Veganism has come a long way in the past decade. I don't think anyone can claim anymore that vegans are those people who only eat salad. The times have changed and there are so many options out there for those wanting to go vegan.
The word "vegan" was coined in 1944 by a man named Donald Watson. We'll use his definition of veganism to reference and look back on in this article, because it's seen to be the true definition by many vegans.
"The word 'veganism' denotes a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude - as far as is possible and practical - all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of humans, animals and the environment. In dietary terms it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals."
Things to Think About Before Becoming a Vegan
If we go by the above definition, a person who chooses to go vegan is strict in all facets of their lifestyle - what they buy, eat, support, etc. There are some vegans who refuse to sit on leather chairs because it goes so against their beliefs and lifestyle.
With that said, there are a lot of different types of vegans.
Some choose it for the combination of a diet free from meat and dairy, but also due to their love of animals and morals against exploitation. There are some; however, that choose to be vegan soley as a response to dietary needs.
This article is not to judge one form of veganism over another, but to give you an overview of what the lifestyle entails, and what to think about when becoming a vegan.
Many vegans choose to take supplements with their diet, because of the certain nutrients and vitamins you lose from not eating meat, dairy, or fish. The most popular supplements vegans use to balance out deficits are calcium, iron, B12 and omega 3s.
It's recommended that you consume at least 1,000 milligrams of calcium per day, so vegans tend take calcium supplements to make up for the lack of milk and cheese in their diet.
It's good to note that almond milk is another good vegan-friendly form of calcium to hit your daily needs, as well as dark greens such as broccoli, collard greens, and bok choy. Calcium is especially important in your body as you get older to maintain bone health and reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
With iron being the most common nutritional deficiency in the US, you can bet it's on the mind of most vegans to increase in their diet. The amount of daily iron you need depends on your age and gender. Women that have gone through puberty but have not yet hit menopause need about 18 mg of iron a day, where as males of the same age only need about 8 mg.
The main reason why iron is so important to the body is that it helps transport oxygen through the body. People who are iron deficient often feel exhausted or tired all the time.
Being that many iron rich foods, such a red meat, pork, poultry and seafood are not vegan-friendly, iron supplements are another important one to add to your diet if you're a vegan. Other foods that are meat-free and high in iron include beans, dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach, and dried fruit.
B12 is an important vitamin to how our body functions. It is normally found in foods such as shellfish, beef liver, fish, crustaceans, red meat, low fat dairy, cheese, and eggs.
With a defecit of B12 in the body, you can risk anemia, nerve system damage, and pregnancy complications. In addition to supplements, vegans can get B12 in plant-milks, breakfast cereals, yeast extracts, and nutritional yeast products. Because it's mainly found in non-vegan food products, this vitamin is especially important to a vegan's diet.
There are 3 types of omega fatty acids: ALA, DHA, and EPA. They are most commonly found naturally in fish such as salmon and tuna, and added to other products such as eggs.
Omega-3s are important in helping with cholesterol and triglyceride levels. They're an essential part of our diets and an important one to make sure you have enough of as a vegan.
In addition to supplements, your body can most likely convert high amounts of plant-sourced ALA into DHA and EPA. It's ideal to consume about 1,100 mg of ALA a day. Some of the best foods to find this type of omega-3 in is flaxseed oil, walnuts, and chia seeds.
These four are important supplements to focus on, but vegans take a wide range of other supplements as well. Other ones to think about including in your diet would be Vitamin D and Iodine.
There has been an ongoing debate in the realm of soy and recent studies showing that it may not actually be all that good for you. Soy used to be the go-to alternative for vegetarians and vegans alike, but now it's getting side glances and skepticism from a lot of the meat-free community. So, what's the deal with soy?
The biggest problem with soy is that 90% of the soy produced in the US is genetically modified and oftentimes sprayed with herbicide, which could be linked to negative health effects.
In addition, there have been studies that find soy affects estrogen receptors in the body and disrupts normal hormone functioning. Because of this questionable hormonal imbalance, it's recommended not to use soy-based formula for infants.
There are multiple studies and arguments over soy, and I encourage you to do your own research before deciding to include or exclude it in your diet. If you do want to eat soy, our recommendation would be to look for more natural forms and to to stay away from the highly processed kinds often found in grocery stores.
Another long-lived debate is the one over honey and whether you can call yourself a vegan if you eat it.
This argument is fairly split, and a lot of vegans still eat honey regardless of the strict definition provided by Watson in the 1940s.
By that definition, honey is not vegan because it is an animal product. But, it's never that simple now is it? There have been other reasons why some vegans are so adamant about avoiding honey.
Many claim that keeping bees for commercial or hobby purposes is exploitation. During bee farming, hives are pumped full of smoke to mask the scent of the bees' alarm pheromones that usually alert them to defend their honey. There are some bees that are killed every time the beekeeper takes another store of honey. There have also been cases of queen bees being imprisoned in certain parts of the hive, and colonies split to increase production and sprayed with prophylactic antibiotics.
Other vegans argue that insects are killed in other types of agriculture so they're reluctant to draw the line at honey specifically.
Again, it's up to your personal beliefs and preferences, but it's something to think about when becoming a vegan.
There are many ingredients and labelling tactics out there that are not as vegan-friendly as you may think.
The biggest one is the term "dairy-free". Dairy-free products does not constitute vegan products. Often these dairy-free products still have eggs in them because eggs are technically not a dairy product.
Other ingredients to look out for that are not vegan are gelatin, which is usually derived from cows or pigs and used in a lot of candy products, and Lecithin found in animal tissue and egg yolks and commonly used in alternative medicines.
As I mentioned at the start of this article, to be a vegan many people believe that has to also include your lifestyle as well.
This means besides focusing on your diet, also making sure not buy leather, fur, silk, carmine, or pearls.
This also means paying attention to the beauty products that you buy as a lot of the ones from the US are still not cruelty-free and use animal testing.
Of course, it's up to you to decide what veganism means to you. If it makes you happy and makes you feel better mentally and dietary wise, then go for it.
These tips should at least give you an idea of what to think about when switching over to a vegan lifestyle.