Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, vegan, Crossfit enthusiast and all around great human Ashley Kitchen stopped by to share her experience as a vegan and debunk some myths about vegans along the way. She also crafted and shared a delicious recipe with us! Discover more about Ashley at the end of this article and check out her recipe HERE.
What does vegan truly mean?
If you ask a two vegans what exactly does being vegan mean to them, you will more than likely get two different answers. We all have different reasons for going vegan. Some people adopt a vegan lifestyle for their health, for others it’s for the animals, and others still, it’s for the environment.
For me, the word vegan initially came with a strong correlation of improved health and well-being, increased energy and vitality, a healthy GI tract, and a way to heal myself. It meant eating wholesome, plant-based foods that were nourishing to my body and made me feel fantastic. Although this aspect of being vegan still holds true, the more that I have learned about this lifestyle, the more I have come to realize how much every aspect of this lifestyle resonates with me.
It’s a more compassionate way of living and it leaves a smaller footprint on the environment. The word vegan now has a broader meaning, encompassing a variety of reasons that help mold me into what I believe to be a better person.
How long have you been a vegan and why?
I started my vegan journey 5 ½ years ago. The transition developed over the course of a couple years. The more I learned and the better I felt, the more I wanted to keep going. I used to shy away from the question, “Why are you vegan?” but, the answer has become easier even if it is a bit “TMI.”
Growing up, I struggled with chronic constipation. I remember spending hours in the bathroom, missing out on time with friends and time in the backyard playing with my siblings simply because I couldn’t “go.” It was an issue that I couldn’t escape and as I grew older it only worsened. I followed the standard American diet and, for good measure, included extra fiber bars and cereals, drank lots of water, and exercised, but to no avail.
In my college years it came to the point that I tried over-the-counter laxatives to alleviate my discomfort. That one experience was enough for me to realize this was not a path I wanted to head down. I started researching various natural ways to heal myself of constipation and came across a plant-based, vegan diet.
After doing some more research and watching a couple documentaries, I gave up most meat and cow’s milk. From there, I continued to research this new lifestyle and almost immediately started feeling better. I continued to cut things out of my diet until finally, I became vegan. I have actively been engaging in this lifestyle to the fullest extent for almost 3 years now and I’ve never felt better.
What are the health benefits?
Many health benefits can come along with a well-planned, plant-based vegan diet. I try to stress the plant-based aspect when I talk about eating vegan. It is so easy to become a junk-food vegan, but this isn’t the lifestyle that I am subscribing to. While junk-food has its time and place, a whole foods plant-based diet is full of nutrients, water, and fiber in great abundance.
When an individual eats a plant-based vegan diet they should innately be getting sufficient carbohydrates, fat, and protein while also providing all of their vitamins and minerals, with the exception of vitamin B12. The only reliable vegan sources of B12 are foods fortified with B12 (including some plant milks, some soy products and some breakfast cereals) and B12 supplements.
Working as a dietitian and trying to stay abreast the research on the health benefits of a vegan diet, there have been numerous people, some of whom I know personally, that have gotten off their cholesterol medicine, insulin, or just get sick less frequently.
Vegan diets are known to help people lose weight without having to control calories or count carbs. A vegan diet may help you maintain a healthy heart, reducing your risk of developing heart disease or even worse, having a heart attack. It can even potentially protect against type 2 diabetes and certain cancers.
I understand when I think and say these types of things that they seem radical or too good to be true but as Ben Franklin said, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
What are some of the difficulties and the solutions you've found?
I continue to learn how to navigate living a vegan lifestyle in a meat-centric world. The initial difficulties and ones that thankfully now only occasionally arise are eating out and going over to friends or family’s homes.
Most of my friends and family are aware and of how I eat and go above and beyond to make accommodations for me. When I know that I am treading into new territory though, I try to make sure that I am well equipped beforehand. Mostly, it just comes down to being nimble, prepared, and polite. If I am eating at a new restaurant with friends, I always scope out the menu to see what I can get. If the pickings are slim, I can just eat before going out, load up on side dishes, or politely speak with the waiter about meal adjustments.
Eating vegan, as a whole, takes a little more preparation. In the beginning, I found myself eating a lot of the same thing or eating more processed, vegan foods. Overall, it takes a little more planning and creativity, which I’ve grown to love.
