So I’d like to take a second to debunk the theory that going vegan is the only way to be truly healthy. I currently work at Fleet Feet, a specialty running store that works to help people find the best fitting shoes so they can get back on their feet. Naturally, because most of the staff are runners themselves, I am constantly asked about nutrition. The common question that comes up is whether you should change your nutrition so much that you cut out any animal products. Do you have to be vegan to be fit and get the body you want? Do you have to give up foods you love so you can be healthy?
My typical response to this question is: “Absolutely not. Going vegan is a choice, not a requirement”. You can still eat meat in moderation and pick meats that are lean in fat or are less processed. You can cut out going to fast-food chains like McDonald’s but still enjoy a home-cooked burger every once in a while at a family cook-out.
Of course this is a heavily debated topic. Some believe that it’s absolutely necessary to go vegan to be healthy. Others believe that going vegan is pointless, and is actually be unhealthy to deprive the body of meat. Most of us, however, fall in this gray area of questioning going vegan, or potentially even giving it a try for a short period of time.
After researching for quite a while on people’s views about going vegan, I found a ton of mixed reviews. Most were very opinionated and almost all were failed attempts at going vegan. I did find a few posts that included recent vegans that still swear by veganism…and i’m going to honest… the words coming from their blogs almost convinced me to try it.
There was one article that stuck out to me however. The Chicago Tribune released an article called “You don’t need to go full vegan to get the vegan benefits”. The underlying message was that reducing animal product intake and increasing fruits, vegetables and whole grains is typically the best way to be healthy. There are two extremes of food eating that I think we are too clear cut on: eating animal products regularly & cutting out animal products entirely.
The biggest problem lies in the fact when people go vegan, that doesn’t necessarily mean you are eating the healthiest things. Technically (and yes, many people do consider the “technicalities” and use them to their advantage) you could still eat french fries and be considered vegan… but that’s not healthy is it?
One such study reported by the article included several thousand adults grouped into one of three categories: A fully-plant based diet that included no meat, one that allowed moderation of meat and one that encouraged unhealthy foods. Results showed that both the all plant and plant & meat diet had very slim differences in association with decreased coronary heart disease.
The study concluded that, “Thus… moderate reductions in animal foods… can be largely achieved by lowering intake of less healthy animal foods such as red and processed meats.” From this we can understand further that we shouldn’t have a diet filled with just plants or filled with tons of red meat.
We can, and should, still eat meat but in smaller amounts. As Michael Pollan states at the end of the article, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants”.
Keep eatin’ your veggies!