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By: Emily Current

At a time when we are realizing that climate change is becoming an increasingly pressing issue, that our society as a whole doesn’t have the greatest eating habits, and that there are ethical issues surrounding meat production, many people are turning to veganism as a solution. Veganism, not eating any animal products, including eggs and milk, is often seen as healthy, environmentally-friendly, and socially-conscious, making it the magical solution to all of our problems, right? Not quite. While veganism is often presented as the best option for everyone, we need to realize that not only is veganism not perfect, but also that it is not an option for everyone.

First, we need to consider the fact that veganism is an individual choice and it is not always the best option for everyone. Consider for instance, people recovering from eating disorders. Veganism requires a large amount of thought and time being put into what foods can and cannot be eaten, and many people in recovery cannot handle this amount of conscious restriction on what foods they can or cannot eat. The fact that veganism cuts away two of the four food groups is extreme, and many people may not have the time or energy to be able to find a healthy, balanced, vegan diet. So while veganism does have the potential to be healthy, it simply does not work for everyone.

One of the selling points for veganism is that it will supposedly help lessen the impact of climate change. It is reasoned that since plant agriculture requires less water and produces less greenhouse gases than farming meat, it is better for the environment. However, veganism isn’t the great solution to climate change that it is suggested to be. With veganism comes an increased demand for certain foods like quinoa and soy products (some of which must be imported) that actually leads to the development of monoculture of such crops. These monocultures lead to water depletion and drain soils of their nutrients, making this agriculture unsustainable. While eating plants may in fact have an impact on greenhouse gasses, it is not a flawless environmental solution.

Because veganism is not limited to food, but also extends to all animal by-products, there are some issues with veganism unrelated to nutrition. For example, some vegans avoid certain vaccines, like the flu shot, because they are typically grown in eggs. While this may only be a minority of vegans, it is still a problem that people are not getting vaccinated, which is important to maintaining health.

Veganism isn’t the great solution to climate change that it is suggested to be.

Veganism is also expensive, meaning that it is simply not an option for many people. For example, soy milk costs almost twice as much as regular milk. Even if you think that veganism is the way to go and that people should adopt it, it is not fair to tell people who cannot afford it that they should go vegan. If someone is struggling to pay for food in the first place, they should not be guilted into buying more expensive foods. It is important to realize that income is a factor for some consumers, and this means that not everyone has the option of even considering ethical purchasing.

Overall, people need to realize that veganism is not what it presents itself as being. Is it inherently healthy? It can be, but not for everyone and not easily. Is it better for the environment? Maybe, but it can lead to monocultures and water depletion. Is it socially-conscious? No, it is not financially accessible. While none of these issues are exclusive to veganism, they are important to take into account. Because of the way veganism is presented as an ideal to be adopted by everyone, it is critical that we stop and think about the ways in which this might not be true.

Photo Credit: Bettaveg

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By: Allison Mizzi/SHEC

Does one of your New Year’s resolutions include an attempt at becoming vegetarian or vegan? This lifestyle has many potential benefits, but the change requires reflection and careful consideration of your nutrition-related needs. There are many types of vegetarians or vegans. These include lacto-vegetarians, ovo-vegetarians, lacto-ovo-vegetarians, pescetarians, vegans, strict vegans, or anything in between. You may identify with one of these labels and enjoy finding a community of others that share it. However, you don’t have to define yourself or how you eat; your relationship with food is yours, and that can change over time.

People often choose a plant-based diet for health-related purposes. Many vegetarian options tend to contain lower fat and cholesterol, and are associated with lower incidence of chronic diseases like obesity, heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers. They also contain more fiber and antioxidants, which promote digestive and cognitive health.

Others argue that vegetarian nutrition lessons strain on the environment. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, chemical and animal wastes are the major sources of pollution in rivers and streams. Others feel that meat and animal products are unethical and thus their diet represents a stand against the use of animals as food. Others choose plant nutrition for religious, cultural and spiritual reasons.

There may be people who disagree with or stereotype you for your chosen diet. Luckily, McMaster is a very vegetarian-accessible and inclusive university: McMaster was voted Canada’s most vegan-friendly university in 2013. Bridges Café, McMaster’s all vegetarian restaurant, provides a plethora of veggie-friendly meals, and Hospitality Services has expanded their range of vegetarian meals and snacks across campus eateries.

It is important to replace meat with nutritionally equivalent alternatives. As a major source of protein, vitamins, and minerals, eliminating meat without replacing it with plant-based options may lead to protein and nutrient deficiencies. Luckily, there are several nutrition and delicious vegetarian protein sources to fill up with. These include tofu, tempeh, beans, seitan, eggs, milk and milk alternatives like soy and rice milk, high protein grains like quinoa, wild rice and amaranth, lentils, edamame, protein powders and nutritional yeast. It’s helpful to make a conscious effort to include protein with each meal and snack you eat throughout the day, paired with healthy portions of carbohydrates, to set you up for a balanced and healthy vegetarian diet.

In the initial transition, it might be particularly beneficial to connect with others, for support and to gain insight into their tips and tricks. Be prepared for some trial and error, and listen to your bodily needs.

Photo Credit: Bettaveg

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