I choose to be vegan for my health, the animals, and the environment. I was raised vegetarian, but never made these connections until later. On a vegetarian diet I ate too much cheese and not enough vegetables. When I was a freshmen in college, I realized the more plants (or fiber) I ate, the better I felt. Although I cannot say everyone will experience the same outcomes, my digestion and energy levels improved. As my health aliments decreased my fascination with nutrition increased.
Sophomore year I transferred schools and declared nutrition as my major. At dinner one night, a new friend and I decided to go vegan. This decision has led me to experimenting in the kitchen, introducing vegan meals to non-vegan friends, and on path to blend my career and passion. However, over the past year I’ve been challenged academically and questioned if my career should involve veganism. I want to uphold my personal ethics while breathing no bias. What's helped me is accepting this fact: although plant-based diets are associated with health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain chronic diseases, and are proven to be appropriate for all stages of life, it is not the only way to live a happy or healthy life.
Like I said, I wasn’t always mindful of our impact on animals. As a junior, I volunteered for a local food organization. Like any ordinary day, I was at a farm picking up produce. Standing close to a barn, I heard the piercing sound of calves continuously crying. I asked why they were so persistent. The calves were being weaned, or taken away from their moms, in order for the milking process to begin. Although I’d seen videos of this before, my heart never fully connected to the emotional and physical pain animals endure. After years of not expressing empathy towards animals, I suddenly felt the urge to never support practices like these again through choosing cruelty-free food, cosmetics and clothing.
Although there are multiple factors contributing to climate change, animal agriculture is a portion I can make an effort to not play a role in. Compared to a non-vegan diet, vegan diets emit 50% less greenhouse gas emissions. Whereas vegetarian diets emit 29% lower emissions. Let’s say you have the option to choose between beans or beef. Not only do beans use less land, water, fuel, fertilizer and pesticides than beef, but nutritionally per serving kidney beans provide the same amount of energy or calories, offer more complex carbohydrates and fiber, less fat and no cholesterol.
If you are interested in going vegan, I want to make a point in saying, there’s nothing wrong with starting gradually. Designate one meal a day, a week (Meatless Mondays?!), or a month to being plant-based. If your friends happen to be interested, I suggest making meals not necessarily recognized as vegan. It’s crazy how many options exist. When I get together with my friends, our go-to’s include curry with tofu, falafel with an array of veggies, and tacos with homemade tortillas! Also, to help you transition there’s now tons of vegan products like burgers, ice cream, and cheese that keep people from missing their old favorites. Anyways, I hope this helped you understand a little bit more about why I choose to be vegan. If you have any questions, feel free to ask!
Melina, V.; Craig, W.; Levin, S. Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Vegetarian Diets. J. Acad Nutr Diet. 2016, 116, 1970–1980.