There are two words to accurately describe what a person possesses to remain vegan on an island rich with flavorful, hearty, marinated meat dishes, and top choice steak cuts in restaurant menus. Vim and vigor. The dictionary defines “vim” as robust energy and enthusiasm, and “vigor” as either an active bodily or mental strength or force or and an active, well-balanced growth especially of plants. You definitely are what you eat, in this case.
So the question is, how much vim and vigor do you need to start a vegan diet in Guam? Is it even possible?
What is veganism and is it really good for you?
Being vegan is going on an all plant-based diet that is typically long-term or permanent. No consumption of dairy or anything from animals and its by-products is allowed. You have become a primary consumer in the food chain receiving the more energy transferred directly from plants than secondary consumers do.
Eating meat puts us higher on the food chain, but science has shown that the higher we are the more toxins we take in because of what was consumed by what we consumed. For example, if we eat meat from a large tuna (a carnivorous animal) it consumes other fish and the toxins it had. Mercury has been found to be in higher levels in larger fish.
Naturally, if what we consume is an energy-making organism, we consume what it makes. It is not a quick weight loss diet, but many have testified to dropping pounds. I am one of them. I will tell you my reasons for going vegan and the remarkable journey as a foodie and a self-schooled personal chef. I’ll also explain why vim and vigor comes readily to those on this diet. More importantly, I’ll show you to where to find vegan-friendly grocery stores and restaurants on Guam.
It all started as conversation with high school friends. Nothing gets you started on the subject of aging than meeting up with your old high school buddies. One thing that struck me as common amongst us women approaching or in our early 40’s, was being diagnosed with pre-menopausal syndrome. Some of us were menstruating at least twice a month. Some doctors attributed it to stress. Other doctors were telling us that if pre-menopausal syndrome was left untreated, it would increase our risk of developing ovarian cancer.
As soon as I hear that, I was informed that my best friend, my basketball teammate in high school, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. It hit close to home. Could it happen to me? To any of us? I strongly believed lifestyle changes had to happen immediately. I was always physically active, but knew I had to shed several pounds, and I knew I had to have a better diet to lower the risk factors.
Making vegan vows
I was a vegetarian for one year back in my early 20’s, but what I remembered getting out of it was weight gain, a sweet tooth, and eating a lot of bread. I grew up liking vegetables, and for years I became more aware of how my body reacted to not only eating meat, but certain types of food.
Beef and pork often gave me slight headaches. It was like Russian Roulette on my stomach, battling lactose intolerance and seafood-induced indigestion. Hit or miss. I heard about veganism and thought it was a little extreme.
Vegans do not eat anything that has a “mother or eyes.” I’ve done all kinds of diets for weight loss, and detoxes and colon cleanses. Through my research I learned that being vegan accomplished all of that in a milder way and on a daily basis. I needed to restrict myself from the refined carbs and breads, so I decided to try it out for at least one month. The one month turned into two, three, six, and then I decided to go for the whole year. After that first month, I easily lost 20 pounds.
The effect of chemicals in meat
What was more remarkable was that my menstrual cycle was regular again, and remained that way for the whole year. After that year, I took a break, and within that month of eating meat again, the pre-menopausal syndrome returned.
I would return to being vegan for one month, and I would get it only once that month. The next month, I took a break again, and made sure to lessen my intake of chicken, but my period still came twice a month. At that point, I was sure that whatever meat I was eating was causing my system to get out of whack. I didn’t need research to confirm that there were enough chemicals in the meat to stimulate a reaction in my body.
From vegetarian to vegan
This may not be so drastic a step for people with food allergies and those who already love eating vegetables. There are many vegetarians who have crossed over to the raw, greener side, and onto veganism.
Here’s how to do it…
If eating vegetables is a struggle, mix it with other foods that are more palatable for you, until you acquire the taste for it. Little by little, is the key. You will feel differently about vegetables when you notice a change in your body. Your appearance will improve from your complexion to weight loss, to your internal functions. Veganism can lead to more regular, pliant bowel movements. Your body will feel like a well-oil machine inside. If meat accidentally finds itself in your mouth, don’t give up. Keep trying.
