Should You Go Vegan?

January 25, 2018

New Scientist:

I FLUNKED out of veganism the first time because I wasn’t getting the vitamins and micronutrients I needed. I was out of balance. I went to the doctor feeling lethargic and vaguely unwell and was told I had two options: give up being vegan or start taking large amounts of nutritional supplements. I chose meat and dairy. The quantities of pills I had to take irritated my stomach and I wasn’t willing to tough it out.

Although there is no strict definition of what it means to be vegan, the basic principle is to avoid animal-derived products. Dietary vegans mostly stick to avoiding animal-derived foods. For ethical vegans, it’s a philosophy not just a diet, which rules out traditional tattoos and silk, to name just a few. In both cases, truly steering clear of anything that is animal-derived can be much trickier than it first appears to be.


NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Wesley Woodyard couldn’t wrap his head around an NFL player giving up meat. So he dogged Derrick Morgan, Jurrell Casey and DaQuan Jones about their plant food for weeks.

“Y’all crazy with this vegan thing,” Woodyard said one Friday night early in training camp before a Tennessee Titans practice. “I’m from LaGrange, Georgia. I’m going to eat my pork.”

Before the end of August, Woodyard swallowed his pride and joined the Titans’ vegan movement. He wasn’t the only one. By the start of December, 11 Titans, mostly starters, were on the plant-based meal plan with varying levels of commitment.

It all started with the Morgan family — Derrick, who decided to slowly transition to a plant-based lifestyle 10 months ago, and his chef wife, Charity, who joined him and re-educated herself as a vegan chef to cook for him.


One by one, Titans players spotted Morgan’s lunches and asked to be put on the meal plan. A few, such as DeMarco Murray, enjoy the convenience of a ready-made, healthy and tasty post-practice meal delivered to the Titans’ facility. Many more, including Morgan, Woodyard and Casey, are all in.

“We all get around this table and have a feast,” said Brian Orakpo, who like Woodyard teased his teammates about their plant-based diet until he joined on about a month ago. “Everybody is making plays. Everybody is healthy. Everybody is eating right, and she’s been a big part.”

They believe there’s proof in the vegan mac and cheese that a plant-based diet helps them lose weight, recover faster and, believe it or not, play better.

Derrick Morgan leads the Titans with seven sacks. Woodyard has had somewhat of a revival going from a two-down linebacker in 2016 to a Pro Bowl-caliber player who ranks among the NFL’s leaders in tackles in 2017. Casey is the main cog in the Titans’ top-five ranked run defense. Jones, who also has a role in the stout run defense, had two sacks last Sunday against Indianapolis. Rishard Matthews leads the Titans in receiving yards.

“If you want them to play like warriors, we must feed them like it,” Charity said. “To hear Wesley tell me he feels like a 20-year-old on the field and he’s 30, it’s amazing.”

‘It’s got to be meat’

No holiday tests vegan discipline like Thanksgiving. Casey had been known to throw down on Turkey Day, but he initially didn’t know what to expect this year.

The Morgans hosted a holiday celebration with Casey, Jones, Woodyard, Austin Johnson and their wives and girlfriends.

The menu didn’t look too different than other southern and Cajun Thanksgivings: Cajun fried turkey, stuffing, collard greens, truffle mac and cheese, mashed potatoes and gravy, truffle cream corn, cider orange cranberry sauce, honey butter corn muffins, caramel apple crisp, and cookies-and-cream cheesecake. Charity just used tofurkey, and vegan butter and cheese as substitutes.

“It was actually amazing, the food and bonding,” Casey said.

Derrick Morgan added, “It’s not a real sacrifice as far as flavor goes.”

In my journey talking to the Titans that dived into the plant-based diet, the taste was the most pleasant surprise for most of the players.

On this particular Thursday, there was a different exciting buzz from the vegan crew. Woodyard pointed out the day’s meals: seitan burgers and jackfruit cheesesteaks. They were among the group’s favorite dishes.

Where does a 300-pound defensive lineman get enough protein in a plant-based lifestyle to keep his strength? That was Casey’s biggest question before he jumped on the wagon.

“I thought I was going to get a little weaker. I thought I wasn’t going to sustain my blocks. I thought, will I waste all my training by doing this? But I was good,” Casey said. “The biggest thing is knowing what you’re substituting your protein for. My wife does a good job of that.”

Two documentaries, “What’s the Health” and “Forks over Knives,” were a common resource Titans players used in their choice to give up meat. They also leaned on the Morgan family and their own research to be informed about potential benefits of a plant-based lifestyle.

“There’s so many misconceptions. We were taught wrong as consumers of meat,” Charity said. “Plants have so much protein.”

Charity makes sure their lunches are stocked with high sources of protein such as kale, spinach, nuts, beans, lentils and seitan. All the salads are sprinkled with hemp seeds. It’s more of a holistic diet so very few processed meats, soy or corn crops are used, but she does use honey.

Casey says the vegan switch helped him go from 300 to 285 pounds while still being a force in the middle. Jones dropped from 325 to 309 initially, but he’s back up to 315 after adding one cheat meal of chicken per week into his diet.



