Plant-based, vegan diets a personal choice

HARLINGEN — There are many reasons why people decide to live a vegan lifestyle, but for local resident Brianna Vela Garcia, it was about feeling healthier and caring for the environment.

She has followed the plant-based diet for four years now, and it has encouraged her to one day transition to being vegan.

Vela, the marketing coordinator at HCISD, said her husband influenced her in leaving meat out of her diet and finding other sources of protein.

“It wasn’t until I learned from him that I switched, but now I don’t feel bloated. I feel healthier, energized and I hardly ever feel sick,” she said. “But another of my reasons for my transition was environmental reasons. Just because I know the effect agriculture production has on our environment.”

Vela was invited to do a presentation for HCISD staff on why plant-based nutrition is beneficial to humans and the environment, where she explained facts, restaurant hacks and recipes that can be done by anyone trying the vegan lifestyle for the first time.

“Many people also think that by going plant-based or vegan you will spend tons of money, but I have a sample under $30 shopping list,” she said. “I see plenty of options at H-E-B, which years ago could not be found.”

Dr. Dona Cooper-Dockery, a physician and owner of the vegan restaurant in McAllen FoodAmed, agrees vegan and plant-based diets have plenty of health benefits.

“When I am talking about preventing or curing diseases, I mean lifestyle diseases, an example would be diabetes, blood pressure,” Cooper said.

“There have been studies that show that colon cancer can be prevented by eating solely fruits and vegetables, and by not eating saturated fats that are found in meat, you can avoid having a heart attack,” she said.

Cooper recommends these diets to any gender and any age because of the benefits shown over the years.

“Plant-based diets have the type of nutrition that is low on calorie intake but high in nutrients and vitamins. Essentially, it is a very good thing to go plant-based. I highly recommend it,” Cooper said.

“I believe food is your medicine. I strongly believe to use food to heal patients from the inside out,” she said.