Veganism: Lettuce show you the way

By COLBY DENTON
Posted 8/29/18

There is a growing trend that not only is adopted for its health benefits, but also its environmental and humane approach to life. For those who aren’t aware, that trend is veganism.

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Veganism: Lettuce show you the way

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There is a growing trend that not only is adopted for its health benefits, but also its environmental and humane approach to life. For those who aren’t aware, that trend is veganism.

According to VeganSociety.com, veganism is "a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose."

While the lifestyle is certainly a big change for most, it is described as fairly simple by those who have made the transition.

Kacy West, a local vegan in the group ChattaVegan, became a vegan in April 2016, after completing a “Whole 30,” which is a strict paleo-diet that cuts out grains, sugars and other materials from her diet. She lost 20 pounds in a month and said she felt immensely better following this cleanse.

She then went on to spend a week with a vegan friend, who taught her about the lifestyle and showed her how easy it could be.

“When I first got into veganism, it was entirely for my health,” West said. “My doctor was very surprised at how great my blood work was after my switch. Now, I do it not only for my health, but also for the animals.”

Before her switch, West weighed 215 pounds, but has since lost 70 pounds due, she said, to her change in diet.

Due to the obesity epidemic in America, veganism is now a growing trend as it offers a high volume of green, leafy vegetables and whole fruits in most dishes. A common misconception about vegans is they eat high amounts of foods from  packages, namely processed foods. While West admits they do occasionally, processed foods are not a common inclusion in their diet.

One question vegans are often asked is, “You can’t be getting any protein. How do you get protein without meat?”

“There is a major misconception about how much protein a human needs. I need about 42 grams of protein based on my being a woman and based on my weight. The necessary amount is far less than something like 150 grams per day. Calorie per calorie and gram per gram, broccoli has more protein than beef,” West said.

Aside from broccoli, it's known that brown rice, quinoa and beans all contain comparable amounts of protein to beef, which is often cited as the go-to for protein.

While fats are generally viewed as bad additions to diets, certain foods commonly eaten by vegans are high in “good” fats as well. For example, avocados, nuts and seeds are all foods with a high fat content that contain this “good fat.” Many of them also contain high amounts of fiber, and in the case of avocados, potassium.

Many critics of veganism claim getting meals takes too long, and simply running down the street to a fast food restaurant would be quicker and more filling. Ironically, West and her partner, Corey Evatt, are huge fans of Taco Bell, as the fast food restaurant has quite the selection for those of the vegan persuasion.

A few Taco Bell vegan choices include black bean burrito; a veggie bowl ordered fresco style; and a seven-layer burrito (sans cheese or sour cream).

While Cleveland doesn’t have any vegan-only restaurants, it does have several that offer these options. Deli Boys was praised by West and Evatt as catering incredibly well to vegans. Other locations offering vegan foods include Dos Bros, Pita Pit and Fulin’s. Orange Leaf even has vegan ice cream coming in orange and pineapple flavors. Chattanooga houses various vegan-themed and vegan-only locations of its own, including The Flying Squirrel, Cashew, Sluggo’s and a vegan food truck called The Green Tambourine.

“When we are at home and want something quick, I cook what’s called a bean, a green and a grain, which usually involves throwing some brown rice into the rice cooker, putting whatever veggies we have like broccoli into the steamer and cooking a can of black or pinto beans,” she said.

Other than the obvious health benefits veganism brings, many vegans join the lifestyle because of a desire to reduce the environmental impact the meat industry brings upon the world. According to West, the yield from a soybean field is astronomical compared to the minuscule yield from a field of cows. Through groups like ChattaVegan, newcomers to veganism can learn various methods to decrease their environmental impact as well.

The ChattaVegans, which both West and Evatt are members of, is a nonprofit with nearly 2,200 members which hosts various events including potlucks throughout the year to extend the information and awareness of veganism to the local community. West said it is a great resource for the area.

Those interested in reducing their meat consumption or going full-on vegan can join the “VeeHive” of the ChattaVegan group on Facebook. Not only will you see what others are eating, but also get recipes and tips for expanding your role in the vegan community.

Whether you want to become a vegan or simply try some of the recipes, one thing many can agree on is that the world needs to stay green, and learning methods to shrink our environmental footprint is never a bad thing.

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