9 Questions I Often Get Asked About Being Vegan
While many of you might know me as the founder of Jivamukti Yoga, I'm also an avid animal-rights and vegan activist. It is my belief that to be a joyful vegan in the world today, is to become involved in the most radical, positive, political revolution ever.
By choosing kindness over cruelty, we contribute to the sustainability of our planet Earth and can even change the destiny of our species and all the species on planet Earth. My new book contains more than 200 delicious vegan recipes for those looking to create tasty meals, and also for those who wish to start their own radical movement of peaceful, joyful coexistence with all of life.
Here are the questions I get asked most often about being a vegan, and what I'd like everyone to know.
1. Where do I get my protein?
Flesh isn't the only source of protein. You can get all the protein you need from a varied, plant-based diet. Protein is found in greens, vegetables, beans, grains, nuts and seeds, avocados, and so on. According to the RDA (recommended daily allowance), we need between 50 and 75 grams of protein per day.
2. What about iron?
According to Dr. Neal Barnard, founder of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), the most healthful sources of iron are leafy greens and beans.
3. Don't I need to drink milk to get enough calcium?
If you eat dark green leafy vegetables like kale, collards, and mustard greens, you can get enough calcium from a vegan diet. Beans, tofu, cabbage, sesame seeds, seaweed, and broccoli are additional sources of calcium.
4. Is it OK to drink organic milk?
Milk is for babies. Human beings are the only species that drinks milk into adulthood and prefers to drink the milk of another species (enslaved cows and goats), and we have come to consider it normal when it is actually a pretty perverse form of sexual abuse!
5. Can I get B12 from a vegan diet?
A vegan must rely on getting adequate vitamin B12 from a supplement or from eating foods that have been fortified with vitamin B12. If we weren't so dirt-conscious, we would obtain adequate vitamin B12 from soil, air, water, and bacteria, but we meticulously wash and peel our vegetables now and with good reason, as we can't be sure our soil is not contaminated with pesticides and herbicides. Today "aged" foods like sauerkraut, miso, and tempeh are fermented in hygienically sanitized stainless-steel vats to ensure cleanliness, so we can no longer be sure they will provide us with the B12 we need.
6. If all of life is sacred, then what is the difference if I eat a carrot or a chicken?
This is a question that often comes up when people have started to consider the morality of imprisoning, abusing, slaughtering, and ultimately eating animals. Yes, all of life is sacred, including plants; and yes, there is research that demonstrates that plants have feelings.
They feel it when their leaves or stems are ripped and there is scientific evidence showing while plants do not have brains and nervous systems like animals, they nevertheless actively work to ensure their survival-they want to live, thrive, reproduce, evolve. If it were possible to live without causing harm to any living being at all, then indeed we might well choose not to eat carrots or other vegetables. But that is not possible.
Merely by being alive, we necessarily cause harm to many, many beings: we step on them inadvertently, we breathe them in without noticing, we kill them when we brush our teeth or wash our bodies. The best we can do is to strive to minimize the amount of harm we cause by living.
7. Aren't humans biologically designed to be meat eaters or at least omnivores?
The anatomical and physiological facts suggest no. We have small, flat mouths with small teeth. We don't have long, sharp canines to tear flesh. Our teeth aren't strong enough to chew and crush hard things like rawbones, whereas carnivores can.
Carnivores don't have an abundance of the enzyme ptyalin in their saliva, which breaks down complex carbohydrates found only in plant foods. Because we lack sharp claws, aren't very fast on our feet, and aren't exactly endowed with lightning-fast reflexes, it would be very difficult, if not impossible, for us to run down an animal, catch it with our bare hands, and tear through its fur and skin in order to eat it. Biologically, we are designed to be frugivorous herbivores eating mainly fruits, seeds, roots, and leaves.
8. Isn't it natural to eat meat? Even animals eat other animals. Shouldn't we try to live a more natural life?
Lions and other carnivorous animals do eat meat, but that doesn't mean weshould. They also live outdoors in all weather, don't wear clothes, don't drivearound in cars, and don't shop at grocery stores or farmer's markets. Why cite justone of the many things they do and argue that we should imitate them? Thisdoesn't make much sense.
9. Human beings have been eating meat forever. Why should we change now?
There are many activities that human beings have been doing "forever." We might argue from that perspective that eating meat should be allowed to continue. Human beings have been waging war and destroying the environment for a long time. Just because it has been going on for along time and become an unquestioned habit, does that mean it should be allowed to continue?
War, slaughtering, and exploiting other animals are not hardwired into us-these are learned behaviors, and that means they can be unlearned. And that's good news! So let's pick up our forks and chopsticks and let the peaceful revolution begin.
Reprinted from Simple Recipes for Joy: More than 200 Delicious Vegan Recipes by Sharon Gannon. Courtesy of Penguin Press.