Consult your physician before changing your diet. People with low iron may do poorly. Side effects include hair loss and energy depletion. Some people may experience deficiencies in vitamins and minerals if they do not provide their bodies with nutrient-rich meals, especially adequate amounts of calcium and protein substitutes.
My dramatic weight loss
My dramatic weight loss prompted my co-workers to invest in my diet. They would pay me to make vegan foods for them so they could join the weight-loss competition at work. Before that, I survived on vegan stir-fry, vegan shakes, and meat substitutes.
As I took on the task, it was like a treasure hunt for ingredients that would lead me to create vegan versions of local dishes and international cuisines. It lead me to discover a wide variety of exotic greens and innovative ways to use vegetables. If you see the challenge as an adventure then this will become an exciting journey as it was for me. Discoveries are made by looking at an ordinary vegetable and seeing how it is used in a totally unexpected way, or eating something you would’ve never dared eaten and found it delicious. I enjoyed looking deeper into an aisle in the supermarket and finding strangely appetizing meat substitutes. I saved money by ordering foods in bulk online with only a $10 shipping charge.
Cost and effect
Many people believe that going vegan is expensive. It is actually quite economical when you know where to find inexpensive, quality vegetable produce, and when you cut expenses on buying meat, even if you are the only vegan at home.
My children found their portion of homemade lunch meals increase. More meat and more veggies. All I did was prep vegetables such as chopped Chinese cabbage, sliced bell pepper, and kept stock a package of mushrooms, canned bamboo shoots and a bag of beans sprouts. When hungry, I would drizzle the pan with sesame oil and stir fry the vegetables in Mongolian-BBQ fashion. My kids loved it.
Steps to going vegan on Guam
Step 1: Love vegetables
Have three servings of vegetables every day. Think of vegetables as:
Toxin removers. On a cellular level, plant cells have larger vacuoles (storers of toxins) than animal cells. The more greens you eat, the more ammunition you give your body to fight toxins.
Fuel for the body. Elimination of toxins helps the body from feeling fatigue.
Complexion improvers. Observe, people who come from countries with diets high in vegetable intake have smooth, and radiant skin complexions. (i.e., Vietnamese, Korean, Mediterranean diets). Vegetables are high in antioxidants that fight free-radicals which speed up the aging process.
Step 2: Target read labels
Check the package of certain foods that have a V logo to indicate vegan certified, or read the back package on the nutritional information and hone in on the word “contains.” Sometimes it may say “made in a factory that uses milk or eggs.” The choice is yours whether or not to consume such a product.
Step 3: Meal prep with a protein
Chop vegetables and put in resealable containers, and baggies to take with you. Chopped vegetable can be stir-fried or added into soups throughout the week. Fifty percent protein substitutes and fifty percent vegetables need to be in your serving for the three main meals. Have frozen vegetables stocked at all times, as well as canned beans. They are easy to pack and warm up, and with the right seasonings make a totally different recipe than the last one.
Step 4: Choose your terms
How long you want to try out being vegan is up to you. You may crave meat at times and give in, but the goal is to get back on your feet quickly. You’ll find ways to stick to the diet longer the next time around.
Step 5: Know what’s in-store
Discover a whole new world of food. Bring home different types of vegetables and look for new and interesting recipes. Subscribe to online vegan newsletters for recipes. Know where to shop for items you need to complete your recipe.
5 vegan-friendly grocery stores on Guam
Dededo Flea/Farmer’s Market
You can get good bargains for already cheap prices on vegetables. Get great deals on egg plant, which is a good source of protein. Vegetable stands carry many varieties of leafy green vegetables: kangkung, squash tips, and bok choy. They also carry cucumber, sweet potatoes, taro, daikon radish and fresh cherry tomatoes.
This is the place to find the most exotic, locally popular fruits and vegetables: Manila bananas, jackfruit, guava, sour sop to winged beans, fresh bamboo shoots and the potent bittermelon.
