Veganism is not a Cure

Recently, a post on Compassion Co’s Tumblr caught my attention. The original post was by someone who admitted that they decided to no longer eat a plant-based diet. Their reasoning behind their decision was that, “Veganism wasn’t the “miracle cure” a lot of people say it is”. Now, this post is not about judging that person for their decision. Everyone has to make the decisions that are right for them. But what really interested me about the post and the resulting discussion was the concept of “veganism as a cure”. As much as I am passionate about and advocate a plant-based diet, I would never go so far as to call it a “cure”.

“Cure” is a loaded term. It conveys the idea of a permanent solution to an ailment, a complete reversal of illness. I think the term “cure” is used far too often. Let’s face it “cure” sells. Having dealt with years of chronic pain, I can completely relate to wanting to find a cure. I spent so much time, money and energy searching for a complete stop to my pain. Part of the reason I adopted a plant-based diet was to help reduce my inflammation-related pain as a plant-based diet has anti-inflammatory benefits. Emphasis on the term “benefits”. A plant-based diet is not a cure. If one is allergic to dairy, and cuts dairy completely from their diet, their dairy allergy is not “cured”. It is controlled, the symptoms will not occur as long as they don’t consume dairy, but it is not a reversal of the allergy.

If you are looking for a cure for any personal ailment by adopting a plant-based diet, you might be setting yourself up for disappointment. According to the American Dietetic Association (ADA), those who eat a plant-based diet are at a lower risk for developing heart disease, certain types of cancers, Type 2 diabetes, obesity and hypertension (high blood pressure). Studies have shown that a plant-based diet appears to be “useful for increasing the intake of protective nutrients and phytochemicals and for minimizing the intake of dietary factors implicated in several chronic diseases”. Basically, if you are eating a plant-based diet, you are incorporating more fruits and vegetables in your diet, which results in better nutrition overall. Better nutrition equals better overall health and wellness. However, as much as nutrition can assist in resolving certain ailments, it should not be considered a cure.

As I found, chronic issues are something we often have to learn to live with. My hip, the source of my chronic pain, will most likely never be “100%”. It will always need a little extra love, on and off physical therapy and it is very likely to cause me more pain the future. I spent 3 years looking for a cure and being met with disappointment after disappointment when the pain returned. This led to misery, depression, overall hopelessness. I endured so much suffering. I turned a corner when I reframed my approach to the pain. All I can do, every single day, every single moment, is to practice compassion towards my body and my pain. Part of my compassionate practice is to also practice compassion towards other living beings. I find it makes it easier to practice compassion towards myself, when I take the time to show it towards others. Instead of a cycle of pain and suffering, I have been focusing on a cycle of compassion and healing. There will be bad days and hard times, but overall the journey has been a far more positive experience.

A related post by Compassion Co pointed out that “veganism” is different than a plant-based diet. While we use the term interchangeably on this website, he has a point. Veganism, as Compassion Co so eloquently put it, “is a way of living that seeks to exclude all animal exploitation from one’s daily life as far as is possible and practical”. A major component to practicing veganism is by eliminating animal ingredients from one’s diet as our current food industry practices are filled with animal suffering, exploitation and death. Together, those who practice veganism are strengthening a movement which reduces the exploitation and consumption of animals. Veganism is an act beyond one’s self and one’s own needs. The long-term vegans I know are ones who are passionate about the ethical reasons for going vegan. I tend to believe that if one’s intentions to make a lifestyle change encompasses reasons beyond themselves, they are more likely to be successful in creating a lasting change.

For all its benefits, a plant-based diet is a choice one can make that gives back for all the reasons I’ve covered here, and I’m sure even more. But, if you want to go plant-based permanently, please don’t consider it a cure. When you go into a diet, any diet, expecting a permanent and complete change, you will be disappointed when things don’t go exactly as planned. I think it helps to view a plant-based diet as a practice, one that helps to promote healing and strengthen your body’s immune system. Additionally, every day that you practice a plant-based diet, you are furthering yourself from the suffering of other beings. It is an act of positivity and resolve that creates a cycle of compassion and health. To continue the cycle, do not focus on permanent solutions or cures. Focus on the benefits for yourself and for others.

