I went vegan last year but I didn’t last that long. I was very strict with myself and I ended up feeling a bit difficult when I went out to restaurants or to dinner at a friends house, not only that, I didn’t feel educated enough on the subject to stand up to the judgment that seems to come with choosing a plant-based diet. I went back to eating chicken and fish to make life easier.
After watching ‘What the Health?’ a few weeks ago it re-ignited in me why I wanted to stop eating meat in the first place. I had already seen Cowspiracy and many other documentaries and YouTube videos that explained the effects of meat eating on the planet and so after all of this, plus doing a lot of research on the subject I have decided that I will be eating a mostly plant-based diet. I say mostly because if I’m out and its difficult to get a no meat/fish option then I may have some fish and I am happy about that because I know I’m not eating it with ignorance.
So, WHY should you choose a plant-based diet over one with meat in?
Well, for me one of the big things is my love of animals. I am forever ‘aww-ing’ at any animal I see, be it a sheep or a cow as I drive past a farm or just at a dog being walked! I started questioning, if I love animals so much, why do I think it’s ok to eat them? Especially because of the way they’re treated to provide the meat we put on our plates. Obviously with plant-based diets it also means no dairy, I’m lactose intolerant and have been for about 12 years now, so I had a head start. When I found out about the dairy industry I felt glad that I didn’t eat it. Most people don’t know that a cow is forced to be pregnant to produce the milk we drink and then most of the time, once they have given birth, their calves are taken from them. Oh and don’t even ask what is IN the milk we drink, it’s very unpleasant!
Next, your HEALTH! When eating a diet which consists of a lot of meat and dairy, we risk things like weight gain, heart disease, and diabetes, to name a few. Beef, whole or minced, is a great source of protein and essential nutrients, like iron and vitamin B12, which are vital for health. On the downside, however, red and processed meat tend to be high in saturated fat. Bacon and sausages have around 16 times more saturated fat per gram than tofu. If you are a cheese-eating vegetarian you should not feel too smug. Cheese is, gram for gram, an even richer source of saturated fat than burgers, which is why it’s a good idea to cut that out too or keep it as a treat!
On the other side of things, plant-based diets are low in energy density and high in complex carbohydrate, fiber, and water, which may increase energy!
There are a few myths about plant-based diets which question whether or not you get enough protein, one I am asked A LOT. It is very easy for a plant-based diet to meet the recommendations for protein. Nearly all vegetables, beans, grains, nuts, and seeds contain some, and often much, protein. Fruits, sugars, fats, and alcohol do not provide much protein, so a diet based only on these foods would have a good chance of being too low in protein. However, not many vegans (I know of) live on only bananas, sweets, margarine, and beer. Vegans eating varied diets containing vegetables, beans, grains, nuts, and seeds rarely have any difficulty getting enough protein as long as their diet contains enough calories to maintain weight.
Balance is key, like with most things and I actually think a mostly plant-based diet WITH local, organic, free-range meat, eggs from your own hens and sustainable fish would be a great way to eat. I am just choosing to cut it out because it’s what suits me at this present moment in my life!
I’ve been on this new diet for about 4 weeks now and I have to say I feel lighter in my body and I DO have more energy. I’ve eaten a bit of sustainable fish in that time and I didn’t feel as good the next day as I do when eating my plant-based meals. I have also been taking a B12 supplement, as that’s something that you can’t get from plants and I want to make sure I am getting everything I need to remain healthy.
I think it’s also important to just not label ourselves as this that or the other. Whatever you choose to do in your life is right for YOU and as soon as we say ‘I’m a vegan’ there is all of a sudden loads of judgment and rules. So, if I fancy a chocolate bar and I can’t get a milk free one, I WILL have one because that’s my choice.
Most importantly, I have realised how strong my love for animals is and that it makes me feel happier in my soul not to eat them. That’s what this all comes down to, listening to our bodies and to our hearts and living from that place.