Students Get Creative to Maintain Vegan Diet
Veganism grows in popularity on-campus and across U.S.
Published: Thursday, April 5, 2012
Updated: Thursday, April 5, 2012 10:04
Although food boredom plagues many Santa Clara students in Benson, the vegan options create an extreme case.
“I think it was hard at first figuring out what to eat and everything, but once you do it for a little while it becomes really easy,” said sophomore Dillon McCord, a vegan for six years. “It’s not something I really think about now, its just kind of what I do.”
On campus and across the U.S., an increasing number of people are choosing to go vegan. In the past two years alone, veganism has doubled and now makes up 2.5 percent of the United States population, according to a Harris Interactive study.
Although cutting out meat, dairy and eggs may seem impossible, the vegans on campus are unfazed.
“In order to do it well you have to have fun with it,” said Justin Eichenlaub, a lecturer in Santa Clara’s Environmental Studies Institute. “You have to be up for the challenge, but once you get past that it’s pretty easy.”
Vegans on campus have ditched meat and other animal products for ethical concerns, such as animal rights, better health and environmental reasons.
“If it was just for health or just for the environment, I would probably eat butter and cheese every now and again,” said Eichenlaub. “What’s keeping me from doing that, what’s making me do it more, pretty much a 100 percent thing is this ethical consideration for animals.”
McCord decided to go vegan six years ago to stand up against how animals used for food and other products are treated. “It was just an ethical choice,” he said. “I was vegetarian before that and it kind of just seemed natural to have that as the next step.”
In the United States alone, 55 billion land animals are killed each year for consumption, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. In 2007, 275 million tons of meat were produced, and in the U.S. we eat more than 200 pounds per person every year.
McCord is not alone in his refusal to eat meat or animal products. A total of 7.5 million people in the U.S. have cut out all animal products from their diet entirely, and many more are opting for vegan or vegetarian meals on a more regular basis.
Veganism has caught on as a diet of elite athletes who tout its health benefits, including tennis pro Venus Williams, Kansas City Chiefs’ tight end Tony Gonzalez and even Mike Tyson.
“You can have a really healthy vegan diet, if you put some thought and planning into it,” said Santa Clara’s Registered Dietitian Mary Mahoney. “If you just decide one day to be vegan and cut out all animal products and you don’t really pay attention to what you are eating, ever, then you could be missing out on some important nutrients.”
One of the biggest mistakes many vegans make is not planning their diets and ensuring they are getting enough iron, zinc, vitamin B-12, protein and calcium, said Mahoney. Without enough B-12 or iron, the body becomes anemic and struggles to hold enough oxygen in the blood, which can result in weakness, dizziness and lack of energy.
But with proper planning and nutrition, the medical community agrees that veganism can lead to lower cholesterol, decreased rates of osteoporosis, and reduced risk of cancer, heart disease and obesity.
“I try to be pretty healthy in general, but I definitely do just feel a lot better,” said sophomore Lizzie Urie who went vegan seven months ago with her uncle, who adopted the diet to stay as healthy as possible while waiting for a heart transplant. “In general, I have a lot of energy and I don’t feel like I’m missing anything.”
In addition to being healthy, a vegan diet is the most sustainable diet there is, according to Vasile Stanescu, a vegan expert and Ph.D. candidate at Stanford University.
Livestock production contributes 18 percent of green house gas emissions globally, which is more than all of transportation, cars and planes included, combined. Switching from the average American diet to a vegan diet prevents more carbon dioxide emissions than switching from an average car to a hybrid.
“The single greatest action that a person can take to help the environment is to shift from a meat, dairy and egg-based diet to a plant-based diet,” said Stanescu.
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