I have been toying with the idea of going vegetarian for at least a year now. Over the weekend, I watched a documentary Forks over Knives, which got me thinking of potentially going vegan. I like to skip steps. Why walk when you can run?
I truly believe in the benefit of a plant-based diet and if I could save a few animals along the way...
The first reason I dismissed the idea is The Husband's ex-wife is a vegan. I could never be like her. I actually don't know her but who wants to be like your spouse's ex? They are ex's for a reason right?
The second reason I dismissed the idea because I thought of the things I would have to give up. Meat for one. Ice cream, honey, cheese. How can a person live without cheese? I love cheese. Doesn't everyone love cheese? What is better than a glass of Cabernet with a big ol’ stinky cheese? My mouth waters just thinking about.
I began writing this morning in hopes to work out my dilemma.
There are many types of vegetarians. Ones that eat eggs, ones that don't. Some that eat fish. Some that eat cheese. Others eat chicken and abstain from mammals. For some, the rule is don't eat anything with eyes or parents. It can all get to be a bit much. For the most part, I think we all know that vegetarians are people who don't eat meat.
Taking plant-based eating to the extreme are vegans. When I picture vegans, my mind sees a group of people in military fatigues standing with shotguns all of who are painfully thin. I know this is absolutely not true. Vegans, by definition, are vegetarians who omit ALL animal products from their diet.
When I picture carnivores, the picture isn't much different. I still see a group of people. They are just standing next to large slabs of meat hanging over a fire, sporting their 10 gallon hats. All of them are overweight but they too have shotguns (who says media has no influence). This too I know is not true.
Now that you see what I see, back to the dilemma.
The biggest problem with our meat today is that it is mass produced. Industrial animal factories. This is not a term that makes me comfortable. Our chickens, cows and pigs are bred to produce meat, the bigger and faster they grow, the more valuable. They are held in confined feedlots where they eat high protein grain-based feed and other unmentionables. This feed contains growth hormones and antibiotics. Once a cow gets to be 1400-1600 lbs., usually as a teenager, it is transported for slaughter. During the transportation process, the living conditions get worse. The animals are not used to being moved and often vomit and get diarrhea in the process. Not to mention they are deprived of food and water during the transport. I cannot describe to you what happens next as it is too upsetting. Needless to say, this is not the meat I want to eat. There is a week's worth to say about the antibiotics and hormones and the long term effects on us and our children.
Cows should eat grass.
On the flip side, we humans have been eating meat throughout evolution. Unprocessed meat is loaded with healthy fats and grass-fed animals contain up to 5 x's Omega 3 as corn fed animals. Meat contains high quality protein that is crucial for the function of muscles and bones. It is also delicious. If you choose to eat meat, look for grass fed, organic. You know the smaller farmer is also slaughtering his animals in a more humane way.
With that said, what are the benefit of going plant base? First, by eliminating processed meat from your diet you also eliminate saturated fat and cholesterol. The benefits of a plant-based diet range from nutrition:
· Increasing fiber,
· Reducing saturated fats
· Adding phytochemicals
· Vitamin C
To disease prevention:
· Cardiovascular disease
· Type 2 diabetes
· Colon cancer
· Breast cancer
· Macular degeneration
· Arthritis and osteoporosis
And physical benefits:
· Lower BMI
· Weight loss
· More energy
· Healthy glowing skin
· Less migraines
Again, on the flip side, there are people out there to claim to be vegan but don't know how to eat healthy. French fries (most likely cooked in animal fat) are not health food. Potato chips fall into this category too. The whole idea is to eat healthier (have you met the spiralizer yet? LOVE IT. Parnsaffles and zuchetti, yum!). At least that is my take on it. Not to forfeit food for a cause and be so militant in the lifestyle that you wind up alienating family & friends. Vegan cooking is less difficult with resources like Pinterest and Google with 1,000's of vegan and vegetarian recipes. Every day I search for vegan & vegetarian recipes and have made some wonderful discoveries.
Vegetarians on the other hand seem to be a bit more flexible. Cheese and eggs are allowed (if you are Octo-lacto). Wine is also allowed (thank goodness). Fish is allowed if you are pescatarian. It seems you can make up some rules for yourself instead of staunchly following vegan guidelines. I mean really, how to you sweeten tea if there is no honey in your life. I think I can fairly rule out veganism for me.
I think the best I have found so far is the flexitarian, mostly vegetarian but allows meat once in a while. The rule is you decide when and how you add meat to your diet.
I have found no hard and fast rules for flexitarians. Mark Bittman recently published a book: Vegan before 6. It’s worth a look.
In the end my dilemma is partially solved. Be mindful of everything you put in your body: choose organic meat, eat more plants, and choose what works for you and your lifestyle.