By Katie Zampini
Meet Starkville’s Expert Vegan For many, the title “vegan” brings to mind an extreme lifestyle that seems impossibly restrictive. Our culture, especially in the South, is centered around food that doesn’t often fall into the plant-based category. While it may seem like a stretch to consider a plant-based lifestyle, consider this: plant foods deliver greater micronutrients than any animal sourced foods, and with fewer calories and no absorbable cholesterol. People who have adopted a vegan diet have claimed relief from chronic illnesses and even the reversal of cancer. The health benefits are obvious, but despite this, the lifestyle can seem impossible. Meet Candice Paschal. She is a Starkville resident, a wife, a mother to twin boys, and a vegan. In fact, her whole family is vegan, including her children. Here, she answers some of the most frequently asked questions about a plant-based diet.
What prompted you to become vegan, and how did this lead to your whole family becoming vegan? What was that journey like for you and for them?
Candice: I’ve always had an open ear about the health benefits of a plant-based diet; I was even a vegetarian in college. But after I had my twins I wanted to investigate more about what the optimal human diet was. I not only wanted to get my baby weight off but I wanted the twins to grow up in a home where true healthy eating was a priority. After I understood the science behind eating a plant-based diet, and how it literally reverses cancer and tumor growth, it was a no-brainer for me. I immediately started implementing a plant-based diet at home. One night my husband and I watched Earthlings, a documentary by Sean Munson, and it really changed our lives forever. Not only were we supporting a plant-based lifestyle for health reasons, but Earthlings opened our eyes to the true nature of the animal food industry. We couldn’t look away. We decided from that point forward we could no longer participate in contributing to that industry. It was overwhelming at first to try and grasp that this would affect me for the rest of my life, but my heart was changed.
What do you feel are the biggest misconceptions people have about being vegan, and what would you say to correct these misconceptions?
Candice: People are most concerned about being deficient in protein, B12, and eating an adequate amount of calories. All I can say is our family is almost never sick. We don’t take any medications and each have mental clarity and high levels of energy. The standard American diet has far more fat, redundant excess protein, sugar, and added chemicals than any person should have, ever. People are fatter and sicker than ever, and no amount of skinny pills or racing for cures is going to trim a body and reverse disease like a plant-based diet has proven to time after time. The evidence is here, and we need to be receptive of it.
What are the top three things you would say to a person following the Standard American Diet about the benefits of following a plant based/vegan diet?
Candice: You will be happier by making your health a priority. The food you eat directly affects your emotional and physical wellbeing, which has a ripple effect on every person that you come in contact with. Your body creates new cells everyday, and every 7 years your entire body will be replaced with entirely new cells. What you put into your body literally becomes you; hence, we truly are what we eat. You will feel better than ever. If you’re suffering from a chronic illness, there’s freedom from what ales you, and the best part is, it does grow on trees. In an over- complicated world, it’s exciting to know that the solution for many of the health problems that we face can be resolved simply with a change in diet. It is easier than you think. There has never been a better time in history than now when you can walk into a grocery store and find the Garden of Eden. There are unlimited resources available for you from preparing dishes to answering questions. You just have to make a choice to begin. Your overall wellbeing will drastically improve when you begin eating a diet rich in fresh, whole, plant based foods. The only regret you will have is that you didn’t begin sooner.
Many Americans feel that being vegan is an “extreme” lifestyle compared to their typical diet. What would you tell a person who is interested in a plant based diet but is unsure of their ability to fully embrace such a seemingly drastic change?
Candice: Dr Caldwell B Esselstyn said it best when he said, “Some people think the plant based whole foods diet is extreme. Half a million a year will have their chests opened up, and a vein taken from their leg and sewn into their coronary artery. Some people would call that extreme”.
If someone is unsure of their ability to embrace such a drastic change, they can start by replacing one thing at a time. Maybe you replace chips with cucumber slices or replace cereal and milk with a fresh smoothie in the morning. Every journey begins with the first step, in due time, they will surprise themselves at how far they have come.
What are your favorite resources for information about vegan living and vegan recipes?
Candice: My personal favorites include:
Documentaries: Forks Over Knives, Fat Sick and Nearly Dead, Cowspiracy and Earthlings.
Books: The 80/10/10 Diet and The China Study.
Follow me on instagram for plant based inspiration