The trend of being a vegan has spread wide throughout the country but Los Angeles has propelled the movement to new levels of popularity. It seems as though everywhere you turn in LA you’re sure to find a restaurant or business that supports the Idea of plant-based eating.
As we can all attest this wasn’t always the case growing up. Especially when burgers, ice cream, and other unhealthy non plant-based meals and snacks were marketed to our demographic. Suddenly this reoccurring question kept popping into my head, “where the hell did all this vegan talk stem from?” It seems like there was a switch flipped then BOOM everyone had “#Vegan” in their Instagram bios.
What really clicked that this movement was here to stay was the realization that restaurant menus all over the city now have vegan options.
What has made this vegan lifestyle more popular? More importantly, is switching to vegan cuisine worth it for our overall health? A possible explanation for the spike in popularity could be that our favorite businesses and entertainers are moving heavily in the direction of a vegan lifestyle.
Major A-lists celebrities partake in this way of life, from JLo, Pharrell Williams, Shakira, Jay-Z to the queen of the beehive herself, Beyoncé. One of the most successful books on the topic of veganism was published in 2015 by celebrity personal trainer Marco Borges. He is now a New York Times bestselling author due to the tremendous popularity of his book, The 22-Day Revolution. The marketing behind this movement is a machine. This all stems from the hipster hype and your favorite celebs vouching for its results. Refraining from consuming animal products such as; meats, egg, dairy, etc. for physical benefits is something even Beyoncé can stand behind, so much so that she wrote the foreword to book.
The major principle that Borges’ diet is founded on is the notion that it generally takes about 21 days to form or break a habit, which to most doesn’t seem like a lot of time. Consumers found this “revolution” alluring because just 22 days of discipline could lead to a lifetime of healthy habits and results, whether that be weight loss or reversal of health issues. This concept along with wanting to have that Hollywood glamorized body has made this nutrition plan outlined by Borges so successful and thus helping spread the word of this trendy lifestyle.
To dive in even deeper, let’s breakdown what being vegan really means. In its simplest form vegan cuisine does not include any animal byproducts such as meat, dairy, seafood or anything else derived from them. All of the above is off the table as a vegan however all veggies are in the green (see what I did there?).
Tough pill to swallow, I know.
This begs the question “Is meat actually harmful to our bodies”?
Below the surface the answer becomes more complex and it really depends on who you ask as mentioned by Dr. Mark Hyman. As an American physician and New York Times best-selling author Dr. Hyman knows a thing or two on this topic. He has written an array of books on the very subject matter of nutrition. He debunks misconceptions about the every day items found in our fridges and pantries, from grains to legumes, meat to dairy, fats and so forth. Truthfully there is no right or wrong answer to this question because meat and dairy do add value to our bodies but can also cause ailments. Depending on what type of meats you choose to consume can lower or increase your chances of health related issues.
The two most common types of meats accessible to Americans are:
Processed Meats: this includes any meat that has been modified in order to either improve its taste or to extend its shelf life. The methods in which the meat is considered processed is if it has undergone any type of salting, curing, fermenting or smoking. Examples include sausages and bacon.
Conventional red meat: this type of meat is fairly unprocessed, but the cows are usually factory farmed. Meats that are red when raw are defined as red meats. This includes lamb, beef, pork, and some others.
White meat: are white when cooked this includes meat from poultry like chicken and turkey.
Grass-fed, organic meat: This meat comes from animals that have been naturally fed and raised organically, without drugs and hormones. They also don’t have any artificial chemicals added.
Okay, so it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize the least healthy option listed is processed meat. Processed meats are without a doubt some of the worst foods you can eat on frequent basis and in large quantities because of the added hormones have adverse affects on the human body overtime. Red meats, on the other hand, offer some of the best nutrients of the others on the list but should be enjoyed in moderation.
Laura Donnelly, health correspondent for The Telegraph, notes that “people should not consume more red or processed meat than an average 2.5oz a day, which is about 17oz a week.” Too much of a good thing does often come at a price. This restriction is recommended due to the connection that red meats shares with bowel cancer. However, red meats do contain B6, 12 and 3 vitamins as well as a hefty amount of Iron, zinc, and selenium. So with that lineup of outstanding ingredients how could meat be bad right? Well, this is where things get a bit tricky.
Various studies indicate health concerns for those who consume an exorbitant amount of meat. People who consume those unreasonably high amounts of meats are more likely to fall ill, get cancer and even die than someone who only eats an abundance of veggies.
Do be warned that these studies are not complete certainties, rather observations and extrapolations. Dr. Andreas Eenfeldt based the statistics for his study on the surveys sent to more than 100,000 U.S. health care worker from the 1980s up until 2008. The studies specifically focussed on the differences between meat eaters and others. According to Eenfeldt, “The data just screams that the group who ate the most red meat is also generally much more unhealthy: they smoke up to three times more often, they are exercising much less, they are fatter and have more diabetes and hypertension, they take less vitamin supplements and need more pain medication, they eat a lot more calories, they eat less fruit, less vegetables, less fiber and less fish, they drink more alcohol.”
This data seams biased and is being used a divisive measure to make the public associate eating meat with essentially being a meat loving couch potato that smokes, drinks, and doesn’t workout. This is why as millennials we must do our own research and make our own decisions.
Now you know I have to play devil’s advocate, so let’s get into some more things. Typically the quintessential idea of a vegan is someone who lives somewhere sunny or near a beach who feels good, looks even better and sometimes performs at a greater rate and with more energy than meat eaters. Since the vast majority of the rhetoric surrounding the topic of veganism revolves solely around clean eating or health benefits it poses many question for the opposition.
Such as, what bout the vegans that consume large quantities of french fries, beer and hot Cheetos, which for the record are totally vegan? Jenny Marie who founded the Tumblr account, Big Fat Vegan Zine, states “I find that as a vegan, I am usually rejected, because veganism is seen as a diet, or as restrictive eating.”
Since she is a self proclaimed “fat vegan” her goal is to break the mold of what a typical vegan is perceived as by the average person. Since she is embraced by the Health AT Every Size community, she stands her ground that being fat and being vegan doesn’t make her any more or less healthy. It seems the difference in opinions may just be that, since there is no legitimate and unbiased proof that proclaims one group to be healthier or more rewarding than the other.
In the end, the debate if becoming vegan is actually worth the sacrifice will stand the test of time. While being vegan can provide extreme benefits, the same can be said for consuming meat.
Either way, the city of LA is going green more than ever before. Now ask yourself, are you?