Or so it would seem. Every pin, post and share is talking about vegan recipes, dishes and benefits. Vegan food options are commonplace in supermarkets nowadays and it would appear quite fashionable to actually be vegan with many celebrities opting for the more humane way to live their lives. November 1st is World Vegan Day, so let’s take a quick rundown of the world of veganism.
What Does It Mean To Be Vegan?
Veganism is both the practice of abstaining from the use of animal products, particularly in diet, and an associated philosophy that rejects the commodity status of animals. Someone who follows this philosophy is referred to as being vegan. In practical terms it means to abstain from eating:
- Dairy products
- Any animal-derived product
Vegans will not wear leather shoes or carry a leather handbag. The products that we use in the house to clean, bathe or for personal skincare, will also be affected by our choice to avoid animal harm.
Often, many vegans like to supplement their diet with nutritional health products to support the body. If you feel that you need to supplement your diet, make sure to choose quality supplements that will get you the results you are looking for. So, do your research in order to know what you are taking.
The History Of Veganism
The official ‘Vegan Society’ was created over 70 years ago, however, veganism has existed for much longer with evidence of our ancestors choosing to avoid animal products being recorded over 2,000 years. As early as 500 BCE, Greek philosopher and mathematician Pythagoras promoted benevolence among all species and followed what could be described as a vegetarian diet. Circa this time, Siddhārtha Gautama (more commonly known as the Buddha) was discussing vegetarian diets with his followers.
More recent, in november 1944, Dnal Watson can be credited with organizing a meeting with 5 other non-dairy vegetarians who held similar views and found a new movement. Once step up from vegetarian, the rejected names such as ‘dairyban’, ‘vitan’ and ‘benevore’ before settling with vegan.
The main principle derived from this movement is “to seek an end to the use of animals by man for food, commodities, work, hunting, vivisection, and by all other uses involving exploitation of animal life by man”.
Luckily for vegans, the growing range of foodstuffs easily available is rapidly increasing in local supermarkets as well as health food stores. There are lots of alternatives when it comes to choosing the vegan way of life.
Milk – you can use soy milk, hemp milk, oat, nut and rice milk. You can even make your own homemade almond milk!
Cheese – the range of vegan cheese out there today is fantastic. But if you are struggling to find what you need, then cottage cheese can be replaced with crumbled tofu or soaked raw nuts.
Eggs – tofu is a great substitute when it comes to scrambled eggs. When it comes to baking flaxseed, applesauce, the juice from canned chickpeas, pureed tofu, chia seeds or mashed bananas work a treat. If you are looking to bind thing together then use flour derived from soy or oats, bread crumbs, potato flakes and nut butters.
Honey – a great alternative is maple syrup.
Sugar – choose a natural organic sugar, unbleached cane sugar, date sugar and maple crystals if you can manage to get hold of them.
Chocolate – there are many non-dairy vegan chocolate chips, cocoa powders, and chocolate bars. These can be found in the natural foods aisle of your supermarket, and in natural health food stores.
Meat – now this is a funny one!. Why try to go for a meat substitute when you are vegan? Many vegans will disagree with this concept. However, if you are one of those people missing your meat fix then you can try veggie burgers or meatballs, meatloaf or nut roast. Many cookbooks nowadays give you some excellent vegan recipes and the internet is full of great suggestions.
Eating Out As A Vegan
This has never been so easy. Today, there are some fantastic vegan chefs and restaurants out there. If you are not sure where to eat out, ask your vegan friends for recommendations. Alternatively, check out the many websites that offer some insight into which restaurants can fulfill your vegan requirements.
Generally, the prices of vegan establishments tend to be pretty much on par with other restaurants, which is great news for your pocket. That said, do you homework as some do charge a premium and must be booked well in advance as their reputation dictates patrons hither to their high demand.
Is Being Vegan Healthy?
Research suggests that higher levels of vitamin C and fiber, and lower in saturated fat (than a meat based diet) are found in vegan dietary habits. Statistics also suggest that vegans possess a lower BMI (height-to-weight ratio) than meat eaters, meaning that they are ‘skinnier’. Any diet that doesn’t contain meat will reduce the amount of saturated fat, which is great news for lowering cholesterol levels and reducing the risk of heart disease. Vegans also tend to consume more nuts, seeds, fruits, veggies and cereals, and grains as well as a lower level of calories – so in many ways, the answer is yes, a vegan diet is healthy.
If only life were that simple! By eliminating certain food groups from your diet, you are potentially at risk of missing out on certain micronutrients.
Find The Healthy Balance
Like everything in life, it is about balance and awareness. Being vegan should not be taken likely. If vegan philosophy is something that speaks to you, then you should take it seriously and ensure that your body is receiving the correct level of minerals, vitamins and nutrients it needs to keep you healthy and happy. It would be worth sitting with a nutritionist to find out more about what vegan substitutes mean to your body and what would constitute as a healthy vegan choice.
A label that says vegan does not necessarily mean it is healthier. You should always look at the ingredients list (a healthy habit generally speaking anyway!) and make sure you know exactly what you are putting into your body and why.
If you are going to be wearing the new black, make sure you do it right!