April 2, 2013

Why Veg Fest Broke My Heart

I wrote this after seeing this statistic and realizing how not awesome it might be:


 
 When I first heard the word "vegan" it was followed by the meaning, "someone who doesn't eat any animal products: meat, poultry, fish, eggs, cheese, all dairy." And I imagined the person who chooses this lifestyle simply eats a lot of plant foods: all vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, beans, legumes and grains.

But soon enough I discovered something completely different.

There are a few reasons why someone may eat a vegan diet. This could be because of animal rights (they do not agree with how animals are tortured and killed for mass consumption) for health reasons (high cholesterol, heart disease and some cancers are linked to high consumption of animal products.), they could have an intolerance to lactose, or they may simply not like the taste or texture of meat.

My reason for switching to a vegan diet was summarized in this post, and today I continue to eat this way because I feel my body functions better on 100% plants. I used to have migraines and was on a prescribed medication for them, I struggled all my childhood with stomach aches and viruses, and I had low iron/border-line anemia. I didn't stop eating animals in the hopes of curing all of these things, but they have ALL gone away since the switch. Praise God for his healing plant foods!

Anyhow, something that really bothers me is what veganism has recently become. It's as if we are all part of some sort of cult that thinks we are healthier than the animal-eaters of the world simply because we don't eat like them. This is far from true. There are hundreds of new vegan restaurants popping up all over the world and we run to them like giddy children. "Vegan" and "dairy free" are written on packaged foods down the grocery store aisles and the "natural foods" section has doubled, even tripled in size in the past few years. But are we really doing out bodies a whole lot of good? What is really causing our illnesses nowadays, is it the animal products or is it something else?

I am shooting for "something else" here.

A thousand years ago, people ate meat. People consumed dairy. People enjoyed eggs.

A thousand years ago, we weren't struggling with a third of the U.S. being obese, with record-breaking numbers of diabetic children and adults, with high blood pressure, high cholesterol and heart disease on the rise.

So what has changed? And why do I think veganism isn't going to give us superior health?

Well. Omnivores aren't exactly eating meat or dairy, and vegans aren't exactly eating plants.

The livestock (cattle, poultry and pork) are part of a huge business, they are fed "foods" that they weren't created to consume (huh, sounds like humans!) including large quantities of grains even some of their own meat. (Source) This is not the same meat we dined on 100 years ago, so our bodies are naturally going to be hurt by it. Even our plants are modified (hello, GMOs!) but most vegans and vegetarians don't even eat them. We do, however, go crazy over pre-packaged veggie burgers, faux meat crumbles, cookies, crackers, chips, dips and cheeses made from oil and soy. These are not the same animal-free foods we dined on 100 years ago.

Most of what we eat, omnivores and vegans alike, isn't actually food. The ingredients lists are long, the words are hard to pronounce, and we ain't finding these "foods" in nature. When someone switches to a vegan diet, one would think that they eat copious amounts of cruciferous vegetables and a rainbow of fruits, when the reality is this:

Sugar is vegan.
Refined flour is vegan.
Oil is vegan.
Salt is vegan.

The ingredients in Nabisco Oreos are vegan, which causes many to celebrate:

SUGAR, UNBLEACHED ENRICHED FLOUR (WHEAT FLOUR, NIACIN, REDUCED IRON, THIAMINE MONONITRATE {VITAMIN B1}, RIBOFLAVIN {VITAMIN B2}, FOLIC ACID, HIGH OLEIC CANOLA AND/OR PALM AND/OR CANOLA AND/OR SOYBEAN OIL, COCOA (PROCESSED WITH ALKALI), HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP, CORNSTARCH, LEAVENING (BAKING SODA AND/OR CALCIUM PHOSPHATE), SALT, SOY LECITHIN, VANILLIN--AN ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR, CHOCOLATE. CONTAINS: WHEAT, SOY.

This was all brought to my attention because of a recent visit to Seattle's Veg Fest. I went with an appetite and mistakenly thought I could go crazy with the samples and dine like a vegan queen. Unfortunately, all I saw were dozens of vegan snacks that looked like cousins of Pringles, Pop-Tarts, Twinkies and Chips Ahoy. Everyone ate joyfully, "THIS is vegan?!" They couldn't believe it. "This burger pattie full of processed soy bits, more salt than I should eat in a week and the same amount of oil as a half stick of butter?!" Won over. Vegan for life.



Mind you, I was really excited for this time with my family. We had a great hour or so together, tasting these foods. And in general everyone had a smile on their face, but my heart felt heavy the moment I stepped inside that building.
We are not going to all be cured of our diseases. We are not going to feel energetic, happy, and complete. Veganism isn't going to save the world. It's probably going to make us more sick than cow's meat has.

The food industry is catching on. They see the large amount of people that have stopped eating meat, and they are going to scratch their heads and ponder for long hours in order to bring more veganized, fake foods to our grocery store.  We are going to buy them. We are going to feel great at first, then shortly after we will feel miserable.

A good example is this whole, "gluten-free" kick. We found ourselves with health issues and blamed it in gluten. The real source of the problem, however, was the fact that highly processed forms of wheat are in everything we eat (cereals, breads, pastas, canned soups, crackers, cookies, baked goods). So we stop eating gluten, and we had to stop eating out at restaurants (no gluten-free menus used to exist), stop purchasing pre-packaged snack foods, and guess what happened? People's health improved, they lost weight, they felt amazing. Wonder why? Because they stopped eating what the rest of us are eating! It's not because gluten is our body's enemy, it's because the only form of gluten our body was familiar with was harming us. (Source: my friend, Anna)

So what did our fake-food companies do? They caught on, they saw the trend, felt butterflies in their tummies and saw dollar signs in their eyes. Now go to the store and pick me up some gluten free pizza, cake, burritos and brownies.

There it is, I didn't want to hold it in anymore. We have to realize this: while we can only hope that the insane animal-killing for our appetite's sake stops, our health is going to only plummet if we continue to eat all of these artificial vegan foods. In 2021, the 80% of the U.S. that has switched to a vegan diet is only going to find they are just as sick as their omnivore friends, and they are going to crave change.

So strive for whole foods. Eat what God wisely planted and gifted us with for food. Yes, that includes animals.

Thank you, Veg Fest, for opening my eyes.

I need a carrot.

1 comment:

  1. I agree that a whole foods, plant based diet is the optimum diet. Most Americans are a very long way from that. The goal of Vegfest is to help people start down the path, by showing them that there are better choices available. Some of those choices may not be whole foods, but for the average (non-vegetarian) American, they are a lot better than what they are eating now, and sampling these foods helps people realize that healthier choices can be tasty and are not so difficult to find.

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