April 25, 2016 by Virginia James
This past month, I had a chance to talk to a small group of people who were interested in transitioning to a plant-based lifestyle. At first I thought, this is so awesome! People are interested (and willing) to do what it takes to live a healthy lifestyle AND help the environment while not contributing their dollars to the funding of animal slaughter…. awesome! 🙂
Only thing is… most of the people I spoke with didn’t really understand how our diet affects the planet, ecosystem, and our livelihood. This came as a bit of a shock to me. Partially because I’ve been researching this subject since my pre-teens, and also because it’s something that everyone who wants to thrive in a healthy lifestyle SHOULD know.
Side Note: Nutrition was my major in college – but I dropped out prior to completion because through my own research, I found that many nutrition courses offered in (any) college were all funded by the meat and dairy industry. Talk about a conflict of interest!
There’s lots to know! It’s not JUST about covering nutritional bases, but also about how it affects the planet and your body. And I want to spread some of that information with as many people as I can. Granted, if you follow my tumblr or this blog, you probably already know the basics, and if that’s the case, I want you to share this article with those who are curious about making the switch so that they can understand the principles and effects of living a natural, plant-based lifestyle.
NOTE: sources are scattered as links throughout this post
Here are the more popular questions I got in my discussions:
Is this a vegan diet?
Vegans actually take it one step further by not wearing furs/animal skins and even using household products that were made in a cruelty-free way. Many who shy away from the word ‘vegan’ do so because they aren’t ready to fully commit. I, personally am on my way to veganism. I eat a plant-based diet, and do not use beauty products that were tested on animals (most are tested on bunnies, puppies and kittens). I also do not wear furs or leather, but beyond that I haven’t gotten to the point where I look at my dish-soap, cleaning supplies, or other household products to make sure they don’t do harm to animals or have animal ingredients. I feel that eventually I will get to that point, but taking it one step at a time helps during that transition phase.
However, I sometimes DO call myself a vegan so that people don’t get confused when they ask me what my diet looks like. By saying vegan, you’re making it clear that you want absolutely no animal products, which is the basis of a plant-based diet.
Some people just want to look at the nutritional aspects of veganism… which is a plant-based diet- most of the time they do this for health reasons But since veganism is a lifestyle, you cannot truthfully call yourself real vegan until you reach the point of making (for the most part) every aspect of your life cruelty-free.
We can’t eat meat- which is everywhere -so what’s the best way to keep myself on track?
It’s actually not that hard to avoid meat. Especially in this day and age when more and more plant-based alternatives are popping up -more than ever! I personally don’t eat meat substitutes due to its high sodium content, but it does help in transitioning -especially if you were a meat-addict. How do these alternatives taste so much like the real thing… well, most meats are seasoned/flavoured with -you guessed it! PLANTS! So matching the taste is always easy with herbs and spices.
There really isn’t any reason to think this lifestyle is restrictive, and yet, it’s the #1 assumption made by the public. No we don’t eat ‘rabbit food’ i.e. a piece of lettuce+carrot. We eat carbs, starches, fruits, legumes, nuts, seeds… there’s so much out there to choose from. In fact, upon making this transition myself, I have discovered and eaten several foods I’ve never tried! Dragon fruit, star fruit, fava beans, seitan, tempeh, sweet potato sushi, vegan pizza, and more! The so-called ‘restrictive lifestyle’ is also the #1 reason (or should I say excuse?) many people are afraid to make the transition.
What I like to do is stick to the produce section of the market. Whenever I come across the meat section, I picture what the animal looked like prior to getting tortured, slaughtered and packaged to make money – it’s a horrible thought.
Could you put yourself, your spouse, a loved one, or another family member in their place? How would it make you feel? Even if the slaughter is labelled ‘humane’ the animal still lost its life. To put this in perspective… someone could say they are going to kill a member of your family. But they’re going to do this in a humane way. Does that make any sense at all? Either way, a life is ended.
If cutting meats out is extremely difficult for you – you may want to start that transition by cutting down on your meats on a daily basis before you start the transition process. Do ‘Meatless Mondays’, then make that Monday-wednesday… take it one day at a time if you have to. Start experimenting with the mock meats. The best one by far for me, is Soyrizo -tastes exactly like chorizo… but has no animal testicles, anuses, ears, tails, etc. Also, remind yourself that the World Health Organization has officially marked meat as a carcinogen.
