What is vegan?

VeganVegan refers to a person following a vegan diet. Veganism is a type of vegetarian diet. Veganism excludes dairy products, eggs and other animal related products. People following the vegan diet do not consume foods which are processed using animal products. Vegan can be used as an adjective to describe a food item or it could refer to an individual following a vegan diet.


The origin of the term vegan or vegetarian is unknown. The practice, however, can be traced back to many years ago. Philosophers Theophrastus and Empedocles were both vegetarians. The reason that they were vegetarian was mostly based on health arguments. Moreover, the also believed in animal welfare. They believed that if humans deserve justice and fait treatment, then so do animals. It is for this reason they decided not to consume meat. During the 19th century, vegetarianism became a popular movement. The movement spread through England as well as the United States. There were pescetarians, who do not eat meat but they do add fish to their diet. There were strict vegetarians, who do not consume any animal related product. Also there were ovo-lacto vegetarians. Ovo-lacto vegetarians do eat eggs and dairy products but do not eat meat. In 1815, a British physician claimed that a vegan diet could cure a range of diseases, such as acne, tuberculosis as well as cancer. After this time, different diets were introduced  providing alternatives to being a vegetarian. One of the most popular diets is the Graham diet, introduced by Sylvester Graham in the 1830s. The Graham diet is mostly fruit, vegetables and bread.

Increasing interest

The vegan diet became incredibly popular around 2010. During this time many different restaurants began promoting vegan items on their many and supermarkets included a large range of vegan products to their items. During the period of 2005 and 2010, fake meat items became popular and its market increased with 18 percent.  Moreover, the European parliament defined the meaning of vegan for food in 2010 and entered into force in 2015. This means that companies can label their food items as vegan when they do not contain any animal related ingredients. The trend is often also described as trendy and glamorous. This is due to the fact that many celebrities, politicians and athletes adopted a vegan diet. Also it has been used as a trend to counter the image of animal rights activists since many people believe that people become vegan due to animal welfare. Moreover, the term flexi-vegan has also become popular. It was introduced by Mark Bittman. He recommended to stick to a vegan diet before 6pm since this would have increased health benefits. The first vegetarian butcher opened in the Netherlands in 2010, called De Vegetarische Slager. After this time multiple vegetarian butchers have opened their doors and there are also vegan supermarkets. However, veganism has also faced criticism from non-vegans. The health effects of a vegan diet are often questioned. Also, the philosophical tradition is also criticized since many critics believe that men are superior to animals.

Animal products

The items vegans do not eat are pork, poultry, beef, game, seafood, eggs, fowl, dairy products and any other animal related products. An example of an animal related product would be gelatin. Gelatin is sold based on meat ingredients, or sold based on potato starch. There are also ethical vegans. Ethical vegans also do not use animal products in their toiletries and clothing. For example, they do not wear wool, leather or silk. They reject the commodification of animals in any form and therefore decide not to wear or use any items which originate from animals. It is often claimed that it is not possible to be a full vegan. This is due to the fact that animal products are deeply women in the fabric of human society. For example, animal products which are in common use are keratin, retinol, whey and albumen. Some of these are chemical compounds, but are originally derived from animal products. While all vegans agree upon the avoidance of animal products, they often disagree about the use of insect products. For example, neither the American Vegan Society as the British Vegan Society consider silk, honey or other insect products suitable for vegans. However, the groups Vegan Outreach and Vegan Action consider the use of these items as a matter of personal choice.

Vegan diet

Vegan diets are based on nuts, grains, vegetables, fruits and seeds. Fake meats, or meat analogues, based on tofu are also permitted. Tofu, often also referred to as soybeans, and wheat-based gluten are a good source of protein. They are often found in supermarkets as vegetarian burgers, vegetarian sausage or vegetarian mince. Meals based on tofu are an important part of the vegan diet since soybeans are a complete protein. This implies that human can completely rely on this product for their protein intake since they contain all the essential amino acids. Proteins are often to be found in the form of soy milk and tofu. Depending on your personal preference, tofu can be firm, medium, extra firm or more soft to be used for shakes and salad dressings. Since vegans are also not allowed to have eggs, they often are looking for egg substitutes. This is especially important when they actually want to use them for cooking and baking. Eggs, however, can easily be replaced with one tablespoon of flaxseed meal in combination with three tablespoons of water. When making pancakes for example, it is possible to replace the eggs with baking powder. Another alternative for eggs when baking, making ice cream or making meringues can be bean brine. Bean brine is also known as aquafaba and has the same properties as egg whites.

Health effects

Different researches have suggested that veganism provides health benefits. Adopting a vegan diet contributes to a reduced risk of high blood pressure, heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Moreover, it is also recommended for people who are trying to lose weight. It appears that a vegan diet proves to be more effective compared to a non-vegetarian diet or a vegetarian diet. While researches have indicated that vegans might have a reduced risk of most forms of cancer, they do have an increased risk of urinary tract cancer. Vegan diets, on the other hand, tend to be high in magnesium, vitamin C, iron and fibers. They tend to be low again in dietary energy, calcium and vitamin B. It is therefore important that whenever adopting a vegan lifestyle that a good balance is found so that you do get all the essential nutrients. Nutritionist Winston Craig wrote that in general vegans tend to have lower blood pressure, low levels of cholesterol and are also thinner compared to non-vegans. Eliminating all animal products increases the deficiency of vitamin D, vitamin B12 and omega-3 acids. It is for this reason that vegans are often recommended to take supplements. Without the necessary supplements vegans might face low bone mineral density on the long-term.

Raw veganism

While we have introduced the terms vegetarian, pescitarian and vegan, there is also raw veganism. Raw veganism is a raw foods diet. This diet is made up of unrefined and whole foods. It consists of vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds and leafy greens. These products are consumed in their natural state. This implies that these products are not steamed or cooking. People adopting this diet are often called raw vegans or raw fooders. One might wonder whether it is possible to survive on raw food items. People adopting this diet state that there are no essential nutrients in meat, dairy or grains which cannot be found in fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. They also believe that it is easier for the body to digest the food since it is consumed in its natural state. They state that fruits, vegetables and greens contain high amounts of protein, healthy fats and carbohydrates. Moreover, they believe that applying heat to food provides no nutritional value to the food. Raw vegans are not allowed to consume food products which have been cooked at a temperate above 48 degrees. They believe that nutrients are most beneficial to the human body when they are consumed in their natural state and without any heat being added to them. Some studies have shown that the immune system reacts to cooked food in a similar fashion as it does when a foreign pathogen, such as fungi or virus, enters the body.


Article written by: SarahAjaoud
Times read: 1852x
Added: 29-06-2016 00:10
Last modified: 06-07-2016 16:36

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