Thursday, September 5, 2013

My Reasons for Becoming...VEGAN!

A summery vegan flatbread, hummus and tomato lunch
Have you ever had something that you really wanted to do? Something that felt right, that you'd thought about for years...something that you knew would make you happier with yourself — but for one reason or another, taking the leap and actually DOING it seemed almost impossible?

That's how I have felt about veganism for pretty much the past 6 years.

I ate meat. I became a vegetarian. I went back to eating meat. I went back to being a vegetarian. And the whole time, in the back of my mind, I knew that for me personally, being vegan was the ethical choice. So I guiltily ate meat and just didn't let myself think about it, and I ate (thousands of pounds???) of cheese, and it tasted SO GOOD. But eventually I started realizing that no matter how good it tasted, my own beliefs about ethical eating and health would just get in the way of that enjoyment.
A rainbow of summer veggies
I decided to become vegan about a month ago, for "health" reasons. High cholesterol runs in my family and even eating pescetarian, then vegetarian, my cholesterol was still borderline high. I didn't want to be a 26 year old on Lipitor if I could help it! So I spent a week watching documentaries on food.

I watched Food Fight. I watched Food Inc., Food Matters, Hungry For Change, Forks Over Knives and Vegucated. (I especially recommend Vegucated; it's a lighthearted look at 3 omnivores who go vegan for one month).

Seeing the cold hard facts about how diet affects health was really the boost I needed to make a change

Facts like: vegetarians are 40% less likely to develop cancer than omnivores — and regular meat consumption increases the risk of colon cancer by roughly 300%. (source)

A vegan diet also eliminates ALL dietary cholesterol from your diet — vegans in general have about 35% lower blood cholesterol than meat-eaters (and foods that help raise your "good" cholesterol include avocado, nuts, olive oil and nut oils).
(You can read more about the health benefits of a vegan diet here)
Roasted veggies
For me, and for my body, I think vegan eating is the right health decision to make. If I can avoid these and dozens of other health issues simply by changing my diet, instead of seeking treatment for various ailments as I get older, why wouldn't I start today?

A trickier subject to talk about is the ethical treatment of animals. I know people have maaaannnnny different opinions on this topic. I'm not super informed in this area, and at first I told myself I was just going vegan for health reasons. But the more that I think about it, the more sure I am that doing the least amount of harm to other animals on the planet is the only path for me to take.

Obviously animals in factory farms are grossly mistreated — disease ridden, deprived of any sort of life or engagement with their natural habitat, brutally slaughtered without any anesthetics or care taken to minimize their suffering — and there are grass-fed, free range meats available — but I also think that if I can get all of my nutritional needs from a plant-based diet, so NO animals need to be harmed in any way, then of course that's what I choose to do! And if I wouldn't kill and eat my cat, or a dog, or another traditionally beloved animal, why would I feel okay about doing that to any other animal?
Clearly not worried that I will consume her flesh
Some people keep telling me, "Well, humans EVOLVED to eat meat!" To which I would argue: eating meat helped humans evolve, yes, because it was more energy-dense food that allowed early humans to have more time perfecting their other skills, rather than just scavenging all day for veggies and fruits. Hunting also helped their brain to evolve and for human society to devise new problem-solving skills. But in present times this point is moot. I'm a middle-class American with ample free time, and eating vegan isn't going to somehow make me less likely to pass down my genes and hence halt the evolution of my blood line.

Anyway. The reason why I'm writing this all down is that people have been asking me WHYYYYY DEAR GOD would you go VEGAN? Well, these are my reasons. Everyone's nutritional needs are different, and luckily for me, mine can be met through a plant-based diet that aligns with my personal ethics. Always talk to your doctor before making any sort of diet or exercise change to make sure of what's right for you. And of course, there are many places in the world where eating meat is necessary as a tool of basic survival — people who don't have access to fresh water to grow crops, or who don't have the land to grow their own food on, etc. etc.

In the meantime, I am confident that veganism is what's right for me. And I'm really excited to share lots of yummy vegan recipes from here on out with you!

Heirloom tomatoes picked from Underwood Family Farms
Note: I am leaving up my previous, non-vegan recipes. Some of these posts pull in lots of visitors and any time a visitor comes to the site, it's a chance for them to discover a fun vegan recipe!