I have always loved animals but never really made an effort to think about why I was eating them – not until send me a video of a heinous crime committed against rabbits. Since that day, I swore never to eat animals again! Side note: Many people are offended and get really upset when people try to show the reality behind how meat/fur is obtained for consumption or fashion, to those people I say – “The violence and inhumane treatment that animals go through needs to be witnessed by anyone who wants to challenge the benefits of a vegetarian/vegan lifestyle”.
A QUICK LESSON ON THE VARIOUS DISTINCTIONS OF VEGETARIANISM
A vegetarian diet consists of eating plant-based foods while avoiding animal products. However, some vegetarians may also include eggs, cheese and yogurt, among other foods, in their diet. Here are the differences in vegetarian types:
Pescatarian (also spelled pescetarian)
Individuals who abstain from eating all meat and animal flesh with the exception of fish.
Individuals whose diet consists mostly of plant-based foods but will occasionally eat meat.
Individuals who do not eat beef, pork, poultry, fish, shellfish or animal flesh of any kind, but do eat eggs and dairy products.
- Lacto-vegetarian (vegetarian who does not eat eggs, but does eat dairy products)
- Ovo-vegetarian (vegetarian who do not eat meat or dairy products but do eat eggs)
Vegans do not eat meat of any kind and also do not eat eggs, dairy products, or processed foods containing these or other animal-derived ingredients such as gelatin. Many vegans also refrain from eating foods that may contain animal products in the finished process, such as sugar and some wines.
Raw vegan/Raw food diet
A raw vegan diet consists of unprocessed vegan foods that have not been heated above 115 degrees Fahrenheit (46 degrees Celsius). “Raw foodists” believe that foods cooked above this temperature have lost a significant amount of their nutritional value and are harmful to the body.
The macrobiotic diet includes unprocessed vegan foods, such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and allows the occasional consumption of fish. Sugar and refined oils are avoided.
I identify mostly with Ovo-vegetarian but am slowly swaying towards a more vegan lifestyle.
There are many misconceptions or myths about a vegetarian/vegan lifestyle that includes some of the following reasons:
- Not enough food choices
You can make all the same food items you make with meat, using the same spices/herbs with a meat substitute. Some meatless substitute brands include: Tofurkey, Gardein, Yves, Sol and PC (President’s Choice). I use Daiya/Soya cheese for my cheese substitutes. Google any of these brand names and you can review any of their amazing vegetarian products. Most of these items are made available to you at your local grocery stores (usually in their organic/natural foods section)
- Not getting enough nutrients (protein, iron and vitamin D)
This is a huge misconception as many foods contain the all the proper nutrients anyone requires to stay healthy.
Protein: tofu, tempeh (including soy milk), cooked beans, peas and lentils, peanuts and peanut butter and most nuts and seeds.
Iron: Vegetarians are at no more risk of iron deficiency than meat eaters. While the version of iron found in meat (heme-iron) is more readily absorbed than the non-heme iron found in plant sources, absorption can be enhanced by combining non-heme iron options with foods high in vitamin C such as citrus fruits, tomatoes, broccoli or berries. Good plant sources or iron include dark green leafy vegetables, dried beans or legumes, iron-enriched products (check labels), nutritional yeast and dried fruit.
Calcium and Vitamin D: Calcium is important for strong bones and vitamin D is necessary for your body to be able to absorb it. Dairy products, almonds, sesame sees, dark-green vegetables (such as broccoli, bok choy and kale), and black strap molasses contain calcium. (I avoid all dairy and prefer to receive calcium for the other sources listed – more information about why I avoid dairy below). Other products are fortified with calcium, including soy and rice beverages, tofu and orange juice (check the ingredients). Vitamin D is often added to milk and some yogurt (but not cheese), soy and rice beverages, and fortified margarine. While sunlight allows us to produce our own vitamin D through our skin, it is typically not sufficient during Canadian winters. As a result, these supplemented sources are important, especially for babies, children and older adults. Canada’s Food Guide recommends for men and women over 50 years of age to take a daily supplement of Vitamin D of 400 IU.
Vitamin B12: This vitamin is necessary for cell division and blood formation. It can be found in fortified cereals, soy and rice beverages, and some types of nutritional yeast. It’s important to read labels to ensure you are getting enough B12.
- Never feel full
Because vegetarians are eating a variety of foods that are high in fibre, a vegetarian diet ensures that you are full throughout the day.
My main concerns for not eating dairy products are strictly ethical. Many have linked cancer, diabetes, acne and asthma directly to milk consumption. All you have to do is google the truth about milk – do your own research and make your own decisions about whether or not to include milk in your diet.
The main message that I want to communicate is that we all have to ask questions and not just buy what is being sold to us. We really have to be our own advocate when it comes to our health prevention. Just because we have done something for thousands of years doesn’t mean it is the right thing. Have we not progressed as a civilized society. Do we not have the obligation to ensure all living things are treated with decency, respect and in an ethical manner? I have said this so many times and will continue to do so – we must remove the blinders and really think about why we are doing what we are doing. Does the meat/agriculture industry have our best interests at hand or are they partially responsible for the huge increases in terminal illnesses? Be responsible and seek the truth – do your research and lift the blinders!
Information about milk: