November 24, 2009

Two Weeks on a Vegan Diet

Filed under: Allergies, Food, Health — marcstober @ 12:06 am

At the urging of a health care provider, and armed with a new copy of Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook, I tried an essentially vegan diet for two weeks. This means no mean, poultry, fish, eggs, or dairy. It also means no cream in my coffee, and rules out most commercial baked goods, which usually contain some egg or dairy ingredient.

How did it work out? I feel great! Then again, I expected I would; for whatever reason, I’ve never particularly enjoyed a lot of meat in my diet. I feel more relaxed and energetic, and may have even started to lose a little weight.

Of couse, I can’t tell if I’m actually reducing my risk of diabetes or cancer, as Colin Campbell claims of no-animal-protein diets in The China Study. I’m not sure anyone can conclusively prove that one long-term diet is better than another, and discern its impact from genetic and other factors that cause disease. But it seems right, and it doesn’t make sense to ignore reasonable evidence when it’s impossible to have a conclusive proof.

I feel that the whole exercise was a bit of a Trojan Horse. For two weeks, I did a lot of cooking from scratch, ate more and better vegetables and less junk food, and rarely ate from restaurants. I think I would have been healthier than usual on that plan even with a piece of fish or even a hamburger added in.

This experience did cement in my mind the uselessness of an ovo-lacto vegetarian diet. There was a period in my early 20’s when I primarily ate “kosher dairy” that included fish, dairy products (lots of cheese), and eggs. I don’t think this is particularly healthy, especially as it’s pretty easy to follow such a diet eating processed junk foods (which was its appeal to me at the time. 🙂 And, from a moral perspective, did your egg-laying hen really have a better life than its cousin in the oven? And does not eating them maybe acknowledge them a little less?

(I should mention that I don’t have a moral or ethical desire to be a vegan to not harm animals. I do make some efforts at keeping kosher, out of respect for God and what He’s created; and as a very general moral principle don’t want to leave a larger “footprint” on the planet than I have to. But I consider humans eating meat just part of the whole circle of life.)

So, do I continue? I timed the suggested two-week trial period to fit in between two trips out of town. Yesterday, the two weeks up, I put some cream in my coffee when I was out of the house, rather than taking it black. Then, I decided to cook a chicken that had been in my freezer for at least two weeks, but I let the rest of the family eat it and didn’t have any myself. This is the hard part: it’s great to eat a plant-based diet when I can cook at home, but I don’t always want to have to cook at home, or seek out special food everywhere. I want to be able to travel and eat meals with people in restaurants or as a guest in their homes (plus, I still need to worry about foods I’ve tested allergic to). I expect I’ll keep putting soy milk in my coffee and trying to bake without eggs at home, but I’m not sure I’ll avoid Dunkin Donuts completely.