GOTTA TRY: A few stands sell a dessert called Taho’ that’s a delight for vegans. Silken tofu submerged in sweet brown sugar syrup, topped with tapioca pearls, it’s often served warm, and sells out before the pot cools down.
In a quiet corner in Dededo village lies a little store and cafe that serves up weekly flavorful vegan
dishes, and carries a wide selection of organic, gluten-free, and eco-friendly products. It’s a store that
is passionate about providing products to customers who want to achieve optimum health.
Whether it’s edible items, household cleaning items or alternative medicines, you get a good
sense that the store owners have put their heart and soul into the business. To see their weekly
menu visit their website.
GOTTA TRY: Organic green tea soba & vegan pies
Simply Food Store
For hard to find ingredients you need to complete a vegan recipe, head over to Simply Food Store
in Agana Heights where you can purchase meat substitutes, egg replacers as a binder for baking
recipes. They carry bulk-size bags of nuts, dried fruit, all sorts of grains and even dates for vegan smoothies. You’ll gain more inspiration and ideas to try new recipes as you walk through the winding shelves that are always fully stocked and if you decide to purchase one of a vast
selection of cookbooks.
Pay-Less Supermarket Micronesia Mall
Pay-Less carries a vast selection of dairy substitutes from butter to mozzarella cheese in different vegan brands, Daiya and Vegan Gourmet. The store has a section called Health Smart, located right after the vegetable produce area and begins with the beverage section — organic, antioxidant rich, and for cleansing. The section carries the largest selection of refrigerated and frozen organic food, fun and exotic ready-to cook plant-based, or fiber-rich meal packages.
Always in stock are the Tofurky brand of sausages that come in many different flavors, Kielbasa, Italian sausage to name a few, and deli slices like ham, bologna, pepperoni. Other meat substitutes are tempeh and soy chorizo. Plentiful are plant-based milks in cartons or in UHT boxes, you can choose from to go with the organic cereal and grains.
GOTTA TRY: Fresh squeezed juices mixed with carrots.
Situated near the Barrigada tri-intersection, this small mom and pop store has transformed over
the years into a competitive grocer in offering many organic, vegetarian and vegan products at
competitive prices, especially in their vegetable produce section. You get the feeling the store owner must be vegetarian with so many little things that a vegetarian craves, needs for nutritional supplementation, or just can’t simply do without.
The store is well stocked with a great selection of mushrooms, varieties of the freshest looking lettuce, fresh spinach in packages that are priced no more than $2.99. The grocers do such an excellent job in bringing in interesting items in the produce section just about every week. I look forward to finding “microgreens” that I can add to my meals. Dried and canned beans are priced lower here than other stores. Popular vegetarian/vegan brands such as Tofurky, Light Life, Gardein and Morning Star meat substitutes are found to be cheaper and always well stocked. The Veganaise, mayonnaise substitutes priced at $4.99 practically flies off the shelf.
GOTTA TRY: Young jackfruit meat. Sold in cans you can only find here. It is an excellent substitute
for meat in soups and as shredded pulled pork with barbecue sauce.
American Grocery in Dededo has by far the cheapest fresh vegetables, wide selection of leafy greens.
Gail Lan is one vegetable you can find there, also known as Chinese broccoli. There are many other leafy greens that are great for soups, salads and stir-fry. Bags of potatoes are priced at $2.99. Cilantro and parsley at about $0.79 a bundle. Asian foods section take five aisle:s Japanese, Filipino, Chinese to Korean. They carry canned vegetables from these countries, sauces, various spices and herbs, and large selections of dried items: noodles, seaweed, nori, lichens and flowers.
GOTTA TRY: Snow fungus. It’s a great substitute for meat, since it has a texture like beef tripe (used in many Filipino dishes especially kare kare), is fat-free, and has no pungent smell.
In the next article, we will discuss where to fine vegan-friendly restaurants. I will also be sharing vegan recipes that are easy to make with interesting ingredients. Stay tuned!