Chicago Monthly investigates how this summer’s Veganism obsession may be more than a fad diet.
A raw commitment: Veganism
This summer the “Raw Diet” has created quite a stir. What most fad dieters don’t know is that a “Raw Diet” is very similar to being vegan. Both of these diets are plant-based and emphasize an overdramatic use of vegetables. Raw encourages people not to cook a product so all the nutritional enzymes stay within. Vegan does not take the term “raw” as literally. Foods can be cooked as long as all the food is animal free and environmentally safe.
What is vegan?
A vegan diet is plant-based and mainly consists of fruits, vegetables, seeds, whole grains and legumes. A vegan is a person who chooses to refrain from all animal products believing that not eating animal products is a lifestyle choice that betters the environment, people and animals. Taking vegetarianism one-step further, vegans do not consume eggs from birds or dairy products with mammals’ milk. Ethical vegans will even abstain from wearing leather and fur.
Why go vegan?
Now that science has affected the breeding process of animals, the environment is less healthy. The number one cause of climate change in our world is animal farming creating a high rated carbon footprint. To produce cheap meats, dairy products and eggs, farmers will force feed their herd unhealthy foods and treat them abusively.
Ashley Palmer, vegan and assistant manager of online marketing for PETA says, “Animals are killed by the billions, crammed by the thousands into filthy, windowless sheds and confined to wire cages, gestation crates and barren dirt lots. They are denied everything that is natural and important to them and most won’t even feel the sun on their backs or breathe fresh air until the day they are loaded onto trucks and sent to slaughter. Plus, there are topless amounts of products that are delicious and lighter on the environment that involve no animal cruelty.”
What are the health benefits of going vegan?
The vegan diet is low in saturated fat that are mainly found in meats and dairy products. Reduced saturated fat helps improve cardiovascular health. Fruits and vegetables provide vast amounts of fiber, creating a healthy digestive system and decreases the chances of colon cancer. Seasonal berries are filled with antioxidants, which are proven to help fight and prevent cancers. A healthy vegan diet will consist of protein found in quinoa, legumes, tofu and flax seeds. Those products are also low in fat and loaded with dietary fiber, leading to a healthy body. Processed foods are great for on-the-go type people, but are not highly recommended due to hidden sugars.
Victoria Moran, creator of the “ALT” (avocado, lettuce, tomato) vegan substitute of the American “BLT, ” says, “This is a way where heart disease can actually be reversed.” Moran author of Main Street Vegan continues by adding, “I’ve kept 60 lbs off for 28 years and I don’t think I look my age!” Moran suggests making your plate “look like a Christmas tree” by using mostly green vegetables and sprinkling other vegetable colors on top.”
Beccah Thomas, a 23 year-old vegan, says, “it just FEELS GOOD to know you’re doing something awesome for your body without stressing over counting calories, and I never feel deprived. I’m also helping out the little critters as well as everyone else, because it’s so much better for the environment!” Thomas’s skin cleared up, her allergies were less extreme, she had more energy, slept better at night and lost ten pounds her first month as a vegan.
Palmer comments, “Vegan diets avoid cholesterol, which personally runs in my family, and can be avoided by abstaining from animal products. Studies show that eating meat is linked to heart disease, diabetes, high cholesterol, obesity and cancer.”
Karyn Calabrese, a holistic health counselor and native Chicagoan, owns three popular raw/vegan restaurants in Chicago as well as a wellness center. “There are countless benefits of becoming vegan, including a stronger immune system, anti-aging properties and being kinder to the planet,” says this thriving entrepreneur.
Also, keep in mind that half the population is lactose intolerant meaning their bodies cannot even digest dairy. Veganism shows how only natural foods are best for the body.
How would one transition into a vegan diet?
There are many options, the most popular being cold turkey (no pun intended). Stop eating animals and all of their products as if they were never part of your diet.
Others need a slow transition and could seek help from a health coach.Kathleen Kasprzak, health coach, says, “I assist individuals in the dynamic process of reaching their specific nutrition and lifestyle goals. Through education, support, guidance and accountability, I work with individuals that are ready for change! The next step is creating the balance between our ‘life’ and nutritional choices. It is all of what and who we are and the environment that is created externally as well as internally. This is a Holistic approach that recognizes ‘you’ and creating the necessary ‘balance’ in your life.” Learning about yourself and the needs of your body will help determine what foods make you feel full and happy. Keep a diary of the food you’ve eaten and how they affect your mood, weight and energy level.
Remember not to deprive yourself. Do not think about becoming vegan as a crash diet or a quick fix. This is a lifestyle choice to better the environment, animals, and yourself.
Where can I find more information?
Vegan is hot this summer. “I highly suggest reading The Kind Diet by Alicia Silverstone, it gives facts and strongly supported arguments, as well as recipes for any level of interest: for those who are “just flirting” and for those who are pretty committed,” Thomas says.
PETA is a strong and loud supporter of the vegan movement. “PETA’s website has tons of information with new recipes every week and many resources to help with transitioning to vegan paired with encouragement,” suggests Palmer. Also Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer sheds light into factory farming. Foer compares livestock, destined to be slaughtered for human consumption, to our family dog. Another good read is Animal Liberation by Peter Singer, where Singer argues that animals feel suffering the same way humans do.
My journey as a vegan, begins NOW! Since writing this article I have pledged to try veganism for 30 days. I feel as a writer is it my obligation to my work and my readers to be open minded about the materials I write about and pursue every challenge brought my way. Put good karma in your body and go vegan with me!
Weekly updates on my vegan experience will be posted as well as streamed on twitter, follow my experience on @chicagomonthly
By: Erin Rachel Doppelt