Veganism: Save the earth & be healthier
What’s veganism? Is it difficult to start a vegan life? This blog will show you the basics of veganism.
Table of Contents
Nowadays, more people turn themselves into vegans for various good reasons: veganism can improve our lives – health benefits, less stress on our environment, more efficient ways to use our resources, protecting animals and more. So what’s veganism?
The practice of rejecting the use of animal-derived products (meat, fish, milk, cheese, eggs, wool, leather, honey, etc.) for health, ethical, or environmental reasons, or a combination of those. Instead, they eat various plant-based foods.
An individual who follows the diet or philosophy.
Types of veganism
- Dietary vegans (“strict vegetarians”): those refrain from consuming meat, eggs, dairy products, and any other animal-derived substances in the diet, but continue to use them in other products, such as clothing and cosmetics.
- Ethical vegan (“moral vegetarian”): those who not only follow a vegan diet but extends the philosophy into other areas of their lives, and opposes the use of animals for any purpose. Another term is “environmental veganism“, which refers to the avoidance of animal products on the premise that the industrial farming of animals is environmentally damaging and unsustainable.
- Whole-food vegans: Those who favor a diet rich in whole foods: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds.
- Raw-food vegans: Those who eat only foods that are raw or cooked at temperatures below 118°F (48°C).
- Low-fat, raw-food vegans (“fruitarians”): this subset limits high-fat foods, such as nuts, avocados, and coconuts, instead of relying mainly on fruit. Other plants are occasionally eaten in small amounts.
- Junk-food vegans: Those who rely heavily on processed vegan food: vegan meats, fries, frozen dinners, and desserts like non-dairy ice cream.
Vegan vs. vegetarian
The main difference between vegetarians and vegans is that although vegetarians don’t eat meat (cows, pigs, chicken, and fish), they consume dairy products, eggs, or both. The vegan diet excludes all products with animal-based ingredients.
The vegan diet is more restrictive, so people will need to think more about where their nutrients are coming from to ensure that they meet their daily dietary requirements (which isn’t so difficult).
Why should you become a vegan?
In the consumer culture we live in today, every purchase we make shows support of the product and the practices and morals of the companies. Hence, it’s important to educate yourself about merchandise and to think of how we live as a consumer.
There was a time when eating meat was a necessity for survival. However, we now simply don’t need animal products for it anymore.
There are many benefits to avoid animal products and consume plant-based products:
- A vegan diet is healthy for your body
- A vegan lifestyle requires less land, fossil fuels, and water and contributes to less air pollution
- A vegan diet protects animal rights
Veganism – a big lifestyle change is easier to sustain if you truly believe in your decision.
Should you jump right in?
Start the transition gradually. Make small changes to increase the plant-based foods in your diet: Replace products in your diet with alternatives step by step – meat to tofu, cow milk to oat milk (any non-dairy alternatives) etc. So your transition to vegan would be much easier.
Transition options to vegan:
- Pescatarian: no meat and poultry, but you can still eat fish.
- Lacto-ovo vegetarian: plant-based diet, plus dairy and eggs.
- Flexitarian: a plant-based diet that on occasion includes animal products.
Is veganism expensive?
Another misconception. If you avoid “vegan” products and stick to whole foods – vegetables, fruits, legumes, grains.., it should be cheap. You’ll realize how expensive the prepared foods are.
Impacts you can make by veganism
There are lots of great reasons you should go vegan. To help you understand that better, it’s good to know how damaging consuming animal products are for your health and environment.
Animal agriculture monopolizes the world’s resources – water and land, to fuel its production: In addition, breeding, raising, and feeding animals raised for food is a tremendously inefficient use of our natural resources.
Impacts from agriculture are expected to increase substantially due to the world’s population growth increasing consumption of animal products. Unlike fossil fuels, it is difficult to find alternatives since we have to eat. Our environment won’t be able to support our current level of food production for much longer.
It is estimated half of the calories produced by the world’s crops are being used for animal feed, while only 12% of those feed calories contributes to the human diet.
Growing food exclusively for direct human consumption by avoiding animal products would increase available food calories up to 70%, feeding an additional 4 billion people worldwide. A widespread movement towards a vegan lifestyle is the most practical and calorie-efficient to use our planet’s resources and perhaps absolutely crucial to our survival.
Animals raised for food are fed over half of all the world’s crops. As our population grows, we require more and more agricultural space. 60% of worldwide deforestation results from land being converted for agriculture, much of which is for the beef industry. Animal agriculture is responsible for 91% of the destruction of the Amazon rainforest.
Animal agriculture also weakens and depletes fertile soils, while planting and raising a variety of plants and trees can reverse the effects of nutrient depletion, nourishing and cleaning the soil for more sustainable agriculture. Veganism helps reducing deforestation significantly.
High greenhouse gas emissions
Animal products cause higher greenhouse gas emissions than plant-based ones. In addition, animal agriculture is one of the major generators of greenhouse gas emissions, which worsens climate change.
