The Vegan Vampire

Once upon a time, I had a very real fear of mad cow disease. I honestly thought it would be the thing that set off the real life zombie apocalypse (and yet I chose to use bird flu in Going Green, go figure). As such, I began to remove meat from my diet. Rather, I tried, but for a while, it looked like mad cow was going to win because I had no guidance in the vegetarian world and I was the kind of person who would eat a salad, feel good about it, then walk int a 7-Eleven for cigarettes and walk out with a hot dog and sense of shame.

But then I met the guy who would become my husband and he was already a vegetarian, making it easier for me to join up, not only because I now had a vegetarian buddy, but because he had a wealth of knowledge about balanced and delicious meals that made me forget meat existed. Well, at first I still ate fish, but after getting one too many poorly prepared dishes and regretting it for hours after, I went entirely vegetarian sometime about a decade ago.

In 2014, my husband went back to a full vegan diet. I wasn't quite prepared to do the same, but since cooking one meal was easier than two, I often ate vegan at home and only had eggs or dairy when we went to a restaurant that served it. Recently, I decided I was sick of feeling like garbage after a cheese binge, and since I'd already begun to prefer nondairy coffee creamer and ice cream to the dairy varieties, I made the commitment to veganism.

So far, very little has changed. Aside from the occasional stray longing for a slice of NY style pizza, I haven't really missed anything I used to eat.  But I've also had a lot of time to cultivate some convincing "fakes" and figure out how to make this lifestyle sustainable for me. But even so, there have been a few bumps in the road due to the fact that I'm pairing a vegan diet with a other health-based restrictions. And since I often hear people recommending for or against a vegan diet, I thought it would be a good idea to debunk a few of the most common vegan myths. So let's begin with the hottest take out there:

Veganism is elitism.

I'm going to start with this one because it's the one that infuriates me the most. I've seen this thrown around a lot lately, usually implying that the only people who can afford to be vegan are rich, white suburbanites. And while it's possible these people exist...

"Upper middle class vegan life is the best, isn't it Karen?" "It sure is, Chad! Thank god we're not poor!"
Image by Werner Heiber from Pixabay
...the majority of us aren't tossing back asparagus water from Whole Foods while delicately wrapping handmade vegan brie we bought off Etsy in palm oil free pastry sheets before placing in  our Viking ovens which are the aesthetic focal point of our 1500 sq ft kitchens (I'm sorry, I've been spending too much time watching YouTube cooking shows and I might be a little spicy). Vegan meals, be they prepackaged processed meat substitutes or made from scratch using things found in the produce department, are just as economical and accessible as omnivorous meals. And when I say just as accessible, that doesn't mean available to everyone.

You see, food deserts are a very real and very serious issue here in the US. A food desert is defined as an urban neighborhood that is more than one mile from a supermarket or a rural area more than 10 miles from a supermarket. I am lucky enough to live in an urban neighborhood that has three grocery stores within a one mile radius, with at least twice that number if you go out just another mile. But I'm in the DFW area and food deserts are everywhere. Dallas has several prominent neighborhoods that are in food deserts and just north of us, most of the rural communities spanning to and likely beyond the Oklahoma border are food deserts as well.

One of the biggest arguments against veganism I see is that it's a privilege allowed to only those of us who live in areas with access to fresh fruits and vegetables and expensive meat substitutes. This is marginally true, but you know what else is a privilege allowed only to those of us with access to fully stocked grocery stores? A balanced and healthy diet, be it with or without animal products. Corner stores in big cities don't have produce, but they don't have meat counters either. They have rows of dusty cans filled with high sodium content meats and vegetables. Rural areas have Dollar Tree and Dollar General offering basically the same thing and maybe a couple of frozen options as well.

And you know what? It's just as possible to eat a vegan diet from the Dollar Tree as it is to eat omnivorously from the Dollar Tree. In fact, given that they carry dried beans, you might even be able to get away with a diet that isn't made up of mostly sodium. But existing on nothing but what the Dollar Tree offers isn't going to be a good or particularly nutritious way of living, whether you eat animal products or not.

By all means, be angry about food deserts, but be angry for the right reason. Everyone, regardless of where they live or their socio-economic status, should have access to fresh, whole, and healthy food items. Shouting down vegans on social media isn't going to end poverty. Use that energy to instead raise awareness of the real issue and reach out in your community to see what you can do to help bring fresh food retailers into these areas.


A vegan diet is healthy.

When most non-vegans think of a vegan diet, they think salads, veggies, and maybe tofu. A veritable rainbow of plant matter.

