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OPINION: Vegan is the best way to live

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Liz West/(CC BY 2.0) | The Daily Wildcat Consuming more vegetables is not just good for your health, it's good for the planet. Going meatless, or reducing meat consumption can help the world.

This summer I really tried to focus on my health. I cut out red meat, as well as dairy — mostly just milk, 'cuz cheese is life — but that wasn’t enough for me.

In July, Netflix came out with a film called "What the Health." If you haven’t heard of it or already watched it, I urge you to do so. It explores the health benefits of cutting out animal products, like meat and dairy, from the diet.

If you don’t see yourself sitting down to watch a 2-hour documentary about how dairy and meat will basically kill you, visit the film's website for a breakdown of the stats discussed in the movie.

I would say the biggest takeaway is that many of the diseases discussed in the film, although somewhat genetic, could be reduced or reversed by adhering to a plant-based diet.

The movie shows multiple adults on medicine for breathing problems, not being able to walk, heart problems, etc., but once they started a plant-based diet, they were able to get off the medicine and live a better, healthier life. Heart disease is 57 percent lower in lifelong vegans than in meat eaters, according to the film. 

This inspired me because I tend to overthink everything. When my stomach hurts, I turn to WebMD only to have it tell me I’m dying. With that being said, if something in my future — such as getting a life-threatening disease can be changed — I might as well try it. 

So, I did. I did it. I became vegan. With no support from my friends or family, I took the initiative to start living a cleaner, healthier lifestyle. My first stop on my train to veganism was Whole Foods.

I spent over an hour reading the ingredients, Googling “best vegan foods” and “must have vegan items.” I gathered my ingredients and went home to prepare my first vegan meal.

I made vegan stuffed shells. I did not tell my brother the meal was vegan because that would be an automatic turnoff, and he would head straight for the frozen chicken nuggets (which my dad bought for him in case he didn't like the stuffed shells). 

The result? He liked it! He had no idea there was no cheese in the stuffed shells and he went back for seconds. It was important to prove to him that being vegan doesn't mean only eating leaves.

In today’s world there is dairy-free cheese, non-dairy ice cream... basically anything you eat now can be made vegan.

About 6 percent of Americans now identify as vegan, according to a 2017 report, up from only 1 percent in 2014. The benefits speak for themselves, considering that consuming animal fats are linked to illnesses such as diabetes, arthritis, heart disease and various cancers. 

I am now about 8 months into being vegan and 6 months into my sophomore year of college. It is exciting being the only one of my friends who is vegan because I am able to continue eating healthy (except for the vegan cookie dough binges, which my roommates seem to enjoy as they ate my new box of it). 

I feel like a new person because of this healthy, clean eating.

I do not get as tired day to day. I find myself full of energy, ready to finish all my homework, and can finally fit working out into my routine. I find the most difficult part of being vegan is doing it while at college.

Since I do not have a car, getting to the grocery store for fresh food is hard, and driving to vegan-friendly restaurants is a challenge. I do, however, have my own kitchen, which allows me cook and prep my food how I like it.

I am up for the challenge to see how long I can keep up the vegan lifestyle, before missing Parmesan cheese on my pasta becomes too much.

Now, I am not a health expert or know-it-all on this subject, but I have done my research. I know this movie has another side, and there are people that say going plant-based is not the best lifestyle it cannot provide all the necessary nutrients.

My parents were some of those people, concerned that not eating meat was going to basically kill me. But after getting blood work done over winter break to see if I was indeed getting all my nutrients, the results showed no deficiencies — my levels of essential nutrients like protein and iron were normal and healthy.

Some of my favorite vegan restaurants are Lovin’ Spoonful’s, which features a full vegan menu, Guadalajara Grill with their amazing veggie fajitas (and fresh salsa and guacamole) and of course, Goodness, with their many vegan bowls.


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