Why Be Vegan?

Happy New Year! I hope everyone had a fun, safe evening last night and are thinking about healthy ways to start off the new year!

So what’s my big 2010 resolution?

Well(drum roll please)I am officially going vegan!

I have been a vegetarian on and off for the past 8 years of my life and am now up for a new challenge, veganism. Upon recently reading a number books regarding animal cruelty and the health benefits of a diet based on all-natural foods grown straight from the earth I feel like becoming a vegan is the lifestyle I’ve been searching for (see below for resources)

The United States food industry has become so corrupt, unnatural, and secretive with what goes on behind closed doors that I can longer justify supporting it. From inhumane slaughterhouse conditions (for both animals and workers) and feeding unnatural fattening corn-based diets to animals, to milking cows with painful machines that overwork their utters and breeding animals for the sole purpose of slaughtering them, the food industry has taken a turn for the worst. In a society of supply and demand, I do not wish to continue fueling the fire of a food industry that justifies such actions. I do not believe that animals need to be killed to provide me with food; there are plenty of other plant-based foods that can provide me with the nutrients I need without harming innocent, helpless animals. I realize that the definition of the food industry mentioned above does not characterize ALL United States farms; there are in fact a handful of organic farms that raise and treat their animals in an ethical manner. While I commend these brave farmers for what they do, my small student budget does not allow me purchase the great products that come from such farms on a regular basis.

I do not think veganism is perfect or that everyone should become vegan by any means, but I think it encompasses all of what I personally believe about the foods I want to fuel my body with. It is a shame that some people think that vegans have to settle for boring, tasteless foods because I feel like becoming vegan will open up a new window of opportunity for me to try and experiment with new foods that I otherwise may have never discovered. There are so many new and unique foods at our fingertips in the markets today that it is a shame we do not all take advantage of them. Not only have a chosen veganism for the sake of animals, but as a future dietitian, I believe there are also a number of health benefits associated with a vegan diet. The typical American diet, high in animal fat, cholesterol, and sodium has contributed to the astronomical number of people in this country with heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and hypertension. The American Dietetics Association reports that both vegetarian & vegan diets as associated with reduced risks for all of these conditions.

Vegan foods (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans) are all low in saturated fat and cholesterol and are great sources of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. There are plenty of plant sources including beans, tofu, and whole grains to obtain protein from. There are a number of great vegetables loaded with calcium including broccoli, kale, and soybeans just to name a few and iron sources include spinach, beans, and soy products. As a nutrition student I am fully aware you cannot get vitamin B12 from food sources other than animal products and therefore buy fortified foods such as soymilk and breakfast cereals that supply me adequate vitamin B12.

I am still unsure about how I feel about consuming honey and gelatin and thus will continue consuming both products until my research convinces me otherwise. I realize that this will be a slow process and I will learn more as I go along.  I have researched and toyed with the idea of going vegan for the past year and am finally ready to take the steps to change my life for the better and begin living my life based on beliefs that I am confident about. I am not completely sure whether this will be a temporary or permanent change, but I am excited to see where the challenge takes me!

Resources that have inspired me to go vegan:

  • Skinny Bitch by Rory Freedman: a humorous and informative book that will make you think twice about the foods you put in your mouth.
  • Slaughterhouse: The Shocking Story of Greed, Neglect, and Inhumane Treatment inside the U.S. Meat Industry by Gail A. Eisnitz: this book documents Gail’s journey as she visits meat packing plants around the United States and the stories of the slaughterhouse employees she encounters along the way.
  • Food Inc.: witness “behind the scenes” footage of the United States food industry with this outstanding documentary.
  • Food Matters: this documentary will open your eyes to the power of food and the importance of the vitamins and minerals they contain.
  • This Crazy Vegan Life and Cooking the Whole Foods Way by Christina Pirello: Christina Pirello from the PBS cooking series Christina Cooks is a vegan who is a firm believer in the macrobiotic diet. She has a lot of really good information in her books as well as delicious and easy recipes for any cook!
  • Vegetarian Times magazine: the delicious recipes in this magazine have inspired me to cook vegan meals and I have been pleasantly impressed!

Other things I hope to accomplish in 2010 include running a half marathon and increasing my blog readership!

What is your New Year’s resolution?

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