14, 2012

How Do I Go Vegan

Because I get asked this so much, I'm going to write a quick post in response with Myths and Facts:

1. Myth: It must be so hard
    Fact: Being vegan is easy, but  sadly, we live in a culture that makes eating healthfully difficult. Why? Because there's profit in processed foods, packaging, etc., and not nearly as much $$$ in the "close to the source" foods.  The majority of so-called edible products in chain grocery stores and chain restaurants are not really edible.  If you can, head to the vegetable and fruit sections, and buy whatever grains and pasta you can in bulk. Start reading ingredients. If you don't know what it is, don't eat it!

2. Myth: It's so expensive
Fact: Being vegan is no more expensive than not being vegan. In fact, if you eliminate meat, you're likely to spend less. Buy in bulk. Stock up on grains, beans, nuts, and legumes. Get a spice shelf going (I recommend Indian spices!).  The fact is, eating poorly is far more costly in the long run than eating a healthy, well-balanced, close-to-the-source diet. 

3.  Myth: You need meat for protein.
Fact: Protein is the least of a vegan's worries. Protein is everywhere. The meat industry has convinced us that we need animal flesh for protein. Not so.  And the dairy industry has convinced us the same. The fact is, 80% of adult Americans are lactose-intolerant. Go figure . . . .

4.  Myth: I had a friend who went vegan and became anemic.
Fact: I can't dispute your friend's claim, but it is likely that your friend was not eating a well-rounded diet.  And meat is not the only "cure" for anemia. You can be a total junk-food vegan, starting with Oreos, Fritos, etc.  They're "vegan," but full of chemicals, salts, sugars, fats, and massive calories, with no nutrition.  There are tons of wonderful iron-rich vegan foods, starting with fresh greens, etc.

5.  Myth:  There isn't much you can eat, is there?
Fact: Meat and dairy make up a  miniscule part of the human diet. We are omnivores, and there is a world of food out there that costs less, is more healthful, and tastes delicious, and which the meat and dairy industries don't want you to know about. Remember, the Texas beef guys who sued Oprah after she made negative statements about the content of burgers?  At both state and federal levels, these industries have tons of lobbying power to insure that their profits are maintained. Remember how long it took the tobacco industry to be questioned?  When you consume commercial meats and dairy, you're also consuming antibiotics, dangerous chemicals, animal feces, pus, etc.  Yes, it's true.  And you're contributing to untold animal suffering. And for what? If you think about it, you wouldn't go eat out of your cat's litter box or scrape a dead possum off the road, now would you?  Why do you want animal flesh rotting away in your insides?

6. Myth: People need meat
Fact: Cats need meat. Raptors need meat. Human beings don't. We are not obligate carnivores. Obligate carnivores have claws and very short intestines. They kill and consume fresh meat.  While human beings can certainly eat meat, we do not need it. It's a choice.  Meat became associated with wealth in past centuries, and this led to the idea that meat was a core component of diet. It's not.  Ask who benefits? Not the consumer, who ends up with blocked heart valves, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity, and perhaps even dementia (associated with meat consumption---remember Mad Cow disease?).

7.  Myth: If you stop eating meat, your social life suffers.
Fact: Not at all.  Part of this involves being flexible. For example it's very difficult for me to smell flesh cooking on a barbeque,  but if I'm invited to a picnic I don't say, "Oh, gross" (even though I'm thinking it), I just bring along veggie burgers, and condiments, to share with others, many of whom like veggie burgers. Lots of my friends have been amazed how easy it is to cook a delicious vegan meal.  Who can argue with pasta primavera, or vegan chili, or gorgeous salads, or a vegan chocolate mousse, or pie? 

8.  Myth:  You have to eat raw foods if you're a vegan
Fact: No, though raw foods are wonderful for you, a raw food diet is different from veganism. What do I eat? Pizza, chocolate, fabulous salads chock full of everything, coffee, smoothies, Indian food, pastas, "burgers," etc. You can make a vegan version of just about anything, even "chicken caesar salad!"  It's all in the ingredients.

9. Myth: Give up leather? Never! I want to wear cute shoes
Fact: Vegan and non-leather shoes and boots have gone beyond cute. No one can tell the difference. Plus (secret) you pay a whole lot less.  I'm constantly being complimented on sandals, shoes, and boots that are non-leather and/or vegan. And no one was hurt in the process.

10.  Myth:  It sounds like a good idea, but it's too overwhelming
Fact: Start small. Start with one day a week. Lots of great, easy recipes can be found online or in cookbooks, if you're inclined that way. While I went vegan overnight and never looked back, I learned one really important thing: don't try to replicate meat and dairy.  In other words, don't grab the processed meats and fake cheese. What do I put on a vegan pizza?  Try roasted garlic or fresh avocado. As someone raised on dairy, I never thought I could give up cheese, but here I am, happily finally fabulous alternatives, and my arteries aren't hardening! Instead of parmesan cheese on pasta, I mix brewer's yeast, a pinch of salt, and ground walnuts. It's delish!

Final note:  Whatever you do, have a sense of humor. While animal suffering is serious business, and the meat and dairy industry don't care about public health, you can still live your life with a smile as a vegan.  Enjoy food . . . enjoy lots of different foods . . .  veganism is not about denying yourself pleasure, it's about discovering new pleasures, sharing them with friends, and knowing you're doing yourself a huge favor by being healthy. You're also doing animals a favor, at least symbolically, by refusing to participate in factory farming.

Be sure to add items like flax seeds and hemp seeds and chia seeds and nutritional yeast  to your diet to get your omegas and B's.  Try almond milk instead of cow's milk.  It's so high in protein, your feet will lift off the ground.

Make your own granola (cheap and easy and fast) instead of buying processed cereals.  You'll learn . . . have fun . . . no guilt . . . become a vegan freak and enjoy food more! Being vegan is a real joy. 

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