The Cougar Chronicle

Why I lead a future-minded, plant-based lifestyle

Nuts, seeds, fruits, and leafy vegetables are versatile staples to  a plant-based lifestyle.

Nuts, seeds, fruits, and leafy vegetables are versatile staples to a plant-based lifestyle.

Sara Freitag

Sara Freitag

Nuts, seeds, fruits, and leafy vegetables are versatile staples to a plant-based lifestyle.

Sara Freitag, Opinion Editor

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My finger pads kissed the keys of an upright piano which was the only barrier between myself and my attentive audience – aside from a 40 to 80 year age gap and mental or physical impairments.  Cozy knit sweaters, permed hair and cheeky grins juxtaposed incoherent blank stares and mobile-chair-supported bodies.

Three years ago, I visited a nursing home for the first time, and it changed my life.  Men and women who were once fiery, strong, capable beings were waiting to die.  Some resided in the home after ten, fifteen years, and though they “lived,” they really didn’t.  In this moment, my 21-year-old self was struck by a realization.  These individuals grew up in a time that whole, fresh foods were the norm.  If they have fared so poorly, how is this millennial generation going to fare in old age?

“You are what you eat.”  Of course, genes play into the mix.  Yet, the fearless, young generation must remember that good genes cannot outrun cancer or heart disease.

I’m not a shove-it-down-your-throat kind of person.  My motto is, “you do you.”  But, I do ask that you consider how you fuel your body.

A year and a half ago, I chose to eliminate (for the most part) animal products from my diet.  Growing up in a home where my brothers’ and my childhood snacks looked like carrots, cucumbers or an apple, I grew up on a plant-infused diet.  Transitioning to a plant-based lifestyle was smooth, indeed.

What made me do it?  

Images from that day in the nursing home continually flooded my mind.  I had previously experimented with veganism in my adult life, yet it was not until this day that I was compelled to make drastic lifestyle changes for more than vanity-driven reasons.  I was struck by reality.  I will not remain young forever.  The choices I make today will determine the life I live over the next 60-70 years.

Plant-based lifestyles have various health benefits.  With a high incorporation of fiber, as well as lowered cholesterol and saturated fat intake, those who follow a plant-based diet have lowered risk for heart disease, according to a 2009 article in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.  As denoted in the same article, prevalence of legumes, soy, fruit and leafy vegetables in plant-based diets can prevent certain cancers.  Some of these include lung, mouth, esophagus, stomach and prostate cancer.

My lifestyle choice was plain and simple.  Future health benefits speak for themselves, but I also physically feel better.  I have more energy and feel happier.  I struggle less with the anxiety and depression which used to pervade my life.  Though a plant-based diet is not without shortcomings, there is nothing that cannot be addressed by modification and incorporation of alternative sources of nutrients.

I cannot promise you that a plant-based lifestyle will lead to a long, prosperous life, but remember that dietary choices do impact your future.  My motivation for eating well used to come from only appearance-based convictions, but with age, I have come to realize the importance of future-mindedness.

With holidays approaching, adopt a spirit of understanding for vegan friends and family members.  Plus, November is World Vegan Month, so why not try it out yourself?  Should you choose to make the dive, please don’t neglect your research.  A lifestyle change is a worthwhile, long-term investment.  Treat it as such.


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