This post is a MUST read! I mean that in EVERY sense of the phrase. To be totally honest, becoming vegan for a week, for myself, was more about ‘I wonder what it’s like to be a vegan” then ‘I am steadfast for veganism because of x,y,or z’. However, after reading this post (combined with Food Inc.) I know that for at least this week I am doing the world a whole heck of a lot of good.
Jess @AFeteForFood outlines the global impact of veganism and the dietary considerations which should be considered if you’re going to be a vegan. A super powerful post. Thank you Jess!
I Brake For Broccoli: The Environmental and Nutritional Impact of Being Vegan ~Jess
Oh, you’re one of “those.” Tree-hugger. Carrot-eater. Birkenstock-wearer. Prius-driver. That’s the reaction you’ll usually get if you say you’re a vegetarian, vegan, or anything that involves little or no meat. I find that many meat-loving people think it’s a hippie, or even (lately) elitist or trendy thing to be vegan, but I beg to differ.
Hi! My name is Jessica Maillet, and I’m a Registered Dietitian with an interest in working with people to get them to eat wholesome, local, affordable and delicious food that makes them happy and healthy, and improves the environment and community in which we live. In my job, I work with families of preschoolers every day. We work together to improve dietary quality and nutrition knowledge, and help these kiddos to develop a love of fruits, vegetables, and other healthy foods that they can carry with them for years to come. I also consult with a number of clients, in a gym setting as well as a home setting in which we work together to address many of the same goals.
I write a food blog at A Fete For Food, which also means “A Party For Food”, because every meal should be a celebration. (I can also be found on Twitter: @eatittweetit.) I started my blog to document my experience with getting a weekly box of fruits and vegetables from my local farm CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). It’s turned into a record of my quest to find local, wholesome, healthful foods that nourish me in mind, body, and soul. I also throw in a little travel, some recipes, tidbits of nutrition know-how, and a whole lot of love for food!
So, being vegan is usually a well-thought out decision by most. Because, being vegan in the world and culture we live in is hard!
Many vegans choose this way of eating for environmental reasons. In fact, eliminating meat from your diet has the same, if not more impact on global climate change than driving a Prius!1 Going vegan can affect the environmental impact on water usage, carbon emission, and soil health: all integral components of a healthy planet.
Did you know?
According to the Cattle Network World Report, there are more than 995 millon cattle in the world. That’s over 6 cattle per person on this planet!2
According to the US Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation, it takes 2,464 gallons of water to produce one 4-ounce beef patty. In contrast, it takes only 11 gallons of water to produce 2 cups of broccoli! 3
According to David Pimentel of Cornell University, beef production uses 54 energy units (or calories) of fossil fuel to produce one energy unit (or calorie) of beef!4
About 90 percent of U.S. cropland is losing soil to wind and water erosion. This is occurring 13 times above the sustainable rate due to overproduction of feed grains for grain-fed livestock. 4
“Factory farms,” or CAFOS (concentrated animal feeding operations) are the number one source of emitted methane, a gas that traps heat in the atmosphere and causes the Earth’s temperature to rise. 5
Not convinced to convert? Read on.
Many choose to be vegan for ethical reasons. Who says it’s okay for us as the superior race to be chowing down on dead animal flesh, when the animal had no way to defend itself in the first place? Also, many CAFOs and enclosed animal structures that produce meat in vast quantities do not treat the animals in humane and caring ways. For more information on this, see the movie Food, Inc.
Many choose this way of eating for its dietary impact. A vegan diet is devoid of cholesterol and very low in saturated fat (unless you get it from coconut, palm, or palm kernel oil), and, if done right, can be abundant in vitamins, minerals, and the macronutrients (protein, fat, and carbohydrates) that can fuel the body right. After all, look at what vegan has done for Brendan Frazier and Rich Roll!
However, there are some commonly raised dietary concerns that arise when someone decides to follow a vegan eating pattern. How will I get my B12? What about protein? Calcium? Iron?
B12- B12 is an essential vitamin necessary in red blood cell formation, neurological function, and DNA synthesis. Requirements are very, very small. The Vegetarian Resource Group, a professional dietetics group sponsored by the American Dietetic Association recommends consuming vitamin B12-fortified soy milk, rice milk, and cereals, or Red Star nutritional yeast T6635 will do the trick. There is also the option of taking a B12 supplement which does not contain animal products.6, 7
Protein- Vegan and vegetarian diets can provide enough protein, even to the biggest and brawniest bodybuilders! Most foods contain some amount of protein, but focusing on consuming a protein-rich vegan food each meal will ensure you meet your individual requirements. Focus on foods like nuts, legumes, seeds, beans, nut butters, soymilk and whole grains.
Calcium- Drinking soymilk or calcium-fortified juice is an easy way to get this essential nutrient, but dark green leafy vegetables and tofu also provide you with about one-third of the daily amount of calcium you need each day.
Iron- Red meat is a rich source of iron, but dried beans and dark leafy greens are good sources of iron and better on a per calorie basis than meat!
Finally, some do it because it tastes so darn good. Fresh, garden grown tomatoes in late August? Vegan. Roasted butternut squash on a cold night? Vegan. Fresh baked bread with new olive oil? Vegan. And the list continues. A vegan diet is a way of eating that minimizes environmental, ethical, and nutritional guilt and allows it’s eaters to rejoice in some of the best-tasting foods out there!
Take home message: Don’t judge a vegan by what she drives or how she dresses. Vegans come in all shapes and colors and should be respected, because they are doing something great for the environment, animal rights, and their own nutritional well-being! And, it tastes good! Three cheers for the vegans!