I ended my vegan diet after six days instead of the promised seven. I felt I had ‘proven’ my experiment but I was also very tired, and let’s face it…. hungry. In my vegan experiment, I chose to eat ONLY whole foods; food that occurred in nature. I did not eat bread or bread-like items or absolutely ANY artificially flavored/sweetened/colored items. Much of the food I did eat was cooked however; it was not a raw diet. I also stayed away from processed vegan items like soy milk and almond milk, tofu, etc. While the food that makes up these items DOES occur in nature, the resulting product does not.
Many will say my experiment was a little extreme; I wanted to see if a hunter-gatherer would be able to survive on vegetables, fruit, beans, and nuts alone. I don’t mean the average person with a handy-dandy Whole Foods down the road, obviously it is very possible to survive and even thrive with veganism, assuming you have supplements and processed vegan food that provides all the necessary protein and vitamins. But could you not only survive, but THRIVE, without them? My conclusion is no, you cannot.
On all six days of my experiment, I failed to eat enough calcium and protein; in fact, I was only ever able to consume half of the daily recommendation. Many Vegans get their calcium from fortified orange juice, soy milk and tofu. However, my argument is, those fortified items DO NOT occur in nature. Of course, I could have eaten a much much larger salad of dark leafy greens to get enough calcium, but that would require eating six cups of kale every day or three cups of cooked collard greens. A non-vegan hunter-gatherer would need to drink three cups of milk (we will not mention yogurt or cheese because these things also do not ‘occur in nature’) which, I feel, is much more likely to obtain than finding/growing this large of an amount of calcium rich vegetables, not to mention the off-seasons which would not allow vegetable cultivation. Realistically, while it is not impossible, it would be very difficult, assuming a hunter-gatherer lifestyle, to survive and THRIVE off of calcium-rich vegetables alone. As for protein, said individual would need to find and eat five cups of spinach or two cups of almonds to get between 50-60 grams of protein. A meat eater would get 70 grams or more of protein by consuming HALF of a turkey/chicken breast. I feel that an individual living this lifestyle would have a much better chance of not only surviving but THRIVING assuming they found and ate eggs, raw milk and meat protein.
My experiment required me to shop, cook, and consequently, wash a lot more dishes than I am usually accustomed to. It was also significantly more expensive even though I pinched pennies every way that I could. I also had to plan my meals out very meticulously to ensure I would use my fresh produce before it was wasted and to ensure I got the right balance of vitamins and protein on a day to day basis.
Please do not think I am against veganism or vegetarianism; on the contrary, I was AMAZED at the amount of vitamins, fiber, etc I WAS able to get, quite easily, during my vegan experiment. I was able to consume significantly more Iron with veganism than during my regular eating habits, as well as Vitamin C, Vitamin A, and Potassium. I believe that vegetables, fruit, beans and nuts are extremely important for a healthy balanced diet and I plan to eat much more of them now then I ever have before. But I also believe that SMALL amounts of dairy and even occasional organic, cage-free meat are extremely beneficial in not only surviving but THRIVING, long term. Notice I say small amounts; not the enormously large servings that most Americans are used to consuming that lead to obesity, heart disease and colon cancer.
However, I understand that there are many complex and multi-faceted reasons why people choose to be vegetarians and vegans that have health, social, environmental and moral implications. Obviously we do NOT have to live hunter-gatherer lifestyles any more and with the incredible innovative supplements and fortified foods we have today, both veganism and vegetarianism are very ‘doable’ and even very healthy, though I still do not feel they are necessarily ‘natural’, ironically.
I have nothing but respect for vegans and vegetarians alike, and I am in no way discouraging either from their lifestyles.
On a side note, artificial flavors, colors and sweeteners are a major health concern and should be avoided at all costs. It’s worth saying that I felt very good knowing that EVERYTHING that I consumed during the entire six days of this experiment occurred naturally in nature, from organic tea as my beverage to all of the spices I used. Do we really need chemically colored purple cupcakes sweetened with more chemicals? That’s an argument to save for another time.