Veganism is an increasingly popular lifestyle choice, but one that is often misunderstood. On Wednesday, Sept. 17, St. Olaf students gathered for a Wellness Center event called Vegan 101. The goal was to educate students on the benefits of a vegan lifestyle.
Christa Schmidt ’16 lectured the audience on the differences between veganism and vegetarianism. Vegetarians eat no meat, while vegans avoid all animal products. This includes eggs, dairy, meat and honey. Some vegans even extend this restric- tion to non-food products such as clothing that contain animal products.
Many people choose veganism due to environmental con- cerns. Meat production takes a tremendous toll on the envi- ronment. Some studies have shown that it takes 2,000 gallons of water to produce 1 lb. of beef. In addition, the deplorable conditions of industrial factory farms have forced many ani- mal rights activists to embrace veganism.
“As a student body concerned about the well-being of its students, the environment and other animal life, veganism is highly relevant to our interests,” Schmidt said.
In addition to the ethical factors, there are substantial health benefits to veganism as well. Conditions related to heavy meat consumption include high cholesterol, heart disease and obe- sity. Some studies have even found a connection between meat consumption and cancer. There is also concern regarding hor- mones in meat that comes from factory farms.
By comparison, the vegan diet consists mainly of high fi- ber foods, which are free of cholesterol and contain minimal saturated fat. They are efficient in preventing chronic diseases like heart disease and cancer. Phytochemicals, which are com- pounds that occur naturally in plants, are said to reverse the cell damage in the body and the build-up of chronic diseases. Additionally, the vegan diet can improve acne, create healthy hair and decrease time of workout recovery.
Schmidt acknowledged that the transition to veganism can be difficult. She provided some tips for any students consider- ing a change in diet.
“Take it a day at a time. You don’t have to switch overnight. My change to veganism took a number of months of gradu- ally whittling foods out of my diet,” Schmidt said. “People can substitute non-dairy milks such as soy milk, rice milk or al- mond milk for dairy milk. The grains line here is most vegan- friendly. There is often some sort of vegan soup or vegan bowl, and there are always veggie burgers available. I’m a big fan of making taco salad in the Tortilla Line. Another mantra I love is, ‘progress, not perfection.’
Evidence of vegan health benefits can be seen globally. Pop- ulations who practice veganism are believed to live longer than the average. Japan has one of the world’s highest life expectan- cies and the Japanese diet consists of very little meat.
St. Olaf students interested in veganism should contact Christa Schmidt firstname.lastname@example.org.