Monday, October 1, 2012
Why Be Vegan -- Part 2
I started my last post by saying I was going to talk about all the reasons to be vegan. Then I got going about my friend Opal the turkey, and ended up with a huge-ass post that didn't cover anything other than animal rights and animal welfare. Lots of vegans, myself included, would say we don't need another reason to go vegan. Animal agriculture is cruel, and animals are not ours to use. Period. But the fact is, there are other good reasons to follow a vegan diet even if you couldn't care less about animals (but if that's you, why are you here?), and I want to talk about a biggie: your health.
When you talk about going vegan, there are plenty of people, including nutritionists who should know better, who say "but you need to eat animal products for your health!" I actually used to believe this. I didn't think there was some magic Vitamin M that was only found in meat, but I had absorbed a lifetime of dairy industry propaganda, which says that if you don't drink milk or consume other dairy products, your bones will turn into rubber bands and you will keel over from lack of calcium. I honestly worried about that (I had also hypnotized myself into believing that organic milk comes from happy cows. But I've already covered that subject). Somehow those milk mustache ads have the power to convince otherwise intelligent people that unlike every other mammal on the planet, they need to consume the milk of other species after weaning in order to survive. Here's what I found out: not only do we not need animal products to be healthy, we are actually far better off without them.
There's plenty of research about heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and many other medical conditions, and how a vegan diet helps prevent or reverse them all. You should go read all that stuff if you're interested. Neal Barnard's book about diabetes and Caldwell Esselstyn's book about heart disease are especially compelling. I just want to take a little space here to talk about my own experience.
I transitioned from fishatarian (seduced by the low-carb people -- I'm spilling all my dirty secrets here) to vegan after being diagnosed with Type II diabetes. That's not why I went vegan -- I went vegan for all the reasons discussed in my previous post, plus lots of other information I was too squeamish to put on my blog. It was just a coincidence. And these days, I am a low-fat, whole-foods, sugar-free sort of vegan. That didn't happen right away. But here's what was crazy -- as soon as I went vegan my blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol, all of which were ridiculously high on my ovo-lacto, fishatarian diet, started to go down. It is possible to eat a lot of crap and still be vegan -- it's not hard at all to find vegan chips, candy, cookies, and ice cream -- and believe me, I did. But even while I was eating the crap, my numbers went down. Just getting rid of the animal fat and protein made a huge, huge difference. I wasn't expecting that, and that isn't why I went vegan. But it happened.
Then I started reading the stuff in the links above, and changed my diet for the better. Losing 65 pounds also didn't hurt (although to all the fat-shamers out there I want to say that I'm still "overweight," all my numbers are awesome, and my very traditional, allopathic Western doctor is thrilled, so fuck you). I won't go into the details or the reasons here -- maybe I will in a future post, or, y'know, you could go read a book. But going vegan immediately improved my health. Not to mention the health of all those animals I wasn't eating. So yay.
Happy World Vegetarian Day!