Last night on Earth Day, the wonderful Vancouver Island Vegan Assocation, hosted a vegan night out supplied with 100% vegan dawgs from The Very Good Butchers and a viewing of the documentary What The Health.
My Background, My Health
I grew up on a very typical Westernized diet where my family consumed convenient processed food, such as fast food loaded with animal meat and dairy.
After some experimentation with different diets throughout my lifetime—including a gradual phasing out of meat—I went fully vegan for the animals 5 years ago. I read Eating Animals by Jonathon Safran Foer and added “speciesism” to my vocabulary, but my choices revolved around ethics not health. Over the five years that I have been vegan, I have had my fair share of cruelty-free junk food and seen my weight rise and fall. This was especially evident when I was living in Belgium where the key to making Belgian fries is, I kid you not, to fry them in oil twice.
This year I have attempted to eat more whole foods and yes, I’m far from perfect, but two things keep me in line: one is having a fridge and pantry stocked with unprocessed foods and the second is educating myself, which is why I grabbed a copy of How Not to Die by Dr. Michael Greger. This book covers all the diseases I assumed were to be common and natural as we age, but in fact they are completely preventable.
The sad truth is that it has been normalized by our society to believe that not only is it okay to eat meat, but the diseases you get from eating them are also just the way of life. However, bringing light to these studies, doctors, activists, documentaries, etc. doesn’t have to make it so.
What the Health, a sequel to Kip Anderson and Keegan Kuhn’s Cowspiracy, most likely won’t surprise any vegans about the health benefits that have been regularly discussed within our growing community, but that shouldn’t stop you from seeing this film. Instead, view it with someone who could greatly benefit with the knowledge that eating plant based foods may reduce and prevent many of the common chronic diseases prominent in Western society.
Although the rise of obesity and diabetes is unfortunately common news, I was surprised by a few facts, such as: diabetes isn’t caused by sugar, but fat. Chicken is no less harmful than beef. Some of the strongest, largest animals on the planet—such as elephants and rhinos—are herbivores, and you’d never ask where does an elephant get its protein from! These simple facts, along with the model of eating a low fat whole plants diet inspired me to rethink my health choices and decide if consistently eating something super sugary or coated in vegetable fat is worth the pain to my body in twenty, thirty plus years?
You could also argue that the film felt a little one-sided; there are multiple doctors advocating a low fat vegan diet (such as Dr. Michael Greger) and peer reviewed studies supporting these views, but it wasn’t like Kip didn’t try to talk to the other side! The director was shut down by every disease preventing organization he contacted, from the American Diabetes Association (ADA) to Susan G. Komen (the same organization behind the KFC “bucket for the cure”) who all refused to comment. Oh wait, there was a shortly interrupted conversation with a representative from the ADA who couldn’t answer why the ADA would have recipes on their recipe telling diabetics to consume recipes such as “Grilled Steak Souvlaki” and “Blackened Tuna.” Seems a little problematic when the World Health Organization has submitted a report stating that processed meats are carcinogenic and red meat are a probable carcinogen. High cooked meats and fish are also a high risk for cancer. I researched my home country’s diabetic association page for their recommended recipes and was disheartened to find “Veal Scaloppini” and “Caribbean Grilled Pork” on the Canadian Diabetic Association.
I do wish that the documentary would have taken less focus on what not to eat and introduce what to eat other than a broadly termed ‘plant based’ diet. I personally know that eating a salad each meal isn’t going to give me the satiety to avoid binge eating on Oreo’s, but you’d be surprised how many people think that vegans just eat salads!
It’s no surprise that science is behind a plant based diet, but meat and dairy corporations are behind these disease preventative associations. Once Kip began to uncover these truths, he made a point of comparing it to the American Lung Association being sponsored by the tobacco industry. This kind of information could very much appall a lot of meat and dairy eaters, but it’s very difficult to unbury the truth from corporations. Nutritional guidelines that have been written to exclude a significant amount of meat and diary have been revised due to the ties to those very industries! Again, I may be preaching to the choir here as I’m willing to bet that those already health conscious and vegan are those that read these kind of blogs and watch these kinds of documentaries, but if we could expose the information to the masses, then everyone would have the ability to make their own choices.
- Book: How Not to Die, by Michael Greger, M.D. with Gene Stone