What is the Vegan Diet?
Veganism means abstinence from the use of animal products – this can be dietary (not eating meat, eggs, dairy and other animal-derived food sources) and/or ethical (not using animal products of any sort).
Just like everyone else, vegans need carbs, proteins and healthy fats. Vegan protein sources can include: soy beans, peas, peanuts, black beans, chickpeas, quinoa, brown rice, corn, barley, bulgur, wheat, nuts and seeds. Both soy beans and quinoa are complete proteins. While these ingredients contain significant amounts of protein, vegans need to ensure they are balancing their diet and getting the 1g/lb bodyweight of protein they need. Vegans also need to make sure they’re getting their Omega-3s (since they can’t get them from fish and fish oil). ALA (Alpha-linolenic acid) can be found in leafy greens, nuts, canola and flaxseed oil.
What does veganism claim?
Supporters cite many reasons for living a vegan lifestyle –
Compassion for Animals – Veganism is a tangible way to take a stand against animal cruelty, animal exploitation and factory farming.
Environmental Concerns – Meat (and animal product) production takes a toll on environmental resources. The huge amount of grain the animals need contributes to deforestation, habitat loss and species extinction. Supporters argue that the land, water and grain used to feed food animals could be much better purposed.
Socioeconomic Justice – A plant-based diet requires far less land and water, making it more accessible for those who are poorest. Many vegans claim that veganism is a more efficient, sustainable and equitable choice for today’s world.
Health Benefits – A well laid-out vegan diet can be rich in minerals, nutrients, high in fibre and antioxidants, and low in saturated fat. This can help to mitigate some of the diseases associated with the North American diet – obesity, heart disease, cancer and diabetes. Vegan diets often center on whole, unprocessed foods and bring all the benefits that eating those types of foods can bring – clearer skin, better sleep, improved energy, pain relief, etc.
Are there any studies to back up those claims?
Yes, there are quite a few. Though reliable research is a huge point of debate for supporters and detractors. Many people claim that the biggest scale study, The China-Cornell-Oxford Study, has serious flaws and that future studies have debunked the results. As with most nutrition studies, you can find convincing arguments for both sides. There are certainly more convincing (and concrete) ethical reasons for a vegan lifestyle than widely-agreed upon heath data.
To get a better idea of how being vegan fits into the derby lifestyle, let’s talk to someone who lives it – Tri-City Roller Derby’s Kristy Skelton.
How long have you been a vegan?
About 3 years.
What’s veganism for you, in a nutshell?
Most people know that a vegan lifestyle excludes the intake or use of animals and animal by-products, but the number one way that veganism impacts my life is how it tunes me into to what I am putting in my body. It also reminds me to eat. After the development of severe IBS and some disordered eating, I have had to be much more cautious about what I am surviving on. Instead of choosing any food that is in front of me, I have to search out, plan and put energy into finding/cooking foods that are going to positively impact my body and also educating myself on where those products are coming from.
Why do you follow this particular dietary strategy?
I was always wary of eating meat and really never liked red meat or ate it. When I started developing intense digestion and intestinal issues, I had to cut out nearly all food products that were not natural. While initially it was a change I made for my health, I am happy to say that I continue it, also, for the animals. There is no need to be cruel to animals for food. Corporate farming is an abomination. We can get everything we need for sustenance through things we can grow in our own gardens all while knowing where it comes from and what is in it. Plus there are tons of great vegan cheeses, dairy alternatives (hello Coconut Bliss!) and meat alternatives.
What is the most challenging aspect of eating vegan?
- Eating out. It’s absolutely possible to go to restaurants and modify dishes but the lack of veg/vegan meals on menus is troubling. You become “that” person. Team dinners can be tough but folks are coming around and are starting to open up to trying new things and places outside of their diet comfort zones.
- My disordered eating challenges. This isn’t because of the veganism but can be a roadblock when I am having a particularly hard time. I have a tendency to underfeed my body because of negative gut reactions that may come. If I don’t adequately prepare meals that I can eat (like, the fridge only has yesterday’s chicken dinner from my non-vegan partner) then I won’t eat anything – which isn’t good! I have definitely had some slip-ups, but I am actively working to change those habits and stay on a healthy path!
What is the greatest benefit of eating vegan?
For me, a body that doesn’t act out and seek revenge on me. But also the ability to manage my weight goals and overall energy levels, which have had a positive effect on my mental health. I also feel really proud that I don’t contribute to animal cruelty practices or add to a negative environmental footprint because I choose to not support the meat and dairy industries.
What do you eat on game day?
On game day I become a bigger bag lady than on a normal day! I try and keep baggies of all kinds of snacks. Nuts (usually cashews, my fave!), raisins, seeds and some hard candies. Plus cut up fruits and veggies (I try for organic). If I have time I will make my own granola and have that for breakfast with banana and almond milk. Because I usually have to volunteer before games, I pack things that are easy to eat – pre-made rice and veggies or quinoa salad; green salads loaded with nuts and fruit ( i love an almond/grape/kale/pepper combo) with a vinaigrette dressing; plus water and protein shakes in the day and right after the game(s).
Stay tuned for Part 2, where NoFair will share her experiences with eating vegan, and we’ll share some tasty vegan recipes!