Who among us hasn't separated all of our salad toppings into individual ramekins for visual effect?
Image by silviarita from Pixabay
But you know what other rainbow is vegan?

Like you didn't know where this was going.
Image by Axe_mechanic from Pixabay
Skittles are vegan. So are Fritos, Oreos, most potato chips, and a number of other junk food staples of any suburban 12 year old's diet. Ben & Jerry's makes vegan versions of their most popular flavors and the nutritional labels are pretty much identical. The Beyond Burger has just as much fat and calories as a beef burger. The Impossible Whopper has 660 calories (though that's with mayo, which isn't vegan, but still...).

Yes, a vegan diet can be healthy. Plants contain no cholesterol and are abundant in many vitamins and minerals. But eating vegan doesn't immediately make you a health nut who craves well balanced salads and grain bowls. You'll still have to make a concerted effort to avoid the snack aisle, something, I might add, that I have a very difficult time doing despite knowing full well that my diet is very closely connected to my quality of life. I may have just bought a can of vegan Reddi-whip earlier today, just sayin'.

Humans weren't meant to be vegan.

I tend to hear this one mostly as a means of justifying eating meat, which is annoying because I'm not the food police and I don't care what other people put in their bodies as long as they respect what I put in mine (more on this below).

Seriously, my dude, enjoy that doughnut judgement free.
Image by Ryan McGuire from Pixabay

Honestly, this one is true. We're omnivorous. Our bodies can process both plant and animal matter. But here's the thing. We're adaptable creatures who can and do eat a wide variety of things, including many that we weren't meant to eat. I'm not just talking about animal's milk (which is technically meant only to nourish the young of said animal), but also things like olives, which are virtually inedible before curing, or bananas, which were genetically modified to be the starchy bastard fruit loved only by smoothie enthusiasts. Entire cultures exist and have existed for thousands of years on plant based diets.

But how do you get your protein? Aren't you anemic? You probably have brittle bones from all the calcium you're missing out on. B12 isn't found in plants, so aren't you deficient?

Okay, here's the thing; B12 really is a big issue. It's not found naturally in any food that isn't animal based and even meat eaters can easily become deficient. But there are supplements for those who need them and for the rest of us, there are plenty of vegan foods that are fortified with B12 including many non-dairy milks, mushrooms, and especially nutritional yeast.

As for the others, yes, meat may have more iron and eggs more protein, but both of those as well as calcium can be found in a wide variety of plant based foods. Most Americans get far more protein than is required, even without eating meat. Broccoli is a great source of calcium, as is some almond milk. As for iron, I've heard that non-meat eaters require less because we use less and while I haven't looked extensively into the science, I can say I was anemic enough in my 20s that I was turned away every time I tried to donate blood, but in the last ten years, I've had my blood drawn twice a year and not since the very first test has my iron level come back abnormal.


Vegans are obnoxious.

Certainly, some vegans are obnoxious, wearing their diet or lifestyle like a badge of smugness.

I imagine it looks like this, but blinking and neon... and it yells at you as you walk by.
Image by Jonny Lindner from Pixabay

There's a tired joke that goes, How do you know who the vegan is at a party? Don't worry, they'll tell you. This is annoying for a number of reasons, but mainly, the logic is bad. A vegan isn't any more likely to divulge their eating habits than anyone else, unless it happens to be necessary to do so. If someone offers me bacon, I'm likely to say, "No thank you." If someone aggressively continues to offer me bacon (and yes, this has happened for some reason), I'll probably then answer with "I'm sorry, I'm vegan," because simply saying I don't eat bacon would inevitably lead to "why, are you Muslim?" which the asker would then laugh at because apparently aggressive meat enthusiasts also think culturally insensitive jokes are hilarious (again, I wish I was making this up, but this is all based off experiences I've had far too often).

Seriously, most of us just want to live our lives and eat our food without being questioned about what it is or how we can survive without bacon. If we're asked questions, naturally, most of us are willing to share information, but just because I'm explaining that spinach is full of protein doesn't mean that I'm trying to indoctrinate you into my secret vegan cult.

You have to accept Seitan as your meatless savior for that to happen. ;-)


Comments

  1. Probably not going to go totally vegetarian and certainly not vegan but have been changing my diet to more plant-based foods. I seriously have to watch carbs and sugar as right now those really can screw my body up. I have joined 3 low-carb vegan and vegetarian groups on Facebook and am getting some ideas for foods that are healthy after I have investigated all the ingredients. I love this blog and I still have to read your last story and your Halloween series on here.

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