Vegan diet becomes more popular on SMU campus

By Meredith McBee

SMU student Caroline Corley never anticipated she would give up animal products in her diet. She also never thought she would experience migraines up to five times a week.

A cleanse of dairy and a screening of the film “Cowspiracy” turned the headache-plagued omnivore into a full-fledged herbivore. Corley did not look back after she went vegan last spring.

A vegan diet contains no meat, eggs, dairy or other animal products. This diet has surged in popularity and has spread to the SMU campus.

According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, people who maintain a vegan diet need to be careful they receive proper nutrients. Vegans often have deficiencies in vitamins B-12, D, calcium and omega-3 fatty acids.

“It is important to do adequate research or speak with a registered dietitian before changing to a vegan lifestyle to ensure adequate consumption of these nutrients,” SMU dietician Rachel Kolm said.

Out of the four main deficiencies, vitamin B-12 is the only one found solely in animal products. Most vegans, like SMU student Rupal Sanghavi and Corley, receive this nutrient through vitamins.

Sanghavi credits good education and proper research to receiving information on getting the proper nutrients.

“I’ve found lists of foods for every single nutrient that is covered in a non-vegetarian/vegan diet that can be found in lentils, vegetables, tofu, any soy or almond milk,” Sanghavi said.

The dining halls at SMU have started to cater to those living a vegan lifestyle.

Corley often eats at the “Healthy on the Hilltop” section of Umphrey Lee where there is a vegan dish for lunch and dinner. She also often eats wraps without meat or cheese.

The dining hall also takes precautions to ensure no cross-contamination, Kolm said. The dining hall staff prepares vegan menu items separately from non-vegan items.

Rarely do Corley and Sanghavi have issues eating out at restaurants.

“Sometimes I have to have an awkward maneuver with how I order things, like ordering a bunch of side dishes,” Corley said. “Most places are very accommodating.”

Sanghavi once had a problem at a traditional Mexican restaurant when the wait staff did not understand her dietary needs.

“That was only one time out of all the times that I got truly frustrated,” Sanghavi said. National chain restaurants like Chipotle and Mellow Mushroom have begun to cater to customers following a vegan lifestyle.

“Every restaurant I go to I usually ask for no cheese or to replace the meat with tofu. It’s great how many restaurants can easily do that now,” Sanghavi said.

Mark Rudich, SMU lecturer of applied physiology and wellness, is not a fan of the word “diet.”

He believes becoming vegan can help increase the intake of fruits, vegetables, different grains and protein varieties. He does not advise the vegan diet as a short-term fix for anyone–athlete or not.

“If any one of these individuals is not vegan to start out with, I see no reason to recommend that lifestyle,” Rudich said. “There are many other ways to see change than a drastic nutritional alternation like veganism.”

Health reasons are not the only motivation for converting to a vegan diet, for some, like Sanghavi, ethics can also be a factor.

Sanghavi became vegan after doing research on the animal rights. She found companionship in others who are passionate about animal rights in the SMU Voice of Animals organization, for which she is now president.

“We do as much as we can to get people to have a more direct impact by changing some form of their lifestyle or actions,” Sanghavi said.

Not all of the members of the organization are vegan, but many are vegetarian. In the past, the organization has screened films like “Conspiracy” and “Earthlings.” Both films address the ethics of the animal industry.

Corley credits the film “Cowspiracy” with giving her the reason to ultimately go vegan.

“That was the documentary that really changed everything for me,” Corley said. “It was the thing that gave me the kick in the pants to just do it.”

Corley said she has never felt better. She is free of migraines and no longer feels heavy after meals. She suggests the lifestyle to anyone, but advises those interested to watch their nutrient intake.

“You can be an unhealthy vegan, you can be a super healthy vegan, just like you can be a healthy person who eats meat and you can be an unhealthy person who eats meat, Corley said.

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