I have been a vegan for fourteen years. I went from omnivore to vegetarian to vegan. It took many years for me to finally reach my goal, and if I had more knowledge, I would have started eating vegan a lot earlier than I did. By doing that I probably would have avoided health issues like developing fibroids. Fibroids have everything in the world to do with your diet. Don’t let anyone tell you any different. So when I received an email about a new book titled Vegetarian to Vegan: Give Up Dairy. Give Up Eggs. For Good. (ISBN: 978-0-9764414-2-7; Price: $14.95) by well-loved public speaker, Sarah Taylor, I had to share the knowledge with you guys on Permed to Natural. The interview below with Taylor will explain the difference between a vegetarian and a vegan, how eating vegan can improve your health and provide a healthy atmosphere for the animals and planet.
What inspired you to write Vegetarian to Vegan?
My first book was Vegan in 30 Days, and when I lectured around the US and Canada after the book was released, the most common question I got from the audience was, “I’ve been vegetarian for many years, and I just don’t see what’s wrong with eating _______.” That blank could be low-fat cheese (it’s got calcium and it’s low-fat!) or yogurt (it’s got calcium and it’s full of probiotics!) or eggs (they’re the perfect protein!) or cage free eggs (no animals were hurt to provide these eggs!) and so on… I realized that there was a huge amount of misinformation that needed to be corrected, so I wrote Vegetarian to Vegan in order explain exactly why it matters – for your health, the animals and the environment – to go fully vegan.
Why are you promoting veganism over vegetarianism? Aren’t they almost both the same?
No, they are definitely not the same! The vegan diet does not allow animal flesh or animal products, so vegans won’t eat dairy, eggs or honey, while vegetarians will. The vegan diet (if not comprised of junky vegan food) is healthier for humans, better for animal welfare, and better for the environment. These topics are what Vegetarian to Vegan covers in depth.
There are many people who may be curious about veganism but swear they cannot live without eating dairy, especially cheese. For those who say that how would you explain veganism to them?
I used to joke that my four foods groups were Swiss, Havarti, Cheddar and Chocolate, so I can relate to people who say they couldn’t live without dairy or cheese! I’ll bet more than half of my calories each day came from dairy foods, especially cheese and frozen yogurt. What I tell people who can’t imagine a life without dairy products is that once you clean out your taste buds and eat a healthy vegan diet for about a month, your taste buds will actually become more sensitive. When this happens, foods that used to taste “just okay” will now explode on your taste buds. That’s why you meet vegans who crow over Honeycrisp apples every fall, and can keenly taste the difference between organic and non-organic produce. To us, these foods taste unbelievably fantastic because our taste buds haven’t been desensitized by tons of fatty, salty and sugary foods. Once you eat a healthy vegan diet for about 30 days, your taste buds will change too, and you’ll likely find your old favorite foods too salty or sugary. (Caveat: This won’t happen if you eat a lot of vegan junk food. Vegan cookies, donuts, French fries, etc, will sabotage your taste buds, so it’s important to eat a healthy vegan diet!)
In your book you indicated eggs from cage-free, organic and even free-range chickens do not imply cruelty free. How is this possible? Please explain.
Our government has very limited standards for using the terms “cage free,” “free range” and “organic.” For example, using “cage free” in an egg production facility only means that the hens aren’t in cages; yet most of these hens are still so crowded together in a massive warehouse that they suffer psychologically and become extremely aggressive. In fact, on average, cannibalism is higher in “cage-free” facilities than it is in battery cage facilities because the stressed hens have greater access to each other. In another example, “free-range” only requires that the hens have some access to the outdoors – this could include the five minutes they spend outdoors getting moved from the hatchery to the barn. You cannot trust labels and stamps on packages. The only way to know for sure that the hens are in a natural setting is to find a local farm where you go and pick up the eggs yourself. If you’re concerned about hen welfare, this is truly the only way to know you are getting eggs from well-cared for hens.
