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5 May 2006

Being Vegan


Being a vegan is nothing of mythic proportions - Lavinia Roberts is a Parson sophomore in English and theatre and film. Friday May 5th 2006.

I’m used to getting strange looks from people. If I’m not getting sideways glances for wearing mint green Doris Day-like dresses with holey blue jeans or dancing in the rain in my night gown in the afternoon, I always get a strange look whenever I tell people I’m a vegan. Some people have an expression of disbelief upon hearing that a fellow homo sapien could be alive and standing without animal products in their diet. Some look in awe that I can sustain such a complex lifestyle. Others glare back in mocking disgust because they themselves need meat. Most non-vegans seem to have a great many misconceptions about vegans.

I will dispel some of these myths.

MYTH 1: You must have a hard time getting protein.

In reality, protein is in almost everything and requires no “planning” to acquire. Ever look at the protein in whole grain bread? Pasta? Glance at a helping of peas, beans, rice, lentils, cereal, peanut butter, nuts, granola bars or any other foods you already have in your cabinets. Protein is in just about everything. A vegan does need to remember to take a multi-vitamin containing B12 and iron, but besides that, the lifestyle is pretty low maintenance.

MYTH 2: Your diet must be unbearably restrictive.

In actuality, a strictly vegan diet isn’t a diet, but a lifestyle. There are no food restrictions, only new and delicious alternatives. Thanks to the popularity of the vegetarian and vegan lifestyle, there are lots of affordable and scrumptious substitutes for any of your favorite foods. Plus, there are a lot of everyday foods that you wouldn’t expect to be vegan. Plus, I’ve opened myself up to a lot of wonderful dishes I might not have discovered eating the same old chicken and potatoes that I fared upon as a kid.

MYTH 3: I would die without meat.

There are so many good meat substitutes that are a lot cheaper, easier to prepare, and more delicious than meat. Tofu, vegan grillers and falafel are just a few examples of easy and fast vegan foods that will make you completely forget about taking the time to cook and spend money on meat.

MYTH 4: Vegans are the most unhealthy people on the planet.

Researching the answer to this question was tricky. A great many of the Web sites with information about veganism are pro-vegan. Instead of relying on biased information, I looked at different and recent research by the American Cancer Institute and other government sanctioned research in both the United States and the United Kingdom. All the research indicated that vegans and vegetarians are, as a group, significantly more healthy than their omnivore counterparts. Vegans have a greatly reduced risk for heart disease and various cancers.

Still, there is a controversy about pregnant women and children adopting the vegan lifestyle, so more research is needed.

From personal experience, I can vouch for the health benefits and energy I have gained from switching to veganism. I’ve lost weight in a healthy way, without reverting to starving or strange, cardboard flavored diet bars. I have more energy. An acne problem that I had for more than three years and visited multiple dermatologists about is gone.

I also feel better not eating animal products and not supporting the meat packing industry. Still, diet and exercise is vital to any healthy lifestyle, so mine isn’t ideal unless dancing in the rain qualifies as exercise.

Being vegan does make you check all food labels for animal products. I’ve become aware of all the weird preservatives and unhealthy ingredients found in a lot of processed food.

MYTH 5: Being vegan only encompasses diet.

Veganism does spread to other animal products, such as fur, feather, and leather. Refraining from using toiletries and other products that are tested on animals or contain animal products is another part of the vegan lifestyle.

Overall, I don’t expect to change anyone’s dietary view point. I merely hope to show that a vegan diet isn’t as far-fetched or as challenging as people may believe. As a long time vegetarian, I always viewed dietary veganism as impossible despite my convictions to refrain from using all animal products. But, after finally buckling down with the lifestyle and experiencing the benefits, I understand why others can stick with veganism. The lifestyle isn’t as complicated or as challenging as you think.


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