I feel the need to do a few disclaimers before I begin, as it seems veganism is very controversial these days. Let it be known: I am not a nutritionist (surprise!). I am a freshman business student trying to figure this whole life thing out, and that is all I claim to be. If you are considering starting a vegan diet, please please please do your own research/consult your doctor or a real nutritionist if you feel the need to. Secondly: I am not a vegangelist (vegan evangelist… work with me). I definitely don’t want to propose that this lifestyle works for everyone, as I know that everyone’s body is very different. This is my personal journey, and if we can agree on that, I think this whole thing will be a lot easier. :)
Let’s address the elephant in the room: popular culture hates vegans.
Vegans are a pretty easy target for jokes and memes. Here’s a screenshot of when I typed “why are vegans so” into the Google search bar:
Wow. Pretty dazzling reviews, right? Before I gave any serious thought to veganism, I thought I disliked vegans, too. Frankly, people like Freelee the Banana Girl and my idea of the “vegan stereotype” (overly-politically-correct, food-shaming, tofu addict) just turned me off of the whole lifestyle.
Then I watched a few Netflix documentaries- namely, “Forks over Knives” (2011), and “Food, Inc” (2008), and my perspective began to change. I highly recommend these two documentaries, and there are certainly others on Netflix or other streaming services which will bring you to the realization: the way our food is produced, especially with animal products, is severely messed up.
And it’s not just the incredibly inhumane way that animals are treated that raised my eyebrows- it’s also the impact on the environment. This article from Time (http://science.time.com/2013/12/16/the-triple-whop...) states that “There may be no other single human activity that has a bigger impact on the planet than the raising of livestock”. Look at the facts.
I always wanted to try going vegan. But it just never happened, for one reason or another.
Initially, I (and my parents) were wary about how I was going to go about getting the essential nutrients for my body. I mean, where was I going to get my calcium without milk? What about protein without meat? And iron?
I didn’t want to have to go to Whole Foods or my local farmers’ market or whatever to find special, high-nutrient (high-cost) ingredients for these fancy vegan recipes.
I didn’t panic or give up. I did my research.
I might do an in-depth article on this later, but here are the basics that I found. The main nutrients that you need to be conscientious to get are as follows, along with common, plant-based sources.
Nuts, lentils, garbanzo beans, chia seeds, oats, tofu, flax seed, hemp seed, nut butter, pumpkin seeds, etc…
2. Omega 3’s
Flax seed, chia seeds, hemp seeds, walnut, edamame, wild rice, winter squash, cauliflower, blueberries, kale, brussel sprouts, arugula, etc...
3. Vitamin B12
Mushrooms and nutritional yeast… you normally need a supplement for this one (my vitamins from Trader Joe’s have 100% of my daily B12 needs!).
Non-dairy milk (soy, cashew, almond, and my favorite coconut), raw kale, chia seeds, blackberries, broccoli, oranges, apricots, etc...
5. Vitamin D
Mushrooms, non-dairy milk, supplements (again, my vitamins covered this… and seemed to help with my depression, an unexpected but welcome side-effect).
Black beans, cooked spinach, kale, sundried tomatoes, sunflower seeds, lentils, potatoes (not the BEST source, but still have it, and so good with just a bit of salt and olive oil!), olives, peas.
The whole length of the cleanse, my family bought groceries from our normal grocery stores. I swapped out my coffee creamer for coconut milk… and liked it better! I had these veggie burgers from Trader Joe’s that are now my favorite thing ever. Breakfasts usually consisted of all-fruit smoothies, or oatmeal with almond butter and berries and chia seeds, or this AMAZING cinnamon roll oatmeal bake (thanks Pinterest), or chai vanilla pancakes. Lentil soup over brown rice truly hits the spot on these sub-zero Minnesota January days, or a nice black bean, tomato, and guacamole “Chipotle” bowl. Does that sound “deprived” to you?
Actually, I think I ate better as a temporary vegan. I thought that I would feel limited by the fact that I was cutting out dairy and meat (I still ate eggs a few times, please don’t come after me with a pitchfork). But that “limitation” was a healthy challenge- I had to really think about the things I was eating, planning out my meals some of the time (most days I admittedly just winged it) and figuring out how I was going to get my daily nutrients. I drank so much water, fell in love with tea again, and (not being sarcastic here, shockingly) re-evaluated my relationship with coffee.
I expected to feel hungry a lot of the time. But in all honesty, not even just saying this for the sake of this article, all month after eating my fruits and veggies I felt SO GREAT about my body and my skin. I had tons of energy to get in my 6-times-a-week workout. Mentally, eating plant-based reduced the guilt factor so much, and I was awake when I needed to be awake to do the mountains of schoolwork that come with J-Term. I’m not sure if I lost weight because I don’t use the scale for a variety of reasons, but I have definitely noticed that my muscles are more defined and I feel stronger.
That’s extremely important, after all- how you feel. And after a month of being a vegan, I feel pretty fantastic.
Again, I must reiterate:
Being vegan is not for everyone!! But I believe it’s worth a try from everyone.
In the future, I don’t think I’ll remain a strict vegan. But I am going to try to eat as many plant-based things as I can, because in one short month I have felt their effects on me, and benefitted from them! I am still learning, as fitness is not a destination but a journey, and life is short so I am trying to learn everything I can.
What are your thoughts?Any thoughtful, constructive comments or questions are encouraged and welcome :)