What Is A Vegan

Since we’ve started this journey- we’ve gotten a lot of support.  We’ve also gotten a lot of jeers.    We’ve had people invite themselves to dinner.  We’ve been teased.  We’ve made new friends.  It’s been an interesting a fun ride already.  However- one question that I received (a few times) is: ‘What exactly IS a vegan?’.  I’ve also gotten: ‘Wait!  You can’t have cheese?!?’ and ‘Where do you get your protein?!?’.  The protein question I’ll answer later.  But for now- I’ll answer the question on What Exactly IS A Vegan.  While a lot of people know- lets be serious, not everyone knows.   Even doing the research- every once in a while I run into an article telling me something not to eat- something that I didn’t even think about.  So here it is- in basic terms:

What Is A Vegan:

Veganism is a type of vegetarian diet that excludes meat, eggs, dairy products and all other animal-derived ingredients. Many vegans also do not eat foods that are processed using animal products, such as some refined white sugar and some wines. Most vegans also avoid the use of all products tested on animals, as well as animal-derived non-food products, such as leather, fur and wool.

Vegan refers to either a person who follows this way of eating, or to the diet itself.

What Can’t Vegans Eat:

  • Meat. Topping the list, of course, are all meats — from hamburgers and pork chops to chicken wings and the Thanksgiving turkey.
  • Fish and shellfish. Whether it’s a lowly shrimp, a fried fish stick, or salmon, it’s not part of a vegan diet.
  • Dairy products. Off the vegan menu: everything from milk and yogurt to cheese and butter.
  • Eggs. That means mayonnaise and anything else made with eggs (yes, most brownies and cakes, too!).
  • Most beer. Guinness is filtered using tiny amounts of gelatin derived from fish bladders.  And it’s not alone. While some beers are vegan, others are filtered using egg whites or sea shells, according to barnivore, a vegan beer and wine guide.
  • Some breads. While many simple breads are a-OK, containing just four ingredients (flour, yeast, water, and salt) many breads and baked goods are made with whey (a dairy product) or with butter, eggs, or sugar.
  • Marshmallows. These and other foods, like gummy candies and Frosted Mini Wheats, are made with gelatin — a protein made from boiling skin, bones, and other animal parts.
  • Salad dressing. Salads are great for vegans, but not necessarily the dressing. Scan the ingredient list, and you’ll often find lecithin, which helps keep oil and vinegar from separating, and can be derived from animal tissues or egg yolk (both no-no’s for vegans) or from soy (OK).

Really- We just have to read every label and make a lot of things ourselves.  You’d be surprised, for instance, how many foods contain gelatin or whey or fish sauce

What Vegans Can Eat:

  • Vegetables. Buy a wide variety of vegetables, preferably the deep green and yellow-orange ones. White and sweet potatoes are excellent foods. Avocados are high in oil content; therefore, use them sparingly. Fresh vegetables are the best, frozen would be an acceptable second choice, with canned vegetables your last choice. Be sure to read the labels.
  • Fruit. Buy a variety of fresh, ripe fruits to use at breakfast with your whole grain cereals or at supper time. Apples are one of the best fruits. Citrus fruits are good, too.
  • Grains. Eat many different types of whole grains, such as whole wheat, rye, oats, rolled oats, brown rice, millet, buckwheat, 100% cornmeal, and whole barley. Cook whole by themselves or in a mixture with other grains. For variety, grind them.
  • Pasta. Buy whole grain products, such as spaghetti and macaroni made from whole wheat, corn, spinach, artichokes, or soy flours. Check labels carefully.
  • Legumes. Legumes are dry beans and peas. For economy, buy these in bulk. Use a variety throughout the week or month. Good choices include pinto and red beans, garbanzos (chick peas), lentils, black beans, split peas (green or yellow), great northern, navy or white beans, and lima beans. Soybeans are high in fat and protein; thus, they should be used sparingly.
  • Nuts & Seeds. Use very sparingly. Nuts and seeds are classed as concentrated foods because of their high fat content. Limit nuts to 1/6 to 1/10 of the ingredients in loaves and casseroles. Almonds are the king of nuts for nutritional value.
  • Bread.  Make your own bread if at all possible. Read labels very carefully and choose whole grain breads and bread products as much as possible. Remember that the term “wheat flour” refers to white, refined flour.
  • Crackers.  Some good choices are Norwegian Ideal whole grain flat bread, crispbread wafers, Ryquita crisp, rye bread, Hol-Grain Waferets, Finn Crisp, Rye Krisp. Some stores carry 100 percent whole wheat matzos – look for the variety made without eggs. Also, read labels carefully as some companies make product variations that may not be the best choices for a healthy diet.
  • Herbs.  Sweet herbs often enhance the natural flavor of food. Most sweet herbs are available in supermarkets; however, natural foods stores often carry them in bulk at much lower prices.

