Ask any vegan, and they're likely to tell you that the transition was easier than they expected. For the veg-curious or the average omnivore, however, the idea of giving up animal products can seem completely overwhelming.
Luckily, help is out there. For three decades, author Victoria Moran has been imparting knowledge about how to make the switch to a more compassionate, healthier existence. She's written a total of twelve books, including Main Street Vegan and her latest, The Good Karma Diet.
Moran is in South Florida this week to speak at two EarthSaveMiami potluck events: one in Coral Gables on Saturday, May 30. Ahead of her appearance, we quizzed Moran on some of her favorite topics, from acing the aging process to summertime treats.
New Times: After a successful career as an author on other topics, why did you turn your focus to an all-vegan message?
Victoria Moran: It's more of a return actually. My college thesis became Compassion the Ultimate Ethic, which was both my first book and the first book from an actual publisher about vegan philosophy and practice, That was way back in 1985 — another era for anybody alive today and certainly a different era for veganism. That was followed by the first edition of my weight loss book, The Love-Powered Diet, and a book of low-fat cooking tips. After that, I thought I'd said all I could on this subject and moved into books about spirituality (my degree is in comparative religions) and overall wellbeing. A few years ago, however, I was inspired — and I use that word literally, because it really felt as if the idea came more to me than from me — to write Main Street Vegan for this generation of new and seasoned plant-eaters. That led to the Main Street Vegan podcast, and Main Street Vegan Academy, a training program for Vegan Lifestyle Coaches and Educators, and it led to people asking me what the next step was, how to up the ante to serious, high-level health. That answer is in The Good Karma Diet.
What first step do you recommend for those thinking about trying a vegan diet?
Get information, and get support. They're equally valuable. You need to know some basic nutritional points — eat mostly unprocessed foods and lots of green veggies; have beans, split peas, peanuts, pistachios, or quinoa most days to ensure you're getting the amino acid lysine; either eat two large servings of dark leafy greens every day, or three 8-ounce glasses of calcium-fortified nondairy milk; and take a B12 supplement. That's plenty to get you a healthy start. The key to successfully maintaining this way of eating and living, though, is to have people around you who are doing it, too. Make real-life friends (check out www.EarthSaveMiami.org) and scour Facebook for pages and people with whom to connect: Oh So Very Vegan (news and support, South Florida-based), Veg Kitchen (terrific recipes), Vegan Bodybuilding and Fitness (great support for eating well and staying in shape), and Main Street Vegan, where I share info on all aspects of this lifestyle.
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How can a vegan diet help slow the aging process?
I think it's less about slowing the process that not speeding it up, which we do when eat lots of processed foods and animal-based foods our bodies don't deal with well, when we expose ourselves to toxic chemicals, or don't exercise or manage our stress or get enough sleep. In my observations for over thirty years, vegans who focus on whole foods — lots of vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds, whole grains, and legumes, with quite a bit less of the vegan ice cream and cupcakes and pizzas that are out there these days — seem to ace the aging process. The ones I've observed to do best of all are those who eat mostly, or entirely, raw foods, such as Mimi Kirk (she won Peta's Sexiest Vegetarian Over 50 at seventy) and South Floridian Annette Larkins, a YouTube phenomenon who looks amazing in her seventies. Raw, plant foods are jam-packed with vitamins, minerals, and the phytochemicals that prevent disease, and they also have something more subtle, the 'life force energy' the yogis can prana. You can't discover that via laboratory assay, but that aliveness seems to transfer to people who eat these foods and keep them — I guess I can say 'us,' since I'm sixty-five and feel incredible — younger longer.
What feedback do you commonly hear from people who've made the transition to a plant-based diet?
I commonly hear amazement! — more energy, the discovery of new foods, a fondness for playing in the kitchen that didn't exist before, and a sense of peace that they're no longer causing animals to be killed in order for them to eat. A friend of mine, NY actor Stan Krajewski, was plant-based for a mere seven weeks when he called me delighted that his cholesterol had gone from 244 to 189 and his fasting glucose from 113 to 98; within four months and without dieting, he'd lost 23 pounds.
What are some vegan foods you commonly eat during the hot summer months?
Summer is when raw vegan eating comes naturally to even dyed-in-the-wool carnivores. It's when we're all craving melon, creamy smoothies, cool, crisp salads, and frosty sorbet. This is also the perfect time of year to get into freshly extracted juices, with an emphasis on the color green. Celery is a natural cooler and it makes a mild juice that goes well with the bolder greens such a kale, a little apple for sweetness, and plenty of lemon. Another great summer idea is the Whole Meal Salad — your favorite greens, bright splashes of other vegetables, a nut-based dressing (the cashew ranch in The Good Karma Diet is divine), and add some oomph factor with beans, pumpkin or sunflower seeds, and a little grated nondairy cheese — Treeline and Miyoko's Kitchen are yummy, healthful cheeses you can buy at a natural food store. And the simplest dessert on earth is magic banana ice cream, made from pureeing chopped, ripe, frozen, peeled bananas in your food processor — think: NonDairy Queen.
Victoria Moran is appearing on Saturday, May 30, from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Congregational Church Fellowship Hall, 3010 DeSoto Blvd., Coral Gables. Admission is free (though attendees are expected to bring a vegan dish to share) and participants can RSVP to Brook Katz at 954-971-4432.