The “V WORDS” –Vegetarian and Vegan

This is a BIG topic. I feel I have to address it because of my previous posts about finding a dietary theory that is right for you. There’s a lot of information out there on the web, so if you want to know a ton of facts and opinions on this subject, try Googling it. I will give you a slice of input from my perspective.

I became a vegetarian in 1979, sort of. I’d had digestive issues since I could remember, and my doctors did not have an answer for me; so I decided to try eliminating meat. But I was still a teenager, and didn’t know much about being vegetarian. I’m sure I ate quite a lot of hidden meat and meat broth at family gatherings and parties, never being the wiser. People didn’t know what to do with me when I showed up for a meal. My boyfriend’s aunt went to a lot of trouble to make me a lovely cheese soufle. (Good thing I wasn’t vegan!)

Home Grown Produce

Home Grown Produce

The problem with my diet in those days was not so much the absence of meat, but the lack of nutrients. I was still eating a lot of pizza, cinnamon rolls, and other junk food, along with a fair amount of homemade foods that were decent but still not so nutritious. Eventually, when I was expecting my first child, I began to crave meat intensely. My 7-year stint as a vegetarian was over.

Here’s the thing: people who do well as vegetarians eat nutritious foods! I’m talking about foods that are loaded with antioxidants, or essential fatty acids, or polyphenols, or fiber, or some other beneficial nutrients. These are the foods that, if you shop at Whole Foods, rank high on the ANDI scale. We sometimes call them “superfoods.”

Kale- a perfect ANDI score- is nutritionally dense.

Kale- a perfect ANDI score- is nutritionally dense.

Vegetarians typically leave meat (including fish and chicken) out of their diets. Pescatarians include fish, flexitarians eat mostly vegetarian, but will include the “no no” foods on occasion, as I understand it. Then there are the vegans. When I first heard about this way of eating, I could simply not believe that anyone would voluntarily give up cheese and ice cream!

Vegans do not eat any animal products. That includes, eggs, honey, gelatin, and things most people never think about. Some people choose veganism for health reasons; many go this route for philosophical reasons. Ultimately, some people thrive as vegans; some do not. This is where bio-individuality comes in.

So what’s my opinion? Well, ironically, I now eat some meat, though I am very particular that it be mostly local, and always humanely and naturally raised. (I know that the word “natural” means absolutely nothing on a label. When I say it, I mean that the animals eat pretty much what they would in nature, and are allowed to be outdoors and behave as nature intended.) I am not really eating dairy products, the thing I thought I could never live without. I occasionally eat sheep yogurt; but I do not seem to tolerate much dairy.

Cows eating grass, as they are intended to do.

Cows eating grass, as they are intended to do.

I think it is important to state my opinion as to sustainability. I agree with many vegans when I say that the way we are currently raising animals and farming is not sustainable. It won’t work from an environmental perspective, nor from a health perspective. I applaud people who raise any of their own food, support local growers, or raise animals, even for food, in a humane and compassionate way. I encourage my clients to be connected to their food–know where it comes from and even form relationships with farmers and growers.

If you are interested in trying vegetarianism or veganism, get some good info and some support from a friend or health professional. Give it a good try, at least a month. See how you feel. It can be very therapeutic to eliminate animal products. People have lost weight and recovered from serious illnesses by doing this for a time, or permanently. Check out Neal Barnard M.D. and his 21 Day Vegan Kickstart by clicking here. Also, take a look at Brenda Davis R.D. by clicking here. Both of these people are well respected and knowledgeable vegans. For cool vegan superfood recipes, David Wolfe is a favorite of mine.

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