The overall best thing to do to stay on track is experiment with new foods! I’ve never tried Indian foods prior to this switch but they actually have lots of plant-based options -and they’re all delicious! Try making stuff at home. There’s this awesome channel on youtube Called The Vegan Corner that quickly shows you how to make vegan recipes right there in your own kitchen! There are also lots of restaurants which have plant-based or vegan options… and many new fully Vegan restaurants are opening nationwide. Staying on track has never been easier… and it will get even more easier, as more and more people are joining the movement! This is not restrictive at all… you can still eat pizza, cakes, fries, burgers, lasagna… literally anything you want -there’s a vegan version for virtually anything your heart can dream of! Also… there are tons of readily available brands of cereals, snacks and other packaged foods that are vegan!
This is like a vegetarian lifestyle right? But can we still have eggs, cheese, dairy or fish?
This is basically a type of vegetarian diet -however, eating a plant-based diet basically means everything needs to be plant-based and no animal products should be included. Which means no eggs, dairy, cheese… and fish IS an actual animal so that would have to be excluded too. I’ve never understood why people ask if you eat fish or chicken when you’re plant-based or vegetarian. Despite the type of animal it’s coming from, it’s still meat. There are other things that you’ll need to lookout for ingredient-wise such as gelatine, casein, whey, and honey.
But in regards to milk and dairy, there are tons of alternatives that taste EXACTLY the same -or at least very similar. So if you had to choose one version… why not choose the one that doesn’t fund the rape or slaughter of a sentient being? The choice really is yours.
Eggs I can understand because of the cholesterol, but …What’s so bad about milk?
Milk: A recent study by Harvard published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics shows the many negative sides of milk.
It has been connected to heart disease and obesity. It is known to contain hormones. There are milks without added hormones -aren’t there? Yes there are, but the hormones I’m talking about are NOT added. They’re naturally in the milk- think about this for a minute. Cow breast milk is meant to turn a tiny baby calf into a giant cow or bull… and these hormones are linked to testicular and breast cancer in humans.Why is that? umm… probably because our bodies can’t process it, maybe? I mean cows have FOUR stomachs that digest this milk for them… we have one measly human stomach, so it really isn’t that big of a mystery that it’s bad for our health. This includes lactose free milks and fat free milks as well.
Not to mention the blood and pus cells! Yes, there’s a LEGAL amount of pus and blood cells that the USDA allows… over 5 billion cells -not only in our milk, but in our butter and cheese. Eeeewwww! It’s just not meant to be consumed by humans… so why are we doing it? for the calcium? Studies show that the human body more readily absorbs calcium from fruits/veggies and it struggles to obtain calcium from milk -in fact, you can get a calcium deficiency from depending on milk. Boy have we been brainwashed! but why would we be lied to by the USDA about milk being good for us? Because the whole purpose of the USDA is to support the farm adn dairy industry. and in the end, it’s all about how much they can dupe us into spending money on their products. We have been shamelessly brainwashed and didn’t even realize!
How are we going to get our calcium and protein?
Calcium: there are lots of people who are afraid they’re going to lack in every type of vitamin when making this transition.But there are actually m
ore sources of calcium in fruits and veggies than there are in milk/dairy products!
Decades ago, researchers would measure the amount of calcium in the urine after someone drank milk. They noticed the more milk they drank, the more calcium in their urine. So they decided from that, that milk is a good source. However, current studies show that when calcium in in your urine, it’s actually being extracted from the bones to be taken into your urine stream… causing weakened bones and to some degree… actual bone loss! So milk doesn’t do a body good after all…
Weird… it’s almost like Broccoli is better for your bones than milk?? But Broccoli isn’t the only source:
Protein: it’s sort of funny when people ask ‘…but where do you get your protein from? aren’t you going to be deficient? Won’t that make you sick all the time?’
It can be frustrating to hear people ask you that question EVERY TIME food is being discussed. I sometimes wish I could record my answer and just play it for them everytime they ask!
The truth is… the proteins from plants actually work much better for our bodies than animal protein. Animal proteins are more difficult for our bodies to break down, causing lots of stress on the body which often leads to illness.
Many people eat beef/chicken for protein… but how do you think those animals got their protein? by eating PLANTS! So why doesn’t it make sense for US to use plants for protein?
It’s very difficult to be deficient in protein because we can get it from so many other, more sustainable sources. If you look at the history of the advice from USDA regarding our daily recommendations, you’ll see a bit of a pattern. They began recommending milk/dairy/meat as the foods that should take most of the space on your plates-completely ignoring the warnings that actual nutritionists gave them. As the years go on, they begin to recommend smaller portions of meats/dairy, and larger portions of grains and veggies…. slowly but surely they’re getting closer… but, they still keep dairy/meat on the recommendations because they basically work for the farm/agriculture companies… talk about conflict of interest! So why should we trust these people to give us health recommendations? It’s absurd!
