A Pros and Cons List to Help You Decide
While researching popular health trends in 2020, one that continued to reoccur was meatless proteins and the vegan lifestyle. In Toronto the meatless market is taking the food industry by storm. Since the release of the Beyond Meat burger at A&W, many other fast food joints and even grocery stores have followed suit. You can now find a meatless meatball sandwich at Subway, a plant-based section at Loblaws, and entirely vegan restaurants with a vest menu selection.
It made me curious. I often thought of vegans as animal loving and health conscious without ever thinking such a diet could be possible for me. I mean—let’s keep it real. I’m no chef. In fact, I’m a broke grad student living off of chicken strips and cheesy pasta.
So, as an experiment, I went vegan for one week, researching the lifestyle, the struggles, why people make the choice, and how it impacts our world. I was searching for an answer to the simple question: should I or shouldn’t I go vegan?
Maybe this thought has also crossed your mind. Here are some pros and cons that I discovered during my week to help you decide:
PRO: There are some amazing vegan restaurants in Toronto. Fresh Restaurants was one particular restaurant with an all vegan menu that I tried during my week. The place had the most amazing butternut squash soup, BBQ burgers, quinoa onion rings, and chocolate cake. Most of it was also gluten free! I was so full leaving the restaurant that you could have rolled me home.
CON: Not all vegan food is good. I tried many vegan options during my week, picking up products from the grocery store. While I found some foods, like milk and butter, as easy to replace, I had a much harder time with others. Cheese was a particular challenge to substitute, as well as meats. Most of the plant-based substitutes I picked up from the grocery store couldn’t compare to the restaurants I had tried. And while marinated tofu was good the first day, I discovered it wasn’t so great when kept as leftovers.
PRO: You eat more vegetables. If you find greens don’t often make their way into your diet, then there’s nothing like going vegan to adopt a new, healthy habit. Vegetables fill you up faster, making it harder to overeat, and are full of dietary fiber, Vitamin A, and Vitamin C. Potatoes and beans are also especially rich in potassium. Some of my favourite food I ate during my vegan experience was a homemade vegetable stir-fry, and spaghetti squash.
CON: The body can have a hard time digesting all the fibre. While vegetables are great for dieters, as some take as many calories to digest as you consume ingesting them, a body new to such a dense fibre diet may take some time to adjust. During the week I definitely noticed changes in my body. On one hand—blockages be gone! But on the other—I was constantly bloated. Vegan facebook pages confirmed I wasn’t the only one who encountered this problem. A common solution recommended was vegan probiotics. Others said the body just needed time to adjust.
PRO: There are great health benefits. While researching the diet I discovered that vegans have a lower risk of heart disease, lower blood sugar levels, and improved kidney function. There is even some evidence that suggests it reduces arthritis, and can help protect against certain types of cancer.
CON: It’s a nightmare navigating social events. During the week I was often declining lunch outings, because the chosen restaurant didn’t have many or any vegan options. Likewise, whenever I was invited over somewhere for dinner, my hosts had to go to the extra trouble of making a whole other meal just for me. This made me feel more than a little guilty. The worst was when cupcakes were brought to a meeting as a special thank-you, and I had to explain that, while I was very grateful for the thought, I could not eat them. I felt a little like I was snubbing the person’s kindness.
PRO: It helps to save the environment. You might have heard of the Netflix documentary The Game Changers that touches on this topic, but another thing I discovered in my preparation research was that veganism is a great way to reduce your environmental footprint. It helps combat world hunger by putting more food towards people instead of livestock. In also stops soil erosion, deforestation, and lowers water and energy consumption, while helping to purify the air.
CON: It hurts family farms. I didn’t always live in Toronto. I grew up in a small southern Alberta town, where many of my neighbours were hardworking farmers that treated their animals well. In fact, it would be bad practice to abuse their animals, as it would cause them to go bankrupt when the animals stopped producing their eggs, milk, etc., as a result. Plus, from what I know of dairy farming, nutritionists are behind the feed, cows have access to the outside when the weather is nice, barns are open stalled, and calves are separated for the sake of monitoring their wellbeing (more survive this way). Also, cows are bred when they are in heat, and often get very uncomfortable if they aren’t regularly milked. For a more insider look follow TDF Honest Farming on YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram.