Five Reasons I’m Grateful That I Went Vegan

I went vegan for the animals before I knew any of this other stuff. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.

Photo by Ralph (Ravi) Kayden on Unsplash

01. Trying New Things

Whether you’re an adventurous eater or not, it’s not a bad idea to expand your food repertoire to cover a variety of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, grains, and so on. You won’t love everything you try, but you’ll find cool stuff you never knew existed. And it doesn’t even have to be fancy.

When I was a kid, I never ate oatmeal. We just never had it in the house. But I really do love it, and it’s extremely versatile. Do it up with some peanut butter and strawberry jam on top, and call it PB&J oats. I’m definitely not a fan of overnight oats, but a hot bowl of that goodness on a cold morning is amazing.

02. Meeting Cool People

There are so many ways to get help from the worldwide vegan community, even during COVID-19. Facebook is a good place to start, and I’m a member of several groups that post recipes, tips, questions, and more. Some vegans can be extremely judgy of newbies, but most of them are incredibly supportive.

This can be particularly helpful if you come from a place where vegans are rare, like I did. Rural Florida in the early aughts was not an ideal place to make the switch, but you play the hand you’re dealt. This was before Facebook really took off, and internet access wasn’t consistent. You make do with what you have, and the good news is, if you’re reading this, you probably have it somewhat better than I did at the time. At least in terms of connecting with other vegans and learning about how to do veganism well, things are much improved.

03. Learning About Nutrition

This was a big one, and a very unexpected bonus.

I didn’t care about the health benefits when I started out. I was 16, and I just simply did not care. And I’m not saying that’s a good thing, but it was what it was. I didn’t know anything about amino acids or gut health, and I was only just beginning to understand what a microbiome is and how critically important the bacteria that live in the GI tract are.

The other thing I found out, pretty quickly, was how abysmal (not to mention lazy) the nutrition education I got as a child was. They showed us the food pyramid, talked for a little bit, and that was that. No one cared how healthy greasy cheeseburgers and fried chicken were for a kid, but people wouldn’t shut up about how unhealthy plant-based living supposedly was.

04. Genetics and Health

It turns out I carry a gene that makes me somewhat more susceptible to developing colorectal cancers by way of consuming processed meats. My mom was diagnosed with anal cancer at age 41, and since I’m 31 now, I need to start getting regular colonoscopies to look for precancers. According to my gastroenterologist, you want to start looking out for that 10 years prior to the date of onset if you have a first-degree relative known to have had cancer of the GI tract.

While being vegan doesn’t preclude the possibility of developing cancer, when it comes to cancers of the GI tract, it can reduce risks. In this case, however, I’m pretty sure my mom’s diet had everything to do with her developing that particular cancer. She would later die of metastatic lung cancer, which I believe was jointly caused by the radiation from the first round and the fact that she smoked for 30 years, give or take.

But her diet was abhorrent. I’m not saying she never would have had cancer, had she been vegan or vegetarian, but hers was a diet rich in processed foods, especially processed meats and very low in fiber. That couldn’t have helped.

05. Environmental Issues

It had never occurred to me to think of the environmental impact my diet might be having, prior to going vegan. We can talk about land and water usage, as well as cow-related methane production, until the proverbial cows come home. It’s a huge problem.

The best explanation of these issues, I’ve found, was the documentary film Cowspiracy. It’s available on Netflix and Prime, and it’s very well-sourced and information-heavy. I was particularly intrigued by the discussion of grass-fed beef. There isn’t enough land on earth for everyone to eat grass-fed beef at the current rate of beef consumption.

People will stop using plastic straws to save the fish, but they won’t stop eating fish to save the fish. Overfishing is a serious issue, too, and they discuss it in the film as well. There’s also Forks Over Knives and The Game Changers. Earthlings is one I can’t fully comment on, not because I think it’s not a good film, but because I can’t get through more than 10 minutes, if that. I have an over-abundance of empathy, and it hurts me deeply to watch depictions of what goes on in animal agriculture.

Wrap-Up

There are a ton of reasons why someone might want to go vegan, and no article could list them all. I hope I can motivate people to move in that direction, but it’s also important to me that people are allowed to make informed choices about what they do with their bodies.

Food as medicine is not a new concept, but especially in western cultures, we’ve strayed pretty far from that notion. It’s having a renaissance in recent years, sometimes under the name “functional nutrition,” and I’m excited about that. I can’t make people eat any particular way, and I’m not trying to, by means of guilt, coercion, or any other method. But people who are informed about these things tend to make better choices, and we don’t get enough nutrition education. Even doctors don’t. It’s one reason why I’m a committed lifelong learner. I’ll never be perfect, but I can at least improve myself incrementally over time, so why not give myself the option?

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London Graves

London Graves

Queer vegan cryptid trying their best to survive late-stage capitalism while helping others do the same.