The word “vegan” has become quite popular these days, and many people think that it is a term you would most likely hear in the context of choosing a meal in a restaurant. While this may be true, being vegan also means something more than just a diet choice.
As you may have seen in mainstream with celebrities or popular personalities, veganism also means not using any item or products that are derived from animals—especially if it meant their suffering or death. Thus, veganism is really more of an encompassing way of life.
It might have occurred to you in one way or another to try veganism. Most likely, someone you know is already a vegan and you have been intrigued by this concept. Is veganism something you would like to take on? It would be best for you to understand as much as you can about it before you make the decision.
As mentioned, the first and most basic type of veganism involves food choices. This is called being a dietary vegan. It means that you avoid any food coming from animal sources, primarily meat. However, take note that dietary veganism also means avoidance of animal-based products, such as milk and cheese.
Other dairy products such as yogurt and ice cream are included. Technically, chicken eggs are also included, having come from an animal. Note that if you take some pork ribs or bones and make stock out of it, for instance, this is also a no-no.
Thanks to the many vegan-friendly recipes available in the Internet and on TV cooking shows, your meals need not be bland and boring. Many natural or processed meat substitutes have also been discovered and produced, so the vegan menu today is very wide and varied.
However, being vegan by diet is not as clear-cut. For instance, there are individuals who choose to eat insects as an alternative source of protein. For vegan purists, this may not be permissible as they avoid harming any kind of living thing, insects included. Sticking to a plant-based diet—those involving vegetables, fruits, and other such as nuts and root crops—is the most common way of maintaining a vegan diet.
Veganism and vegetarianism
Veganism can actually be considered the strictest form of vegetarianism, which is the more basic diet choice that avoids meat and animal-based products. There are many types of vegetarianism that ultimately leads to veganism.
For instance, a person may choose to primarily avoid beef, pork and chicken but still consume fish and/or seafood. This is called a pescetarian. On the other hand, if avoid beef and pork but still consume chicken and/or other poultry like turkey, you are called a pollotarian.
The consumption of dairy and animal byproducts also have varying degrees. You may avoid means but still choose to consume milk, cheese, and yogurt. This is called being a lacto-vegetarian. If you choose to eat eggs, you are called ovo-vegetarians. Those who choose to consume both eggs and dairy products are called lacto-ovo vegetarians.
If and when you choose to avoid all these meats and animal-based products, then you are considered a vegan.
Why eat vegan?
People who choose to become a dietary vegan mostly do so because of health considerations. First of all, they may be sensitive or allergic to some foods, which inspire them to change their diet altogether. A common example are those who are lactose intolerant, who choose to completely avoid animal meats and byproducts by extension.
There are those who choose a vegan diet for health benefits. Studies have found, for instance, a high correlation between meat consumption and certain types of malignancies, such as colorectal cancer. High levels of bad cholesterol, mostly coming from saturated fat in meats and animals, also lead to hypertension and cardiovascular disease.
However, eating vegan does not necessarily mean eating healthy. A person may subsist on junk food such as chips and French fries, and still be considered “vegan” because there is technically no meat and animal sources in his diet.
Finally, there are those who choose to eat vegan because they do not want animals to suffer or be harmed in general—not just for food, but for other purposes as well, such as their hide or leather. This is called ethical veganism.
Being an ethical vegan is a total lifestyle. This means not only avoiding animal-based food, but products and items as well such as clothes, shoes and even medicine. Consider that many drugs have components or substances derived from animal sources.
The market for alternative products for vegans is growing, along with the increasing population of those subscribing to such a philosophy. Plant-based fibers for clothing are being developed, such as from hemp and pineapple. Fake leather or “pleather” is also a good alternative to genuine leather from cows and other exotic animals.
Those who wish to avoid drugs and supplements that come from animal sources may turn to natural remedies or alternative medicine.
If you want to start on veganism in terms of your diet, a good way is to cook up some simple and easy yet tasty recipes at home. This way, you can get a feel for how it is to keep up with a vegan lifestyle in terms of food choices. You might think it is difficult, but there are a lot of vegan dishes you can whip up at home using common ingredients.
Black Bean, Corn, and Red Pepper Salad
1 can (16 ounces) black beans
½ cup corn kernels
½ red bell pepper, cut into strips
¼ cup cilantro, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
Combine all ingredients in a bowl, and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. You can also add chili flakes or jalapeno peppers for flavor.
Thai Lettuce Wraps with Tofu
¼ block tofu, sliced into 1/8 inch thick strips
½ carrot, thinly sliced into strips
1 tablespoon peanuts, crushed
Sweet chili paste
1 tablespoon canola oil
Sear the tofu strips in a hot pan with the canola oil. Afterward, let oil drain on a paper towel and set aside. Season with salt. Take a lettuce leaf and place the tofu with sliced carrots and peanuts. Add chili paste or other sauce to your taste. Roll up the leaf and plate.
Pasta with Creamy Mushroom Sauce
200 grams of spaghetti
140 grams diced onions
150 grams diced mushrooms
240 grams diced tomatoes
½ cup soy milk
2 tablespoons vegan (non-dairy) cream
Chopped sage leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
First, cook the onions in a non-stick pan on medium heat until translucent, and then add the mushrooms, tomatoes, sage, milk and pepper. Stir the mixture for a few minutes to form the sauce. Add the cream in the last step, and add salt to taste. You can make the sauce less thick by adding extra milk or some water. Cook the pasta al dente as you would, and stir in the sauce before serving.
Vegan for life
Being a vegan, whether in diet or in complete lifestyle, takes a lot of commitment. There are many people who become vegan that do so for the rest of their life. There may be difficulties or challenges, but the benefits in terms of your health and well-being are also very rewarding. There are a lot of resources available to help you start on this path, and be sure to enlist the help of like-minded friends and individuals who can help be with you on this journey.