Diving headlong into such a dramatic change like going vegan obviously required some adjustments in my day-to-day life. Chief amongst these was learning how to decipher long lists of ingredients – trying to recognise words that may as well have been written in Latin and determining whether they were animal derivatives. Thus is the plight of the new vegan – fumbling around in supermarkets for hours on end, reading packages and trying to determine if that jar of sauce contains any suspect ingredients. But it is well worth the effort.
I also found myself thinking a lot more about nutrition. Although my primary drive for going vegan was ethics based, another major factor was health. Watching documentaries such as ‘What The Health?’ had introduced me to a number of experts including Dr. Michel Klaper and Dr. Michael Greger, who were all stressing a significant link between the modern western diet and many of the most serious, often fatal, diseases that affect the population.
The take-home message was this; we do not need animals products in our diet to achieve optimal nutrition. With the exception of vitamin B12, every single nutrient we need is available in abundance throughout the plant world. Furthermore, overconsumption of unhealthy animal products was at the crux of some of the most prevalent serious health issues; Heart disease, Type-2 Diabetes and certain Cancers have all been linked to diets high in unhealthy animal products.
Klaper et al. are also helping to debunk some of the myths surrounding nutrition that seem to permeate all of our lives; Myths like ‘We need to drink milk to get enough Calcium!’ or ‘We need to eat meat to get enough protein!’. All of these nutritional needs can be easily fulfilled from natures wonderful larder! There’s something beautiful about that. There’s something equally beautiful in the fact that we can satiate our nutritional needs without harming any creature in the process.
This doesn’t mean that it’s impossible for vegans to eat unhealthily however. Processed vegan foods can still contain unhealthy levels of fat, sugar, salt and other nasties. Luckily I was already quite a keen cook at home and had a pretty decent knowledge of a variety of whole-food ingredients and how to use them. Going vegan only served to broaden my knowledge and opened up a whole new world of delicious, healthy plant based dishes.
The more vegan restaurants I ate at, the more inspiration I gained for new dishes. I was gradually introduced to new, delicious ingredients from different cuisines around the world. I discovered fantastic new flavour combinations and innovative ways of preparing and cooking these ingredients. The meals on my plate were becoming a smorgasbord of fresh, colourful, diverse ingredients covering all of the nutrient groups.
After just two weeks I was feeling the benefits; I felt healthier, happier and more virbrant. After four weeks i’d lost 20lbs and felt the best I had in years. I had a new glow that was only emphasised by the knowledge that my new way of living wasn’t just helping me, but the entire planet. This was another important point that i’d picked up along the way – going vegan can and will benefit the entire planet.
It can be all too easy to slip into the attitude of ‘what can one person really achieve!?’.
But consider this: “Many a revolution started with the actions of a few…A few hanging together can lead a nation to change!”. You CAN mak a difference.