By Gabriella Polsinelli
Baltimore Watchdog Staff Writer
Dalana Fell wasn’t always Vegan.
In fact, it wasn’t until the age of 20 that she made the decision to first become a vegetarian.
“For a while I had it in the back of my mind that I wanted to go vegetarian because of the animals, but it wasn’t until I got a better understanding of vegetarianism that I decided to slowly cut down on my meat consumption,” Fell said. “After that, I picked a day that would be my last day eating meat and I haven’t eaten it since then. It was as simple as that.”
Fell, a nursing student at the University Of Maryland School Of Nursing, then took an interest in researching the physical and mental benefits of both being vegetarian and vegan.
“I thought that I may want to go vegan but I didn’t see it as something I could attain at that point in my life,” Fell said. “I was going to wait until I was in my career and could purchase the food for my specific needs.I watched documentaries showing the dairy industries and use of mistreated animals that really opened my eyes. Over time I started to feel guilty any time I consumed dairy, eggs, etc., so I knew it was just time to finally give it up.”
Like Fell, many Americans are making the conscious decision to switch their eating habits.
According to a study commissioned by the Vegetarian Resource Group, approximately 5 percent of the U.S. population, some 16 million people, are either vegetarian or vegan.
Since 1994, The Vegan Society has dedicated the entire month of November as “World Vegan Month” to celebrate and provide educational facts and statistics on the dietary way of living.
The Vegan Society, founded in 1944, works closely with doctors and ambassadors from around the world to promote a lifestyle that excludes all forms of exploitation of and cruelty to animals for the use of food, clothing, and any other products.
Dr. Dana Simpler, a board certified Internist who runs a private practice in Canton, is part of a large number of medical practitioners who use plant-based nutrition to prevent multiple medical conditions, including heart disease and cancer.
“There are a number of great reasons to go vegan; for many younger people it is for animal rights/animal cruelty or environment/sustainability issues, but for older people it is for health reasons,” Simpler said. “I now counsel my patients on how they can reverse their medical problems with a plant-based diet. It is such a joy to see people who are suffering get better and come off of medication.”
Though becoming vegan has grown over the years, some people like Kris Gunnars, CEO of Authority Nutrition, do not agree with eliminating meat from your everyday diet.
“Humans are omnivores. We function best eating both animals and plants,” Gunnars said. “Animal protein contains all the essential amino acids in the right ratios, which is important for muscle mass and bone health. Vegans don’t get any animal protein, which can have negative effects on body composition.”
Despite opposing opinions, organic and vegetarian based food markets continue to open around the state of Maryland.
MOM’S Organic Market has recently opened up its ninth Maryland location in White Marsh, hoping to attract shoppers, like Fell, who are committed to their lifestyle choice.
“I’ve been vegan for over eight months now and it has by far been one of the best, most rewarding decisions of my life,” Fell said. “I attribute my success to waiting until I was fully ready to make the change and I allowed myself to make mistakes at first, but still trying my best. Being vegan can be challenging at times, but it’s completely worth it and it feels great to know that I’m making a difference in the world.”