Going vegan offers benefits

The life of a college student isn’t exactly the best environment to promote healthy eating, let alone a lifestyle that eliminates animal products from one’s diet. Think about it. You’ve got about five minutes to grab a bite before class. What do you think you have time to do: Sit down and eat a salad or grab a burger and eat it on the run?

But, if you are looking for a healthier option that cuts those fatty patties out of your diet or you are against the exploitation or cruelty to animals, adopting a vegan diet may be for you.

Allyson Wallbridge, assistant director of wellness and registered dietician, explained veganism as “the practice of avoiding (not consuming) any and all products derived wholly or partly from animals.” That includes anything from animals such as milk, cheese, meat, fish, poultry and eggs.

“Many people choose to become vegan as a lifestyle choice defined by the way they think about animal rights, the environment, personal health and spiritual, moral or religious beliefs,” Wallbridge said.

“For me, it’s a health kind of thing,” Jasmine Poole, a junior political science major said, citing things such as the hormones in meat as reasons she no longer eats it.

Poole said she has been a vegetarian since she was six or seven-years-old, but became a vegan her sophomore year of high school.

“We had to write a persuasive speech about whatever we wanted it to be on,” Poole said. She started out doing her speech on vegetarianism, but began finding information about veganism as she was doing her research.

“By the time I finished my paper I had convinced myself to become a vegan,” Poole said.

Whatever the reason someone decides to give up animal products, there are definite health benefits to becoming a vegan.

“Veganism promotes a diet that can protect against heart disease, cancer and stroke,” Wallbridge said.

Of course, there are some risks as well.

Wallbridge explained a “poorly planned” vegan diet can be deficient of certain vitamins and minerals such as iron, zinc, vitamin B-12 and vitamin D. However, the primary concern for vegans is getting enough protein.

Animal products are the most common way to get protein, but Wallbridge said there are other means to get protein as well.

“There are many forms of plant protein that can ensure vegans are getting adequate amounts of protein,” Wallbridge said. Some foods she suggested for vegans to get protein are beans and legumes, tofu, nuts or seeds.

Poole said she doesn’t really have trouble getting enough protein in her diet. She said she recently discovered tempeh, which is basically a block of textured soy protein that is frozen and can be thawed and fried or used in soups or on sandwiches, among other things.

Obviously, this diet flies in the face of the typical American fatty-burger food culture. Finding vegan-friendly food – both on and off campus – can be difficult.

Wallbridge explained that Northern Kentucky University has several vegetarian options, but added that vegans should carefully check to be sure the food is vegan before consuming it. “Meatless Mondays” has several vegan options on the menu, Wallbridge said.

“There are some vegetables on campus, but most of them are cooked in butter,” Poole said. She said there really aren’t a lot of things on campus that are vegan friendly, but she likes the vegetarian rolls offered in the New Student Union.

Poole added that if you ask the staff is something contains animal products, they usually don’t know.

“It’s a foreign thing in the Midwest states,” Poole explained.

Veganism can extend beyond just what food someone consumes. Wallbridge said that some vegans exclude all forms of animals in everything, including their clothing.

For anyone interested in learning more about vegetarianism, rather than veganism, Annie Dollins, a vegetarian and faculty member in the nursing program, will be hosting a lunch and learn from noon to 1 p.m. Nov. 11 in Student Union Room 105. The event is free and open to the public. She will be giving an introduction to vegetarianism.