Increasing trends engulfing the nation, vegetarianism and veganism have found their way into the diets of health nuts, hipsters and animal-sympathizers alike. Meat eaters often scoff at the idea of an all veggie diet and wonder how a vegan/vegetarian survives on only kale chips and coconut milk. Unlike the Atkins or South Beach diet fads, veganism and vegetarianism have the potential to stick around as a source of clean eating for a healthier body.
Trailblazing the trend, celebrities have joined the cause and engaged in a meatless life, including Lea Michele [vegetarian], Natalie Portman [vegan] and Olivia Wilde [vegetarian].
In a 2009 piece she wrote for HuffingtonPost.com, Natalie Portman explained her reasoning for becoming vegan.
“Jonathan Safran Foer’s book Eating Animals changed me from a twenty-year vegetarian to a vegan activist,” Portman said. “The human cost of factory farming — both the compromised welfare of slaughterhouse workers and, even more, the environmental effects of the mass production of animals — is staggering.”
In tandem with her choice to become vegan, Portman says she feels that humans may not understand the thoughts and feelings in an animal’s brain, yet those thoughts and feelings nevertheless exist.
“I’m often interrogated about being vegetarian (e.g., ‘What if you find out that carrots feel pain, too? Then what’ll you eat?’),” she said. “Perhaps others disagree with me that animals have personalities, but the highly documented torture of animals is unacceptable.”
With celebrities like Natalie Portman endorsing and advocating veganism and vegetarianism, the diet fad has continued to grow, as have a variety of myths about the all-veggie lifestyle. Below are a few dispelled myths for the curious vegetarian, perplexed meat eater and interested vegan:
Myth: The vegan/vegetarian diet is a health compromise Fact: The goal of eating is to fuel the body with certain vitamins, minerals, proteins, etc. To help us select the nutrients we need, the USDA created the food pyramid. Although helpful, the pyramid’s food groups focus more on types of foods rather than the nutrients found in the foods, which offer a narrow scope of what our bodies need to sustain our activities. It is true that vegans/vegetarians must be cognizant of which nutrients they are consuming, but they must be no more aware than the meat-eating population.
Myth: Vegans/Vegetarians eat weird, hard-to-find and unappetizing foods Fact: Vegans/Vegetarians indulge in much of the same culinary luxuries as any regular foodie. Although being vegetarian/vegan may incite a desire to be adventurous with food, not all vegans/vegetarians enjoy trying strange looking fruit and awkward protein fillers. Many vegans/vegetarians eat the same, accessible foods as a meat eater; they simply omit the meat and add a B12 vitamin and a meatless serving of protein.
Myth: Eating vegan/vegetarian is costly Fact: If a vegan/vegetarian knows where and when to shop, cost is never an issue. As per any shopping trip, scope out coupons, purchase items on sale and buy within a budget. Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods Market and Sprouts are all grocery stores that have weekly ads and specials for the natural, organic foods they supply. Additionally, when comparing vegetables to meat, vegetables are always the cheaper option, rather than paying several dollars per pound for meat.