|Photo by John Phelan|
Call it being a product or a victim of my environment; it was all around me and it was only a matter of time before my impressionable, young mind succumbed and joined the hive. I kept it private at first. Stealing a moment or two while no one was looking, just to see if I liked it. It wasn't long before I brought it out into the open. I was half expecting to suffer the consternation of the general public, waiting to see the looks of, "oh look...another one." roll across their eyes as they take my lunch order. But it never happened. I was part of a collective. I was comfortable in my own skin for once, and soon there came the time where I could stand in a crowded room or walk out into the street and declare to the world...
..."I AM A VEGETARIAN!!!"
Yes. I was one of those pain-in-the-ass, holier-than-thou, non-meat-eating bastards that would flaunt their newly found lifestyle choice any chance they got...
"Ugh...you're gonna eat THAT? Man, some people will put ANYTHING in their body!"
"Do you realize how many turkeys were murdered to make that sandwich?"
"Sorry, I can't go out tonight. I have to put in some time at the co-op and then I'm scheduling a meeting for my local Greenpeace chapter."
I had all the passionate trappings of your typical contrarian; I would get in peoples' faces about my choice of diet and lifestyle, and yet I smoked and drank like a rock star...so, there that is.
It went on like this for years. I graduated college and still managed to tow that crunchy, patchouli-smelling line. There was a time though where I was at my darkest and almost went full Vegan. That is, until I met this girl...
Some habits die hard and to this day, I still carry at least a crumb of that previous life style. Make no mistake, I have turned to the dark side and found my protein from a once oxygen breathing source, it does not mean that I won't appreciate a decent vegetarian meal every so often. Yes! Bring on the firm tofu and legumes! Make a spaghetti dinner made with Quinoa pasta. Bring it all on! I fear no plant! I look forward to it. I look forward to it to cleanse my pallet. I look forward to alter my perception and change my mood, at least for a few moments. I also look forward to it, ultimately, because my heart depends on it.
That's right, I am predisposed to have a bum ticker. Heart disease pops up in my family every once and a while and the wheel of misfortune just happened to land on me this time. I lived a life of excess and I almost cashed in my chips in my mid-thirties when I suffered a mild stroke. Nobody is supposed to suffer a stroke in their thirties. So as a result of almost dying, I had to make a few adjustments in my life. Removing red meat from my diet has proven to be beneficial, but to remove it completely is unacceptable to me. I eat a vegetarian breakfast almost every morning; glass of juice, bowl of Kashi with rice milk and I'm ready to go. Coffee would come later. This was my Monday through Friday routine and it was fine. At least, that's what it was until recently when I discovered almond milk. Then it got...marginally better.
I started with soy milk. Awful stuff, I don't recommend it. When you add milk to your recipes or your cereal, you don't expect to have a dominant MILK flavor. Soy milk has a tendency to move in and take over like a multinational corporation. It does not work and play well with others. Rice milk quickly took the place of it; it resembles skim milk in more than one way, save for the lactose aftertaste. It is much more palatable. It wasn't until recently that I gave into the latest food hype and gave almond milk a try. Almond milk is closer to whole milk, which is a lot more satisfying when I pour it on my cereal, and in the end, it's all I use it for anyway. I'm not lactose intolerant, nor do I worry that I ever will be. I use a dairy alternative not to rub it in anyone's face or to feel superior, I view it as a form of penance. I just want one meal, everyday, that I don't have to hate myself later for eating. And of course, there's that whole issue of the "trying not to clog arteries" thing.
As it turns out, I'm doing my body a world of good using this. If I can't be careful by what I put into my body, I can at least be mindful about it. Here are my top three reasons for sticking with my choice:
- It Helps Keep My Weight Under Control: Big deal, right? When moderation is a applied to everything, weight loss is a cinch. Granted that outside of the occasional baking product that I produce, the only other thing I use milk in is cereal and I don't use that much anyway. But considering that a typical serving of almond milk is 60 calories compared to 86 calories in skim milk, even in moderation, the numbers make a difference.
- It's Good For My Heart: I almost went completely broke a few years ago trying to sustain my gym membership and vitamin regimen at the same time. I used to smoke a lot of weed, now it's the Vitamin Shoppe that's acting as my pusher. I remember swallowing copious amounts of Omega-3s as a way to strengthen my heart and aid in repair of my blood stream. Apparently, all I needed to do was pour almond milk on my cereal. It is loaded with Omega-3s and contains no cholesterol or saturated fat. Everything a growing heart needs...
- There Is Little to No Impact on Blood Sugar Levels: Hallelujah, I get to keep my leg. Get lost, diabetes. Take a hike, heart disease. Almond milk has a low glycemic index, which is a fancy term for food that allows my body to burn through carbs first before sugars have a chance to get stored as fat.
Bu bu bu bu buuut wait! What about them crazy carregeenens? Thems are bad for you!
Absolutely not true...depending on who's reporting it and who's palms are getting greased. Either way, yes, it's going to harmful to you if you drink a gallon of it everyday. It's like the time when I had to stop drinking Diet Coke because it turned my pee brown. I switched to drinking water, no more brown pee! Amazing how that works. Yes, there are studies out there that link certain kinds of manufactured almond milk to certain kinds of cancer. I'm sure aspirin has the same detractors. It comes down to this, I would rather risk maybe getting cancer because of some packaging flaw than definitely know that I'm clogging up my arteries with something I have a hard time digesting.
I started this post about two and half weeks ago before I had to pack up everything in my house and move. I started this post a while ago with full intention of retaliating against some random article I read on Salon.com with their typical snooty, elitist journalism. But after I made the list, I made my point. For the record, I do agree that most food fads border on the ridiculous. For instance, the Great Vanilla Brainwashing of '98 and the Cranberry Invasion of '02. But to say that all of a type of food is overrated and possibly harmful based on anecdotal evidence just isn't fair. Sure, it might be a fad and it might be more beneficial to make it myself, but seriously, Ms. Abrams used one brand as an example for the whole thing. Just because you didn't like it, doesn't mean all of it is awful.
It's almost as if she just turned vegetarian or something....
List based on research conducted by +Krissy Brady