Growing up in an Italian family, I was surrounded by different types of cheeses, deli meats and desserts that I thought I could never live without. After being diagnosed with ulcerative colitis in 2006 (an inflammation of the colon), I felt completely lost. The symptoms I experienced included abdominal cramps, bathroom urgencies, bloating and weight loss, just to name a few. For years I struggled to figure out what foods my body could tolerate, since everyone with colitis reacts differently.I spent over 5 years trying different medications and avoiding all types of salads, fruits and vegetables. My meals consisted mainly of rice, meat and bread since these were considered to be safe foods that would not cause any additional inflammation and ulcers. However, while eating these types of foods, my symptoms proceeded to get worse. In response, my doctor continued to prescribe stronger medications.
After mostly unsuccessful diets and seeing little to no improvement, I decided to try something drastically different – something that many of my friends and family thought would not work. I slowly started incorporating organic green juices into my diet (juicing removed the fiber from the vegetables and allowed my body to quickly absorb nutrients). I was still concerned about how my body would respond to vegetables after avoiding them for so long; however, I noticed that juicing reduced some of my symptoms. Encouraged by the results from juicing, I continued to gradually introduce different vegetables and fruits. It is here that I began to experience substantial improvement.
It was during this time that I became more aware of the all the unhealthy vegan food options available to us. I could eat a diet of potato chips and Oreo cookies all day and call myself Vegan, but that wasn’t what I wanted to do. I wanted to live a healthy vegan life, with minimal processed foods and create both healthy and delicious plant-based meals. I also started learning what it truly meant to be vegan and the inhumane treatment of animals in not only our food, but our clothing, shoes, furniture, etc. I learned about how our decisions can impact other species and the environment. After learning all these things, I knew that becoming vegan was the right decision for me. That I could do what I felt was right and still make a great Italian meal, but with fresh vegetables and nut cheeses that can rival any classic dish.