So you think you can be a vegan?

In Arts & Culture3 Comments

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Brian Boudreau reports on how to stay healthy while on the most particular of diets

Imagine having to give up your trendy leather jacket, switch from your favourite shampoo and stop eating Skittles. While clothing and candy may not be involved in thoughts about your daily diet, they’re sacrifices necessary to maintaining a lifestyle that is growing rapidly at Ryerson: Veganism.

If practised correctly it can indeed be a healthy diet. But if you’re not careful a restrictive diet like veganism can be detrimental to your health. Vegans eliminate all animal by-products from their diets, including, but not restricted to, animal flesh, dairy and eggs. As a result, many vegans protect themselves from harmful toxins that might be present in animal products.

“I used to get really bad migraines,” said Heather Sadkowski, first-year social work student, a former vegan and current vegetarian. “But they stopped within a week of being a vegan.”

A vegan diet can result in iron, calcium, vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acid deficiencies. These deficiencies can weaken the individual, making him or her more susceptible to a wide array of illnesses and disorders.

Vitamin D deficiency, for example, can lead to osteomalacia, a condition that leads to muscle weakness and fragile bones. Anemia is also a common result of these deficiencies.

Karley Wu, first-year graphic communications management student, has experienced first-hand the consequences of unsafe diets.

About two years ago, Wu was forced out of her vegetarian lifestyle by a threatening reality; her diet was slowly killing her.

“I wasn’t taking the right amount of nutrients,” Wu said. “I became very sick. I had low iron and calcium, so I had to stop.” Since starting at Ryerson this year, Wu has resumed her vegetarian tendencies. She plans on being more careful this time and said that it’s all about “getting all the nutrients that [you] need.”

By making a conscious effort, vegans really can get all they need to stay healthy. The key is in planning your meals to include all vital nutrients and minerals. With the growing popularity of the vegan lifestyle, access to important nutritional supplements has become much easier. Specialty organic stores are popping up around Toronto and many regular grocery stores, such as Loblaws, have stocked up on various tofu and seitan products.

First-year sociology student Kayla Zimmerman practises veganism for reasons other than her health. She considers it “more of a spiritual thing.”

She views animals as equal to humans. Consequentially, they consider killing animals an act of cruelty. For this reason she also refuses to wear fur and leather or use cosmetics and products that have been tested on animals.

Oakham Café and The Ram in the Rye, two of the most popular places to eat on campus, have greatly expanded their vegan menu options this year.

According to Rick Knapp, the current Food and Beverage Manager at Ryerson, veganism is too popular to be ignored.

“When I started working here, there were some vegan options already on the menu. But I’ve tried to increase that,” Knapp said.

Knapp said the animal-free products on the menu sell because they are healthy. “They are of important nutritional value, regardless of whether you are a vegan or not.”

If you are still considering the diet despite of some of the challenges, Zimmerman encourages you to give veganism a try. Zimmerman, who has been a vegan for over two years, can’t even imagine eating meat now.

“I’ve had no [medical] problems. I was always sick before becoming a vegan. I feel much better now.”

Photo: Lindsay Boeckl


  1. When people say that a plant-based diet was “killing them”, they’re just plain lying. They were not following a balanced diet, and hence, they suffered. And they blame the lack of animal products in their diet, because they are too lazy to examine what they might have been doing wrong. A simple trip to the dietitian is all they needed to put them right. Oh, but that’s too much work! Much easier to run to McDonald’s and declare yourself “cured”. Silly people!

    Look – hospitals are full to the brim of people suffering from diseases brought on by the consumption of too much animal products – anyone remember President Clinton’s fat-loving diet and subsequent heart surgery? (ps – he’s now going vegan). But nobody thinks to blame their ills on the Standard American Diet (SAD).

    I find it SAD that people feel the need to put down veganism when a) factory farming is abhorrent in the extreme; and b) many people, such as myself, are vegans and proud to be so. Plus, we’re doing just fine, and more than that, we’re thriving.

    Prejudiced just a little, people who tried to be veg but didn’t know how to do it right? Maybe you should have learned how to cook. A little knowledge goes a long way.

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