Recently, more and more people have switched to meat-free diets spanning from pescatarian, and vegetarian to vegan and raw vegan.
The surface definition of being vegan is avoiding the consumption of animal products, which includes milk, eggs, meat, honey and any animal byproducts. People have various reasons for going vegan and implementing this lifestyle change.
Jessica LaFond, junior at Texas Tech University, started off as a vegetarian at a young age and later switched to veganism. She said the transition wasn’t too difficult because she never really enjoyed the taste of milk or eggs and had already cut meat out of her diet for most of her life.
However, Jabari Lateef, an Auburn alumnus, made a more drastic change.
“It started off as being primarily health reasons as to why I wanted to go vegan, but now, it’s turned into environmental reasons and also, you know, animal rights reasons,” Lateef said.
Morgan Spencer, freshman at Auburn in economics, said she wanted to go vegan after watching documentaries about veganism, specifically “What the Health” and “Forks Over Knives,” both of which LaFond and Lateef said they watched also.
Most vegans are asked at some point which foods they can eat and which foods they get their needed nutrients from.
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Some common meals available for vegans are rice and beans, smoothies, curries, tofu and pasta. LaFond said even Taco Bell can make vegan tacos.
However, LaFond said restaurants can be difficult. This is mostly because she has to ask the waiter a lot of questions about the ingredients prepared in the meals, which makes her feel like a bother. However, she usually finds something, and if there isn’t anything available, she waits to eat at home.
Lateef said temptation is a challenge; he still gets tempted to have that burger or doughnut, but he said he asks himself if it is worth it. He said after he thinks about all the health reasons, animal rights reasons and environmental reasons, he decides not to have it. The burger or doughnut is never worth it for him.
Spencer said the main conflict she has found is other people’s judgement about veganism. She said her grandfather gives her a hard time about it.
“A lot of people seem to judge you for how you eat for some reason," she said.
Although that may be the case, it doesn’t change her mind about being vegan.
Each person said a major benefit of being vegan was feeling better and healthier. Lateef explains his experience as detoxifying the body. He noticed his skin has cleared up and feels a deeper connection with the Earth.
Douglas White, associate professor in the department of nutrition, dietetics and hospitality management, said animal products are more likely to have higher saturated fats.
“If you’re a vegan, it's easier to get a diet that’s low in saturated fat," White said. "Especially long chain saturated fats are associated with a higher risk of atherosclerosis, and that’s kind of hardening of the arteries that can put you at risk of cardiovascular disease.”
White said a more plant-based diet provides an individual with more dietary fiber.
Although there are a lot of benefits, he said it's important to keep a few things in mind in order to keep a well-balanced diet with the absence of meat. He discussed the importance of certain vitamins such as B-12 and Zinc, which can be found in supplements.
However, he said meats provide all the necessary amino acids that vegans need to be extra aware of and need to include a variety of amino acids in their diet. He said this can be done through mutual supplementation of complementary proteins.
This boils down to the fact that grains, nuts and seeds, vegetables and legumes are all lacking in one or more amino acids, but not all lacking in the same one. Grains, nuts and seeds are limited in lysine. Vegetables and legumes are limited in methionine.
White said the idea is to pair each food with another that would complete the meal of amino acids. For example, a grain and a legume such as rice and chickpeas would provide the necessary amino acids.
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