It's not easy being green

The challenges posed by a vegan lifestyle

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They don't eat garlic bread sopped in butter or a tender filet mignon topped with mushrooms and stuffed with shrimp.

Some may wear leather shoes and most drive cars and take photographs but for the majority of vegans in the world, eating or using animal by-products is not a part of their daily lifestyle.

According to www.gurlpages.com, 7 percent of the American population in 1997 was vegetarian and only 1 percent was the purist form of vegetarian vegan.

Sean Brenner said his only inconvenience of being a vegan is eating out on occasion.

"Dinner is hard because so many different things come from animals," Brenner said after his shift at the Tugboat in Steamboat Springs. "I used to eat spaghetti with Parmesan cheese. But then I had this Eureka moment when I made bean tacos and said, 'Wow, I'm a vegan.' It's cheaper and it fed me for longer."

More than three years ago, Brenner decided to become a vegan based on a personal choice that he hopes will impact the world.

Brenner's original ideas that vegan food could give him more for his money soon was replaced with the philosophy that surviving off animals is wasteful.

Although he understands other vegan philosophies such as a more economical diet or an animal rights standpoint, Brenner said his view makes sense for the longevity of food in the world.

"An animal-based diet is something the Earth can't support. It's a losing proposition," Brenner said.

His idea is based on this premise: Why does society continue to support feeding pounds of grain to one animal when that grain could be feeding all the starving people in the world?

He said he may miss certain non-vegan foods, but Brenner said he knows it's something he can live without and a philosophy with which he can live. He intends for veganism to be an adopted lifestyle for the remainder of his life.

"At least I'm not contributing to what I don't believe in. In my justification for it, it's a step in the right direction that hopefully can lead to more (vegans)," Brenner said.

When Brenner walks into a grocery store he will not choose the meat substitute such as Tempeh or Seitan "nothing exotic" but he reads every label in a matter of seconds to know if the canned beans are cooked with animal lard or the soup is made with a meat-based broth.

"I accept that I am a small minority. I'm trying to set my own example," Brenner said. "We introduce a level of awkwardness but people are really accommodating."

Vegetarians can come in all shapes and sizes just as vegans come extreme or moderate.

Linda Carlton, owner of Healthy Solutions, said it's virtually impossible in today's society for people to become true vegans.

From the rubber on car tires to the honey in tea the ideals of true veganism are a thing of the past.

Brenner said he's not concerned with many of the health aspects of veganism (his diet mostly consists of French fries and tofu sandwiches) but he realizes that Vitamin B12 is one of the most important.

"If you eat a varied diet, you're not losing out on anything," Brenner said. "The average meat eater eats way more (protein) than they need."

Lynne Oldham, registered dietician at Visiting Nurse Association, said vegans could suffer nutritional problems if they don't understand food combining.

"In general, most vegans are getting the essential amino acids with soy products," Oldham said.

While meat eaters can get their protein fixes in one place a steak, for instance vegans must combine certain foods to have the same effect.

Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, Oldham said. Most plant foods do not contain the adequate amount of protein to build these amino acids with the exception of soybeans.

Hence, the public sees a large quantity of soy-based products in grocery or health food stores.

Nutrients that are of special interest to vegans include calcium, protein, iron and B12.

Vitamin B12 deficiency can cause anemia and nerve damage. Vegans should include fortified cereals or soymilk in their diet to retain an adequate amount of Vitamin B12, Oldham said.

Carlton said most of her vegan customers want a clean product and she provides them with all organic fruits and vegetables.

Vegans have the option of eating a variety of dairy substitutes such as rice or almond cheese, any fruits and vegetables, soy yogurt and milk, vegan cereals, raw nuts and various grains.

Although she dabbled with veganism for a few months, Carlton said it was the most difficult thing to do to stay healthy. Now, she said she's just interested in providing people with clean food products and not judging anyone on their dietary habits.

"We have a knowledge and a passion and customer service," Carlton said.

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