One of my favorite (sort of) things I get asked when I reveal to a new friend that I’m vegan is, “But, aren’t you worried about your nutrition? You can’t get the things you need without meat and dairy!”
When it really is a friend, I know this question is usually coming from a good place. After all, if someone told me they were a “breaditarian”, everything I’ve been taught about nutrition would lead me to question their new diet. Similarly, we’ve constantly been force-fed incorrect information by the meat and dairy industries, such as that milk is the best place to get calcium (in fact, many vegan calcium sources are actually much better for our bodies than over-processed and hormon-laden dairy) or that we need meat to survive (we don’t). Educating people, when they are open to it, about the correct nutrition information, as well as the ethical and environmental ramifications of eating meat are the best ways to go in these situations.
However, I also get asked that frequently by people who are clearly not friends. People who are just looking to defend their own dietary choices and looking to attack mine. In these situations, it takes more than a little self-control for me not to get completely riled up and angry, but it’s always worth it to stay calm. My favorite reaction to their inquisitiveness is, “Aren’t you worried about your nutrition?”
Of course, I always get the stunned looks back like I’m insane – after all, they’re living on meat and dairy - the two HEALTHIEST foods on the planet, why should they be worried about their nutrition?
Well, exactly. These are people who are usually subsisting entirely on meat, dairy and processed foods. As we’ve already been told multiple times from multiple sources, animal products have been linked to cancer growth, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, arthritis…and the list goes on and on! Interestingly, the list even includes osteoporosis – that’s right, you heard me correctly. That milk that you think is so healthy for you and great for your bones is actually damaging them irreversibly. Turns out, “dairy milk is singled out as the biggest dietary cause of osteoporosis because more than any other food it depletes the finite reserve of bone-making cells in the body.”
Even stranger, I’m always curious at the fact that I’m getting questioned for basically eating vegetables! Does that strike anybody else as odd? In a world where school nutrition officials consider ketchup a vegetable (and there was actually debate on this topic for a while after this news story came out – at the end of the day, it might be based in an actual vegetable, but the sugar-laden, highly-processed crap that is served in schools does not a vegetable make) and bread companies are exploiting consumers weakness for healthy food by selling their products as “whole-grain”, why should anyone who chooses to consume more vegetables and less crap be questioned and attacked? Shouldn’t the response, at the very LEAST, be, “Oh that’s interesting, I should try to eat more vegetables too.”
Alicia Silverstone also once received this question at a public talk. Her response was something along the lines of, “I’m not worried about the vegans, I’m worried about the rest of ‘em.”
Truly, though we may not agree on everything, I do believe Alicia Silverstone is right, here. Junk-food vegans do exist, but at the end of the day eating empty, crap calories from non-animal sources is certainly better than eating empty, crap calories from animal sources.
I also strongly believe, either way, that with the state of the current health crisis and obesity epidemic in our country, people should stop worrying about the vegan population’s nutrition and start deeply worrying about their own.
So, I’m not worried about the vegans either and I’m certainly not worried about my nutrition. I am, however, worried about the rest of ‘em.