World Vegan Day has come, and I know what you’re thinking, not another article on veganism! Well, hang in there, because I’m about to shed some enlightening information on what you can do to start small in the aim of influencing your health and the planet’s wellbeing for the better, and what greater time to do that than on a day dedicated to plant-based living?
To clarify any confusion you may have—a vegan is defined as someone who does not consume any animal products or byproducts, whereas a vegetarian does consume animal byproducts (such as dairy or other products that contain animal-derived ingredients).
Ignorance is not bliss.
What you eat, what you wear, what you put on and in your body is one of the most immediate things that we have power over. The power of consumption.
We have a duty to ourselves, and to the planet, to be mindful of what we choose to consume, knowing full well the story of how these products ended up in front of us at the supermarket, boutique, mall, or what have you. There is a story behind every single item you see—how it was processed, what chemicals were used, what working conditions it was made under, how it was packaged and shipped, etc.
For instance, cheese is not always vegetarian. Rennet is an enzyme used in the cheese industry to curdle milk. This enzyme Rennet (or Rennin) is derived from the stomach lining of a baby cow. Thus, since the cow needs to be slaughtered in order to retrieve and use this lining, cheese that contains this enzyme is not considered vegetarian. Not to self: check the label. Still, it is important to keep in mind that even the label may not be all that revealing—for some places have different restrictions on what they can leave out. Cottage cheese, and sometimes ricotta, are just a few cheeses that commonly do not contain animal rennet.
According to the Vegetarian Resource Group webpage, “Organic Valley, a major producer of organic cheeses in the United States, told us, Historically, rennet was extracted from calf stomachs by killing the calves, cutting the stomach into strips, scraping the lining to remove surface fat, stretching it onto racks where moisture is removed, grinding it, and then finally mixing it with a salt solution until the rennin is extracted.”
Instead of eating cheese, pick an alternative, like tahini (which is made from sesame seeds), hummus, or a non-dairy cheese (brands like Daiya or Kite Hill).
When it comes to milk you have an also have an array of options—almond, cashew, hazelnut, soy, hemp, rice, oat, macadamia, and more.
If you decide veganism isn’t your thing, just make sure you are conscious of where your products are coming from. If you eat out make sure to ask the chef or waiter where the cheese or meat you are eating comes from—factory farms or local, free-range farms? Be mindful.
One meal makes a difference.
Choose to reduce your meat intake. Dedicate one meal to vegan or vegetarian. How will I get all my nutrients, you may ask?
Vegan sources of protein can include: lentils, quinoa, tofu, tempeh, chickpeas, falafel, fava beans, beans with rice, vegetables (spinach, kale, broccoli, brussel sprouts, mushrooms, and potatoes are all great sources of protein), hemp seeds (5 grams of protein per tablespoon), chia seeds (2 g of protein per tablespoon), almonds (about 20 g of protein per ½ cup), and much more. You have more options than you realize and google is a great tool to utilize if you’re having trouble coming up with a vegan recipe.
Truth be told, vegans don’t just eat salad all day. I know, crazy right?
You may be questioning what kind of impact one person can make in the scheme of things. A heck of a lot. Each choice and action make a difference. Taking up a plant-based lifestyle is being integrated into the status quo as more and more benefits are being revealed—especially because of documentaries such as Forks Over Knives, What the Health, or The Game Changers just to name a few.
Create change today and become part of a movement.
This lifestyle does not only benefit your health, but the planet’s as well. It is the number one thing you can do right now, in your power, to work towards reducing your carbon footprint. According to physicist Noam Mohr, New York University Polytechnic Institute, if the world went vegetarian for one day we would save two billion animals, 100 billion gallons of water, 70 million gallons of gasoline, 1.5 billion pounds of crops and 1.2 million tons of CO2 emission gas would be prevented from harming our atmosphere.
There are misconceptions that changing your lifestyle to a vegan, vegetarian, or pescatarian one is a difficult process. However, it doesn’t need to be. Luckily the internet gives us so much information and recipes in regard to this change. It’s not a diet, firstly, you’re not restricting yourself in any way, in fact, you’re expanding your range of foods and taste, while simultaneously supporting your environment.
You don’t need to go full vegan or full vegetarian in all the ways that it is defined to make a difference.
Small things that you can do to make a BIG impact:
- Reduce your meat and dairy intake.
- Choose free-ranged.
- Buy organic.
- Dedicate one or a few days a week to being completely vegan or vegetarian.
- Check the label.
- Search your area for vegan restaurants/shops and utilize them.
- Buy products without animal byproducts (both vegan and animal-cruelty free).
- Seek further information about the environmental and health benefits of veganism and spread your awareness with others.