Why I’m Not a Vegan

On my recent book tour, I spoke with a number of people about my take on a positive direction for the American diet. I’ve been semi-vegan for six years and in the book (called “VB6,” for Vegan Before 6 p.m.[1] ), I argue that this strategy, or one like it, can move us toward better health.

In the last 30 years, researchers have graduated from the notion that Americans should “eat less fat, especially saturated fat” — the catchphrase of ’80s nutritionists[2] — to widespread agreement that we eat too few unprocessed plants and too much hyperprocessed food, especially food containing sugar and those carbohydrates that our bodies convert rapidly to sugar. There is also compelling evidence that we eat too many animal products (something like 600 pounds per person per year) and too much salt.

None of this is simple. For one thing, we still have much to learn about the composition of plants and the aspects of them that are good for us[3] , although it’s becoming clear that they’re beneficial not so much as a combination of nutrients but as the right package of nourishment, which we might as well call real food. In other words,you’re better off eating a carrot than the beta-carotene that was once thought to be its most beneficial “ingredient.”[4]

Read the rest of this column, here.

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  1. Zhiwa said...

    THANK YOU SO MUCH! Your common sense approach to mindful eating is exactly the way to empower people in this country to DO something about climate change WITHOUT having to work through our corporate oligarchy (a.k.a., political system). I’m a long-time Buddhist and Eco-advocate, and while I’ve been a vegetarian for many years, what I try to tell people is that it isn’t about being vegetarian, its just about knowing what you are putting in your mouth – it’s impacts on your health, on the planet, and how it was raised and harvested. I lived in Montana for many years, and many of my best friends in the environmental movement hunted their own meat, but refused to buy meat from the store. Anyway, what I call people like you are “Earthivores” – we are what we eat, and we are the world, so the world is what we eat. A plant based diet is a planet based diet. I’m so heartened to see this in the NYT! You rock!

  2. WG White said...

    It seems to me that you are using “vegan” as shorthand for “strict vegetarian”. Veganism is, however, more of an ethical dietary system rather than just a non animal based diet (e.g. no consumption of honey). The very first and foremost reason that you are “not a vegan” is that you do not ascribe to a vegan eithical view…what you detail here is why you are not a strcit vegetarian. To avoid pissing off/alienating vegans I think you should quit using the term as interchangeably with vegetarianism…there are no “semi-vegans”, there are plenty of “semi-vegetarians” (I happen to be neither)

  3. John D. said...

    GREAT article on being a part time vegan and right on the money in all aspects. You offer a common sense way to eat healthier without “whole hog”. The information you presented is something everyone in America should read. Kudos!

  4. Lori said...

    I agree with everything you say here, but can’t for the life of my figure out why you titled it, “Why I am not a Vegan.”

  5. Tom Maynard said...

    I have adapted your diet plan somewhat to better suit my own lifestyle: “VBM” (Vegan Between Meals!).

    Just kidding. I’m 99.9% vegan, only occasionally falling off the wagon (and into the butcher shop). Love your work, have for a decade or more. Come back to TV, please!

  6. Tracy Haughton said...

    Here is another interesting reflection on humans eating vegetables: http://roarofwolverine.com/archives/412

  7. Lorian Schwaber said...

    I find all of this interesting and have read the book. As a college professor who has spent some time researching how to help students living in a dorm setting find healthy ways of eating I find the details of all of these suggestions frustrating. (students are allowed microwaves and coffee makers but not much else in the way of tools) Most University food plans are ridiculous, most students haven’t got the equipment to cook fresh “real” food even if they had the time. I wish someone would spend some time promoting information that allows students to separate frozen from processed, and categorized some of the pre-made things into healthier, less healthy, and danger/stay away. For example, I prefer making my own food to, say a green giant frozen steamer bag of broccoli or carrots or beans, but that “processed” food sure beats the heck out of heading for the “Wow Wings” outlet on campus when you get out of a study session at 8 and the cafeteria is closed. And it can be prepared in a microwave. Sorry if that supports big ag, or even big organic if the kids can afford their frozen options but……..

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  9. Martha J. said...

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  11. Michael J. Rashid said...

    An unwanted side effect to veganism, unfortunately, is the loss of muscle tissue. With the absence of consuming large amounts of protein, the body turns to a convenient source: itself. Short durations of veganism have been mostly positive, but, speaking only from my experience, after several weeks I do not feel as strong in my workouts.

    Legumes are a decent source of protein, yet come with unwanted carbs. Be sure to supplement a vegan diet with protein shakes (non-soy), and vitamin B supplements.

  12. MARY FORSSBERG said...

    Hi Mark
    I am an avid follower of yours.
    Can you, possibly, suggest a vegan/vegetarian casserole dish that would freeze well. I want to participate in a feed the poor program, however, all of the recipes given contain meat and I don’t cook with meat anymore. One requirement is that it be able to be frozen. Can you suggest something that would be able to be frozen and reheated.
    Thank you, Mary

  13. vegansfirst said...

    Thank you for this article. I like this web site very much. I find so much interesting news in this! I think a plant based diet is a planet based diet! I will definitely follow your instructions.

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