Vegan Doesn’t Always Mean Healthy

When I was traveling last week, I went to the two “all vegetarian” stores in Belize.  I was so excited to support these enterprising establishments.  But I was horrified by what I found:  Each store was stacked top to bottom with faux meats like chicken, eel and pork.  All the beverages were sodas or pasteurized juices.  The only “fresh” items were deep fried dough balls and vegan pastries.  I walked out without buying anything because there was – quite literally – nothing healthy to eat in either vegetarian store.

This experience was a good reminder that nowadays, it is easy to steer clear of animal products. When we walk through the aisles of our local grocery store, cases of veggie burgers, non-dairy ice creams and cheeses, and exotic milks call to our vegan sensibilities. Companies know that it’s an attractive lifestyle.  They market appetizing, convenient and “healthy” products towards conscious consumers in the hopes that we won’t see this food was what it truly is – vegan processed food with fillers, additives, dyes and other toxic materials that fill our belly without giving us health.
Next time you’re shopping for a nourishing meal, be sure to check out the nutritional labels.  A banana, a rice cake and Oreos are all vegan, but they’ll definitely not have the same affect on your body!

We expect less fat and calories from packaged vegan or vegetarian foods, especially if they are a meat or dairy substitute, but this isn’t always the case. Plenty of those products carry just as many grams of fat and sugar.  For example, no animals were harmed in the making of high fructose corn syrup, palm oil or soy lecithin. But we know that these are not healthy!

On many faux meat products, you’ll see a long list of ingredients, half of which you can’t pronounce, and haven’t ever seen growing on a farm. Yes, it’s still vegan, but it is not healthy to eat fillers, additives and ingredients made in a lab.  As much as we hear and want to believe that a vegan diet will naturally lower cholesterol and protect us from degenerative disease, eating vegan junk food can be just as unhealthy as any products in the “Standard American Diet.”

This brings us back to the power of raw food.  A vegan fruit pie has a fraction of the nutrients and enzymes that a a raw fruit cobbler has.  For example, a cooked vegan cobbler is basically margarine, flour and sugar with some fruit.  These clogs your arteries and spikes your blood sugar.  In the recipe below, the raw berry cobbler is completely packed with antioxidents, fiber and natural anti-inflammatories.

Being vegan and healthy comes from eating a plant-based diet that is rich in whole fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, and whole grains.  Choosing raw dishes will virtually guarantee that your food has not had the nutrition processed out of it.

What are some easy ways to do this?

  1. Next time you’re grocery shopping, shop around the perimeter of the store where most of the raw produce is located.
  2. Do a food log.  Check to see how much of your weekly includes packaged foods.  You might be surprised!  Especially if you dine out a lot, you are likely getting a lot of processed food.
  3. If you like almond or soy milk, try making it with raw almonds at home. Click here for the easy recipe. You will discover how much more satisfying and nutritious it is compared to the boxed, processed versions. If you don’t think you can live without soy-based cheeses, give a creamy cashew cheese sauce a whirl.

Eating a diet high in raw food not only saves animals, but it minimizes waste and conserves resources like gas and electricity. Above all, it is the easiest way to consume the maximum amount of nutrition for your body. Don’t just think about the animals – take care of yourself too!

~Heather Haxo Phillips, Beebe Xia and Krissa Shwartz