A lot of people are still in the dark when they hear someone says he is a “vegan”. They easily confuse it with vegetarian, and they don’t know the main differences for both. People immediately assume that they eat only vegetables, avoid all products related to animals, and commune closely with nature. Some of these facts are outlandish while others are not far from the truth. To get a good glimpse on what a vegan lifestyle is, here are some things you should know.
The correct term for this sub-type of vegetarian diet is actually veganism. This diet does not include dairy products, eggs, meat, and ingredients that were derived from animals. They avoid dairy products and eggs because of the production process. They consider the consumption of eggs as contributing to the premature death of the egg. Regarding dairy products, cows are subjected to extreme and artificial conditions to ensure that milk is produced continuously. Since male calves don’t produce milk, they are raised to be slaughtered only.
In addition, vegans also avoid foods processed with animal products like some wines and refined white sugar. Aside from food, vegans also avoid using products that were tested on animals or products that came from animals such as fur, wool, and leather.
Reasons to go Vegan
People choose to follow a vegan lifestyle for ethical, environmental, and/or health reasons. A lot of vegans do not accept the inhumane treatment of animals in the process of acquiring food ingredients. For example, they consider it cruel to cull male chickens since they can’t produce eggs and are thus considered useless. Conditions like these are the main reasons why vegans oppose traditional forms of food production.
A lot of vegans have also been actively promoting this lifestyle and try to get everyone more aware about the benefits of a vegan lifestyle. They have gone to question the food industry’s food production processes, and have proposed the positive effects of a vegan lifestyle in terms of economy, health, and the environment like global warming.
Vegans generally want to promote a caring and more humane environment. They accept that they and other people are not perfect, but they still try to do their best on their own part while not judging others.
A common question people ask when they hear about a vegan diet is what it is, and what vegans eat. In a nutshell, a vegan diet includes beans, fruits and vegetables, all grains, and legumes. Vegan dishes mainly use these ingredients and these are combined to form countless vegan recipes. There are also vegan versions of usual foods like vegan hot dogs, vegan cheese and vegan ice cream.
Since vegans avoid animal and animal-derived food products, having a well-rounded nutrition can be a bit of a problem. However, a vegan diet is still able to meet the daily nutritional requirements; the key is variety. Here are some things that lack in a vegan diet and how they can be buffered.
With the avoidance of meat, vegans will be slightly disadvantaged when it comes to protein. On the other hand, all foods except fats, sugar, and alcohol contain protein. There is no need for strict combination of proteins or extensive planning. Again, variation in food is important. For vegans, protein sources include peanut butter, soy milk, almonds, spinach, tofu, lentils, and more.
In a vegan diet, cholesterol is very low and vegan foods are considerably low when it comes to saturated fat. This is why a vegan diet is healthier and can help in reducing predisposition to health diseases like cancer or heart diseases.
It is also important to note that even in a vegan diet, there are still food products that contain high amounts of fats. Examples are plant oils, nuts and nut butters, seed butters, margarine, coconut and avocado. These foods should be used sparingly for health reasons.
As of the moment, vitamin D is not found in the vegan diet. This can be found in natural environments like sunlight. The human body is capable of producing vitamin D after sunlight exposure. It is recommended that a minimum of 10-15 minutes of sun exposure on the hands and on the face for two to three days a week is enough to stimulate vitamin D production.
There are attempts now to add vitamin D in some vegan food products. There is vitamin D-fortified rice milk and soy milk.
Calcium is important for building and maintaining strong bones. This mineral is found in calcium-fortified tofu, soy milk, dark green vegetables, orange juice and other common vegan foods. Since vegans don’t eat animal-derived foods, their calcium intake is considerably lower. This is why in a vegan diet it is important to include a healthy serving of foods that are calcium-rich and/or use calcium supplements.
There are huge varieties of plant foods that are rich in iron. Examples of these are dark green leafy vegetables, and dried beans. In fact, they are even healthier compared to meat based on calories. To help with the absorption of iron, foods containing vitamin C should also be eaten. Vegan sources for iron include kidney beans, lentils, soybeans, black beans, beat greens, watermelon, raisins, etc.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
A popular source of omega-3 fatty acids are deep-sea fishes. For a vegan diet, this is derived from flaxseed and flaxseed oil, canola oil, soybeans, tofu, and walnuts. It is also possible to use a supplement to meet the daily nutritional requirement for omega-3 fatty acids.
Vitamin B12 is important for lactating and pregnant women, children and infants. Obtaining vitamin B12 can be tricky since this vitamin is dependent on the processing the food that is subjected to. For vegan diet, sources of vitamin B12 are not common and/or expensive. Vegan diet source for B12 include nutritional yeast or Vegetarian Support Formula. Food sources like seaweed, tempeh, and miso are considered to be rich in vitamin B12. However since they are not processed, their vitamin B12 content isn’t reliable. If needed, there are also supplements which don’t have animal products in them.
Honey and Silk Debate
A lot of vegans are still on the fence when it comes to products from insects. For example, ethical vegans do not use silk or honeys because of the conditions in which the insects are kept. However, official vegan groups do not disallow dictate the use of silk, honey, and other insect products. It is stated however that the use of these products is a matter of personal choice.
Knowing the facts about a vegan lifestyle would show you that it goes beyond avoiding animal-derived food. Vegans do it because of their concern about the environment and their health. With this regard, they try to increase awareness and give information to people. It is this vigilance that often gets them in trouble, you should understand why they are doing this and what they stand for before you pass judgment.