Gianna Bruzzese, 21, is a senior at Rutgers University, and creator of the Instagram @veganbygianna where she has 9,040 followers and a companion blog filled with recipes. She is working toward a double major in digital filmmaking, plus journalism and media studies and has studied global journalism in Italy. Gianna isn’t paid to endorse products, but she does get them sent to her for free and if she likes them, will review for her audience.
What drove you to become vegan? How old were you?
I went vegan after watching documentaries like Forks Over Knives and Food, Inc. I was exposed to the horrors of the meat and dairy industry and learned about how all animal byproducts are detrimental to our health and the Earth. From watching these films and reading books like The China Study and How Not to Die, I learned that humans can live off and thrive on a fully vegan diet. Once I learned this information, I knew I could no longer justify consuming animal products and I made the switch. I was 17.
What do you do to be sure you have the right amount of nutrients?
I follow a whole food, plant-based diet. I consume as little processed food as possible and eat fruits, veggies, nuts, beans, and whole grains in abundance. The Earth offers all of the nutrients a person could need through the foods it grows naturally. I have never had to check that I’m consuming the right amount of nutrients because I eat the foods that I was meant to consume. Monkeys eat an almost 100% plant-based diet, and they never check that they are eating the correct amount of nutrients. They just eat what the earth provides. I do the same and I have never experienced any problems.
Do you take any supplements?
I do not take any supplements. If you are eating a whole food, plant-based diet, supplementation is completely unnecessary unless you have a condition that prohibits your body from absorbing nutrients properly. The only nutrient vegans lack is B12, which is found in the dirt. Because animals are not as sanitary as humans, they often consume dirt with their food and absorb the B12. When people consume these animal products, they get the B12 in their system (along with carcinogens, cholesterol, and dangerous hormones). However, nutritional yeast is a popular vegan staple that is similar to parmesan cheese and used in many vegan recipes. I eat it often and it is fortified with B12, so I am not lacking in any nutrients.
Why did you start your Instagram? What are the questions people ask you on your blog?
I started my Instagram, @VeganByGianna because I wanted to show people how easy it can be to eat a healthy vegan diet. There’s a common misconception that it’s too difficult, expensive, time consuming, or unhealthy. Through my Instagram, I wanted to show people that eating fully vegan is possible and easier than ever before. I also wanted to connect with like-minded people to share ideas. I then created my blog to share more complex recipes for people who might be interested. The main questions I get through my blog/Instagram are about cruelty-free (not tested on animals) products that I use for my hair, skin, etc. People often ask me if I supplement (I do not) and just basic questions about myself — for instance how long I’ve been vegan and what it’s like to eat vegan in college.
Do you imagine ever eating meat again? Why or why not?
I will never consciously consume an animal product again in my life. In order for meat to be consumed, an innocent animal’s life is taken from it. There is no “humane” way to kill an animal, whether it is organic, grass fed, or any other method. We live in a time where human beings do NOT need to kill and torture innocent animals for food. Millions of other vegans and I are living, breathing examples of how one can maintain a healthy, fulfilling life without harming innocent beings. My taste buds are not more important than the life of an animal. Therefore, I will never eat meat again.
Furthermore, I value my own life too much to eat animal products. There are countless studies clearly stating that the consumption of processed meats directly causes cancer and obesity. Products like yogurt, eggs, and chicken are all marketed as a “health food” but this simply isn’t the case. I want to live a long, healthy life where I don’t suffer from diseases caused by food, which could have easily been prevented. And finally, I care about the future generations too much to consume animal products. Animal agriculture is the number one cause of global warming. Methane gas from the mass amounts of cows is destroying our environment. The consumption of fish is wiping out colonies of fish faster than they can repopulate. It takes 16 pounds of water to create 1 pound of beef. I refuse to contribute to this destruction of the earth.
What advice do you have for retailers to reach people like you?
Transparency. I want to know exactly what is going into the products I am buying and if it’s vegan, gluten-free, etc. As far as reaching people like me, I think it’s important for retailers to support vegan and cruelty free companies. I am 100 times more likely to go to stores that do not sell any animal products, have an abundance of vegan options, and provide cruelty free products.
Where do you shop?
I buy my food mainly from Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods.
What do you shop for online?
Clothing. Cruelty free health and beauty products. I love the brands Alba Botanica, Jason, HASK and Tarte. I try not to online shop, I like to live a minimalistic lifestyle.