Veganism vs. Food Waste

Happy Veganuary to me! 🌟🥕 On January 1st last year, I went “cold turkey” vegan, from full-time meat-eater to committed vegan, no cheating. I chose to be vegan for my personal health, to support my mum’s own vegan journey, and for ethical concerns. However, it’s a decision I constantly research and question.

This Veganuary (yes, that is a real thing) I bring to you a little debate about the health/ethical pros of veganism, and its potential food waste/sustainability cons.

1) Veganism

Going vegan is the only New Year’s resolution I’ve ever kept. I didn’t even intend to be cheesy af, I just wanted a fresh calendar page to start on. Here are the 4 things that prompted my decision:

  1. Seeing my mum’s health transformed by a plant-based diet
  2. Debunking meat myths and learning the nutritional benefits of plants
  3. Discovering the unethical/disgusting treatment of animals and their dairy products
  4. Understanding veganism as a way to lessen my eco-footprint

Let’s be honest. Ultimately, I just want to live longer. 😜 And turns out broccoli is pretty good for that.

There are so many different diets for health or pleasure, each claiming to be the best. For me, veganism has always been a choice. It’s not about restricting myself; it’s not that I can’t eat something, it’s that I won’t. I want to live longer, and feel better about it, and veganism is one way I choose to do that.

broccoli.jpg

Plant Power

Here are just a couple tidbits to get you excited about some research of your own:

  1. Protein: 100 calories of kale, broccoli, or even romaine lettuce has more protein than steak.1 One cup of cooked quinoa has 8.14g of protein,2 and all 9 essential amino acids. Nuts and beans are badass too.
  2. Calcium: A serving of kale has more calcium than a glass of milk, and it is absorbed better by your body.3
  3. Vitamin B12: This is one of the only vitamins that cannot be adequately consumed through a plant-based diet. About 40% of the US population is B12 deficient, and it’s not just the vegetarians.4 The best-absorbed source of B12 is supplements or fortified cereals and soy/almond/cow milks.
  4. Omega-3: You can get loads of omega-3 from flax seeds, walnuts, chia seeds, and leafy greens. There is also now a plant-based omega-3 supplement available for vegans.
  5. Life!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Vegetarians live an average of 8 years longer than meat eaters.5 Along with less cancer, less heart disease, and less diabetes.6 I’ll take it.

**The Veganuary site has a great page that hacks common myths about veganism**

2) Food Waste

Not much research has been done on the long-term effects of veganism– it is always possible there are drawbacks we are not yet aware of. However, to me, the bigger issue is whether veganism is actually as “sustainable” as it seems.

I listened to an EconTalk about Food Waste over the holidays, hosted by Stanford’s Russ Roberts. He had blogger/historian Rachel Laudan as his guest to talk about food waste, and how it relates to today’s consumer market and dietary fads.

Laudan was all about weighing values when it comes to food choices. For example, while we label certain sustainability pursuits like composting, eating raw foods, or cooking at home as morally “good,” they may not be the most effective or environmentally-friendly action in every case.

orange juice

Roberts and Laudan discuss how squeezing your own orange juice at home is actually less “ethical” or “environmentally-friendly” than buying a carton at the store! Overall, transporting whole oranges to supermarkets uses more energy than transporting cartons of juice, even when you consider what it takes to recycle the cartons.

Loading up at the Farmers Market or eating only raw veggies may not be as “good” as you think; fresh foods go off very quickly and are often wasted. In fact, frozen veggies are often precut and ready to use, and contain more nutrients than fresh veggies because they are flash-frozen.

Laudan recognizes that most of us don’t have the time or skills to prepare elaborate fresh-veggie meals at home. And she sees this as wasteful and ineffective. If we are trying to live healthy and ethical lifestyles, we must examine the practicality and effects of our actions.

One example that came to my mind was Organic Box. You can order fresh organic foods to be delivered weekly/monthly to your house. But is this the most efficient/effective way to get your food? Is there extra potential for spoilage/waste?

A vegan diet is not automatically “good,” or even healthy. Many vegans choose to eat lots of carbs and sugar and baked goods–to each their own! 😍 But when I’m aiming to be health or environmentally-conscious in my food choices, I guess I’ve gotta consider things from every angle.

Food Sustainability Concerns:

  1. Buying some processed foods may be more eco-friendly than making them yourself
  2. Fresh fruits/veggies have a large potential for waste
  3. Some “healthy” eating habits may not be efficient 

Just because a product is vegan or organic doesn’t mean it’s always sustainable! If I’m buying kale, will I actually eat it? Those vegan granola pellets look awesome! Wait, they’re all individually triple plastic wrapped.

This year, I’m excited to continue a healthy vegan diet. But, as part of my attempt to eat consciously, with health, the environment, and ethics in mind, I’m always open to arguments!

 


1 http://www.jeffnovick.com/RD/Q_%26_As/Entries/2013/9/9_Which_Has_More_Protein__100_Calories_of_Broccoli%2C_Steak%2C_Romaine_or_Kale.html

2 https://www.thespruce.com/quinoa-nutrition-facts-protein-calories-3376929

3 http://www.organicauthority.com/health/reasons-kale-is-the-new-beef-nutritious-sustainable.html

4 https://eatingourfuture.wordpress.com/science-studies-vegan-vegetarian-health-diets-reports-less-chronic-disease-illness/vitamin-b12-deficiency-in-meat-eaters-vegetarians-vegans/

5 https://www.huffingtonpost.com/kathy-freston/plant-based-diet_b_1981838.html

6 http://time.com/9463/7-reasons-vegetarians-live-longer/

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