This is my third week of Attempting Veganism. There is a joke something along the lines of ‘how do you know if someone’s a vegan?’ – ‘they’ll tell you’; I thought to myself, I’m not going to become one of those self-righteous in-your-face let me guilt-trip you kind of vegans, I’ll be subtle about it. Yet I’ve found that I have in fact brought it up in conversation a lot and now I’m dedicating a blog post to it. The main reason I’m writing this is to dispel common myths associated with veganism and present my reasons for making this ‘lifestyle choice’.
A myth I have often encountered is soy, a popular vegetarian/vegan protein source, being detrimental to men. This stems from the fact that soy contains phytoestrogens, naturally occurring compounds with a structural similarity to estrogen. However, phytoestrogens only weakly mimic estrogen and studies have shown that soy does not alter testosterone levels in men, which was the main concern. As for increasing breast cancer risk, the evidence is overwhelming that it’s safe – in fact, it may decrease recurrence rates. Soy has been a staple in the Asian diet for centuries, and Asians tend to have lower rates of cancer and heart disease, and greater longevity. I advise that when you’re trying to determine the potential harms/benefits of particular foods, look for objective information based on scientific research rather than relying on mainstream media.
As for nutrient deficiencies, another major concern amongst omnivores, I’ve found that vegans tend to be very conscientious about their diet – they have to be. Iron and vitamin B12 deficiencies are pretty common amongst vegetarian/vegans; I just got some blood test results back today, and yup, guess who’s deficient! For B12, there’s an injection which you can get every 3 months to sort you out, which is useful if you don’t want to take tablets every day. For iron, your best bet if you’re really deficient is supplements, although they can make you pretty nauseous. That being said, I think my main problem wasn’t what I was eating, it was just not eating enough, which I’m working on and getting better at. Vegan diets tend to be very healthy and varied and often exclude processed nutrient-lacking foods. When it comes to diet, everything in moderation is key, and as long as you’re aware of what you’re eating and ensure you cover all the essential nutrients, you can be healthy and vegan!
There are a few reasons behind my attempt at veganism. I have been vegetarian for the past 5 years, due to my love for animals and aversion to meat. I encountered a number of vegans during this time who said, hey, you should give it a try, but my main issue was always ‘I love cheese too much!’ Milk was never an incredibly integral part of my diet, I’ve been buying soy milk for a while now, and I stopped buying eggs after learning about the whole free-range not necessarily meaning free-range thing. I decided to look into the impact of dairy farming to assess the possible harms, and the main issue seems to be the increased concentration of cows – huge amounts of manure causing severe water pollution, not to mention the impact on animal well-being. There’s also greenhouse gas emissions and fertiliser use to consider. I realised that what concerned me most was the industrial scale of things; if I could get milk from a happy cow who spent her days grazing in meadows, fantastic, but capitalism has led to the demise of happy cows. So I guess my veganism is mostly a small protest against the dominant political/economic paradigm of our time, and all the evil that has come with it.