FINDING YOUR “WHY” FOR VEGANISM

Many people ask me how have I been so successful in my transition to veganism overnight. Usually big changes require small baby steps to finally achieve. First off I’d like to say that in general I am an all or nothing person, and I knew if I didn’t wake up the next day and clean everything out of my fridge it would be more difficult for me to make the change. Not everyone is like this, and that is totally fine too. But the biggest piece of advice I could give to someone looking to make ANY sort of lifestyle change would be to define and hone into your “WHY”.

Your “WHY” is the reason for your change. It is the reason you believe that these changes will help you achieve your “WHY”. It is by-far the strongest driving force into making any lifestyle change. No one likes to be told to do something or change something. When I was younger it felt like I would make it a point to not do something if someone arbitrary told me to. Unless I had a good reason to do something I thought to myself, why should I? The truth is that no one can force you to care about something. You find your own reason to do so. Power to make positive changes in your life comes when the individual can find their own special reason for these changes apart from pressure from other forces.

There are many “WHY”s for becoming vegan/plant based. Here are the top three:

  1. Health and wellness

My “WHY” for becoming vegan is for the health and wellness aspect. I was dealing with some health problems that I wanted nothing to do with. Dealing with health is scary. We as a society take our health for granted, and with good reason. We are not taught at a young age that caring for ourselves is something we should all do, whether it be through nutrition or fitness, we are bombarded with advertisements for the total opposite. At a very basic level I wish we were taught how to shop for produce, how to prep and cook our meals, build our plates, how to eat and when, amongst so many other things. Teaching children these basics can work to empower them on their quest of wellbeing. On a even more basic level, learning these things at a young age encourages us to take charge of our lives and look after ourselves. When I first started learning how to cook I was paralyzed by the seemingly million steps I have to do in order to complete a simple meal, and only though pushing through did I learn the basics and how to overcome my fear of doing something “wrong”. A picture of the food pyramid is not enough. We need to know WHY we need what he need and how other cultures use their foods as fuel.

Cooking is such a basic skill. We have reduced our desire to cook down to food subscription boxes and takeout because we just so damn lazy. I wholly believe that this is due to the lack of education. Not to say that these mechanisms for getting food on the table are shameful, but more and more I am noticing that young adults around my age who are stepping into the world of living alone and explore, cooking is put on the back burner. Cooking does not have to be complicated, and I argue that it is more nourishing and fulfilling than buying out.

I digress, can you tell I’m passionate about this topic?

2. Climate change

The science shows that factory farming and livestock is the number one cause of increasing green house gases to date. The meat production production that has ramped up to match increasing demand in our modern world has wreaked havoc on our climate. Deforestation, rising sea levels and increased carbon monoxide levels have been linked to the overproduction of animal derived food sources, like meat and dairy. Many vegans and plant based eaters switch over to the diet to combat the looming fear of climate change on our future generations. Popular documentaries like Cowspiracy and Seaspiracy have suggested that reducing or completely eliminating consumption of animal based food sources is a crucial step in reducing our carbon foot print and effect on the environment.

There is an amazing tool, the “Vegan Calculator” that can be found at https://thevegancalculator.com/, that illustrates the impact you’ve had on the environment since going vegan on a variety of climate related factors. According to the website, in just one year of being vegan you save 401,500 gallons of water, 10,950 sqft of forestry, 14,600 lbs of grain, 7,300 lbs of co2 and 365 animal lives. How amazing is that?

3. Animal justice and rights

It is a well known fact that in, especially factory farming, animals face horrific abuses from the time they are born to the time they make it to the slaughter house. There are no shortage of videos exposing these atrocities yet it still continues and grows each day.

Thomas Hobbes famously said, “the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” This pessimistic outlook of life is telling of the importance we put on animal rights. Truth of the matter is that we have not, as a society, deemed the life of animals, sentient beings, of equal importance to our own. I have to admit that this argument did not persuade me to go vegan the first time I encountered it. I shrugged it off an considered it the “circle of life”. Now that I have had time to reflect on its merits, I completely resonate with this argument. There is a significant degree of cognitive disassociation taught in our society, implicitly or explicitly, to shield us from the truth of factory farming. Many vegans I have connected with whom did not choose veganism for the animals have indicated that after a while, as you detach from the mainstream belief of what is considered food, liken to the argument that animals are sentient beings who do not deserve to die for our consumption. A certain higher level of consciousness swoops in as they step back and look at our food systems.

There can be arguments made that other types of farming do not contribute to the abuses of animals, such having your own animals or sustainable/regenerative farming. I think there is a space where farming practices can be altered to allow for improved qualities of life for these animals. This is my personal opinion and my view on this “why” but others argue there is absolutely no room for any argument of any kind. There are levels to being an animal rights activist, but the point remains that we must look to treating animals with dignity and respect despite our common belief that their existence is entirely for our consumption.

