Decoding vegan myths, and how not to be an excuse-atarian.
June 23, 2012
Filed under Opinions
“Oh… you’re vegan? Really? So, like, what do you eat?” Veganism and plant based lifestyles are subjects that people know little about. Some people are misinformed and some had no idea what being vegan is. I’ve heard a lot of misconceptions since transitioning to a plant-based diet and I’d like to set the record straight on a few things.
Vegans often get a bad rap, like we’re some pushy, people hating, hippies who don’t shower. Whenever veganism or plant-based lifestyles are mentioned, and someone explains or discusses about what veganism is, the first thing that is brought up by people who aren’t vegan is “I love animals but I can’t afford to be vegan” defending their omnivorous lifestyle. I’m not saying everyone has to be vegan, ideally that would be very nice. I just want to define and reveal common myths about the vegan lifestyle. After reading this, I don’t want you to feel like you have to go vegan, I just want you to stop being an excuse-atarian.
Myth: “I can’t be vegan; I love the taste of meat and cheese.”
Ironically, and possibly a bit hypocritical of me, but I was once was of these people to say that. I honestly never really ate pig, or beef, mainly just chicken and fish until my friend at the time had got me to try Pho; I was hooked instantly. After having lots of pho and cheese pizza the thought of being vegan and giving up those two things seemed impossible and ridiculous. I’m not perfect, and I definitely did not jump right on the vegan bandwagon, however when I read and learned more about it I gave it a shot. I dropped the meat for a month so I could test how I felt after abstaining from it, and then reintroducing it to my diet. A month or so went by, and I completely dropped it for good. There was really no turning back for me. There was still one problem, I loved cheese. I gave up milk, and eggs I rarely ate anyway, but damn… that cheese had me hooked. Literally the casein protein that is found in cheese is known to have an addictive quality on people, almost acting like a drug. (http://www.thetastyvegan.com/blog/hooked-on-cheese-why-some-people-are-physically-addicted-to-dairy/) I wanted to test the waters once more, and I made it 6 days without cheese, I had caved for my favourite veggie pizza at a restaurant. I knew I was better than that, and since then have not touched any dairy products, including cheese. I can tell you about a month after dropping cheese, I didn’t find myself craving it anymore. When I make homemade pizza’s at home, I use Daiya cheese, which is vegan, and melts like the same old cheese I, used to eat.
There are lots of resources available if you want to go vegan, such as support groups dedicated to helping make the transition from a omnivorous lifestyle to a plant based one easier there are a few apps on iTunes are also helpful, includes: “21 day kick start to vegan”, “animal free” and “whole foods” which has a recipe finder on the app where you can search recipes based on budget as well as dietary preferences. You can still have all the favourite foods that you love now. A lot of vegan cook books have mock recipes, and if you type “vegan [-insert favourite food -]‘“ into Google you’ll have no trouble finding resources to recreate your old classics. I cook food for myself and others, whether it’s orange carrot muffins with a “cream cheese” glaze, black bean burgers with caramelized onions, Garlic Naan bread, Asian inspired vegetable soup, or vegan pho and it’s always a crowd pleaser; I usually have people begging for the recipes.
Myth: “Being vegan is too expensive” Or “Veganism is white privilege.”
My friend once asked me “Isn’t it expensive, you know, being vegan?” and of course I was confused, as I pay for all of my own groceries, and it’s not expensive at all. If you cross meat, dairy, and eggs off your grocery list, we’ve already down sized roughly 70 dollars, depending on your usual intake of these foods. Meat like ground beef, chicken, steaks, bacon, etc, can often rack up your grocery bill, unless you shop the sales. Vegetables do not cost a lot in comparison. You can justify that organic vegetables are much more expensive than regular ones, but once you’ve taken the meat, dairy, and eggs out, organic vegetables often fill the void, and most likely still not cost as much. To be vegan you don’t have to buy organic, but there are many benefits to organic produce. Often staples like rice, beans, couscous, quinoa, almonds, peanut, sunflower seeds, and dried fruits can be bought in bulk which not only saves you money, but allows you to have food for months.
