About three months ago, towards the end of December to be exact, I started to notice some gastral discomfort. I was unable to identify what exactly what causing such an unpleasant stomach reaction considering the fact that I eat fairly healthy. Thus, I decided to start from scratch and eliminating almost everything I usually eat for a month and slowly add my daily foods one at a time to help identify the cause of such pains. Since I strongly do not like “Juice cleanses” nor do I find them realistic and healthy, I decided to try veganism.
The entire month of January, all I ate were vegetables and carbohydrates, well for the most part. For those not familiar with veganism; A vegan (pronounced VEE-gun) is someone who, for various reasons, chooses to avoid using or consuming animal products. While vegetarians choose not to use flesh foods, vegans also avoid dairy and eggs, as well as fur, leather, wool, down, and cosmetics or chemical products tested on animals. (www.vegan.org). Therefore, for twenty eight days I mostly ate cereals, oatmeal and fruits for breakfast instead of eggs, feta or goat cheese. While lunch was much easier with my usual salad and veggie sandwiches. For dinner, no chicken nor fish were eaten ( I do not eat red meat for personal reasons; it was not difficult to eliminate). At first I thought it would be easy simply because I am passionate about healthy eating, thinking to myself that the transition would be easy. Well not quite. The tremendous advantage I found with veganism was the fast weight loss; I lost 15 pounds to be exact, for my body max index that is a lot. This can be explained by the fact that veganism diet is largely composed of unsaturated fat intake with energy-dense nutrients such as vegetable oils, nuts and seeds. Raw foods are known for reducing 9% of body fat within the first three months of dieting, but if eaten excessively it may deteriorate the body. As well, the body max index (BMI; your weight divided by your height) among vegans is estimated to be lower than among omnivores (those who eat everything). As well, veganism I found quickened my metabolism. Meaning, I was consuming many legumes which are hydrophilic and eating a lot of fibres; both are strong for secretion. Whilst foods high in fats and saturated, are hard breakdown by the digestive system and tends to accumulate in blood vessels. Despite the many health advantages of veganism such as weight loss, healthier eating, and not purchasing animals products turned out to be cheaper in cost.
However, through some research I found that veganism also has some disadvantages. One major debate is its deficiency in Vitamin B12 which are used for the maturation of red blood cells and the making of nerve tissues. These vitamins are not naturally found in plant food, but high in milk products. Strong deficiency of Vitamin B12 does not appear right away, rather shows signs later on when body damage may be too late to repair. Damages such as neurological issues may arise, thus a healthy vegan diet requires Vitamin B12 pills intake. Since I refuse to take any pills unless it is a life or death situation (personal life choices), if I were to pursue a life of veganism; I would be suffering. Especially among people of African descent where anemia is common through the recessive sickle cell gene, this may be very concerning. Especially if considering the fact that the red blood cells if strong, contains a great level of iron. Another nutrient that is much higher in animal based products. In that same token, another essential vitamin is a very popular one; “Sunlight vitamin” also known as Vitamin D. This is crucial for bone growth and is strongly absorbed with exposure to sunlight. Due to pigmentation differences, people of darker skin colour have lower levels of Vitamin D in comparison to Caucasians. Vitamin D are found in oily fish, eggs and meats. Since they are crucial for bone growth and strength, it is important for optimal growth of a newborn and children. That is why many vegans have been found to have low Vitamin D levels and are advised to take supplements for fortified foods.
One of the biggest arguments in modern day society is that veganism leads to a tremendous decrease in protein levels. This may be due to the fact that our society is so obsessed with protein intake, leading to many people overly consuming proteins thinking that it will give them “cut-board abs and gorgeous biceps”! In reality, anything taken excessively is not healthy. Don’t get me wrong, proteins are very important and essential in one’s diet. Matter fact, they are crucial for amino acids productions and regulation of hormones, which ultimately is the root of the human’s body functioning. And this is concerning among vegans, because their protein levels has been absorbed to be lower than those of omnivores. And although proteins may be absorbed through beans and some nuts, animal products contain a full sufficient amount of proteins. However, a healthy vegan diet has been proven to meet the standard protein levels for the average human. Simply more concerning among children who need a stronger development of amino acids. Yet again, the proteins through a vegan diet may be observed throughout the day in different meals containing foods such as beans or lentils; rather than stressing to eat all of the daily protein portion in one plate.
Ultimately, I was able to identify which item was causing me stomach pains. It turned out to be half and half cream, which is composed of over 30% of the animal fat milk. This happens to be used in most drinks served at several cafes that I go too. Therefore, I was able to eliminate it in my day to day diet. All in all, if done properly with the right supplements, veganism is a great way to live. It is not for me, simply because I enjoy eating a well-balanced meal with fish and occasional eggs; but doing this cleanse for a month has allowed me to learn far more than I had initially anticipated. Before, I had failed to realize how much animal fat based products were used as ingredients in foods sold in grocery stores. As well, portion control while eating any meal is very important because unlike most North Americans who eat to the point of vomiting; food should be eaten for energy and life sustainability. Thus, veganism has allowed me to be more mindful of eating to the point of being full and content by being recognizing my servings. Also, some become vegan for reasons of protesting against animal cruelty for mass market profits, while others do it for health reasons. Regardless of why you may embark in veganism; do it in a healthy fashion and get yourself educated on the matter.
F. Phillips.(2005). Vegetarian nutrition. British Nutrition Foundation, Bulletin, 30: 132-167.
C. Ciocchetti. (2012). Veganism and living well. Agriculture Environment Ethics, 25: 405-417.