19 Responses to “Should You Go Vegan?”

  1. Betty Harris Says:

    OK, IF you don’t eat meat, why eat something that is called a burger which is the word that’s been used for what??? hundred year? for hamburger? If you don’t want to eat hamburger meat then why eat something that tastes like beef and looks like beet? Why not call it mushers for mushroom meat,no, no meat…. just need a different name, a different shape? Someone seeing you eat it will think you are eating cow. Vegans gotta get better at this, shouldn’t look or taste or even suggest cow…

    • Jason Says:

      Obviously I wouldn’t want to burst anyone’s bubble here, but meat isn’t naturally burger or sausage shaped.

    • Says:

      I think the idea with the Impossible Burger is to make something appealing to folks that just can’t live without a hamburger. Considering that animal agriculture has a larger contribution to anthropomorphic climate change, and that plant-based eaters are cutting that contribution out of their lives, it really seems like the burger eaters need to adapt. We’d suggest watching the two movies that were suggested by the professional football players above — Forks Over Knives and What the Health — and ask yourself who needs to get better? and at what? Having made the change ourselves, and feeling healthier in our forties than we have in our whole life, we don’t really miss burgers. In fact, it’s really incredible how for so many years, we were missing out on the whole rainbow of nutrition available in the produce isle.

  2. earl Says:

    There is this thing called the ‘carbon cycle’ and all the carbon gas which cows burp out, comes from the food which they eat – and that food is ‘plants’ – which get their carbon from the atmosphere as they grow. It is not at all like burning fossil fuels – which is all extra carbon, which had been buried for millions of years and is even a different isotope of carbon. It is the extra carbon which causes the extra warming and the carbon-life cycle has little to do with that extra warming.
    Besides, giving a small amount of healthy seaweed to cows reduced their methane burps by about 99%

  3. dumboldguy Says:

    Let’s see—–the question is “should we go vegan?” Which people can do by buying Impossible Burgers at Umami at $16 a pop (and that price was very hard to find).

    ~One in six Americans suffer from “food insecurity”, while ~one in nine of all humans on the planet suffer from “chronic undernourishment”. Nah, folks are likely to stick with their Big Macs (at under $4 for a full meal).

    And I am reminded of the time back in the 1970’s when school lunch burgers were made more healthy by putting “grill stripes” of TVP (textured vegetable protein—-soy) on them—the beginning of the “healthy food in the schools” initiative that reached a pinnacle under Obama (and was championed by Michelle). Of course, the Trump administration is attempting to scale all that back—-no surprise there.

    • Sir Charles Says:

      You should learn cooking, dumbo => The 11 Best Veggie Burger Recipes (Vegetarian and Vegan)

      If not, there still are 20 Meatless and All-Vegan Options You Can Find at Popular Fast Food Chains. I believe there are options below $16.

      Bon appetit!

    • Sir Charles Says:

      BTW, I’ve never seen a Big Mac menu for just $4, dumbo.

    • dumboldguy Says:

      Here’s Sir Chucky, ignoring the serious questions raised by my pointing out how many people go to bed hungry each day in the US and the world and also ignoring the ongoing destruction being perpetrated by the Trumpites.

      He would rather continue his stalking and “baiting” of me and continue in his self-imagined superiority (Demented Rooster strutting in the Barnyard. etc). Unfortunately, his laziness has caused him to shoot himself in the foot (again).

      It comes as no surprise to me that Chicky is apparently a BIG fan of Big Macs and buys so many of them in so many places that he is an expert on their pricing. ROTFLMAO! My pricing error grows from the fact that I have NEVER eaten a Big Mac, don’t intend to, and only go into Micey D’s when I am on a road trip and need to pee. Yes, Chocky’s glib narcissism and laziness are things he shares with Trump (And do you also favor fish sandwiches and chocolate milk shakes, Checky?)

      (Please note that none of the 20 “meatless options” items are offered at McDonald’s, so it’s likely that Chacky has never tried any of them. LOL)

  4. rhymeswithgoalie Says:

    The perfect is the enemy of the good.

    There is a lot of value in getting people to *reduce* their meat intake. Using bits of meat in a dish rather than entire slabs is an effective compromise for those who balk at the constraints of veganism.

  5. grindupbaker Says:

    Big dilemma. I’ve been trying to veganize a bit but simultaneously fortify the body for the Ice Age with famines that started in U.S. America 2 months ago. Now my doctor said “quite frankly, you’re grossly over-fortified”. I’m useless at eating.

  6. Says:

    Watch Cowspiracy on Netflix– as informative and entertaining as Forks Over Knives and What the Health. Then ask yourself, if I really care about the climate crisis (or the water crisis, or the pollution crisis, or my health, or the welfare and ethical treatment of animals) why haven’t I looked at the all the benefits and simple reasoning of switching to a plant-based healthy diet?

  7. Says:

    According to the United Nations 2006 Food and Agriculture Organization, animal agriculture has a larger impact on climate change than the entire transportation sector. Check out the link for references:

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