When buying fruits and vegetables, make sure you shop seasonally. Of course it’s going to be expensive if you buy strawberries in the winter time at eight dollars a box, where as in the summer it will be two dollars instead. Avoid pre-packaged, pre-cut, all done for your convenience fruits and vegetables; not only are they expensive, but once a vegetable has been cut it begins to lose nutrients. Imagine how long those packaged foods are sitting on the shelf; Best to just chop your own. Don’t be afraid to buy frozen vegetables as well, they are great for throwing into soups, stews or stir frys and are quick and easy for a lazy night.
I make a minimum wage, part time pay check, and still I pay for my own groceries, phone bill, gym membership, and other miscellaneous stuff. You do not have to be over privileged in order to be vegan. There are many ways to save money, and still live the lifestyle. The best bang for your buck is buying in bulk. Resources like cheapveg.tumblr.com, collegegirlvegan.tumblr.com, and various other websites are useful when in a really tight money situation, such as living on your own, or being in college!
Myth: You can’t get nearly enough protein as a vegan as you would on an omnivorous diet and meat protein is the only complex protein.
I have a love hate relationship with the question “So where do you get your protein?” It’s the most common question I’m asked. I hate it because I know that protein lies in ALL of the foods that we eat, and I love it because I love educating people and showing them that I can get more than sufficient amounts of protein on a vegan diet, even if I only ate green vegetables!
A lot of people seem to have this perception that the only protein that is good for you is protein that comes from an animal; in reality the reverse is true. Plant protein (whether complex, or not) is necessary for human survival. Believe it or not, between 100 calories of broccoli vs. 100 calories of steak, broccoli is the winner for the highest amount of protein. Whole grains are important in a vegan diet as they usually contain high amounts of protein. Faux meats are often grain based, which makes them high in protein. And logically, that’s just putting the two and two together. Legumes, nuts, seeds, are also high sources of protein.
Unless you aren’t eating anything, it’s virtually impossible to not be getting enough protein. Heart disease, diabetes, and stroke are all diseases that can be caused by excess amounts of animal protein. Have you ever heard of kwashiorkor? If you haven’t, this is because in developed nations we do not have protein deficiency; people in developing nations have kwashiorkor because they are experiencing starvation: this is not something that afflicts us.
Everyone says that being a vegan would be so hard, seeing so as I can definitely say that I once believed that too; the thing is being a smart and nourished vegan isn’t hard at all. All of the myths debunked in this article can get you started on the right track, doing a bit of research on your own, or picking up a few books isn’t difficult, and is strongly recommended.
Those of you who are interested in being vegan, cutting out somewhat dairy and/or eggs, or just plain curious should check out the following books: “The China Study” by T. Colin Campbell, “Skinny Bitch” by Kim Barnouin and Rory Freedman, “A Diet For a New America” by John Robbins, “The Kind Diet” by Alicia Silverstone. If you’re not all that into reading, which I don’t see why you would have read the article from the start to here, there are also a few movies that may inspire and educate you as well, such as: “The Cove”, “Forks Over Knives”, “Earthlings”, “Food Matters”, “A World Without Water”, “The Corporation”, “Milk: The Truth”, and “Food Inc.” These are not even all of the documentaries/movies, or things you can watch, there are plenty of interviews, movies, and information on the Internet.
Nothing is ever as hard as it seems. It might seem really difficult at first , but I promise you that being vegan is the best thing that I have ever done in my life, and it’s the best thing you can do for the environment and others around you. Keeping up with excuses seems a lot more difficult to me that trying something new out. Stop creating excuses for living a life with cruelty, disease, world hunger, ozone depletion, global warming, and continuously harming ourselves with what we call “food”.