Food, Yarn, & Stuff

Why Vegan?

Posted on: June 20, 2011

A friend on Facebook asked “so, why vegan?” which is definitely a fair question. I’m spending all this time posting about vegan foods that we are trying and how I’m turning my kitchen into a vegan kitchen. So, I’m going to take some time to answer that question in full detail!

I’m going to go way back… it was November of 1991, and I was in 6th grade. My grandfather had passed away and we headed to Florida to be with my grandma. My uncle was also coming to Florida from Utah. I hadn’t had much of a chance to meet or get to know him up until this point. The one thing that really stuck in my head from that trip was when we went out for pizza. He brought his own cheese, or cheeze actually. I remember asking him why and he said it was because he was vegan – he didn’t eat any meat or dairy. His choice stems from his following of the Mormon religion and eating foods that are as close to ‘the source’ as possible. He still follows this lifestyle today!

I did spend some time in my early teens being vegetarian – but that was mostly because I would rather eat grilled cheese and spaghetti-o’s than my mom’s pork chops and tuna casserole. I was not a ‘healthy’ vegetarian. But, at the same time I have never really been a carnivore either. I’ve never been a real meat-eater – my favorite thing at J. Alexander’s steak house is their veggie burger! Now, I’ll admit, I have enjoyed a well cooked beef or chicken meal at an event where it’s served to me.  But, I don’t go out of my way to seek them out at restaurants.

Fast forward to recent history (i.e. The last three years or so). A few years ago I read Skinny Bitch which is a heavily pro-vegan book. It has been a while since I read it, so many of the exact details escape me. I do remember it making me decide against using artificial sweeteners like Splenda because it’s just a hairs-breadth away from a pesticide. I remember there was quite a bit of graphic information about animal processing – but at the time that wasn’t important to me so those details escape me at the moment. I know it’s a quick read, and I should perhaps re-read that one!

Then comes 2009, my husband started a new job as an Engineering Designer at Caterpillar. The engineer he was assigned to work with is vegan. He has had a standing challenge out to everyone in their workgroup that if they read The China Study, he will take them out for a vegetarian burrito at their favorite burrito place. My husband kept reminding me of this, so after living in our home for 5 1/2 years, I finally made it to the library and got a library card! I briefly forgot about The China Study, but had just seen the Oprah Show that featured a vegan challenge. One of the authors featured was Kathy Freston who wrote Veganist: Lose Weight, Get Healthy, Change the World.  Then I figured out how to check out e-books from our library on my iPad – and this was the first. I read it in two days! I was amazed by the information I was reading!

First is about the human body. We’re not designed to eat animal matter – we don’t have razor-sharp teeth or claws made for tearing flesh. If you look at the digestive track of a true carnivore it’s straight  and only 6 feet long so the meat is processed and passed through before it has a chance to rot. Our intestines are 20 feet long and slow-moving – it takes 72 hours for meat to pass through our system, animal protein rots before it makes it through.  Then there are the environmental aspects of industrial animal farming.  As my husband remembered while eating his Wendy’s Double Stack the other day… “this burger took 8 pounds of corn to get.” And cows aren’t meant to eat corn! So, corn is being grown to feed cattle on land that could be used to grow food for us!  There are over 20 billion heads of livestock on earth – just think of all the resources that are being used on them, and they in turn wreak havoc on the environment… their waste has to go somewhere too!

Then came The China Study by Dr. T. Colin Campbell and Thomas M. Campbell II.  I remembered it, and requested it through inter-library transfer.  This book isn’t a ‘diet’ book – but really the summation of various studies surrounding nutrition and diseases of affluence (such as heart disease and cancer among others).  Also, it features Dr. Campbell’s troubles with getting this knowledge out and having it be widely accepted because of lobbyists and governmental bureaucracy.  Now, I’m not even remotely medically or nutritionally trained (yet) – but I had an interest in going down that road when I was younger, so I do have a basic understanding of biology and our bodies functions.  The biggest ‘ah ha’ that I got from this book was the basic knowledge that there are certain basic nutrients that our bodies need to thrive – all of them can be found in a whole foods based diet.  Cholesterol is a by product of our bodies processes, it is not a nutrient that we need to add to our body in order to stay healthy.  Cholesterol is NOT found in any whole foods – only in animal proteins.  Our society has also become too ‘detail oriented’ when it comes to food.  It’s all about how many calories, or how much fat, but no one is looking at the whole picture.  Sure a chicken breast has less fat than a steak, but it has the same if not more cholesterol – which is worse for you in the big picture.

Then there’s the animals – anytime you look up vegan or think of famous vegans, PETA is usually one of the first sites to come up.  And there’s the videos about industrial farming and meat processing and how animals are mistreated.  That is all terrible – but at the same time there are also farms and processing plants that do treat their animals with the utmost respect and humanity.  You have to decide what’s most important to you.  I’ve watched these videos – and yes, they are graphic and horrible – they are not the thing that made me decide to go down this road.  The interesting thing is that my husband on the other hand, was ‘along for the ride’.  I’m the one who cooks, so he has to eat what I make at home.  I figured if I could get him to at least eat vegan at home, that would be one step in the right direction.  He’d rather spend his free time playing the latest video game than reading a book about nutrition studies.  But, a few days back he found those PETA videos online and watched them.  Since then, he’s ordered the vegetarian burrito when out to lunch with work.  He asked me to try some different frozen lunches for him to take to work… ones that are vegan or vegetarian.  And, while he did order that Double Stack with cheese the other day – he admitted that he really didn’t feel very well after eating it!  So, if it took those videos for him to ‘see the light’ about veganism – I’m fine with that!

So, I’m taking a nutritional approach to my vegan eating – avoiding cholesterol, and focusing on plant-based ingredients.  But the more I read about things that I would consider nutritionally vegan (like white sugar, for instance) the more I learn facts that are just kind of gross.  They use cow bones as a filtering agent when processing the sugar – ick!  I would say that I’m definitely still in transition – I’m trying new recipes and products that follow the vegan path, and as I use up my pantry staples I’ll switch to things that follow a more fully vegan ideal.  There are so many pro’s to eating vegan in terms of health.  More energy, less tummy trouble, your body finds its own healthy balance in terms of weight – there’s no need to count calories or fat.  All in exchange for meat, dairy, and eggs.  I’ll take it!

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1 Response to "Why Vegan?"

The China Study was one of the first books I read after going vegan. I now go out of my way to make sure casein is not in any product I eat or put on my body. While I went vegan for the animals, like you I’ll take all the health benefits that go with it! Good luck on your vegan journey.

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