More and more we read about the health benefits of a plant based diet. You know, eat less meat, consume plenty of fresh vegetables and fruit, get your protein from legumes and such.
About 7 million Americans are vegetarians – not eating any meat or fish.
Of those, approximately 1 million are Vegan – a “hardcore” version of vegetarianism where no animal derived food is consumed. This means no eggs and no dairy. Since egg and milk ingredients are omnipresent in multitudes of foods, going from vegetarian to vegan is quite the challenge. Additional restrictions include no honey (see Bee Movie…)
Despite the challenges, vegetarianism and veganism are becoming quite popular with celebrities and prominent public figures.
An interesting article in the NY Times, The Challenge of Going Vegan, peels away the glamor behind PETA’s sexy (and sexist?) Ad campaigns and describes how difficult the life of a plant eater can be.
“The dominant social-cultural norm in the West is meat consumption,” said Hanna Schösler, a researcher in the Institute for Environmental Studies at Vrije University in Amsterdam, who has studied consumer acceptance of meat substitutes. “The people who want to shift to a more vegetarian diet find they face physical constraints and mental constraints. It’s not very accepted in our society not to eat meat.” Read more…
From a nutrition perspective, vegetarians and vegans need to be more thoughtful of their intake to make sure they get many of the nutrients humans have traditionally gotten from animal sources. More specifically, these are the B vitamins, especially vitamin B12. While supplements are one answer, many people to turn to a plant based diet to move away from fake foods and pills, creating an even bigger challenge. Although B12 can be attained from plant sources such as seaweed, fermented soy, and brewer’s yeast, studies on long term vegans show that a majority are deficient in vitamin B12.
As you can see, lack of social acceptance, a challenge with nutrition, and limited choices in the supermarket, make for a non trivial lifestyle choice for people contemplating a vegan diet. That’s not to say it’s undoable, but you really need to want to succeed. And that’s why many of us are still eating meat.
Are you a vegetarian? Vegan? Planning to reduce your consumption of animal derived food?
What challenges are you facing?