Wherever you fit in, your “why” is the most important thing that will keep you going as you embark on your journey as a vegan. Overtime, your ‘why’ will fade away into the background as you come to terms with the new lifestyle. I no longer have to remind myself that, no I can not have the cream dessert because its unhealthy, I just know it is and why it is, and I can happily wave goodbye to it. As you stand strongly on your “why”, your our friends and family will come to terms with your stance and respect your choices, and overtime you may find that they have more questions and curiosity around going vegan and making a healthy lifestyle change.


SUPPLEMENTS I TAKE AND WHY

As a plant based eater, and someone who is working on improving their health, I take a range of supplements to help with that. I want to preface this by saying I am no medical professional and I do not claim my suggestions as medical advice. Please, please, please if you are unsure of anything I mentioned or have any questions please consult with your medical professional!

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is an absolute MUST wherever you are. Thank you to the advancements of the intellectual enlightenment and of the modern world we are not longer outsiders. Meaning that we don’t spend NEARLY as much time outside as we used to and do not get access to the vitamin D needed for healthy bodily function. Your body naturally produces Vitamin D when your skin comes in contact with the sun, so not having regular contact puts you at risk for vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D’s primary function is to maintain calcium levels in the body. The body needs calcium for bone strength, optimal muscle movement and nerve performance.

There are many well documented reasons why vitamin D is absolutely necessary for optimal health, and is linked as a main cause of a variety of illnesses and chronic conditions. I recently did routine blood work and I was surprised to find that Vitamin D tests were not covered by provincial insurance because it is ASSUMED that the entire population is deficient! This is probably because in Canada, we have a very long season of cold weather with overcast skies, and the sun rays we do experience are not strong enough to give us the optimal Vitamin D levels needed. In fact, there are some weeks where I do not go outside for days because it is just too cold to function.

There is AMPLE evidence that Vitamin D is linked to many symptoms and ailments (you can see here: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3356951/). I take a Vitamin D liquid drops by the brand GNA Naturals. I take about 5,000iu of the drops daily because I am quite deficient. However, the recommended dosage is 1-2,000iu/day. Vitamin D can also be found in some animal products like cow liver or cod, but since I am plant based I do not consume those options

Vitamin K2

One thing people may not know is that Vitamin K2 is essential to allowing the body to properly consume and absorb Vitamin D. It helps prevent calcification of the bone (essentially prevents plaque like build-up) and of soft tissues (like your brain). Calcification is the accumulation of calcium deposits in your body that can cause serious pain or side effects if left untreated. I take Vitamin K2 by Natural Factors but you can find supplements that contain both Vitamin D and K2 within a single pill.

B Complex

Like Vitamin D, Vitamin B is a very important vitamin for optimal health function. It is most notable for those suffering with fatigue or energy depletion throughout the day through metabolic processes. Amongst other things, deficiency in Vitamin B12 is also known to cause symptoms that mimic neurological conditions such as numbness, tingling and vision issues. Vitamin B12 is also a concern for vegan and plant based eaters because vitamin B12 is normally found in animal based sources or in the soil, which are two sources of food that we do not consume. I use a B-Complex from the brand Sisu.

Probiotic

Probiotics have become a recent addition to my supplement collection because I noticed I have a difficult time getting fermented foods into my diet. I’ve also been on a quest to improve my overall gut health and probiotics are a natural decision to achieving that. I use the Renew Life Brand Probiotics for Women with over 50 million active strands. When looking for a probiotic supplement choose one (within your budget) with the highest number of active strands, for your specific needs (i.e for women), and one that is in a refrigerated section! We want active cultures people.

Magnesium

Magnesium is another big one for inflammation, circulation and nerve health, muscle function and overall energy. Fun fact: there are over several hundred peripheral nerves inside your body, so you might as well take care of them. Magnesium can be found in a lot of foods and is not a must to take but it is something that I have seen great benefits using (less muscle spasms which is what I was hoping it would do). Magnesium can be found especially in nuts and seeds for all of my vegans and plant based eaters.

Spirulina & Chlorella

This supplement came to me just out of pure interest of taking a “superfood” supplement. I try my best to get in as much greens as possible into my daily diet but an extra supplement of it doesn’t hurt. Some of the vitamins and minerals provided by the supplement are actually difficult to get entirely from a plant based diet. I take 4 capsules daily of the Praire Naturals blend of Spirulina & Chlorella blend.

Lions Mane

Lions Mane came to me as I explored the world for medicinal mushrooms. The only mushrooms I ever knew about were portobello and cremini. However, mushrooms have a long standing reputation for being one of natures super healing foods. Lions Mane is a non psychedelic mushroom that is shown to cause neuro growth and repair in the brain and improve overall energy and cognitive function. It is a little bit on the expensive side but is a very high quality supplement with promising effects. I take the Purica Lions Mane.

Black Seed Oil

It is mentioned in the Quran that black seed oil can cure everything but death. What a claim right? I decided to take this supplement (the actual oil) because of the research backing its anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties. Studies have shown that in rats with chronic or neurological issues that received IV’s of black seed oil have improved in their conditions. Plus a very ancient piece of text says so. (P.S this tastes horrible so be aware!)

