I RECENTLY POSED naked, surrounded only by chilli peppers, in PETA’s new “Vegans Are Red Hot” advertisement, primarily because I wanted to promote wholesome living. I went vegan two years ago – about four months before I posed for the cover of Playboy – and my body has really benefited.
Just two weeks after I stopped eating meat, eggs and dairy products, I began to notice that I had more energy and mental clarity. I was calmer and leaner and I dropped from a size 10 to a size 8 without having to count a single calorie or go hungry. I developed a better-defined muscle tone, exercise recovery and a stronger immune system. I felt so good that I decided never to eat animal-based foods again.
That was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I’ve never felt as fit and healthy as I do now. When I was earning my qualification in naturopathic nutrition and biochemistry at the College of Naturopathic Medicine Ireland, the nutritional biochemistry section of the course taught me about all the harmful things that animal products do to our bodies. People who regularly eat animal-based foods – which contain no fibre but plenty of artery-clogging saturated fat and cholesterol – are more likely to suffer from weight problems and diabetes.
Nutrition and health
Research suggests that, on average, vegans are 18 per cent leaner than their meat-eating counterparts and that they are less likely to develop various types of cancer, including stomach, prostate, bladder, blood and breast cancer. What’s more, a University of Oxford study, which tracked the diets of almost 45,000 people in England and Scotland, suggests that vegetarians are also 32 per cent less likely to fall ill or die from heart disease.
I won’t launch into a biomedical lecture, but please consider the following: if you fill your body with good-for-you plant foods, which are cholesterol-free and generally low in saturated fat and high in fibre, magnesium, potassium, vitamins and cancer-fighting phytochemicals, you can improve your health and obtain every nutrient that you need.
And here’s a big bonus: your food choices won’t harm animals or the environment, either. Even though I’m a nutritionist now, I first went vegetarian for ethical reasons. My Granny bred sheep and cattle, and I stopped eating red meat when I was in my early teens because every season, I would have a group of motherless or sick lambs to care for.
I couldn’t sit down to a Sunday roast in good conscience after feeding a lamb milk from a warm bottle. A few years later, after I participated in Miss World in China, where the style of cooking chicken included claws, beaks, feathery bits and more – and when I learned more about battery cages and slaughterhouse cruelty – I never wanted to eat chicken again, either.
Now I avoid all animal-based foods for both health and ethical reasons. Before I went vegan, I made myself watch videos and read about common dairy- and egg-industry practices, such as “dehorning”, in which hot irons and metal tongs are used to burn into and dig out the horns and horn buds from cows’ skulls, and debeaking, in which egg farmers cut a portion of each bird’s sensitive beak off with a hot blade – without painkillers – to prevent the miserable, deprived, severely crowded hens from pecking one another out of frustration.
I just couldn’t support these practices any longer. Thankfully, a plant-based diet is guilt-free. You improve your own health by choosing healthy vegan meals, and you also save animals. Each vegan saves the lives of many animals every year. Plus it has never been easier to follow, with an enormous selection of vegan alternatives available in shops all over Ireland.
I first teamed up with PETA in Dublin in 2011 to encourage people to turn over a new leaf and try vegetarian foods. I was a “lady in green”, wearing a short gown made entirely of lettuce leaves. This time around, I loved wearing nothing but chilli peppers, red lipstick and a smile to show people that a vegan diet can be synonymous with a happy, healthy body.
I hope the ad will inspire others to spice up their lives by shaking their habitual food choices and opting instead for healthy, humane vegan meals.
Rosanna Davison is model, nutritionist and writer.