You’re a what? – is a common response when one hears the words – “I’m a vegan.”
If you’re like most Americans, you know a lot more about vegetarianism and little, if anything, about veganism. In the near future, you may find out a lot more about this “way of life” as more and more medical professionals are beginning to realize that America is “food pyramid-ing” their way into heart disease, obesity, kidney problems and a slew of other preventable illnesses.
Recently, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, PCRM, released a powerful PSA touting the benefits of adopting a vegan diet. The website offers information about the Vegan diet and how to make the transition from meat eater to plant eater.
Being a vegan isn’t as complicated as its name may suggests. In a nutshell, vegans, in addition to being vegetarian, do not use other animal products and by-products such as eggs, honey and dairy products similar to the GI Diet. In its’ most extreme form, leather, fur, silk, wool, and cosmetics and soaps derived from animals are avoided. Let’s just deal with the dietary aspects for now.
The PCRM describes the vegan way as a “revolutionary diet for a powerful, healthy body,” and rightly so. The vegan diet is free of cholesterol, extremely low in fat and high in fiber and plant vitamins and nutrients.
To get started, basically, you must forget everything you’ve learned about the food pyramid where dairy and meats make up 2 separate groups. Numerous studies show that meat and dairy products are not necessary for proper nutrition. The basic 4 (included in the pyramid) was created by the U.S Department of Agriculture in 1950. It was not established upon firm, scientifically based principles of human nutrition, but rather upon the economics and politics of meat and dairy production.
The vegan food groups are based on foods that come from the earth; whole grains, vegetables, fruits and Legumes. Devised in 1991 by the PCRM, the 4 groups assures an adequate mix of amino acids, essential fats, complex carbohydrates and vitamins and minerals.
The vitamins and minerals you get from following the food pyramid are the same ones you get from eating a vegan diet, except with a vegan diet you don’t get the fat, saturated fat, cholesterol and calcium leaching animal proteins that wreak havoc on the human body.
We are taught from a very young age that strong healthy bones come from drinking milk and strength comes from eating meat. This is more of a myth than the truth. Because of our conditioning, many common concerns arise for those considering a vegetarian or vegan diet such as: iron and vitamin B12 deficiency, calcium deficiency and lack of protein.