Two years ago I became a vegan*. When people ask why, I say for my health. It worked. The change erased my allergies, allowed me to cut my asthma medications in half, and gave me a working digestive system. I was hoping it would make me skinny. My husband Les (who is disgustingly skinny) says: “You have to give up sugar for that.” I snarl: “My last pleasure?” What I should say when people ask why I’m a vegan is the larger truth: moving to a plant-based diet could save us—our lives and the planet’s. First—our personal health. The American diet is 94% animal (eggs, cheese, meat, poultry, fish) and processed foods (sugar, white flour, fat and salt), and only 6% fresh fruits and vegetables. Seventy per cent of us are overweight or obese and, by 2030, 50% of us will have pre or full-blown diabetes. This diet causes the four chronic diseases (heart disease, obesity, cancer, diabetes) that consume 75% of our present health costs. If we turned the statistics upside down (6% animal-based and 94% plant), with the exception of certain kinds of cancer, 90% of Western disease would not exist. Second—the planet’s health I get up early to write. While brushing my teeth at 5 a.m., I listen to the Thom Hartmann show. I was astonished to hear him say we can grow 100 to 200 pounds of vegetables for the resources it takes to grow a pound of beef. I can’t find that statistic online, but I did find a chart that shows the inefficiency of producing milk, chicken, pork, and beef. Here in California, we’re in a severe drought. Miami, my other home, is listed second among large cities facing water scarcity. Agriculture in this country uses 85% of our fresh water. Producing a pound of animal protein takes 100 times as much water as growing a pound of grain. I’m just saying . . . *Vegan joke: How do you know when someone’s a vegan? Answer: They tell you. What is a vegan? A vegan is a type of vegetarian who excludes meat, eggs, dairy products, and other animal-derived ingredients from her diet. What do vegans eat? The most common question. A vegan diet includes all grains, beans, legumes, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and fruits and the nearly infinite number of foods made by combining them. Vegan versions of familiar foods are available, so you can eat vegan hot dogs,ice cream, cheese, and vegan mayonnaise.