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What I’ve learned being vegan

This August, I am celebrating my two-year veganniversary. TWO YEARS! Time flies when you're not eating animals and living the best cruelty-free lifestyle. Over the past two years, I've learned a lot, ate a lot of delicious vegan food, and not once have I thought about changing my lifestyle. My journey thus far has been easy because I don't miss anything and I feel great! I've compiled a list of things I've learned in the two years of being vegan.

1. "Why did you go vegan?"

The number one question most vegans get asked is, "Where do you get your protein?". I have had this question a handful of times, but my most asked question is a genuine "Why did you go vegan?" and my answer is simple: health.

Health is what got me started, the animals are what keeps me going, and the environment is why I won't go back. When you are educated and understand all the benefits of going vegan, there's no reason to start eating, wearing, or using anything from an animal again.

2. Not all wine or alcoholic beverages are vegan

Finding out that not all wine is vegan was a big shock for me since I grew up in the wine country and didn't think twice that there would be animal products in the wine I was drinking. I wrote a blog post explaining the winemaking process and what makes a wine not vegan. What is Vegan Wine?

3.There's cow lactation fluid (milk) in everything

When you're vegan, you begin to have trust issues with processed foods. I've learned to scan labels and catch a lot of "veggie" products with dairy or eggs in them. Everyone should learn to read the ingredients in the foods they're eating. If you can't pronounce it, you shouldn't be putting it into your body.

4. Oreos are vegan

Yep. Just because it's vegan doesn't mean it's healthy. I've learned I feel best when I stick with foods that are closest to their natural form — whole foods like fresh fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds.

5. Everyone is worried about protein when they should be worried about fiber

Have you ever heard of kwashiorkor? I didn't think so. That’s because protein deficiency is uncommon in the United States. All plants contain protein and a whole-food plant based diet will meet your daily needs.

However, the lack of fiber causes constipation, weight gain, and can lead to an increased risk of heart disease and diabetes, all issues you’re familiar with. The recommended daily intake for adults and children is 20 to 30 grams, but most Americans are only getting about 15 grams of fiber per day. The best sources of fiber are whole-grain foods, fresh fruits and vegetables, legumes, and nuts.

6. Everyone is trying to save the ocean by eating everything that lives in the ocean

The famous photo of that poor turtle with a straw lodged up its nose caught everyone's attention and brought awareness of the plastic issue. However, what people don't realize is that straws aren't the problem. Fishing nets account for 46% of the plastic in the ocean. In addition to saying no to straws, say no thank you to sea creatures on your plate. They don't belong on your plate; they belong in the ocean.

7. Our gut microbiome controls everything

The body has trillions of bacteria, fungi, and viruses. These microbes live inside your intestines and on your skin, function as an extra organ in your body and play a massive role in your health. There is a two way street of communication between the gut and the central nervous system. What happens in our gut can be communicated to the brain, which plays a dominant role in our mental health. The gut microbiome influences our brain, therefore controls how you feel, your emotions, and your happiness.

We have the power to change the composition of our gut microbiota through our diet. The food you eat affects the diversity of your gut bacteria. The best way to have a healthy gut is to eat a variety of plant foods.

If you're interested in learning more about the gut microbiome, check out The Plant Proof Podcast with Will Bulsiewicz.

8. Carbs are not the enemy

The keto diet (formerly known as the atkins diet) has been the newest diet craze and has people afraid of carbohydrates. However, not all carbs are created equal. Did you know that a banana has 27 grams of carbs? One banana has the maximum daily intake of carbs when you're on a keto diet. A banana is also rich in fiber and potassium and fat-free, so why are people afraid of a banana? Whole grains like oats, quinoa, and legumes are high in carbs and are healthy for you. Don't reduce foods that are high in fiber and good for your health.

9. Not all vegans are created equal

The one thing vegans have in common is they don't eat, wear, or consume animals or animal by-products. However, some vegans eat honey. Some vegans still wear leather purchased from a thrift shop. Some can be angry protestors, and some can be peaceful protestors. And some don't even care about the animals or the environment; they're only vegan for their health. My point is, don't judge a person by their dietary or lifestyle choices.

10. There are vegans everywhere!

I've connected with many amazing people from all over the world because we share the same lifestyle. The vegan community is growing, and it's great to connect and share experiences, recipes, and events. When someone I just met tells me they're vegan, I immediately want to be their best friend. Are you vegan? Let's be friends.

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