How long have you been vegan for? I have been vegan for a little over two years—since April 22nd, 2008. No, thine eyes do not deceive thee: this Environmental Analysis major went vegan on Earth Day!
Why do you eat a vegan diet? I eat a vegan diet (and live a vegan lifestyle—yes, that includes cosmetics and clothing as well!) for three reasons. Hands down, my first priority, and the reason that I’m a strict, no-nonsense vegan, is to avoid contributing to animal suffering. I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you that factory farming is a cruel and heartless industry responsible for torturing and murdering sentient beings throughout the entire course of their unnaturally shortened lives (I recommend the book Eating Animals, by Jonathan Safran Foer, to anyone who is uniformed about industrialized animal agriculture, or is simply looking for an eloquent, well-researched, and poignant read). My secondary reason for being vegan is to reduce my carbon “food-print.” The livestock sector is responsible for 18 percent of global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions—more than all of the world’s transportation combined. Further, as a wiser mind than mine once put it, animal agriculture is “a protein factory in reverse.” Due to inefficient conversion ratios, we invest over 16 times the amount of calories (in the form of fossil fuel and animal feed) into raising livestock than we ultimately receive in the form of edible animal protein. Animal agriculture is straight up wasteful. And that’s not to mention the deforestation, soil erosion, and water depletion/pollution that also attend the mechanized animal industry. There is no easier—and delicious—way to reduce your impact on this planet than by eating a plant-based diet. Eating vegan just one day a week saves approximately 7.3 lbs of greenhouse gas emissions, 390.6 gallons of water, and 71 sq. ft. of land—imagine what a difference you can make in seven days! My third and final reason for being vegan is for my personal health. A vegan diet is naturally low in saturated fat, devoid of cholesterol, and extremely high in fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and healthy phytochemicals; not to mention the fact that it’s lower in the many toxins and antibiotics with which animal products are generally loaded). Of course, it’s possible to eat an unhealthily as a vegan, but as long as your diet largely consists of a wide variety of fresh, organic whole foods you’ll reap the benefits.
Do you think a vegan diet is "healthier" than a vegetarian or omnivorous diet? I do (see above). A whole food-based vegan diet that avoids highly refined and processed starches, sugars, and fats is an elixir of life! The only caveat I would make is that on a vegan diet, you truly have to be responsible and diligent in monitoring your intake of those nutrients that are primarily found in animal products, such as vitamin B12, vitamin D, and omega-3 fatty acids.
Do you take any vitamin supplements?Yes, I take a multivitamin, and I believe everyone—vegans, vegetarians, and omnivores—should do the same to protect against the inevitable gaps in our diets. I also take a separate sublingual B12 supplement just to be safe. I’ve had to take high dosages of vitamin D to counteract deficiency before, and I try to take omega-3 supplements (along with sprinklings of flax seeds and handfuls of walnuts) when I remember. Finally, I’m a big believer in probiotics for digestive health.
Do you miss anything about not being a vegan? Not really. Although the inevitable arguments with others and occasional inconveniences of being a vegan used to bother me, I’ve come to appreciate them as an opportunity to share my knowledge and passion with the world. I like being the “vegan in the room.” And, for the record, I don’t miss cheese. Making healthy soy, bean, and nut-based cheeses more than satisfies the craving for salt and fat that we associate with cheese. Plus, there’s Daiya: the best, meltiest vegan cheese on the market!
Do you think you will be vegan your whole life? I don’t think; I know! When you find a diet that’s this good for animals, your fellow (wo)men, the planet, yourself, and your taste buds, why would you ever turn back?! Going vegan was the best decision of my life, and it wasn’t until doing so that I feel like I really came into my own as a person.
What are some of your favorite vegan dishes? Well, some of my favorite dishes are in cookbooks, so I can’t provide them here, but I will say that the Super Quick Tomato Basil Cream Pasta from the Vegan Yum Yum blog is an absolute showstopper; plus, the ingredient list and prep time are minimal! The genius behind the blog, Lauren Ulm, has a cookbook by the same name, and it’s one of my favorites. Every recipe I’ve made from it, I would make again. And again, and again. Another of my favorite dishes is Enjedra. All you need is olive oil, onions, cumin, sea salt, and lentils, all of which I’m assuming most of you foodies—and non-foodies even! —have in your pantry this very moment. You won’t believe how well these seemingly ordinary ingredients come together!
Thank you so much Nora! Such fabulous and informative answers! Very inspiring