Vegetarians and vegans are used to being the brunt of many jokes and criticisms around the dinner table.
But what upsets me the most is the double standard that people hold, especially when it comes to health.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people say some variation of the following, “I don’t care if you are vegetarian or vegan, but you should learn about nutrition so you stay healthy.”
I always want to respond with: Well, duh! Everyone should have some basic knowledge of nutrition; not just vegetarians and vegans!
Why aren’t you concerned about everyone’s health? Why specifically mine? If you’re so concerned about people’s health, why don’t you go support school lunch reform, or nutrition label reform, or start a petition to require nutrition classes in public school?
I realize that this misguided concern people have about vegetarian and vegan diets is a product of a cultural and historical bias towards a meat eating diet– rather than any substantive study of vegan diets that shows that they aren’t healthy. The ideas that most people in the U.S. have about nutrition come from ads, family doctors, and parents. Few people have actually studied or taken classes about nutrition.
Of course, I’d rather have people be concerned about my health, and at least acknowledge that a vegan diet can be healthy, rather than just automatically assuming that it’s impossible to be healthy and vegan.
And sure, you can be an unhealthy vegan; but you can be an unhealthy anything! And in my experience vegans and vegetarians are more conscious about the source and nutrition content of their food than most people.
So be careful what you say to vegans about their health.
They probably know more than you do.
That concludes my rant for the day.
If you want to know more about being vegan– or just about being healthy– look up Dean Ornish, John Robbins, or T. Colin Campbell.