In the last year, a lot of people I have met have become vegetarian or vegan.
And recently I was living abroad, so I decided to give that lifestyle a little try for a couple of weeks. It was not very difficult. I was living in Canada at the time, and getting cruelty-free and non-industry related products was extremely affordable and accessible.
But I returned to my country (Chile) and I realized that it was not as easy as there.
I was eating everything at the time and additionally, for pleasure, I had incorporated soy meat, seitan, almond milk, hummus and many other foods to my diet. I thought it would be just as easy to buy them here, but I realized that it was not something that could be found in all supermarkets; furthermore, the prices are not as low as animal products. This difference caught my attention. When looking in the pantries, it was almost impossible to find something vegan.
In my need for information and a hunger for curiosity, I decided to go deeper into the world of veganism in Chile; I entrusted myself to this new adventure for a week and a half.
With all this in mind, I prepare for Monday, my first day vegan I failed in a monumental way.
I was not prepared enough with my purchases and also, when I went to the nearest market I realized that practically all the products had something of animal origin, EVEN THE SALAD! I ended up eating chips, peanuts, and oatmeal. Things would not improve for the second day, because I got sick to my stomach and everything I ate, I vomited. Maybe it was the beers of the weekend?
When I looked for solutions for my stomach ache on the internet, I came across the worst news:
Chicken soup, beef broth and chicken rice were postulated as the best. I called my mother, my grandmother and my sister, only to have them repeat the same thing. Friends and acquaintances with whom he spoke only managed to say "but can't you eat chicken, fish or eggs either?" Little by little I understood what vegans go through trying to explain it. Still, I experimented by making a potato omelette with soy meat and tomato sauce. I was saved.
For him third day I was already feeling better on my diet of rice, oatmeal, and chamomile. For the fourth I looked for recipes on the internet to vary my diet.
I added a Bolognese sauce made with soy meat to the white rice. Instant pleasure. It has been a long time since I found a big difference in the flavors of the food that I eat, and to tell the truth I found it quite rich. Oatmeal had become my breakfast and now I was experimenting with sandwiches made from whole wheat bread, lettuce, avocado and jam. A surprisingly vegetable-filled sandwich from Subway also helped me get to the end of the day. That night I called Yinni, another vegan friend three years ago who thinks the prices in the supermarkets are an abuse. So, I recommend making my own almond milk and looking for food tutorials on Youtube. I listened to him.
The fifth day It arrived, and I was fully prepared with my diet.
An animal-free sandwich with avocado and a cup of oatmeal got me started on my day. The night before I had prepared (well, with my mother's help) lentil-based burgers. A salad and a serving of rice would make a great lunch later. But now he had another doubt. How might a lack of meat affect my health?
My friend Javier is a nurse who works in medical emergencies. A call could help answer many of my questions.
He tells me that the diet is not without risk, mainly due to the lack of information of the people and assures that it is necessary to eat a varied and well-structured diet and be attentive to the iron in the blood, which in simple terms he explained to me that it was vital for the transport of oxygen. He also told me that he has treated many iron deficiency anemia (due to lack of iron), but that it is easy to solve with vitamin supplements. He made it clear to me that it is a very healthy lifestyle. I arranged to buy him a beer, after all, he gave me his professional opinion.
That is when I had the most important question. What about beer?
I checked with the Barnivore.com website. What a joy, most of the beers in Mexico, Chile and the rest of Latin America are vegan. It never hurts to be sure, so I drank without fear that day. Do you know something? I'm pretty sure that night I felt a lot lighter. Quiet too. By Saturday morning I wasn't very hungover. I made homemade hummus and added some garlic and chili to it. I had it with tortilla and avocado (yes, I like avocado, a lot). I made more lentil burgers (and added some roots and soy meat to the mix) along with a few stir fries. I even added soy milk mayonnaise to it. An excellent lunch.
To complement my references, I also asked Xaviera and Julio (a couple of friends), how is their life as vegans.