Olives

Transitioning to Life Without Cheese

One of the first reactions non-vegans have when confronted with the concept of a vegan diet is, “But I could never live without cheese!”. I will be totally honest, transitioning to a vegan diet wasn’t easy for me. I full-heartedly encourage people who want to transition to a vegan diet to do it at their own pace. For me, it took several YEARS. Yes, years. Cutting out most dairy and eggs wasn’t a problem for me, but cheese… I loved cheese. But slowly over time I was able to remove cheese from my diet, and in this post I’ll detail tips for making the transition easier.

1. Set goals

Start with easily achievable goals for yourself such as, “I will only eat cheese once this week.” Then, as you feel more comfortable set what you think is a more challenging yet achievable goal. Some people might find that after a few weeks of only eating cheese once a week, they can cut it out completely. Others may need to set a another goal of once a month or once every other month. Do what works best for you. Remember, it’s not a race! Go at your own pace and you will have much more success.

2. Make Plant-Based Substitutions

One of the main components to ditching cheese is to satisfy your craving for the salty fatty flavor of cheese with a vegan equivalent. When first confronted with the idea of a vegan diet, many people see it as restrictive. They focus on the exclusion of meat, dairy and eggs instead of how the diet can open one up to new meals and flavors. If you reframe the thought “I can’t have cheese” by focusing on what alternatives you CAN use in your meals, the exclusion of cheese will feel less restrictive. Simply put, think of it as a creative challenge. The following are a few examples of whole-foods plant-based alternatives to cheese.

Avocados

An easy plant-based substitution for cheese is to use avocado. Instead of adding cheese to your favorite Mexican dish, simply add sliced avocado or guacamole with a touch of extra salt. You can also add avocado to salads, wraps, sandwiches and burgers in place of cheese.

Olives

My favorite equivalent became olives. I wasn’t a big fan of olives most of my life, but after trying fresh Cerignola olives I fell in love. Cerignola are mild, buttery olives that are easy to find in any fresh olive bar and a great way to tip your toes into the world of olives. A local market in my neighborhood offers a vegan wrap with hummus, avocados, kalamata olives, and fresh baby greens. The wrap became my cheese-free go-to for a quick lunch. If you absolutely hate olives, there are other snack alternatives that might hit the spot: peanut butter on crackers or pretzels, salty roasted almonds, and edamame with sea salt.

Cashew Cheese

You might notice that I haven’t mentioned processed vegan cheese alternatives. While some brands have succeeded in creating awesome vegan cheeses, they aren’t so great for you, your wallet or your cheese craving. And sadly, many brands have completely failed. Before journeying down the path of processed vegan cheeses, try creating your own cheese alternatives. Cashew Cheese is not only easy to make but versatile! In a food processor, blend 1 1/2 cups raw cashews (soaked in filtered water for 2 hours), 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice, 1/2 cup nutritional yeast, 1-2 cloves of freshly minced garlic, 1 tsp sea salt, 1 Tbsp freshly chopped basil (optional), and add water until you get a consistency you are happy with. Add to pasta dishes, use as a dip with crackers or veggies, or as a spread in a wrap. You can also play with different flavors by adding spices you love.

Tofu Ricotta

Tofu Ricotta is a very easy plant-based substitution that you can make yourself in just a few minutes. First, squeeze out the excess water from a package of firm tofu. In a large bowl, mash the tofu with your hands until it’s crumbly. Add 2 teaspoons of lemon juice, 1 clove of minced garlic, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, a dash of black pepper, 1/4 cup of nutritional yeast, 2 teaspoons of olive oil and as much freshly minced basil as you desire. Tofu ricotta is great to make at the beginning of the week for use during the week. Add to a boring dish of pasta and sauce for a fast protein-rich meal.