Will it really make a difference? If I stop eating meat… they’re still going to keep killing animals for others to eat… am I really going to make a difference?
There’s this wonderful business term called Supply and Demand that explains the answer.
Of course it will make a difference! Now more than ever, more people are joining the plant-based/vegan movement. How does this make a difference? If less people pay for this meat/dairy, the meat/dairy industries will be wasting money by producing more than what they are selling. ln order to make a profit, they’d have to cut back on their production so that they don’t have any losses. Which means the number of animals being raped, tortured, slaughtered and killed will go down.
Not only that… did you know that the livestock industry is the among leading causes of deforestation? Yep, they cut down tons of trees to create grazing areas for the cattle prior to slaughter. The higher the demand for meat, the more forests get destroyed so that they can make their money off of you.
Also, did you know that the livestock industry is responsible for more greenhouse emissions in our atmosphere than ALL forms of transportation COMBINED?? …and yet we are funding this?
This is killing our planet, guys! It’s our home… the only home we have. Many people don’t realize that by paying for that ‘delicious’ hamburger -you are actually funding the deforestation…and essentially, HARMING our planet! There are environmentalists who drive hybrids and use their own shopping bags… yet they go out and buy meat and dairy and are basically funding the death of the planet -how does that make any sense?? Nature holds things in a delicate balance. When one thing is off, Mother Nature goes crazy.
Okay, so it’s super awesome for the animals, our own health and the planet to eat this way…. but are there any downsides to eating this way?
There aren’t very many negatives. But it wouldn’t be fair to you if I were to say that every single aspect about this is 100% perfect. So… here are the things a few people have complained about… keep in mind that these complaints are still better than contracting diabetes, high cholesterol, and obesity. In fact, a plant-based diet (when done correctly) can actually reverse those illnesses.
So here are any sort of downsides:
- Pooping! Many people who aren’t used to using the restroom very often might find it uncomfortable at first due to the higher frequency. But we need to understand that this is a good thing as well. When we eat lots of animal products, the bodily waste tends to stick around in our tummies for a good while (where it can start to rot), and sometimes can even cause constipation which makes people irritable at times. So constant pooping, I’d say, is actually a good thing -great even!
- Vitamins! The vegan diet does not call for much supplementation except for 1-2 vitamins.
- B-12 – This needs to be supplemented as we cannot rely on our plant-based diet for this vitamin. This will cost about $14/year -way cheaper than hospital bills of our meat eating friends.
- Iron – This is more important for women, but in any case everyone should supplement a bit of iron; especially if you’re not eating enough leafy greens on a daily basis. Again the cost is virtually nothing compared to hospital bills.
- Body Reset! Body and hormone ‘reset’ period. When we first make the switch to a healthy lifestyle (not just plant-based, but ANY change), our bodies tend to act up at first. They don’t understand why you’re suddenly loving it so much. For that reason, many people (some don’t) go through a ‘reset period’ where your hormones become imbalanced, your skin breaks out, your body bloats a tiny bit. Mine lasted 2 days. That was it. After that, my body was prepared to give me clearer skin, stronger hair, and much more energy than I’ve ever had in my life -without help from caffeine or energy drinks!
- Health Shaming! Unfortunately, many people make fun of Plant-based dieters/vegans on a daily basis. They claim we constantly announce our lifestyle although we sometimes HAVE to when food is involved-like at a restaurant. They say men who don’t eat meat are emasculated… when in fact there are many vegan bodybuilders who are a lot manlier than your average meat eater. They claim that we attack others for their food decisions… when in fact most vegans I personally know (including myself) tend to keep those thoughts themselves. So, why do people like to make fun of vegans? Maybe they understand that they are doing something to better their health and the world, and feel in some way threatened by that? We may never know. But don’t let these bullies bring you down. Most of them have not educated themselves on the facts, and need to do so… but in the end… I always like to say… ‘I respect the way you eat, and expect you to respect me in turn’.
That’s pretty much it! As you can see there aren’t very many downsides to a plant based diet. Should you have any questions at all regarding anything I mentioned here, don’t hesitate to email me at: email@example.com.
- Forks Over Knives
- Fed Up
- Simply Raw: Reversing Diabetes in 30 Days
- Hungry for Change
- Fat, Sick and nearly Dead
- Food Matters
- Food, Inc.
Check out some of my recipes by clicking HERE!