Both made the decision on an ethical issue at different times, more than anything because the animals suffer and the abuse behind the livestock industry. They understand the importance of maintaining a balanced diet and take nutritional supplements (including iron and vitamin B12, for example). According to Xaviera, who is from southern Chile and began as a vegetarian 11 years ago to become vegan one and a half ago, it is much easier to maintain the diet in the capital. It is not the first time that the issue of centralization has come up as I learn about it. They both believe, too, that you can't impose your lifestyle on people because you're not going to convince them. The best way is through education and example.
“When you are aware of what is happening it is easier to notice how in general different groups are discriminated (animals, women, immigrants, etc). At the end of the day, one adopts an increasingly less passive stance and dedicates himself to creating awareness and reducing even a little these things, starting by making them visible, respectfully exposing why it is important to adopt this lifestyle, solving doubts; pupil. Of course, at least I don't waste time with people who ask questions just to annoy, over the years you already recognize them "
-Julio- Vegan 4 years and 8 months ago.
I had originally planned to go vegan for just one week. But Sunday comes and I begin to consider that perhaps I could extend it a while longer.
A co-worker gives me the information about Sebastián, a dentist who has been vegan for 4 years. He tells me that he got sick the first time he changed his diet, at age 13, because he did not eat in a balanced way. Now, at 26, he knows how to eat ideally, considering the importance of iron and calcium. He tells me that the largest supermarket chains already have vegan aisles, and that the best way to support the growth of this industry is by buying the products, regardless of their price. Thus the industry can grow and lower costs. It's so much easier for him than shopping for me. After months, you know exactly what products to buy. It is also preparing an application for smartphones in order to find vegetarian stores. Fully committed to the cause.
Here's how, so far, I've learned 7 valuable lessons about veganism:
1. It is ethical
Considering the suffering of animals, not participating in the industry that exploits them is the least we can do as beings aware of suffering.
2. You can live like this
In general terms, by maintaining a balanced diet and ensuring that you include the necessary vitamins and minerals, you can live perfectly normal as a vegan. They also assured me that their quality of life had improved. Consuming nutritional supplements helps a lot.
3. It is no longer a taboo subject and every day many more people are educating themselves
The shift towards a generation more aware of equality does not apply only to men, but the lives of animals are beginning to be considered with more and more weight. Anyway, more official information is needed. It would be good if the Ministries of Health proposed a manual for following the diet.
4. The livestock industry IS CRUEL
That image of the sweet cow grazing calmly is totally false. The worst thing is that we all know it. However, we seem to ignore at will that the product that arrives at our table was, at some point, a living being.
5. Organization is key
Learning what you can eat, what products include ingredients from animals and how to cook will help you optimize your time and money a lot.
6. Your life can change a lot
It can help you a lot to balance your moral scale. I am not saying that vegans, just for being vegan are saints. As in any group, there are all kinds of people. You can find someone who eats meat and cares about others, just as you can find a vegan who creates a higher self. What I am saying is that it is a good way to open your mind towards the destruction of lives caused by the system we are in.
7. It is good to preach
Don't force, obviously. Setting an example, guiding and educating is much more effective. Come on, showing that being vegan can improve some aspects of your life and also not support such a cruel industry, can attract more people to adhere to veganism. If not for that attitude, I would never have started writing this article in the first place.
So I decided to give veganism a try, but with more preparation.
I got in touch with Javiera, a friend who is about to graduate as a nutritionist. He tells me to remember to include fruits and vegetables high in vitamin C to optimize the assimilation of iron from iron-fortified legumes, nuts, and cereals. That the biosalt can help me with the iodine and that I do not forget nutritional supplements of vitamin B12 and D. Your opinion leaves me calm, because it is what I heard the most from the people with whom I spoke in the process. "Do it calmly and be organized," he tells me, to finish.
Well, I think I have learned a lot from this approach.
There is nothing left but to thank those who answered my questions with so much patience and who take care to educate to be able to show you their point of view.
In addition, I consider it necessary to emphasize that it is normal to get confused when one does not know much about the subject, but veganism aims to treat animals ethically. More than food, it is a way of life that also involves the clothing and products that we use daily, seeking to ensure that they are all free of animal origin and / or abuse.
Now comes round 2. We'll see what happens ...
I do not know if I write a second part, but at least I celebrate with one of the best news. Whatever happens, the beer will remain vegan.
By Diego Cid