3. Practice Mindfulness

At Compassionate Fitness we advocate progress not perfection. Practice mindfulness by offering kindness towards yourself if you find yourself giving in to the temptation of a slice of pizza or a cheese plate at a party. Every moment is a new opportunity to start over. Dwelling on guilt only makes going vegan a negative experience. Your energy is best focused on making veganism a positive experience. Be mindful of cravings and negativity and try to reframe those thoughts in a positive light. And, if you do find yourself dwelling on the negative thoughts or giving in to cheese cravings, forgive yourself, move on and try again.


So, if you are struggling to cut out cheese from your diet, try out these easy steps and see how long you can go without cheese. I found that once I went a month without cheese, when I did cave in and eat the occasional slice of pizza, both my stomach and my sinuses were displeased. Having my body negatively affected by consuming dairy made it even easier to cut it out of my diet. You might notice the same reaction. Also, going vegan isn’t just about you and your health. Keep in mind that your efforts are also a way to show compassion for the animals affected by the dairy industry. Every day you go without cheese is a day that you’ve practiced compassion and took a stand against the suffering of animals and the pollution of the environment.
Good luck with your transition. If you’re trying to cut out cheese, tell us how you’re doing. If you’re vegan, feel free to comment with your tips and tricks!

Top 3 Favorite Vegan Protein Powders

The number one question vegans get asked is, “Where do you get your protein?”. The answer is simple, we get our protein from a wide variety of sources. Beans, grains, nuts, seeds and vegetables all are sources of protein. But for a quick source of protein, protein supplements can be an easy addition to your diet to make sure you are getting an adequate amount of protein in your diet. The following are some of our favorite vegan protein powders.

1. Naturade Pea Protein – Chocolate

Naturade Pea Protein is a great protein supplement for when you are on-the-go. It tastes great with just water or the milk alternative of your choice. For an indulgent snack, blend 2 scoops of Chocolate Naturade Pea Protein with 2 tablespoons of peanut butter, frozen banana and a cup of soy milk.

Naturade Pea Protein – Chocolate

Details: Soy and Gluten free. 20 grams of protein per serving. 3 grams fat. 140 calories. Non GMO-pea protein. No artificial flavors, sweeteners or colors.

 

2. Orgain Organic Protein Plant-Based Powder

Orgain’s protein powder in Sweet Vanilla Bean has a distinctive malty flavor. Although it’s not its best just mixed with water or soy milk, it is great blended in smoothies or added to oatmeal. Our favorite way to enjoy Orgain’s protein powder is to make a serving of oatmeal and add one scoop of Orgain, 1 tablespoon of peanut butter and enough soy milk to mix in the ingredients. Remember to make your oatmeal with a little more water than usual so that it’s easier to melt the peanut butter and mix in the protein powder and a dash of cinnamon on top. Sweeten with diced apples, maple syrup or both for a healthier alternative to an apple pie crumble.

Orgain Organic Protein Plant-Based Powder, Vanilla Bean

Orgain Organic Protein Plant-Based Powder, Vanilla BeanOrgain Organic Protein Plant-Based Powder

Details: Soy and Gluten free. 21 grams of protein per serving. 5 grams fat. 150 calories. Non GMO. No added sugar.

 

3. PlantFusion Protein

Our third favorite vegan protein powder is made by PlantFusion. PlantFusion has a lot of delicious vegan protein powders in their Phood line, but for daily use, we recommend PlantFusion’s original. It can be added to most smoothies and stay undetected. It’s a great choice for when you want the other ingredients in your smoothie to shine. Our favorite green smoothie to make with PlantFusion original flavor is to blend 2 scoops with 1 cup soy milk, 1/2 cup orange juice, a big handful of baby spinach, 1 banana and small handful of frozen mango.

PlantFusion Protein

Details: Soy and Gluten free. 21 grams of protein per serving. 2 grams fat. 120 calories. Non GMO.