The Guide to Veganism
Veganism is a type of diet that is consciously chosen due to a variety of reasons, from health to animal welfare and ethical beliefs. Having grown in popularity over the past few years, veganism has now extended from foods to health and beauty products, creating much more of a lifestyle choice as opposed to a diet.
If you are thinking about changing to a vegan lifestyle, enjoy our Guide to Veganism!
What is Veganism?
Vegans are similar to vegetarians in their decision to avoid eating meat products. However, the difference between vegans and most vegetarians is that vegans refrain from using any products that have been made with the use of any animal produce.
Vegans can be classed as vegetarians but vegetarians are not always vegan.
According to the Vegan Society, the definition of "veganism" is:
"A philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude—as far as is possible and practicable—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."
The typical vegan diet is plant-based, using many plant foods, fruits, vegetables as well as legumes, grains and nuts to boost their daily intake of vitamins and minerals.
What do Vegans Avoid?
Because many of the products that we use and consume are derived from animals, there are quite a few products that vegans have to avoid.
Just some of the items that they must avoid are non-vegan cosmetics, soap, honey and eggs.
The Benefits of a Vegan Diet
There are several reasons as to why a vegan diet can be beneficial to follow.
Vegans are huge animal lovers and the main reason that they choose to follow this diet is to protect animals and encourage others to do the same.
Although some of the products that must be avoided are made without causing fatal harm, vegans consider them to be exploitative and harmful to the animals mental and physical welfare.
According to the Vegan Society, an estimated 60 billion animals and over a trillion marine animals are slaughtered each year. This can be for a variety of reasons, the main one being food consumption; however, vegans argue that as humans, there is no real need to consume any products that are derived from an animal at all.
Animal farming facts
Around 95% of animals are killed prematurely, before they have lived their natural lifespan and many during infancy.
The principles of organic farming seem to be a deciding factor in many organic purchases. Not only is it considered better quality, but it also seems to be better for the animals that live on the farms.
Although vegans do not support any type of animal captivity, they do agree with the core principles of organic farms - being in harmony with nature. Organic farms do provide a far superior level of quality for their animals during their lifetime, although it is cut short and they cannot enjoy a true level of freedom that vegans wish for.
Helping to prevent Overfishing
One of the biggest threats to marine life is the level of consumption of fish. The World Wildlife Fund describe overfishing as:
Although fishing has been in practice for thousands of years and one of the main sources of food, and income for cultures across the world, in a time when overconsumption is a way of life, the health and conservation of marine life is under serious threat.
The desire to enjoy popular fish, including sharks as a delicacy and especially the tuna species has resulted in a huge impact on the food chain. With the predators taken out of the equation, the impact on smaller species of fish and coral reef has been felt.
It seems as the mentality of "out of sight, out of mind" comes into play when protecting marine life, just 1.6% of the combined oceans have been declared as Marine Protected Areas (MPA).
According to scientists, it has been predicted that if we continue to fish at the rate we are currently, by 2048, all of the world's fisheries will have collapsed.
Protecting The Environment
Like many things in the 21st century, our high consumption of meat is neither realistic nor sustainable in the long term.
According to a study on the website Nature Communications, which looked at different farming scenarios, only 15% of the scenarios based on the typical western diet of heavy meat consumption were feasible. In comparison to 100% of vegan-based scenarios and 94% of vegetarian scenarios.
Many people underestimate the level of pollution that farming animals actually causes. For many years, farming was a natural process that worked in-sync with the land. However, in our arguably developed society, the use of technology and chemistry to improve the speed and quality of the agricultural process is the very thing that is destroying the world in which we live in.
From cultivating the crops that they eat to the transport and stocking of meats that will eventually appear on the kitchen table, the whole process consumes a lot of energy. Agriculture was also blamed for the high levels of air pollution in Europe and in the UK, farming accounts for 90% of ammonia emissions into the atmosphere.
Preventing World Hunger
The World Hunger Education Service estimates that 795 million are experiencing "chronic undernourishment" or starvation in the world. The majority of these people are suffering in developing countries and a small percentage are found in developed countries.
With the principle reason for starvation being poverty, a lack of resources has a huge part to play in it. An estimated 700 million tonnes of food goes to feed farm animals each year, all of which could be consumed by humans. In many developing countries, not only to they suffer with a lack of food, but also a lack of clean water.
Around 70% of fresh water is used in the cultivation of land, crops and to water the animals. They are also said to be the biggest contributor to water pollution.
The Health Impacts of Being Vegan
When changing your diet, it is essential to understand what your current diet gives you in terms of vitamins and nutrients to ensure that you are still able to get them as a vegan.
Meat and fish give you many vitamins and nutrients, some of which are only possible to get through consuming them. One of the most important is vitamin B12.
It is always advised for you to consult a doctor before making any drastic changes to your diet.
You Will Not Get Any Vitamin B12 through your New Diet
The vitamin B12 is a type of vitamin that you can naturally only get from animal meat and other food products.
Vitamin B12 helps to keep the nervous system healthy and having a deficiency in this vitamin will result in a range of health implications. According to NHS Choices, the symptoms of a vitamin B12 deficiency include:
- Tiredness and Drowsiness
- Muscle Aches
- Affected Vision
- Depression and confusion
Many other food products including cereals are fortified with vitamin B12 and when converting to a vegan diet, it is essential to maintain health through vitamin B12 supplements.
You'll Need to Increase Iron
It is well-known that diets that are rich in meat consumption are also rich in iron. However, many people do not realise that there are two types of iron.
One type, heme comes from animal products and therefore, vegans are unable to consume any foods that contain it. Vegans are only able to consume non-heme which cannot be absorbed as easily by the body.
Iron is super important mineral that helps in the process of carrying oxygen around the body in red blood cells. According to NHS Choices, men should be getting 8.7mg of iron a day and women 14.8mg per day.
There are other ways to absorb the heme form of iron and that can be found in foods such as peppers, oranges and legumes.
Power Up Your Vitamin D
Vitamin D is often called the sunshine vitamin, because it is so good for our skin and is absorbed through the skin from sunlight.
However, for anyone living in parts of the world which are often shrouded from the sunlight, it can be difficult and sometimes impossible to absorb any vitamin d from the sun at all. Given the right circumstances, you can get all the vitamin you need within twenty-to-thirty minutes of being exposed to sunlight.
For those living in the UK, you can absorb vitamin d through the months of March through to September, depending on the circumstances. Although from October through to February, you will not get any vitamin d from sunlight due to the positioning of the earth's axis.
Because of this, it is essential to obtain vitamin d from other sources including foods. NHS Choices recommends other foods such as oily fish, red meat, egg yolks and liver. However, for the vehement vegan, they will not be able to consume these products and are therefore at risk of having low vitamin d levels.
Vegans are encouraged to use vitamin d supplements to ensure that they maintain good mental and physical health. When searching for supplements, be sure to check if they are vegan!
What Can Vegans Eat?
As a diet that is often confused with the vegetarian diet, there is little wonder as to why many people do not fully grasp what veganism means and more so, have no idea of what vegans can eat.
Although the vegan diet means that many foods must be prohibited from consumption, there are still many ways in which vegans can get their dose of vitamins, minerals and enjoyment from their diet.
With growing popularity, there are a variety of delicious vegan recipes and vegan bloggers to inspire and educate those about to change their diet.