by Kayleigh Hill
Being Vegan in today’s world, I have of course encountered the famous “But where do you get your protein?” question a million times. Lately, it seems as though I am answering to the following topics more and more as well. I am not a doctor or health professional, I am simply a Vegan sharing my own experience and a brief summary on the questions commonly asked of me.
1) What do you even eat?
Only every delicious fruit, vegetable, nut and seed on the planet. I mean, the possibilities are endless. Any way a meat or other animal product can be prepared, there is a vegan way to do it. You don’t have to give up your favorite dishes, you just find a way to adapt them to fit your compassionate lifestyle.
2) Where do you get your iron? Won’t you become deficient?
Animal products are not the only source of iron out there. In fact, there are two forms of iron in food. Heme Iron, and Non-Heme Iron. Heme iron is easily absorbed, while Non-Heme iron is less so. A Vegan diet consists soley of Non-Heme iron….but this does not spell disaster! With a little knowledge on sources and techniques, iron deficiency should never be an issue. Vitamin C increases the absorption of Iron, and wouldn’t’ you know it that many vegetables are naturally high in both Iron AND Vitamin C! Foods can also be combined to ensure maximum absorption. A few Vegan iron sources include:
Dark, leafy greens (broccoli, kale, arugula, bok choy, spinach, collards, chard)
Beans and lentils
3) What about calcium? You need to at least drink milk!
There is no denying that strong bones and teeth are an essential part of our health. But somehow (thanks to the dairy industry) we have all been led to believe that proper calcium intake can only be attained from dairy products. While there is calcium present in cow’s milk and its byproducts, you are also ingesting:
-sugars – lactose, which many people are unable to digest
-hormones – high levels of estrogen are present whether the farmer gives additional hormones or not, as the cows are constantly pregnant. This in turn has been linked to the possible risk of prostate, ovarian, and breast cancers.
Contrary to popular belief, your calcium needs CAN be met without animal products. Plant based calcium sources also contain Vitamins C and K (which regulates calcium in the body, preventing buildup in the arteries), as well as potassium and magnesium, all of which are essential for healthy bones! Vitamin D is also essential for absorption and retention of calcium in the body. Here are a few common vegan calcium sources:
Fortified foods such as plant milks, tofu, and oatmeal
4) I’d consider being vegan, I am an athlete and don’t want to lose my muscle mass or strength…and it seems like a lot of work.
This issue has been touched up on more times than I can count, so when this happens I like to give my personal experience. My strength has not suffered, and I actually find my recovery time to be much faster. I find my endurance increasing and I have an overall feeling of well being mentally and physically. I also like to recommend the PlantBuilt website and wait for people’s mouths to drop when they see the physiques of every single team member. Being a successful athlete on a vegan diet is more than possible. Like anything else in life, it takes effort and knowledge to get going. Sometimes people jump into a vegan diet and eat nothing but processed junk food. Of course, no one can sustain themselves long term doing that and it is typically where the vegan myths are born. Vegans and meat eaters alike need to know the nutrients their bodies need in order to function at optimal health and fitness. You do not magically become sick and weak when you become Vegan, nor do you become Mr. Olympia by simply eating animals. For anyone interested in becoming Vegan, reach out to someone for advice, ask questions and do your research. Start by watching documentaries and make a list of your ‘staple’ animal based foods and swap them out for vegan alternatives. Take baby steps. There are so many resources out there and people more than willing to help.
5) And my personal favorite, “You’re going to wake up one day and just devour a steak. You’ll eventually miss meat.”
To this I like to say, NEVER. Once you go through that shift, there is no going back. Admittedly, I was a meat eater most of my life…a diehard paleo supporter at one point. I cringe to think of it now….I still had that disconnect between my consciousness and what was really on my plate. I educated myself on the horrible realities of the meat and dairy industries and it changed me forever. Once that illusion was gone, I realized that farmed animals are no different from the cats and dogs I have always treated as my babies. I simply do not see animals as food anymore. I see a living, breathing being that has the desire to live and be happy. Animals have emotion, form bonds and deserve to live free from harm. So no, I will never again wake up and be ok with someone living a life of hopeless misery so that I may eat a part of their body.