On Monday morning, Beyoncé went on Good Morning America to talk about her vegan lifestyle. While many people were underwhelmed with her announcement, you may be asking yourself, “What’s this whole vegan thing all about anyway?”
Vegans are a special kind of vegetarian who cut out both meat and animal products like dairy from their diets. According to Brown University’s website, vegetarians are at a lower risk for heart disease, diabetes, obesity and other health problems. Ashleigh Sedaghatpour, a junior at UM, took on veganism for health reasons. “I went vegan my sophomore year of high school [because] my [colons] stopped working for six months and I needed to clean out my system,” she explains. She was also diagnosed with lactose intolerance. “I would say that being a vegan has helped my body function better regarding my gastrointestinal issues.”
Maintaining a vegan diet isn’t too difficult in the 21st century. “I use social media to find recipes or places to eat,” says Ashleigh. In fact, her older sister Alexandra Dawson is a popular vegan blogger based in Washington, D.C. Her blog, In My Bowl, lists an abundance of vegan recipes and reviews of vegan restaurants. She also regularly shares pictures of her vegan meals to her 39,000+ Instagram followers. “My sister has inspired me to continue sharing my journey of a healthy and mindful lifestyle to friends and outsiders,” Ashleigh says, explaining that sharing recipes and photos of food online is an important part of the vegan lifestyle.
We stopped by a vegan brunch in Wynwood on May 31 to see for ourselves what meat and dairy-free food is all about. Hosted by VeganSmart, a dietary supplement company, the brunch featured vegan barbecue sliders, waffles, popsicles, smoothies, cupcakes and cheesecake. There were also mimosas and Bloody Marys using vegan friendly alcohol.
You’re probably asking yourself right now, “But don’t you need things like cheese, eggs and other animal products to make that food?” That’s what we thought, too, but the vegan cheese and other substitutes they used tasted like the real thing and filled us up just as much as non-vegan food would. The cupcake pictured above, for example, got its “chocolate” flavor from VeganSmart’s chocolate shake powder.
The shakes in particular were a highlight of the event. Offered in two flavors, berry and chocolate banana, the shakes were made with just three ingredients: ice, strawberries or bananas, and VeganSmart in Wild Berries or Chocolate. The berry shake had a slightly powdery texture, but this wasn’t noticeable after the first sip. It was a refreshing and sweet drink, but the real winner here was the chocolate banana shake. This one tasted like it had real chocolate in it, and the rich flavor made it impossible to detect the powdery texture unless you were really looking for it. It was hard to believe that the drink only had three ingredients, none of which included dairy.
After trying several vegan dishes and drinks, we spoke to volunteers Eboni and Kamilah Moss, sisters who recently transitioned into the vegan lifestyle. For several years, Eboni had been a vegetarian while Kamilah was a pescetarian, a diet that included fish but no other meat. Both of them gave up (most) meat because of their love for animals, but a video on the dairy industry posted on the Mercy for Animals Facebook page pushed them into a completely vegan lifestyle.
“I broke down crying after I watched that video and realized I couldn’t consume dairy anymore,” says Eboni. “If I were doing it for just health reasons I would probably have a hard time with it, but it’s really easy when you think of it from an animal rights perspective.”
Eboni explains, “When you go vegan because of animal rights, it becomes a lifestyle. It’s not enough to just give up eating animal products. But it’s really easy to figure out!” After a few hours of research and several weeks shopping around, Eboni and Kamilah were able to figure out where they could find vegan products. “After a while you know what bread you can get at Publix and all that. I even found vegan nail polish at Marshalls! Vegan items usually have tags on them so it’s really easy to figure out which items are vegan and which are not.”
The Internet also helps them maintain their lifestyle. “There are vegan shoe, purse and clothes stores online,” says Kamilah. “We’re also part of several Facebook groups and follow other vegans on Instagram to help us find recipes, restaurants and events. We actually found out about this brunch through Instagram. Social media helps us feel like we’re part of a real community and makes it easy to keep up the vegan lifestyle.”
Even with all the benefits of veganism, vegans should ensure that they still receive all the nutrients that they need to remain healthy. Brown University lists protein, calcium, vitamin D, iron and vitamin B-12 as areas in which vegans need to pay particular attention. It’s easy to get supplements for all these things at your local grocery store, and there are even dietary supplements made specifically for vegans. VeganSmart, for example, is a complete vegan protein blend that contains vitamins, minerals and prebiotics, according to their official website. It also provides Omega 3 and digestive support, among other things. It comes in four different flavors: Vanilla, Chocolate, Wild Berries, and Chai. Each serving provides tons of health benefits, including 6 grams of dietary fiber, and 5 different non-GMO plant based proteins for building and repairing tissue and muscle.
VeganSmart founder John Kelly created the product to help vegans like himself. “As a vegan it can be hard to find plant based protein powders that are good for you and actually taste good,” he explains. “I wanted to not only have something so great at my disposal but I was sure that there were other vegans like me who were slightly frustrated about the lack of great plant based proteins on the market. Also I felt as if it would be [a] great product for people looking to transition to the vegan lifestyle or just want to [incorporate] more plant based nutrition into their lifestyle.”
Sold on the vegan thing? Whether it’s for health or animal rights reasons, Ashleigh says, “It may seem like a big change, but once you make the change you don’t miss the way you used to eat.” Or maybe you just want to follow Queen Bey’s advice. Either way, when done properly, going vegan is sure to make you feel ***Flawless.
words_renee perez & vero lopez. photos_renee perez.