Really- we can eat just about anything we want- as long as we make it.  We’ve had cupcakes, cookies, pizza, pasta, soup, chili, oatmeal, Mac & ‘Cheese’, popcorn, hummus, pb&j, zucchini bread, etc- which is a better selection of food than we usually eat.

Pluses For Eating Vegan:

  • Conservation of Fossil fuel. It takes 78 calories of fossil fuel to produce 1 calorie of beef protein; 35 calories for 1 calorie of pork; 22 calories for 1 of poultry; but just 1 calorie of fossil fuel for 1 calorie of soybeans. B
  • Water Conservation. It takes 3 to 15 times as much water to produce animal protein as it does plant protein.
  • Efficient use of grains. It takes up to 16 pounds of soybeans and grains to produce 1 lb. of beef and 3 to 6 lbs. to produce 1 lb of turkey & egg.
  • Soil conservation. When grains & legumes are used more efficiently, our precious topsoil is automatically made more efficient in its use. We use less agricultural resources to provide for the same number of people.
  • Saving our forests. Tropical forests in Brazil and other tropic regions are destroyed daily, in part, to create more acreage to raise livestock.  Since the forest land “filters” our air supply and contains botanical sources for new medicines, this destruction is irreversable.
  • Asthetics. Decaying animal parts, whether in a freezer case or served in restaurants, can never be as asthetically pleasing to the senses as the same foods made from wholesome vegetable sources. Only habit can allow one not to perceive this: a change in diet makes this self evident.
  • Lower fat plus no cholesterol. Animal foods are higher in fat than most plant foods, particularly saturated fats. Plants do not contain cholesterol.
  • Fewer Agricultural Chemicals. Being higher on the food chain, animal foods contain far higher concentrations of agricultural chemicals than plant foods, including pesticides, herbicides, etc.
  • Lower Exposure to livestock drugs. There are over 20,000 different drugs, including sterols, antibiotics, growth hormones and other veterinary drugs that are given to livestock animals. These drugs are consumed when animal foods are consumed. The dangers herein, in secondary consumption of antibiotics, are well documented.
  • Shelf life differential. Plant foods last longer than animal foods. Try this experiment: Leave out a head of lettuce and a pound of hamburger for 1 day, which will make you sick?
  • Organoleptic Indications of Pathenogens. Plant foods give tell-tale signs of “going bad”. Ever hear of someone getting sick from “bad broccoli”?
  • Lower rate in Obesity. Studies confirm that vegetarians tend to be thinner than meat eaters. Obesity is considered by doctors to be a disease within itself.
  • No excess protein. The average American eats 400% of the RDA for protein. This causes excess nitrogen in the blood that creates a host of long-term health problems.
  • Well Being. I just feel better since “giving up” meat and becoming vegetarian.
  • Food costs. Vegetarian foods tend to cost less than meat based items.
  • Love of animals. I love animals as I love myself. I have no desire to kill them or cause them harm.
  • Stance against Factory Farming.  I cannot make a statement against factory farming if I myself eat their animals.
  • Natural diet. Our hands, teeth, feet, intestinal tract…even our body chemistry is that of an herbivore.
  • Clear conscience. I know what I’m doing is right. When we saw a truck full of little baby pigs the other day, I had a hard time not crying.  Now knowing what lies in store for those sweet little fuzzy pigs- I was almost devastated to see a whole truckload of them- with their little snouts sticking out of the air vent.  At least I knew- that I wouldn’t be backing the killing of those sweethearts and I wouldn’t be un-knowingly eating one of them in the future.
  • Example. To live this way is to protect the underlying values of those around me.
  • Easy substitutes. There are vegetable based substitutes for every meat product imaginable.
  • Fun in the Kitchen! We have made more unique stuff in the past two weeks- than I think we ever have.

Read more about the health benefits of becoming a vegan- HERE

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