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Want to Try a Plant-Based Diet? You’ll Get Lots of Support at Brock University!

Considering going vegetarian or vegan? As a university student in Ontario, you’ll be in good company! A new poll, commissioned by the Vancouver Humane Society, shows that 33% of Canadians, or almost 12 million, are either already vegetarian or are eating less meat! In Ontario, 8% are vegetarian or mostly vegetarian and 23% trying to eat less meat, and among 18 to 34 year olds across the country, 12% are vegetarian or mostly vegetarian. The numbers continue to rise.

Consider these reasons to make the switch to plant-based eating:

⦁ Your health 
⦁ Humane concerns
⦁ Environment 
⦁ Social justice 

Your health

The health benefits of a vegan diet can be significant but depend on how you carry it out. We still need macronutrients and micronutrients in recommended amounts. Current recommendations for macronutrients (protein, fats and carbohydrates) are 10-15% protein and added fats and the remaining 85-90% of your diet plant foods.

You need to eat within a healthy calorie framework. A 2004 government overview of Canadians’ eating habits reports that the average person requires from 1,600 – 2,750 calories per day depending on age, build and level of activity — yet if Canadians eat like their near North American neighbors in the U.S., they consume 3641 calories per day!

If a vegan constructs a healthy diet based on real foods including nuts, seeds, grains, veggies, fruits, legumes and perhaps a little olive oil, it’s easier to eat a lot of food but still stay within a healthy calorie range. Staying in this range means a vegan is less prone to the chronic diseases of aging associated with a meat and dairy rich diet. 

If you’re filling up on highly refined grains like Twinkies and washing them down with soda pop, you may still be vegan, but healthy…not so much.

Humane concerns

Many vegans are inspired by human concerns, but in our current environment, these concerns also impact our personal health. When we treat our animals like commodities, viewing them only for their financial value, we tend to skimp on resources like space and feed that are costly. Animals live in impossibly crowded and unsanitary conditions on CAFOs, Concentrated Agricultural Feeding Operations, eating foods that are not natural in their diets. Part of the program includes administering growth hormones and antibiotics routinely, and while the impact on us is indirect, it is dramatic.

Environmental

Many choose a vegan diet for environmental reasons. In Canada, meat for human consumption produces significant greenhouse gases. A 2006 United Nations report states Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) that “our diets and, specifically, the meat in them cause more greenhouse gases carbon dioxide (CO2), methane, nitrous oxide, and the like to spew into the atmosphere than either transportation or industry.” The National Inventory Report 1990-2015: Greenhouse Gas Sources and Sinks in Canada – Executive Summary reports a somewhat lower but still significant contribution with emissions from Agriculture at 8% of total greenhouse gas emissions for Canada in 2015, down from their peak in 2005.

In addition, livestock and cattle ranching destroy tropical forests as ever-growing operations require more land. Again, while the impact on health for most of us is indirect, the consequences of unchecked global warming will be dire and will increasingly have a direct effect.

Social justice

Finally, many choose veganism because of social justice concerns, expressed as early as 1972 by Frances Moore Lappe in Diet for a Small Planet, a book that inspired many wannabee vegetarians and vegans over the years. Converting plant food to meat protein through animals is an inefficient mechanism, and historically, until the advent of CAFOs and subsidies, the poor were more likely to go hungry. That remains the case today even though meat is relatively inexpensive because cattle ranching uses resources that subsistence farmers need. 

Justice would be better served, according to Lappe, if we ate the plant foods directly. These issues are even more a concern as we contemplate 9 billion people on the planet by 2050. Like humane and environmental concerns, social justice is an issue that at first blush doesn’t seem health-related, but it surely concerns the health of those who go hungry now, and, coupled with climate change, it will concern us all in time.

There are many reasons to consider eating vegan, and taking time to explore the fundamentals of a healthy vegan diet is worthwhile. Websites like drfuhrman.com will help you understand the basics of a healthy diet centered on nutrient density whether you are vegan or not. Focus on real, whole foods, prepared simply. Stay with a varied diet of veggies and fruits, nuts and seeds, grains and legumes. Consider emergency packs of real, whole foods to carry with you in case you get really hungry while you’re out. iPhone apps like Nutrition Journal can help you track what you eat at least long enough to get a sense of where you need to make adjustments.

Most of all…give what you eat some time and attention. Enjoy the beautiful colors and textures and great variety of what nature brings us. Sit down to eat, and concentrate on what you’re doing. Try to share your meals with others whenever you can. Take a few seconds before (and maybe even after) you eat to experience gratitude for the amazing gifts of nature you enjoy when you eat. Eating is the most profoundly spiritual activity of our lives, and taking time for that awareness enriches our spiritual life and our health.

And remember, you’ll have lots of support for your exploration at Brock University! We have a great Vegetarian and Vegan Community that you can check out on Facebook. The Department of Sociology adopted “a vegan purchasing policy…as a friendly gesture to the vegan faculty and students (and of course to the animals)…also an effort to maintain ethical consistency in relation to the Department’s Concentration in Critical Animal Studies and its approach to Critical Sociology in general.” Happy Cow lists sixteen vegan and vegetarian-friendly restaurants in St. Catherine’s. The
Brock University Student Survival Guide includes a Vegetarian Edition

Looking for a place to explore your new vegetarian or vegan diet? Each unit in StudentLofts.ca (the premier off-campus living experience for students at Brock) has an open-concept kitchen with new, stainless steel appliances, ceramics and a dishwasher. A perfect place to experiment with new recipes!

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