What it means to be Vegan
So what’s all this about being “vegan”? There are plenty of questions out there and some very simple answers. Here they are…
The concept of veganism is simply a stricter form of vegetarianism. Just like a vegetarian, vegans don’t eat meat. The biggest difference is that vegans don’t eat eggs or dairy products (a.k.a. plant derived products). Some true vegans won’t even eat honey because it comes from an animal. Many vegans also don’t eat foods that are processed using animal products, such as refined white sugar and some wines.
Veganism – a type of vegetarian diet that excludes meat, dairy, eggs, and all other animal-derived ingredients.
If you are “vegan” it means that you follow this form of eating. The term of “vegan” can be an adjective used to describe a food item such as, “This dinner is vegan”, or used as a noun, “Vegans don’t eat meat or dairy.” There are others who also talk about a “vegan lifestyle”. This generally refers to someone who is very conscious about the foods they eat and the products they buy. For example, true vegans don’t buy leather shoes, jackets, or other animal based consumer products.
What about vegetarians? The Vegetarian Society, founded in 1847 and largely responsible for advancing the concept of vegetarianism, classifies a vegetarian as someone “living on a diet of fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds, with or without the use of dairy products and eggs.”
There are also different types of so-called vegetarian diets. These include the following:
- Lacto-ovo-vegetarian: Someone who follows a vegetarian diet but eats dairy products including eggs.
- Lacto-vegetarian: Someone who follows a vegetarian diet including dairy products except for eggs.
So in a nutshell, a vegetarian diet excludes meat and fish, but includes other animal products. A vegan diet is one that excludes all animal products.
Issues with Veganism?
There are a lot of people who question the concept of being Vegan. The reason is because they simply don’t understand what it means to be vegan, or vegetarian for that matter. The biggest argument against a vegan diet is one of nutrition. How can you survive without protein?
The reality is that protein is found in lots of naturally occurring foods. Personally I was surprised to discover how many foods contain protein and calcium other than animal products. The fact is however that nutritional needs can be met without eating meat.
Your daily protein requirements, which are less than you probably think, can be met with a diet rich in nuts, seeds, legumes, grains, fruits and vegetables including soy products. Leafy greens, nuts and seeds, and dried fruits provide high amounts of calcium. Iron, another important element can also be found in many foods such as leafy greens, fruits (especially apricots and figs), lentils and legumes.
Save the animals (and planet)
Some people choose the vegan lifestyle because they are against the useless slaughter of animals for food, animal cruelty, and impact on the environment. Each year more than 50 billion, yes billion, animals are slaughtered to support our meat-eating habit. Often these animals are mistreated, abused, and slaughtered in a horrific manner. If you don’t believe me, watch Vegucated. You’ll see actual video footage from inside slaughter houses and industrial farms where genetically modified animals are mishandled, abused, and killed.
The other issue that many vegans are working to mitigate the impact of meat and dairy production on our environment. The amount of water, feed, and land required to support our meat-eating habit, is having a significant impact on our planet. In fact the animal population for feed is the second largest cause of greenhouse gases, 18% of all GHG emissions, according to the US Humane Society. If we stop feeding all our land’s output to farmed animals, there will be more food for humans to eat.
The world’s cattle alone consume a quantity of food equal to the caloric needs of 8.7 billion people–more than the entire human population on Earth.
The final thing to consider about becoming a Vegan are the health benefits of eating a plant based diet rich in whole grains. This eating style is proven to prolong life, reduce the risk of most diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes and certain types of cancer – such as colon, breast, and prostate cancer. Study after study demonstrates the health benefits of a plant-based diet.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and a division of the CDC, the National Center for Health Statistics, 64 percent of adults and 15 percent of children aged 6 to 19 are overweight and are at risk of weight-related ailments including heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
Whether you decide to adopt a vegetarian lifestyle or go Vegan, you’ll benefit. Not only will your health improve but so will the planet. Join the Vegan for One Day movement and make a difference.