Plant-based isn’t just for the Hippies

I have had a lot of revelations in the past few years. I’ve read countless articles and watched many documentaries all trying to learn more about one of the most important aspects of our lives – food. But all this insight has never given me enough motivation to change my eating habits. Despite all the negative aspects I learn about the processing of animal meats and the way meat can affect my health negatively, I never decided to make any huge dietary changes. Occasionally, some motivation set in. I was a pescetarian for a few months when I was 15 and again tried to be a pescetarian during the past year. But for some reason I just couldn’t give up dairy or fish. I never really enjoyed a lot of meat, but still there wasn’t enough for me to make the shift to a plant-based diet.

That is, until I went to see a doctor for my chronic heart burn. I have been dealing with heart burn since I was in middle school. I remember specifically that it all started when I began eating Cheez-It crackers. Eventually it would happen more often to the point where I had to deal with the uncomfortable feeling daily. So, my doctor recommended that I cut gluten and dairy out of my diet and to take some tests to determine the source of my issues. The blood work that I had done really opened my eyes to all the vitamin and nutrient deficiencies I had, from vitamins C & B deficiency to an extremely low number of probiotics in my gut. Not to mention, my mercury levels were so high that if I were to continue eating the amount of fish I was I would most likely end up with mercury poisoning. This information helped motivate me to stick to the GF and dairy free diet to the best of my ability. While I was eating more meat and eggs than usual, I was eating a lot more plants too and I started to have more energy and overall I just felt much better. But just as I was starting to feel really content with my diet I watched a documentary on Netflix that has made me rethink almost everything that is in my fridge, “What the Health.”

My mom is from Germany and my dad is from Texas, so I grew up eating and really enjoying meat and cheese. I didn’t realize just how horrible processed meat and cheese was for you until watching this documentary. The world health organization lists processed meats as a group 1 carcinogen along with tobacco smoking, asbestos, & plutonium (02:16 – 03:17). Consuming one serving of processed meat, like deli slices, per day increases your risk of diabetes by 51% (11:05), however a low fat, plant-based diet is more than twice as effective at regulating and even reversing diabetes (42:17). Not only does meat consumption increase our risk for disease it also contains fecal bacteria. Tests have shown that 88% of pork chops, 90% of ground beef, and 95% of chicken breasts that were sampled were found to be contaminated with fecal bacteria (64:15). Speaking of fecal matter… what do pig farmers do with the pig waste? Well the pig manure is made into a liquid form and then pumped into waste pits that leak into rivers, streams, and sprayed onto the fields surrounding the farm, where people live nearby (37:55). Along with contaminating water sources, consuming meat is the leading cause of deforestation, species extinction, ocean dead zones, and fresh water consumption (42:17).

Learning all this gave me overwhelming frustration. I was and still am in such disbelief. How on earth does the government let us consume food that will give us heart disease, cancer, and diabetes and destroy our environment? Well I guess their priorities are those big checks from the meat and dairy industries. “Meat and dairy spend at least $138 million lobbying congress (56:00).” I was so dumbfounded and shocked that organizations like the AHA and ADA recommend the very foods that are linked to the diseases they claim to fight against. Just a simple visit to their health or food pages on their websites displays recipes made with all the food we should be avoiding if we do not want heart disease or diabetes. Do they only care about the money in their wallets rather than the well-being of the American people?

So, in absolute outrage, I’ve decided to become vegan. This will not be easy, but after watching “What the Health” earlier this week a spark has been reignited in me to make a change. For my health, for the well-being of the animals, for the environment. But I have been wondering why is there a stigma surrounding veganism and a plant-based diet? I have been made fun of for trying to eat more plants, people have rolled their eyes at my suggestions to change their diet, I feel like a burden to those when I am a guest. It’s amazing that this idea of what is “normal” is so deeply engrained in our society. This idea that a meat-based diet is healthy and the norm, that we were meant to eat meat is absurd. Our bodies were simply not designed to eat meat, we do not have teeth like true omnivores do, our canines are smaller and more rounded, our gut is not even made to process raw meat and properly break it down.

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Photo from: http://livinontheveg.com/omnivore-or-herbivore/

We need to change the way people view a plant-based diet. We need to educate to help create this change. Find something that really makes everyone think. So, if it isn’t the animal welfare and the environmental activism that speaks to you maybe it’s the idea that you are what you eat, and what you eat is giving you disease.

To read more of the facts and watch the movie “What the Health” http://www.whatthehealthfilm.com/facts/

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