Each week, I spend time planning out my meals and then subsequently meal prepping for at least four weekdays. This has drastically reduced any unnecessary stress during the week surrounding my meals and has been an amazing habit ever since becoming vegan. It ensures that I always have tasty and nutritious food to fill me up while living an active vegan lifestyle. I’ve found that no challenge has been too difficult to overcome. When you’re passionate about something, you’ll leap over any hurdle to make it happen.
Never, in the history of ever, has telling someone to calm down actually helped them to calm down.
As I started writing this my auto-rotating background was a lioness staring the camera down with her intense yellow eyes. I decided to name her Augusta. How fitting a photo to pop up for an article about dealing with overwhelm.
Can you imagine being the photographer? Starring through your hopefully long magnifying camera lens and knowing if Augusta decided to charge you nothing under the sun would save your life. At the same time you’re having a precious, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to capture this image and to be in the presence of a truly amazing creature.
All of that in and of itself creates a balance of tension. There is a definitive con, being mauled to death by a lioness, and definite pro, an amazing experience. But what happens when the scales are out of balance?
The seafood counter can be intimidating. Most people scan the case, looking over different filets and shellfish, wondering how they taste, how fresh they are, and of course, the best way to prepare them. Ironically, most seafood is very easy to prepare, especially on the grill. If the tropical temperatures are inspiring you to throw a filet on the grill for your next cook-out, here are some things to keep in mind as you select your favorite fish at the store and fire up the grill.
Coffee is one of the most widely consumed beverages in the world. The International Coffee Organization estimates that in 2016 over 151.3 million 60 kg bags of coffee were consumed globally. That’s well over 9 billion pounds of coffee beans!
We Americans super love our coffee ranking as one of the top coffee consumers in the world. Annually we import $4 billion in coffee beans and that’s the cost before it’s turned into coffee, espresso or some other variation of coffee. On any given day over 150 million Americans drink coffee and the average American coffee consumer has 3.1 cups of Joe a day. That’s over 465 million cups of coffee consumed, on average, every day in America. But with the math and onto the real question - is all that coffee good for us?
Bookmark this article - you’re going to come back to it a lot.
Detoxing is all the rage. Everywhere you turn there is a new and improved detox diet, supplement, recipe or hack. What’s missing from all that, beside often legitimacy and safety, is the part where you reduce your exposure to toxins in the first place. Why is that? Probably because it’s not good for business. Also because the task of reducing toxins seems daunting when they are bombarding us from every direction.
As my favorite quarterback says, R-E-L-A-X.
Honestly you can’t completely eliminate all the toxins that you’re exposed to in this world, but you can significantly reduce them. It’s that whole adulting thing where we change what we can and accept the things we cannot change.
Other good news, reducing toxic exposure can save you money and also you have a fabulous liver whose primary job is detoxing our body. Drinking plenty of water, choosing organic foods, spending time in the great outdoors and getting plenty of sleep are other ways to reduce toxins in the body.
Some overlooked toxic culprits include beauty products, chemically scented candles, scented laundry detergents, fabric softener and, gasp, household cleaners. The very products we purchase to rid our homes of grit and grime can have seriously awful effects on our body.
When it comes to the beauty products and laundry detergent, we’re predominantly worried about toxins coming in through our largest organ, our skin. But our eyes and lips as other pathways for the toxins to enter. When it comes to scented products and cleaners, toxins can enter through our respiratory tract every time we breathe.
Stepping into the kitchen, the very cleaners we use to wipe down our counter tops, wash our dishes and wash our hands before we eat can end up in our food. Once a toxin is ingested, it’s going to be in your system for a long time until the body can get it out through your skin, urine or feces. In the meantime, it’s going to take a ride through your blood.
When have you checked a kitchen cleaning product to see if it’s food safe? No one does. We assume that if it’s meant to be used in the kitchen that it must be safe.
Set worry aside and save some money at the same time by making your own kitchen cleaners with the recipes below. Each of these recipes come in around $1 or less per solution. That’s crazy cheap for non-toxic soaps and cleaners that actually work. No store brand can beat the price, quality and safety of that!
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