Saturday, August 6, 2011

To Veg or Not to Veg

I've been thinking about colon cancer a lot lately, specifically, the preventative measures that I can take to decrease my risk of being diagnosed with the same disease that took my dad away from me.
It's not a secret that decreasing one's red meat intake has a significant impact on a person's colon health, and while I admit that sometimes (like the entire time I was pregnant), a medium rare steak is the only thing that will hit the spot, I'm making an effort to cut my consumption of it and instead up the greens, legumes, and fruit.
A few posts ago, I mentioned that I am curious about Mark Bittman's "vegan until dinner" practice, one which means that he is, well, a vegan until dinnertime (or suppertime, really).  No animal products of any kind.  This improved Mr. Bittman's overall health, and studies are showing that in order to truly cut down on the environmental impact that our Western, meat-centric diet has had, eliminating dairy as well as the meat is going to have to happen in a major way.
Of course, the argument Mr. Bittman makes is that ONE meal a day can have animal product in it - so that Sunday morning bacon and eggs can still happen, if you want.  That just means at suppertime, the Sunday roast beast is replaced by roast beets (see what I did there?).
By following this method, I can improve my personal health and the health of the planet.  I'm quite certain that I am not ready at this point in my life to completely eliminate animal products from my life, but this is a comfortable step that I can realistically make.
However, it does create some questions for me that I need to answer before I embark on this journey whole-heartedly.

  1. How the heck can I survive with nothing in my coffee?  I finally got rid of the CoffeeMate®, which was, ironically, made with no animal products, and started using cream (or half-and-half, if necessary) and vanilla sugar.  I'm not going to go back to the 'Mate; it has too many other crappy ingredients that I want to avoid.
  2. And speaking of other crappy ingredients, I'm not really sure if the meat-substitute sausages, patties, etc., are much better for me, too.  Lots of sodium and other ingredients of which I'm suspect because I can't pronounce don't make for a "healthy" alternative, it seems.
  3. Lastly, vegan mayonnaise, margarine, and other subs of the same matter.  I can't lie; regular mayonnaise at the grocery store terrifies me, and a large spoonful is enough to make me lose my lunch.  The homemade version (thank you, David Lebovitz; please pray I never come to Paris, as I WILL stalk you) fares much better.  I make it a rule to not allow margarine in the house (unless I'm making a Coca-Cola® cake, as this is not negotiable in this recipe, but when you are making a cake with Coca-Cola®, it's not like your health comes into the picture at all).  So the vegan version is just as scary to me - random oils and things I'm not sure what they are. (this concern clearly wasn't in the form of a question, but I'm sure you can see the issue I am raising here)
  4. Soy.  Yes, I know it can be healthy.  But I've also been reading that it can make eczema worse.  That is something I most certainly DO NOT want to happen.  Partly because I don't want to be more itchy, but mostly because I don't want to have to go back to the dermatologist I abandoned for more natural measures and have to hear "I told you so," or whatever the medical version of that is.  How much is safe?  How much is bearable?
I guess my overall concern is that when one thinks "vegan," one thinks "natural," and that is ideally what I'd like to see in my diet (says the woman who just horked down a slice of leftover "Mexican" pizza for breakfast).  How much I am willing to compromise of the habits that have become a part of me is something I have to sort out myself, but I confess that I still need much more knowledge so that I can progress this way.  

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