(Original blog post from 2/26/17)
My adventure into veganism is a two-fold story. It started out as a moral issue, but what I learned once I started these journey was so much more than I expected.
Going vegan was actually my husband’s idea. He had done it for a year back in his early twenties, but didn’t do it correctly, and ended up going back to eating meat. (Lots of salads, very little protein.) So we did a little research, met with a nutritionist, and found that we can live a perfectly healthy life on a plant based diet. I should note that my husband is 5’11” and is around 215 pounds of muscle. He honestly puts the vegan stereotype to shame. If you worry about losing your size, trust me, you won’t.
My husband originally decided it was time to switch to plants due in large part to our beloved dog-son, Tiger. We rush him to the vet any time even the smallest thing is wrong, and spend money on medicines when he’s sick, yet we are fine slaughtering other animals for sustenance. So at first, we went vegan for the animals.
Just like a lot of other carnivores, I also could not (or would not?) make the distinction between the cute animals roaming the farm and what was on my plate. It was like my brain couldn’t make the distinction. So when we went vegan, and I started following all of these vegan pages on Facebook and Instagram, I thought, holy cow (see what I did there?) this is terrible.
“I could never be a vegan. I love cheese too much.” Have you ever wondered how you get the dairy products you love to buy from supermarkets? In order to produce milk, cows must be pregnant. Dairy cows are typically impregnated via artificial insemination as early as six months. Within hours of giving birth, the calf is taken from their mother, never to be seen again by her, and she is impregnated again. If the calf is a female, she will be raised to become a dairy cow like her mother. If the calf is a male, he will be either be slaughtered around six months for veal, or slaughtered around 3 years for thicker beef cuts. A typical lifespan for a normal cow is up to twenty years. Dairy cows are only kept around for up to four years before they too, are slaughtered for beef. They are missing 80% of their lives. Not to mention the antibiotics that are pumped into these dairy cows. A lot of sources cite that 80% of the country’s antibiotics are used in the agriculture industry. Think about how that effects the end product that you receive.
“I only buy cage free eggs and humanely raised meats.” A lot of people buy these things because it makes them feel better to know that the animals they are about to eat, had decent lives up until their death. And part of that is true. However, a slaughtering is still a slaughtering now matter which way you slice it. Their lives are still cut far too soon, all so we can enjoy a meal. Not to mention that a lot of the bigger commercial farms are failing to meet the criteria they are claiming on their packaging. Cage free and grass fed doesn’t necessarily mean that are roaming a beautiful country side.
Those are only two examples of why we went vegan for animal welfare purposes. There are so many more, and honestly, what I wrote here is very PG in terms of the things that truly happen to these animals.
It wasn’t until my husband and I started watching several documentaries, that we realized how much agriculture plays a role in our climate change.
Animal agriculture is responsible for 18% of our greenhouse gas emissions, which is more than all transportation gases combined.
Livestock and their byproducts are responsible for 51% of greenhouse gas emissions. Ever wonder where all of the feces goes for those millions of animals in the agriculture industry? It’s held in sewage ponds that eventually flow into our rivers.
Agriculture is responsible for 80-90% of water consumption, and 45% of that is just to water the crops to produce the grain that they need to eat. 2,500 gallons of water are needed to produce just one pound of beef. 1,000 gallons are needed to produce one gallon of milk.
Livestock or livestock feed populates 1/3 of the world’s land. Animal agriculture is the leading cause of species extinction, water pollution, and habitat destruction.
We are losing our land, we are contaminating our waters, we are killing off species, all so we can enjoy a hamburger and a tall glass of milk.
Did you know that if you swapped out a carnivores diet for a plant based one, you could reduce your risk of cancer and heart disease? Your cholesterol levels will drop. Your blood pressure levels will drop. You can even reverse some diagnosis by going vegan.
Aside from the moral reasons, a big reason why I will forever be a vegan is due to the low saturated fats I consume now. Animal meats and products contain high levels of saturated fats, and for people with MS like me, or even people just trying to live a healthier lifestyle, cutting those fats out is hugely beneficial.
Females, you will have much lower rates of breast cancer. Males, you will have much lower rates of prostate cancer. The odds of getting heart disease drop drastically. There is literally no negative side effect of going vegan.
HOW TO GO VEGAN THE RIGHT WAY
I’ll be honest, when my husband and I first went vegan, we ate allllll of the vegan junk food there is. There is literally anything you can imagine made in a plant based form. We had vegan ice cream, vegan cupcakes, vegan cookies, vegan cheeses… if it contained no meat or dairy, we were IN. But then we calmed down.
We figured out our best sources of protein. “But how do you get your protein?” When you tell someone you are vegan, they are suddenly concerned about your protein intake. Trust me, it’s fine. Soy, tempeh, nuts, legumes, quinoa, and beans are just the start of a very long list of protein-packed foods. My husband and I are big on protein shakes so we swapped our whey protein for pea protein.
Basically, you want to make sure you are getting the proper amino acid intake. A lot of foods may contain protein, but they may not be a complete protein. However, with the right mix of foods throughout the day, you can achieve complete proteins by a combination of different foods. For instance, hummus and pita bread. What one lacks in amino acids, the other makes up for, and vice versa. The same goes for peanut butter and wheat bread. The same goes for black beans and brown rice. There are so many combinations out there, you can still get the proper nutrition you need, without affecting any animals.
If you are consuming a variety of fruits and vegetables, you will more than likely not be deficient anywhere. However, these days, there are plenty of supplements you can take in aiding any of those deficiencies. For instance, I have been anemic many times in my life. It happened again recently. I went on Amazon and found a whole foods based iron supplement, that is derived from real foods, and put into a vegetable capsule. (NOT gelatin, which I’m sure you may know, comes from the bones, cartilage, and tendons of animals.)
So all in all, we started out vegan for the animals, and will continue on for our health and our environment. Even if you can’t fathom ever going vegan, or think it’s too extreme, I urge you to try making at least one vegan meal a week. You may find that you really like it. You may even find that it’s easier than you thought. (You will.)
Pinterest is my best friend in terms of finding recipes for anything that I used to love prior to going vegan, that I need to customize to my new lifestyle. (Big plug to The Vegan 8 which has so many plant based recipes, all under eight ingredients.) Amazon is my go-to for any vegan supplement need. Also, the grocery store holds way more than you think it does, for vegan options. There are several places throughout the store that are solely meat and dairy free options. Check out the area of the produce aisles, where you will find a lot of tofu options. Check out the freezer section where you will find a lot of easy to cook up options for lunch and dinner. (Shoutout to Gardein because we eat your stuff DAILY.)
If you need extra nudging, or even just want to become more educated on the topic, I urge you to watch some of the following documentaries: Forks Over Knives, Food Choices, Cowspiracy, and Earthlings. These were still eye opening for us, even though we watched them after we made the lifestyle change.
My body has honestly never felt more healthy. My mind feels more at peace than ever. I promise you that this will be a change you won’t regret.