So I’ve spent a little time playing around with Google to find some of the most asked questions about being a vegan, veganism and what it involves. I thought I’d dedicate a post to those questions and answer them for anyone curious about this way of life.
What Is The Meaning Of Vegan? What Is Veganism?
To put it simply, a vegan is someone who doesn’t eat or use animal products.
They don’t eat meat, fish, eggs, dairy, honey or anything containing an animal byproduct such as gelatine, certain e-numbers or things used in the process of making food like crustacean shells that are used to filter alcoholic beverages.
They are also against the use of animal products such as leather, wool, silk and beeswax.
Vegans may also be against the treatment of animals so might not visit zoos, the circus or working farms. They don’t agree with testing on animals for cosmetics, pharmaceuticals or skin care.
Most vegans will have a main reason for their choice, For some, it is purely health-based and they refuse to eat animals products because of how they’re treated during their short lives or because being plant-based is healthier. There are vegans who simply don’t enjoy the taste of animal products or they’re allergic/intolerant to it.
Others are vegans because of the ethics, they don’t believe in animals coming to harm for our enjoyment and food.
When Did Veganism Start?
According to Wikipedia
“Donald Watson coined the term vegan in 1944 when he co-founded the Vegan Society in England. At first, he used it to mean “non-dairy vegetarian”, but from 1951 the society defined it as “the doctrine that man should live without exploiting animals”
The actual ‘practice’ of veganism has been around since we humans first existed. Many scientists now believe, through evidence found during archaeological excavations, that early man ate a primarily plant-based diet. Many cultures today still live on a mainly plant-based diet such as rice, potatoes and legumes.
We were not hunter-gatherers as previously believed and it wasn’t until we started moving to colder climates that meat was introduced to the diet – this was due to plants being scarce for many months of the year (winter). It’s much more modern diets that have included so much meat in our daily lives. Even as late as the early 1900’s, meat was a once or twice a week addition – not 3 meals a day.
What Is Vegan Food?
This one is simple. Anything that doesn’t come from an animal is vegan.
Fruit, vegetables, legumes (beans, lentils etc), nuts, fungi and plants are all vegan.
What Is A Typical Vegan Diet?
This answer very much depends on where you are and what you like to eat.
The ideal vegan diet is a whole-foods plant based diet. Cooking foods from scratch without using processed ingredients and oils. As we live in a busy society, vegans may take the convenience food route – just the same as non-vegans.
There is a huge selection of plant-based foods such as burgers, sausages, “chicken”, pies, cakes, biscuits and such that a “typical” vegan diet is just the same as everyone else’s…just without harming animals to make it.
Are All Vegan Foods Healthy? Is A Vegan Lifestyle Healthy?
No, not all vegan food is healthy. Many foods are “accidentally vegan” and just because they don’t contain animal products doesn’t mean they’re going to be good for you.
A potato is a perfectly healthy ingredient but if you deep-fry it then it isn’t as healthy even though it’s vegan. Same with crisps, biscuits, cake etc.
Same can be said for a vegan lifestyle. As I said previously, an ideal diet is a whole food plant-based one. This is healthy. If you live off of processed burgers, sausages, meat alternatives, pies and other convenience foods then no, your vegan lifestyle isn’t going to be a healthy one. It would be healthier-er than a diet based around meat and dairy but you can still gain weight which leads to other complications.
Is A Vegan Diet Better For You? Is Vegan More Healthy?
I’ve done a lot of reading, a lot of watching and so much research that in the opinion of the scientific and nutritional community, YES, a vegan diet is better for you and more healthy than one that focuses on meat as a main food group.
In my personal experience, by simply removing animal products from my diet I feel healthier, in less pain, I lose weight without trying and I just feel great. Then there is the fact I’m not causing unnecessary harm to animals in order to enjoy a piece of flavourless meat or drink a glass of inflammation causing milk.
If you do a little research yourself then you’ll find lots of information about the benefits of removing animal products from your diet, for example:
Did you know cheese has a similar effect on the body as cocaine? This makes it an addictive food. How often do you sit with a plate of cheese (and crackers) and feel like you could just eat the whole block? I know I used to. Well, that’s the cocaine-like effects. Did you also know that cheese is 70% fat? It’s a vicious cycle.
Is The Vegan Diet Safe? Is Being Vegan Safe?
Our bodies were built to live off of plant-based foods. We have molars for crushing our foods, we have a long and complex bowel to ensure we absorb as much nutrition as possible and we have protective mechanisms in place to help protect us from harmful substances.
As long as you’re eating a varied diet, free from anything that you’re actually allergic to (such as nuts) then a vegan, plant-based diet is perfectly safe.
Also, vegan foods do not grow human carcinogens so the only way you would ever get food poisoning while eating vegan is if your food had been contaminated by animal products.
But What About Vitamins, Supplements & B12?
Yes, as a vegan it is recommended that you take two different supplements.
One is Vitamin D as most people, even meat eaters, are deficient in it. Our indoor lifestyles mean we get less exposure to the sun which helps our bodies naturally produce Vitamin D. Vitamin D helps regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body; these nutrients are needed to keep bones, teeth and muscles healthy. Just ensure it is D2 not D3 as D3 is derived from lanolin (sheep’s wool).
The other is B12. This amazing vitamin is found in soil, absorbed by whatever grows in the soil (ie. plants) and is then digested by the animal eating it. The only reason B12 supplementation isn’t essential on a flesh-eating diet is because the animals are pumped full of B12 supplements themselves.
At the end of the day, research is starting to suggest that everyone should be taking a B12 supplement due to the overworking of the soil and use of pesticides. The soil is being stripped of the bacteria so even animals aren’t getting enough to pass on through their products. B12 is an amazing vitamin: deficiency can cause anaemia and nervous system damage. There is more information about B12 here.
Is Going Vegan Good?
Yes. Going vegan is great for many reasons.
Your body: A plant-based diet is great for your health, as mentioned above. It provides your body with all the nutrition and energy it needs. It’s low in cholesterol (which clogs your arteries) and low in fat, obviously depending on what you’re actually eating. It reduces the amount of inflammation-causing ingredients you consume such as dairy and in most cases helps regulate your weight – in turn reducing other health issues.
The environment: Animal farming is one of the lead causes to the destruction of our planet’s natural resources and a lead contributor to greenhouse gases. Destroying rain-forests for grazing land or to grow crops to feed animals is a huge waste of time, money and resources. Water alone is a huge issue as it takes 15,500 litres of water to produce 1 kg beef, contrasted with 180 litres for 1 kg tomatoes and 250 litres for 1 kg potatoes.
The animals: Nobody wants to see animals suffer. A pig has been found to have the IQ of a human toddler so why do we eat them? Ignorance is bliss, and I’ve been guilty of it. “Free-ranged” doesn’t mean roaming around a lush meadow, it just means a slightly bigger cage rammed with chickens. “Family-farm” doesn’t mean that the animals have grown up as pets, it just means a whole load of generations have inflicted pain upon animals. Cows don’t give their milk willingly.
If you are interested in the truth about farming practices in the UK watch this documentary, Land of Hope and Glory. But be warned, it contains graphic and upsetting imagery. US readers then check out Earthlings.
This is just part one of the many questions I’ve unearthed since I started searching so keep an eye out for many more FAQ posts. If you have a question yourself then please leave it in the comments where I will answer it and maybe even add it to the next one.