The Vegan Truth

By Sierra Smith | Photograph from Brian Dennison

Growing up in a midwestern region that emphasizes red-meat-laden BBQs, Amanda Wilson, business manager for WHIRL Publishing, made a big decision after viewing Kip Anderson’s investigative documentary What the Health. The controversial film, released this March, investigates the link between cases of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes and what constitutes as a “normal” diet according to leading American health organizations and uncovers some shocking truths. “After watching this film,” Wilson writes on her blog, Oohlala Mandy, “I decided I could no longer eat anything animal-related.” Now, over two months later, Wilson is still embracing a vegan lifestyle, feeling healthier than ever, and experiencing some unexpected additional positives from her plant-based diet.

For many people, the idea of veganism seems to go hand-in-hand with animal-rights activism. Take PETA, for example, who puts veganism under the comprehensive umbrella of “animal rights,” in an effort to raise awareness of the deplorable conditions animals are kept in during captivity. But for Wilson, her dramatic lifestyle shift was born from different place. “I didn’t go vegan because I wanted to save animals,” says Wilson. “The reason that I went vegan is because I wanted to have a healthier lifestyle.” What the Health details that red meat was declared a carcinogen in 2015, the leading source of sodium in an American diet is chicken, and the No. 1 dietary source of cholesterol in America is chicken. So Wilson’s decision to eliminate meat was an obvious choice.

According to her blog, after only five days sans meat, Wilson felt fantastic. “You know that full feeling that makes you want to sleep the rest of the day? You feel sluggish and fat,” she writes. “I haven’t experienced any of that since eating vegan.” And now, her body feels leaner and just generally healthier. “Being a woman, we have a menstrual cycle and we feel larger than life and we bloat … I don’t have that,” she says. “I don’t bloat.”

Wilson’s new diet also boosts all-day energy levels, and, despite the popular opinion that an all-plant diet doesn’t provide all essential nutrients, thanks to the diet-tracking app SparkPeople, she is able to monitor her vitamin levels. “I have not been deficient yet,” she confirms.

Since becoming vegan, Wilson has become more creative in the kitchen as well, cooking with many ingredients that she wouldn’t have touched as a meat-eater. Garbanzo beans, a good source of dietary fiber, protein, iron and zinc; jackfruit, containing vitamins A, C, and B6, potassium, iron, and more; and spinach, an excellent source of vitamins C, E, and K, and calcium, zinc, and protein, make up an average meal in Wilson’s kitchen. Plus, she’s found that prepping and cooking produce takes significantly less time than meat and surprisingly costs less! “People think going vegan is expensive. Going vegan is expensive if you shop at Whole Foods,” says Wilson. “Going vegan is inexpensive if you go to farmer’s markets and get farm-fresh vegetables and fruits, or when you shop at Trader Joe’s.”

Despite her cold-turkey dietary change, the hardest part of veganism for Wilson was the inconvenience. “If there isn’t a vegan option on the menu will I leave the restaurant? Will I just eat a side dish and pretend to be satisfied? No!” Wilson writes on her blog. “I’m going to choose the closest thing to stay on my healthy vegan diet.” She decided to enact a 90/10 rule, living her life 90 percent vegan, but leaving 10 percent for inconvenience, although she makes it clear that any “inconvenience” eating will be as healthy and as vegan as possible. And if she finds herself being tempted, she refuses to beat herself up. “There have been times, because I am a human, that I slip up,” she laughs. “I have been trying to eat as healthy as I can but when I want to treat myself, I do.”

If you’re ready to commit to a vegan lifestyle like Wilson’s, she recommends doing your research before jumping in: speaking to a nutritionist or consulting vegan blogs are both great places to start! She also recommends consuming lots of water and keeping healthy, vegan snacks around the house to cut down on temptations. Ultimately, she says, “Be prepared for what your body may go through. Don’t be mad at your body if you have cravings, just try to supplement it with something else.”

For more on Wilson’s journey, follow her blog  at medium.com/oohlala-mandy.


Try one of Amanda’s favorite vegan recipes: BBQ Jackfruit Sandwich

Photograph from Amanda Wilson

Things you’ll need:

2 cans of jackfruit
½ cup BBQ sauce
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon brown sugar Bourbon (optional)
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon minced garlic
½ red onion, diced
4 vegan hamburger buns
Liquid smoke (optional)

Instructions:

1. In a skillet over medium heat, add a tbsp of oil. Add onion; cook for 5–7 minutes, until tender. Add garlic; cook for another minute.
2. Drain the jackfruit and rinse.
3. Once rinsed, add jackfruit to skillet.
4. In a small bowl, add BBQ sauce, smoked paprika, brown sugar bourbon, garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper and chili powder and whisk until all seasonings are distributed evenly. Add a little water to make it saucy.
5. Pour sauce over jackfruit then cover and let it cook on medium for 12–15 minutes. Stir occasionally.
6. Using a fork (I used two) shred the jackfruit to your liking.
7. I added 1 tbsp of liquid smoke to enhance the BBQ flavor.
8. Once completely shredded, remove jackfruit from heat.

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