Whether it's for health, the environment, animal welfare, or a mixture of all 3, many of us are choosing to go vegan these days. When we formulate products at Alder New York, we choose to exclusively work with vegan ingredients.
On a personal note, I recently chose to make the vegan switch in my diet as well. I definitely had some concerns beforehand- could I really survive a tough work week without coming home to cheese?- and my husband was worried about if, as a runner, his body would get enough protein. If you're debating taking the plunge, read on to hear about the pros and cons to a vegan diet.
Make a Difference in Climate Change
Unless you're in deep denial, you're worried about climate change. The recent UN report has a lot of us on high alert and feeling helpless. If you're looking for something you can do to reduce your environmental impact, a recent University of Oxford study found the number one thing you can do is switch to a vegan diet. The study showed this would have a much bigger impact than reducing your air or car travel, or switching to organic or sustainable meat and dairy - switching to a vegan diet can reduce your carbon emissions by up to 73%! This one is purely a pro- there are no cons to reducing your carbon footprint.
All of the Protein
As for concerns around nutrients, it turns out it's really easy to get almost all of the vitamins and protein you need with an exclusively plant based diet. The trick is to add more whole foods (think vegetables, fruits, beans, whole grains) when you cut out meat and dairy- and not to add the processed "vegan" brand items in the grocery aisle. Tofu, tempeh, and quinoa are all complete proteins that give you the same essential amino acids you would find in meat.
The only real area of concern is with vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 is most commonly found in animal products. Centuries ago, even a plant based diet would get you enough B12- because B12 was in the soil and cow manure used to grow crops, and plants weren't cleaned terribly well before eating. That is no longer the case- we have pretty hygienic food now, which is a good thing- but it's a lot harder to get enough B12 from a purely plant based diet.
To make sure you get enough B12, your best bet is to 1) take a vitamin B12 supplement (around 2.5 mcg is the recommend daily amount, though if you take more it's not an issue- you body just won't absorb it), 2) make sure to eat a daily helping of seaweed, as it is actually quite high in B12, or 3) eat plenty of fortified foods with B12, like certain nutritional yeasts and cereals.
No More Cheese Please?
And now the for the biggest con- giving up the animal products you crave after a tough day. Pick your poison: ice cream, cheese, gummy candies, milk chocolate.
The pros here are pretty obvious- no legitimate nutritionist will make the argument that cheese or ice cream is great for you. But still, we all have that one less than healthy food we don't think we could live without. For those specific times, I've learned there are companies out there making some very good vegan alternatives.
While I don't think processed vegan products are the way to go for everyday, when you need mayonnaise (and I refuse to eat an artichoke without it), I am loving Just Inc. (formally Hampton Creek)'s vegan version. Ditto Miyoko's vegan cheese, which is- I can't believe I am saying this- as good as many real cheeses I've had in my life. So while you may think you could never give up your favorite animal derived food there's probably a pretty good vegan alternative for when the craving strikes and there's no moving forward.