…And now I don’t want to eat them anymore.
This pronouncement made many of my friends laugh. I am not vegan, I am not vegetarian, and because of this I have gotten into many debates with people over nutrition. Veganism and vegetarianism are very, very hot topics right now. It seems that the new, trendiest thing is to either be vegan (or at least vegetarian), or aspire to be so while admitting to a deep character weakness in your inability to become one. Unfortunately, biology is clear that veganism is not the ultimate in healthy eating for humans to aspire to, and my holding this anti-trendy position has garnered me a lot of heat in recent years. No doubt this post (if read widely enough) will get me heated comments about how very wrong I am to say such things as well.
However, the reason I am writing this post has little to do with my thoughts on veganism itself. My friends laughed at me because, given my anti-trendy stance on veganism, it sounded like I was having a knee-jerk reaction to everything that is associated with the lifestyle. Like I was saying “eww, that’s vegan? I don’t want to accidentally eat anything that’s vegan! Wrap all my food in BACON!”
The fact is, many of my meals happen to be vegan friendly. I make my mashed potatoes with olive oil instead of butter, I eat a lot of vegan curries, I love lentil soup and I’m a fan of Nakd bars. I do not strive to ensure that all of my meals contain animal products. I bring this up not as a rant against all things vegan, but rather as a point as to how nutrition trends can obscure what is actually healthy.
As of now, I see more and more people associating “vegan” with “healthy”. While some vegan dishes are undoubtedly healthy, it doesn’t mean that anything that is vegan is necessarily so. In the case of oreos, the fact that they are vegan might, ironically, indicate that they are even less healthy than I initially thought.
Oreos are supposed to be cream-filled cookies. Cookies themselves are usually made with some animal products, and cream fillings definitely are. If the cookie has no eggs or butter in it, and the cream filling contains no dairy products, then what the hell are they made of? Even worse, Oreos were never marketed as a convenient vegan substitute for cookies, they accidentally happen to be vegan. While we all know that Oreos are overly processed food, the knowledge that they contain no animal products without even the intent to target a specific market fills me with dread. What kind of disgusting crap are they putting into these cookies?
My point is that it is easy, but deceptive to make blanket associations. Vegan does not necessarily mean healthy. Gluten-free, sugar-free or fat-free also does not necessarily mean healthy. Nutrition is so much more complicated than that. Products that are highly processed are far less likely to be good for you. Ironically, if you made a homemade Oreo with eggs, butter and cream (as Thor intended) it would most likely be better for you, despite all the devilish animal products in it, than your vegan store-bought variety.
Try to look past the labels. If you really want to lead a healthy lifestyle, reaching for packets of “natural”, “vegan” or “fat-free” products at your local supermarket is most likely not going to be enough. Nutrition trends exist because everyone wants to eat all the delicious stuff without suffering the health or girth consequences of those choices, nor do they want it to be as complicated as it is. Unfortunately, trends are exploited for marketing purposes, and no trend will easily lead you to a healthy life and trim waist.
As to my scientific reasons behind my thoughts on veganism itself? That is for another post, if anyone is actually interested in what the science has to say about it. The point I am making here is: lay off the Oreos. They may be vegan, but that doesn’t mean they’re not pure crap.