Hope you found this post helpful. Please reach out to me if you have any other questions! xx


KITCHEN MUST HAVES

There are a few kitchen tools that have proved absolutely essential to being a well rounded plant based eater, and I am here to share those with you to elevate your cooking game! Every one of these products are tried and true and I have to say that they have made my life so much easier. I explain a little bit as to why I think you may need these tools, but you are completely open to make substitutions that fit your needs. I just want to say that I have a tiny kitchen with not much counter space, so I had to limit my kitchen appliances to what I could possibly fit in my space.

  1. FOOD PROCESSOR

BY FAR my favourite kitchen tool is my food processor. I first decided to get one because I was tired of mashing beans for my bean burgers, and I could never get them to the right consistency. I also LOVED hummus and a variety of other plant based dips and could not imagine doing all of those by hand. I never grew up with a food processor so I was quite skeptical of its benefits but I have to say it has been a life saver! Since then I have made desserts, dips, and even kneaded my dough (yes, I could not do it with my hands).

I highly recommend getting a larger food processor, like this one, that is 7+ cups. I had a mini processor that would drive me insane because I had to process individual batches and they were never really mixed well! It is also super inexpensive but such a powerful tool that saves my time and my sanity!

2. BLENDER

Now I do have to preface this with saying there are SO many types of blenders I have tried and they all have their pros and cons. As I mentioned above I don’t have very much space in my kitchen so my blender actually sits on top of my fridge (yes it is completely safe). As a vegan I use my blender for a ton of items including smoothies, sauces (nut or vegetable based), juices, nut milk, and even sorbets. Depending on what you are looking for, I have two options on both spectrums of the price scale that I could recommend.

I currently use the Ninja Professional Blender & Nutri Ninja, which I picked up at Costco on sale for $75. Now heres the thing; I LOVE the smaller cup and blade attachment. I find the blade is able to break everything down with ease and is perfect for small batches of smoothies and especially sauces. I also love the sipping cup attachment that I use all the time for smoothies on the go. BUT, the larger blender attachment DOES NOT perform as well as the smaller size. It does not break down as smoothly and often leaves chunks of whatever I am blending. It is also almost too large in size, and very flimsy to the point where I am nervous to use it sometimes. And a heads up, this blender IS LOUD. Like LOUD LOUD. I can not use it at all if anyone is sleeping because they will wake up 10000% of the time. So if you’re looking for a low-cost options for a blender I would recommend the Ninja but do be aware that it does have its own downfalls despite the price. I also use a hand held blender from Cuisinart for blending soups, and it is perfect because there is minimal clean up involved and I don’t have to pull out the huge blender.

If you have the budget for a high end blender I HAVE to recommend the Vitamix (to no ones surprise). My in-laws have it and it is AMAZING. It can even cook your soup for you, what?! The high speed blender is nothing like I have seen before and if you are using your blender for a large family then I would highly recommend this blender. All the positive reviews are real. It is amazing and I wish I had one in my own household.

3. AIR FRYER

Now this appliance may be my ultimate favourite aside from my food processor. I never grew up with anything like it, no toaster oven just a regular microwave. I use my air fryer pretty much everyday whether it be for lunch or dinner. I always felt guilty for firing up my oven for a couple of veggies or a sweet potato and the air fryer has taken that guilt away completely! It is truly magical. I use it for roasting veggies, beans and nuts, toasting, and reheating leftovers. Just a disclaimer: the hype around the air fryer is that it requires minimal oil, BUT I’d have to disagree. I find that roasting without oil or just a tiny bit makes the veggies a little too dry for my liking but you could totally roll with that. My favourite thing to roast in the air fryer is kale, sweet potatoes, carrots, and chickpeas!

I chose the Cosori 5.8QT air fryer for a couple of reasons. First the SIZE. The smaller version of this seemed it would be tiny and I was completely right. 5.8QT is the way to go and I wish there was even a larger size. It is tall but not wide and it is perfect to fit in the corner of my kitchen where the microwave was. I also picked this model because it is less “digital” than the other ones. I recognize that since I am plant-based I don’t care for the preset options for meat or seafood so I thought I would stick to simpler model with an actual timer. I LOVE the dial timer on this air fryer because I use timers often and I don’t care for touch screens.

SO these are my absolute kitchen must haves that I would not know where I would be without! I know I missed some other things like microwaves, toasters, but I have to say that I don’t use any of these anymore. They are sitting in my basement and when I am unable to warm up something on the stove I quickly run down and use it. There are some honourable mentions that I will include that have made my life easier:

  • Cosori Electric Tea Kettle : If you’re a tea lover like me this will change the game. It is a quick option to boiling water and is always sitting on my counter top
  • Lemon/Line Juicer: I use this often for salads and dressings.
  • Knife sharpener: Yeah I use this RARELY but knifes need sharpening. Need I say more?
  • Ice cream scoop/cookie scoop: A luxury item I must say but why not?

Hope this helped you navigate the appliance world!