Sunday, February 21, 2010

My Vegan Experiment - Can I Hack It?

I've been toying with the idea of adopting a vegan diet (no meat, fish, dairy, eggs, or honey) for months. I finally decided to give it a fair try for one week starting today. First of all, I'd like to determine exactly how difficult it would be to make the change. Secondly, I'd like to see if it makes me feel better.

I have been a lacto-ovo vegetarian for about 6 years, meaning I don't eat meat but I do eat eggs and dairy. I actually eat a lot of eggs and dairy - especially cheese, butter, yogurt, and ice cream. Perhaps too much. So, this will be a fairly big change for me. I wonder if I can hack it?

Why go from vegetarian to vegan? Here are some of the things I hope to do by cutting out eggs and dairy:
  • Improve digestion. Approximately 75% of the world's population loses the ability to digest lactose after infancy (click HERE for some interesting statistics about lactose intolerance among different ethnic groups). Perhaps I am part of that percentage of people who are lactose intolerant, and by cutting out dairy I will have better digestion, which could improve my quality of life in lots of ways.
  • Reduce excess mucus. Although it's controversial, some people believe that dairy is mucus-producing. I figure it's worth a try to see if cutting dairy might give me some relief from the uncomfortable symptoms that come from excess mucus, such as sinus headaches and nasal congestion.
  • Lower my cholesterol. My cholesterol lingers right around 200 despite the fact that I haven't eaten meat in 6 years. Perhaps my excessive consumption of dairy products and eggs are the culprit.
  • Make room for healthier choices. When you've cut out meat, dairy, and eggs, what else is left? Fresh vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts, and whole grains! Yes, there is plenty of vegan junk food, but I'm hoping that by cutting out some of my main pitfalls (high-fat cheese and ice cream), I will end up making better choices overall to fill the void. I might even loose a few pounds in the process!
  • Reduce exposure to certain chemicals. Dairy products and eggs sometimes contain things such as growth hormones, antibiotics, and coloring agents. Although there are products that claim to be free of these chemicals, they aren't always readily available or affordable.
  • Support more eco-friendly & humane farming practices. Animal farming is much harder on the environment than produce farming. Plus, the humane treatment of the animals is not exactly ideal, even when "cage-free" and "free-range" practices are used. Click HERE for information about what these labels really mean.
I know that my diet will never be perfect. However, I am determined to make little changes each day for better health - not just for me and my family, but for the environment. I am often overwhelmed and confused with all the information and research about nutrition. While it's tempting to give up and just eat whatever, I'm determined to keep trying!

I recognize that we all have to make food choices that are best for us. I am not one to judge or criticize others who don't make the same choices as I do. I just hope, as always, to exchange information with you about my experience with food so that we all might be more healthy, green and frugal. I hope to hear from you about your experiences!
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