Tuesday, May 10, 2011
Why Going Vegan Is Good For You And The Planet... Plus You Get To Eat Cupcakes Too!
I have never really taken my health into too much consideration, even after I was diagnosed with severe diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Even after having two heart attacks in 2004, I took note, but did not make too many changes to my eating life-style. I cut many things down to moderation, but drastic change, not-so-much.
Maybe it is laziness, or maybe its the old 'bury your head in the sand' idea that I had when I was much younger, and seemed "invincible"; whatever it was, I really didn't put too much effort into creating that kind of change.
When I was younger, I used to be able to think about losing weight, cut down on my portions, and the numbers on the scale dropped down easily and without too much effort. Not-so-much since I hit my mid-thirties. Now it seems everything is taking a lot more effort. And it seems my health is waring more on my body and screaming at me to start paying attention.
So as my birthday loomed large, I began to take note clearly of what was going in to my body as well as start looking at other factors of what I was ingesting.
A couple of my vegan friends began to talk to me about veganism, another friend began to implement it in to her diet. Even Oprah and her entire staff did a one week vegan only stint. I even stumbled upon a bakery here in the Valley that makes vegan cupcakes. Was this some Divine sign that I was supposed to start looking more at this lifestyle?
So, I began to do some research into veganism, and learned that it is not only a much healthier life-style, but it is also healthier for our environment and our planet. What I learned was really eye-opening.
Remove the whole PETA stance and animal rights, etc. (and yes, the idea of killing an animal for my culinary enjoyment does bear a bit of a burden on me, as I am such an animal lover), but instead I looked at the costs to the environment that animal agriculture causes. It was really not something that I had given much thought to previously.
This is what I learned...:
1) Animal agriculture takes a devastating toll on the earth. It is an inefficient way of producing food, since feed for farm animals requires land, water, fertilizer, and other resources that could otherwise have been used directly for producing human food.
3) Animal waste from massive feedlots and factory farms is a leading cause of pollution in our groundwater and rivers.
4) The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization has linked animal agriculture to a number of other environmental problems, including: contamination of aquatic ecosystems, soil, and drinking water by manure, pesticides, and fertilizers; acid rain from ammonia emissions; greenhouse gas production; and depletion of aquifers for irrigation.
5) In a time when population pressures have become an increasing stress on the environment, there are additional arguments for a vegan diet. The United Nations has reported that a vegan diet can feed many more people than an animal-based diet. For instance, projections have estimated that the 1992 food supply could have fed about 6.3 billion people on a purely vegetarian diet, 4.2 billion people on a 85% vegetarian diet, or 3.2 billion people on a 75% vegetarian diet. [Source]
Ever since watching An Inconvenient Truth a few years ago, I have been even more keen and aware of the environment, as well as doing my part in reusing, recycling, using alternative products in an effort to reduce greenhouse gases. I even changed every light bulb in my house to energy efficient ones, which has actually reduced my electric bill each year.
So when I began my research in to this lifestyle, I was impressed to take the cost to the environment that meat producing agriculture presents.
Turning to my health, I think drinking the glass of milk I did the other night, and the reaction my body had to it (it has long been suspected that I was lactose intolerant), kind of put another peg on the positive side to veganism.
My husband and I discussed the options, and while there are times where I crave meat, for the most part, I can easily do without. We have decided to implement a vegan-ISH diet into our lives. We're starting slowly, we're seeing how it works out.
One of my friends suggested replacing one meal a day with something vegan. When he first suggested this, my thoughts went straight to my bowels and gas-filled intestines from all the beans we'd be eating. But the more I began to ask questions, the more I was told that most things can easily be replaced with a vegan alternative; including *gasp* ice-cream and... cup cakes! Which I tried for the first time this past week when I treated myself to a vegan cup-cake from Cruelty Free Cupcakes located at Joe's Farm Grill in Gilbert Arizona.
I was not quite sure what I expected with the cup-cakes, initial thoughts of something dry and more than likely taste-less or possibly, too sweet. I've tried unleavened cakes at Passover time before, and was expecting something quite... "sandy" in texture and flavour.
So, while I was excited to give it a try, I wanted to make sure I was "ready" for this, cup of milk in hand "just in case". I was so tremendously surprised. Any misconceived notion of "sand", "dried out, tasteless, falling to pieces" cake flew out the window. It was incredibly moist. The Chocolate Espresso frosting was heavenly. I have to say, it was one of the best cupcakes I have ever tried.
The only problem with this new craving, is the fact that all weekend I have been craving more! I would definitely say that they are addicting after only one bite. The fact that they are vegan would surprise even the most discerning of animal product aficionado.
As I watched videos online on "how-to" recipes, I began to see how easy it truly was to replace daily items with vegan alternatives. Gardein makes a whole range of products that are meat substitutes. I have yet to make it over to Whole Foods and check out their selections, but I am pretty excited to give them a try.
I have been using TVP (Textured Vegetable Protein) for several years, and have had great success with it.
So I guess the question arises, am I foregoing meat and all meat product for a complete 100% vegan lifestyle? That is hard to say where I am sitting right now. I have a husband who adores meat with a crazed obsession, and so this experimentation of replacing a couple of meals a week with a vegan alternative, is going to be interesting.
He focuses very much on textures as well as flavours; to date, we've not had much success with tofu which is something I grew up with and love. But in looking at some variations in cooking methods, I think I am getting a better understanding in the versatility that tofu has, and will definitely be getting in to the kitchen to experiment and then see how my husband likes what I've created. And yes, it mainly will consist of "fooling" his taste buds in to believing that he isn't actually missing out on flavour or texture.
As it stands, we're replacing a couple of meals a week with a vegan alternative, in hopes that we'll eventually be eating meat-based products a couple of times a week, and eventually not-at-all.
I'll definitely keep you posted on our new adventure and journey.
Happy Cooking, Happy Eating!
Links for more information:
Vegetarian/Vegan Starter Kit
"Eating for Life"
"57 Health Benefits of Going Vegan"
Eating Vegan for the Environment
The Vegan Society
Vegan vs. Vegetarian - What Kind of Diet is Best For The Environment
The Vegan Club