Going vegan

I’m not a PETA person: in fact, I own a mink coat (for which I have no use here in Costa Rica) and I’ll tell you– if you get in my face– how nasty minks are, and how they deserve to die. Talk to me when you quit wearing leather, I retort, puffing up my chest.

Veal? Not a problem, same with foie gras. I wouldn’t actually kill an animal, but I have no problem buying it’s parts in little pink plastic containers from the supermarket, bringing it home, cooking and consuming the creature. Except for the rabbit my late stepfather shot and cooked for us. For one thing, there were pieces of buckshot in it, and for another, it looked too much like a fetus to me.

Much as I relish meat, I’m giving it up, along with eggs and dairy products, including, alas, cheese. I decided after being diagnosed with an invasive ductile carcinoma, and reading, first, The China Study, and then other sources on nutrition and health. T Colin Campbell (The China Study) convinced me of two things, in his massive work: a diet based on animal protein can promote the growth of cancer, and cause heart disease and a plethora of other illnesses; and consuming a variety of plant-based foods will make one healthy.

Happily, my husband is willing. We decided we wanted to be as healthy as possible in our retirement, (not to say old age) and we believe nutrition is the answer. Well, I believe it, and Jack doesn’t mind going along.

We resolved to eat all of the meat we had in the house. Two pounds of bacon, some ground beef and enough chili to feed multitudes filled the freezer. We hope to finish it before the end of the decade. Canned ham, tuna and sardines waited on shelves. But I got busy right away producing meatless meals.

I bought beans, grains, nuts and seeds I’d never heard of before beginning my research: chia seeds for mixing with water and adding to drinks; alfalfa and mung beans for sprouting; and supergrains quinoa and amaranth. You wouldn’t believe how much nutrition you can get from these lowly plants. Besides protein and dietary fiber, the catalogue of vitamins and minerals puts the supplements on your shelves to shame.

The trick to a successful transition to a vegan diet is in the recipes. I’ve spent hours (it’s lucky I’m retired) pouring over healthy, delicious alternatives. Admittedly, much vegan cooking is labor intensive, but the payoff in terms of taste and health benefits are spectacular, and well worth the time.

An unexpected bonus is the fact that we’re not spending nearly as much money on food as we used to. And we’ve both lost weight despite eating all day long.

I’m not saying that meat will never pass our lips again. We’ve decided, for instance, that we’ll continue to order the fish when we join our friends on Sunday nights for dinner, and if we’re invited out, we’ll happily eat whatever is served. As my friend Stacie says, “it’s a health thing, not a religion.”

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About Myra

I'm retired in Costa Rica, having lived in Philly, State College, Salem Mass, and Kawagoe Japan. You might call me a career gypsy, but my last and best job was teaching English to some of the best and brightest kids in Philly. I'm new to blogging and websites, and will probably make all the mistakes there are, but now I'm sharing my writing. I moved to Costa Rica in June of 2009 with my husband Jack, my dog Buddha, and Jack's two cats, Hobbes and Noir.
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6 Responses to Going vegan

  1. Michael Flaherty says:

    Have you read up on the paleo diet? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paleolithic_diet

    If you ever get a hankering for meat, game meat seems a healthy option: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paleolithic_diet

    Also what are your thoughts on grains and pulses, and the ‘antinutrients’ they contain? They’re important sources of protein in the vegan diet, but seem to come with their own problems: http://jaggedswords.wordpress.com/2012/02/15/why-legumes-and-beans-are-bad-for-you/

    • Myra says:

      Hey Michael, thanks for reading. I haven’t heard of the paleo diet, nor have I heard of antinutrients! Shit!
      I guess I’d better check it out. Thanks for the alert.

  2. Cindy Dwyer says:

    There are many health benefits to a vegan diet and you are wise to allow yourselves the luxury of still eating the occasional non-vegan meal. Enjoying these treats from time to time will make it easier to sustain eating healthier overall.

    I don’t think I could do it…

  3. Your last philosophy will be appreciated by many friends who still eat meat. My daughter has the same rules as does Michael Pollan, I believe. Best of luck with the vegan routine. My body simply *wants* a lot of protein and I’ve always gained weight w=hen going vegetarian, so… it’s meat for us but I do use it as a condiment rather than the focal point of the plate.

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