Monday, September 8, 2008

The Skinny on all Your Vegan Questions!

Hey there!

I guess it's been a little over 2 months since I have been vegan. It seems like longer because it's just such a part of my lifestyle now. Although, it seems like every month that goes by, I learn a little more and feel like I've moved onto a new level.

During the first month and a half, I still had cravings for certain foods. For example, the first few weeks of being vegan, all I could think about was mac and cheese. I've been meaning to make a vegan version, but I just haven't attempted. Then, I was craving deviled eggs. That was the weirdest thing because how often does someone have deviled eggs? I actually stopped craving meat and fish weeks ago. The only time I would crave either meat or fish would be when I was hungry and flipping through a cookbook. Then, I would want it, but only if I saw a picture. I never gave in and had any meat or animal products, and once I ate and was full, the cravings were gone. This past two weeks or so, I can honestly say I am over the craving phase. I guess it's like quitting smoking because now I can look at pictures and watch people eat mac and cheese and not wish that I had some. I even bought some vegan sausage patties and vegan meatballs from Whole Foods, but they have just been sitting in my freezer. I just don't seem to even crave the taste of meat anymore. So, that's what I mean when I say I've moved onto a new level.

I also was learning how to go out to eat and what to order. At first I thought I would have to accept that when going out to a restaurant, I would have to eat some animal products, but I realized I don't want to do that. I have learned how and what to order at certain places in order for it to be vegan. It's actually not that difficult, and most servers are actually helpful when I ask about making sure whatever I order has no animal products. For the most part, they are happy to make something special for me. Of course, it takes some work such as calling the restaurants beforehand to ask about options, or going online to look at menus and ingrediants. But, once you get past that, the process is pretty consistent at most restaurants.

I have also been doing research from the beginning on what supplements I might need, and the only things that vegans have to make sure they consume are vitamin are B12 and Omega 3 fatty acids. I learned that there are three types of Omega 3s, ALA, DHA, and EPA. The body converts ALA into DHA and EPA. But, there has been inconclusive research on how the body converts it and there are some things that may prevent the conversion. Most vegans get omega 3s from ground up flax seeds (ALA), but I realized I am really bad at remembering to sprinkle flax seeds on my food to make sure I get enough of it in my diet. The thing with fish, is that it's already converted into EPA and DHA, so that is why it is reccomended. Oh, and just FYI - Omega 3s are not automatically in fish, but actually supplied by the algae that fish eat in large quantities. So, what I am working on right now is how I can make sure that I get the right amount of Omega 3s in my diet, and how to make sure it is converted properly. What I have decided to do at this point is eat a few walnuts, (which is very high in Omega 3s) everyday so I at least get the ALA type of Omega 3, and hope that it's converting to DHA and EPA.

As far as B12 goes, most vegans use nutritional yeast (which has a cheesy flavor), but again, I am really bad at using it daily. So, right now I'm taking a supplement, but I would like to find out how to incorporate in my diet naturally. As far as everything else, as long as I eat a balanced diet (which I do) I am getting everything I need. Many people say to me, "What supplements are you taking now because I know that you can't get some of the things that is supplied through meat?" And, this question has started to frustrate me because it's totally untrue and the meat and dairy industry has completely misinformed society. I just want to make it clear that meat has nothing in it that I can't get from eating a balanced diet. Yes, there are some things that I must attempt to add more of to my diet, such as Vitamin B12 and Omega 3s, but they are certainly provided in other ways than through meat.

So basically, over the next few weeks, I am going to do some extra research and attept to answer the same 4 or 5 questions I get over and over about being vegan. And, if you have a question not on my list, then ask away. I love to do research on the subject and report back to you!

So, here are the next few blogs topics:

1. Getting Protein: Many people ask how I get my protein, or what substitues I use for meat. This is actually really easy, and protein is all over the place. I also want do what I can to change people's thinking about using the phrase "meat substitute." Since you don't need meat in the first place, there is really no such thing as a meat substitute.
2. Omega 3 fatty acids: I explained a lot about this above. I'm still doing research, so I'll get back soon.
3. Do you eat honey?: Vegans seem to sway back and forth on this issue. I really don't know where I stand on it, but I find myself avoiding honey. Maybe it is because I am not fully informed on the subject, so I'll be working on researching this topic in the near future.
4. Vitamin B12: I talked about this above too, so I'll get back to you soon!
5. Do you eat meat because it's unhealthy, or is it an ethical issue?: It's actually a little of both, and I think I explained a little before about this in a previous blog. It's actually because of three things:
A. The animal agriculture industry is destroying the environment
B. I am disgusted by the cruel animal practices and misleading information that they give out
C. Meat has been connected to many negative health issues, and because of this, I would rather stay away. Also, I just feel better when I don't eat meat.

I'll expand more on these issues later!

Have a great week!



Eric said...

Thanks so much for your insight on becoming a Vegan. Over the past year or so I've really contemplated doing the same thing for a multitude of reasons, but always found it really hard to stay disciplined. However, its great hearing from someone, who got past the cravings and is now doing what they want to do. I look forward to reading more from you!

Eric Schechter
Orlando Ichiban Sushi

Monica said...

Hey Eric -

Thanks for checking out my blog! It is definitely hard work and has been a challenge, but I stayed motivated. The fact that you are contemplating it is great. You'll know when you're ready to take that next step, and sometimes it takes a few times of trying to get it right! Good luck!