Vegans stick to lifestyle for National Vegan Month
When households plan their Thanksgiving meals, it usually includes a turkey or ham, cranberries, potatoes, stuffing, dinner rolls and pumpkin pie, but you wouldn’t find half of those foods on a vegan’s dinner plate.
November mainly means Thanksgiving to most people, but November is also National Vegan Month.
Defined by the American Dietetic Association, a vegan is a strict vegetarian who eats no animal products: no meat, poultry, fish, eggs, cheese, milk or other dairy products.
Just 3.2 percent of U.S. adults follow a vegetarian-based diet, and about 0.5 percent of those adults are specifically vegans, according to a 2008 study reported in Vegetarian Times, a magazine that promotes healthy eating habits.
For some, choosing to become a vegan falls on ethical reasons based on the mistreatment of animals. For others, it is simply a matter of improving their health.
Ben Strickland, astrophysics junior, made the decision to become a vegan for health purposes. After doing some research and learning more about veganism, he said he doesn’t regret his decision changing to a vegan diet and believes the lifestyle change will benefit his health in the long term.
“I equate it to cigarettes,” Strickland said. “There’s a stronger correlation among the average milk consumption in a country and death by prostate cancer as there is between cigarettes and lung cancer. I don’t smoke cigarettes because I don’t want to die early, so why would I eat animal protein if I don’t want cancer?”
After watching a documentary called “Forks Over Knives” and doing further research, Strickland said he concluded that it is healthier to stay away from any foods containing animal protein in order to decrease his chances of getting cancer when he gets older.
Though he said he believes it’s a healthier lifestyle, some people question whether vegans deprive themselves of certain nutrients their bodies need, whether the nutrients come from meat or dairy.
Paul Branscum, a professor in the department of health and exercise sciences, said he believes no one can specifically say that one diet plan is truly more healthful than another, but that our conscious choices of how we choose to eat can make a difference.
“If you choose not to include any type of milk in your diet, you may be at greater risk for not having enough calcium in your diet,” Branscum said. “But you can get calcium from other foods such as calcium-fortified orange juice or soy milk or even green, leafy vegetables.”
Without meat in one’s diet, protein might be an issue because meats generally have “complete proteins,” as to where vegetable and grain sources generally just have “incomplete proteins,” Branscum said.
Advertising sophomore Jonathan Seales said he doesn’t see the benefits of being a vegan.
“I can stay healthy through exercise and watching how much I eat,” Seales said. “I heard that vegans live seven to eight more years than omnivores, but what’s the difference between dying at 82 and 90? A few wrinkles and Alzheimer’s?”
Savannah Logan, astrophysics and music junior, became a vegan for health and environmental reasons, as well as animal rights.
“I think the most common misunderstanding of being a vegan is that it’s really hard. It actually isn’t once you get used to it,” Logan said.
On Logan’s Thanksgiving dinner plate, she plans to have foods she regularly eats that are considered vegan.