Vegan: Meaning & Food Guide

Someone who is vegan avoids all animal products and animal-derived products. This includes meat, fish, dairy products, honey, eggs and by-products such as gelatine. Someone living a vegan lifestyle will avoid all animal products when buying other products such as clothing and beauty products too. Someone with a vegan diet will mostly be focusing on the food they are eating.

Vegan Vs Vegetarian

While a vegan avoids all animal products including meat, fish, dairy, cheese, eggs, honey. and gelatine. A vegetarian avoids meat, fish and by-products of animal slaughter (e.g. gelatine). This means a vegetarian will often still eat dairy, cheese and eggs while a vegan will not.

TermMeaning
VeganNo animal products or animal-derived products
VegetarianNo meat or fish but eats dairy and eggs.
Pescatarian No meat but eats fish
Ovo-vegetarianNo meat, fish or dairy but eats eggs
Lacto-vegetarianNo meat, fish or eggs but eats dairy
Lacto-Ovo VegetarianNo meat or fish but eats eggs and dairy
FlexitarianSomeone who is vegetarian/ vegan on a part-time basis

Definition of Veganism

“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.”

The Vegan Society

Vegan lifestyle

Veganism is sometimes thought of as being stricter as vegans will not eat anything that has come from an animal. Veganism is about more than food, it is a lifestyle that has roots anchored in animal rights and environmentalism. This is why many vegans don’t feel like they are “missing out” on certain foods or consider their diet to be “strict”. 

Vegans avoid animal products and animal by-products for a range of reasons including health and environmental concerns, or as a result of love and respect for animals and nature.

A person who is vegan will, to the best of their ability, not buy, wear or eat products that include animal by-products. They will also avoid animal exploitation such as when animals are used for entertainment (e.g. circuses or horse races). 

Sometimes veganism is thought of as the next step for vegetarians as many people choose to be vegetarian as a way of living a life that is kinder to animals and the environment. As people become more aware of farming practices and how diet impacts health and climate they might find the next step for them is to be vegan.

Vegan Benefits

Environmental Benefits of Being Vegan

Oxford Martin School researchers found that a global switch to diets that rely less on meat and more on fruit and vegetables could save up to 8 million lives by 2050, reduce greenhouse gas emissions by two thirds, and lead to healthcare-related savings. It could also avoid climate-related damages of $1.5 trillion (US).

Switching to a plant-based diet can help fight climate change.

Animal agriculture is detrimental to the environment. Agriculture is a leading cause of deforestation, the livestock sector is one of the biggest sources of water pollution and is responsible for a huge amount of water consumption.

Animal agriculture is responsible for around 14 to 18% of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions. As well as this, livestock production covers 40-45% of the world’s land surface.

This land use impacts biodiversity as natural habitats are destroyed to make room for crops to feed livestock. Habitat loss and deforestation puts pressure on native species and pushes them closer towards extinction.

A major report on land use and climate change says the West’s high consumption of meat and dairy produce is fuelling global warming.

BBC

According to The Vegan Calculator:

Each day, a person who eats a vegan diet saves 1,100 gallons of water, 45 pounds of grain, 30 sq ft of forest, 20 lbs CO2 equivalent, and one animal life.

How Being Vegan Helps Animals

One of the biggest reasons people choose to go vegan is to help animals.

Being vegan means not paying for animals to be killed or exploited. It means reducing demand, not being part of the system and living in alignment with the belief that killing or exploiting animals for food, clothing or entertainment is wrong. It’s a way for people to prevent cruelty and ensure they do not support cruel and inhumane practices.

Going vegan is one of the best things you can do to help stop cruelty to animals.

A plant-based diet also helps wild animals as agriculture is responsible for a huge amount of habitat loss, global warming and ocean depletion. All of which impact the lives of the species we share this planet with.

Finally, being vegan helps animals in science as it means choosing cruelty free products. This means you are not contributing to exploitation and animal testing.

Health Benefits of Being Vegan

Vegan diets tend to provide more fiber, antioxidants and beneficial plant compounds. They also appear to be richer in potassium, magnesium, folate and vitamins A, C and E. It is important to eat a properly planned vegan diet to ensure you are getting all the nutrition you need. A diet based around nutrient-rich whole foods and fortified foods is much more nutritious and beneficial than a junk food diet.

One study found that vegans had the highest intakes of fibre, vitamin B1, folate, vitamin C, vitamin E, magnesium and iron. However, they also had the lowest intakes of retinol, vitamin B12, vitamin D, calcium and zinc. With this in mind, it is recommended vegans supplement key vitamins such as B12 to avoid deficiency.

Lower Risk of Cancer

A review of over 80 studies found that a vegan diet conferred a significant reduced risk (-15%) of incidence from total cancer.

Other studies have found links between the consumption of animal products and increased risk of cancer. For example, this study found red meat and processed meat can increase the risk of cancer:

Prof Gunter Kuhnle, at the University of Reading, described the study as a very thorough analysis of the link between meat intake and bowel (also known as colorectal) cancer. The study confirmed previous findings that consuming red and processed meat increases the risk of bowel cancer.

“The increase in risk of approximately 20% per 50g increase of red and processed meat intake is in line with what has been reported previously, and confirms these findings.”  

Lower Risk of Heart Disease

A vegan diet is rich in fresh fruit, vegetables, legumes and fibre and often includes whole foods and nuts. These are associated with good heart health and help to lower the risk of heart disease.

Reduced Risk of Diabetes

The findings of this study suggest that long-term shifts toward a more plant-centered diet could help prevent diabetes. 

Effective Weight Loss

If you want to lose weight but don’t want to focus on counting calories, a vegan diet may be the way forward. A randomised controlled trial of five different diets concluded that “vegan diets may result in greater weight loss than more modest recommendations”.

What Do Vegans Eat? Vegan Foods List Below:

  • All fruit & vegetables (fresh, frozen, tinned and dried)
  • Nuts & seeds: almonds, cashews, pistachios, pine nuts, walnuts, Brazil nuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, flax seeds, peanuts, peanut butter, cashew butter, tahini.
  • Carbohydrates: Pasta (NOT fresh egg pasta. Look at dry pasta as this is usually vegan), Bread, Pitas, Wraps, Bagels, Rice, Oats, Quinoa, Cous cous, Rice cakes, rice/ wheat noodles
  • Protein: Tofu, Tempeh, Edamame, Seitan, Chickpeas & Hummus, dried & canned beans (black beans, butter beans, kidney beans etc.), dried & canned lentils
  • Vegan milk: Soya milk, oat milk, almond milk, coconut milk, rice milk, hazelnut milk, hemp milk, flax milk, cashew milk. Not sure which vegan milk is best? Take a look at our guide here.
  • Vegan dairy alternatives: cashew cheese, vegan cheese, vegan cream cheese, almond or coconut yogurt, soy or sunflower margarine, coconut/ almond/ soya ice cream.
  • Dried and fresh herbs & spices
  • Various flours
  • Sweeteners: Agave syrup, maple syrup, molasses, dates, coconut sugar, stevia
  • Sauces: ketchup, sweet chilli sauce, soy sauce, mustard, vegan mayo, salsa, sriracha
  • Oils: coconut oil, olive oil, sesame oil, flax seed oil, canola oil
  • Vinegars: apple cider vinegar, rice wine, red wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar.
  • Nutritional Yeast (if you haven’t heard of this, you can find out more here)
  • Baking powder and soda
  • Yeast
  • Vanilla extract
  • Treats: Popcorn, vegan (gelatine-free) sweets, dark chocolate, vegan chocolate.

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