You also wrote that animal protein from dairy products is linked to cancer. Please tell us about these findings.
There is an entire book written about this called The China Study, by T. Colin Campbell. To summarize, he found in multiple studies that animal protein (he used casein, which is the protein found in highest quantities in dairy products) but not plant protein, was correlated with liver cancer in multiple studies. Many other studies link dairy products with breast, ovarian, prostate and other cancers. I summarize all these findings in Vegetarian to Vegan.
How can a vegetarian change to a vegan diet?
Essentially, there are two ways a vegetarian can change to a vegan diet: quickly or slowly! For those who want to change quickly, I always suggest watching or reading something shocking, like the video Earthlings, or the book Diet for a New America (or better yet, as many books and videos as they can stand in a short period of time.) The reason for this is that many people will find that when their system is “shocked” by the realities shown in graphic photos or videos, they can no longer pretend that “it can’t be that bad” and will no longer need any willpower to make a drastic change.
For people who prefer to take a gradual route, I wrote Vegan in 30 Days to help them slowly take foods out of their diet, and also learn to cope with non-vegan situations. I strongly believe a lot of people don’t stick with the vegan diet simply because they are not prepared; they face their first birthday as a vegan, and didn’t think to tell people that they would not like a regular cake or ice cream, so when people buy them one, they feel bad and eat it. Then they throw in the towel because they feel they failed at the diet. Or the waiter at the restaurant brings out their burrito with cheese, even though they asked to have it without, and because they are too shy to speak up, they just eat it anyway. Then they give up on the vegan diet because they feel they failed. Vegan in 30 Days covers all these situations like eating out, entertaining, being entertained and traveling that people need to think ahead of time about how they want to handle the situation. If you know ahead of time how you will handle it, you’ll be successful, and be motivated to move forward. Another way to take it slowly is to just try new items over time, and you’ll learn just how easy it is to do without. Many people are shocked to find that veggie pizza without cheese is really fantastic, or that scrambled tofu is even better than scrambled eggs! I can make a grilled cheese sandwich that even my dad can’t tell is vegan. I think many people assume the alternatives won’t taste good, so they hesitate to try.
Should everyone seriously consider becoming a vegan? If so, why? If not, why?
In my opinion, yes. I can’t know what’s right for everyone, but I do know that it’s an extremely healthy diet, it’s the most compassionate diet for the animals, and it’s the kindest diet for our planet.
Why is a vegan diet extremely healthy?
The vegan diet (assuming one is not eating too many french fries and vegan cookies) is low in calories, low in fat and has no cholesterol, while at the same time, it is packed with vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, antioxidants and water. When people argue that they need to eat meat for protein, for example, what they are forgetting is that the meat comes not only with protein but also with lots of calories, fat and cholesterol. Beans, on the other hand, are packed with protein as well but have no fat to speak of, no cholesterol, tons of fiber and are relatively low in calories. Similarly, people argue that they need dairy products for their calcium, but they are forgetting that the dairy products usually come with tons of fat and cholesterol as well as calories, and animal proteins – especially casein, the protein found in the highest quantities in dairy products – has been highly linked with cancer. Spinach is also very high in calcium, but has no fat to speak of, no cholesterol, tons of vitamins and minerals and other nutrients, and is also very low in calories. The vegan choices are almost always healthier!
What do you want readers to take with them after reading Vegetarian to Vegan?
I believe a lot of vegetarians (and omnivores) are playing the game, “It can’t be that bad…” As in, “Non-fat dairy can’t be that bad for my health” or “Factory Farms can’t be that bad for the hens” or “My dairy product intake can’t be that bad for the environment.” I’d really like vegetarians to come face to face with the reality of what dairy and eggs do to their health, the animals and the environment. Only then can they make a truly informed decision about whether to stay vegetarian or go vegan.
Where can we find you on the World Wide Web?