Animal agriculture contributes to 65% of global nitrous oxide emissions, 35–40% of methane emissions, and 9% of carbon dioxide emissions. These chemicals are considered the 3 principal greenhouse gasses involved in climate change. A 2016 report found that if the world went vegan, the planet’s food-related emissions would drop by 70 % by 2050.
Animal agriculture creates 70 to 90 % of freshwater pollution in western countries.
- The pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers used to feed crops for animals to eat
- Factory farm runoff and livestock grazing
High energy consumption
Livestock requires enormous fossil energy for the production of feed, breeding, and fertilizers, electricity usage, and farm operating costs. Animal products require 8 times more fossil-fuel energy than creating plant-based ones.
Intensive water usage
Animal agriculture requires a massive amount of water: 92 % of the planet’s water footprint is linked to agriculture, with livestock making up 1/3 of the figure.
For example, 550–5,200 gallons (1,700–19,550 liters) of water are needed to produce 1 pound (0.5 kg) of beef. That’s up to 43 times more water than is needed to produce the same amount of cereal grains.
A bacon cheeseburger requires more than 3,000 liters of water to produce, while a vegan burger requires 75 to 95 % less water. Vegan diets require only 1/2 of the water than carnivore’s diet and the most efficient way of saving water.
Deforestation by animal agriculture also impacts the world’s biodiversity. Forested areas are burned for cropland or pasture leading to the extinction of various animal species: monkeys, elephants, bears, tigers, alligators, lions, wolves, parrots, and bobcats.
Saving The Bees
Bees are considered to be the most important species on the planet since about 250,000 flowering plant species rely on bees for pollination. Without bees, fruit and vegetable stocks would deplete. Veganism doesn’t consume honey, which gives an impact on the bee population.
It takes more than 550 bees to gather 1 pound of honey from roughly 2 million flowers. Bees will fly 55,000 miles to make a gallon of honey. The average bee will make only 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey in its life, and bees rely on this as their primary food source.
- D’vash Organics makes the world’s first sweet potato honey.
- You can also use maple syrup or agave nectar.
87 % of the world’s oceans are dying. We start ditching plastic straws and plastic shopping bags and choosing plastic-free produce to reduce plastic wastes and to save the oceans. However, half of the plastic found in the ocean comes from fishing nets for our diet. Some experts agree that the world’s oceans could be empty of fish by 2048 due to overfishing.
The fish population needs to be balanced in order to affect the ocean’s ecosystem the way nature intended, and Veganism stabilizes the ocean by reducing the world’s increasing demand for fish.
Many people identify themselves as animal lovers, yet this rarely applies to the animals for food – cows, pigs, chickens etc.
Ethical vegans strongly believe that:
- all creatures have the right to live and freedom
All animals are sentient beings and are capable of feeling pain and a wide range of emotions including fear, sadness, and loneliness. How could we treat animals as commodities – especially when alternatives are available?
- Animals shouldn’t endure cruel modern farming practice
Animals for food are being abused and tortured. Unfortunately, factory farming offers the most competitive prices and makes the most profit, so it’s difficult for smaller establishments to survive without adopting the same principles. When you consume animal-based products, you support the companies that are abusing animals for profit.
Factory farming exhibits severe animal cruelty since its focus is on profit – by minimizing the amount of space, costs and time for maximum profits. The well-being of the animals and the workers is non-existent.
In addition, there are a lot of misconceptions about how animal products are obtained and we often turn a blind eye towards inhumane animal agricultural practices.
Some people may choose to buy organic “humane” or “cage-free” meat, dairy, and eggs. Unfortunately, these terms aren’t regulated and are used to mislead consumers. For the most part, buying these “humane” animal products is simply a waste of money as the animals’ lives aren’t much, if any, better than their “inhumane” counterparts.
It’s high time for you to know the facts that how each industry operates and treats animals and how veganism could improve the issues and your life.
THE MEAT INDUSTRY
The animals raised for food are kept in overcrowded warehouses with little room to move, a filthy environment, and the air is condensed with the smell of ammonia and bodily waste. The animals suffer injuries that are often left untreated, from broken bones to burns and lesions from constant contact with their own waste.
With the focus on profit, time is money – it’s common for the production lines to move so fast that the methods to kill the animals are rarely effective causing a great deal of suffering during skinning, scalding, and dismemberment.
Cattle often weigh over a ton and are prone to thrashing and kicking, putting the workers in great danger of injuries. Many workers suffer from PTSD (Post traumatic stress disorder) and take out their frustrations on the animals. Workers can also become violent at home, and abuse drugs or alcohol by their own guilt and anxiety.
THE DAIRY INDUSTRY
- After birth, the calves are removed from their mothers within 24-72 hours to avoid a painful separation after bonding.
- Milk is harvested for human consumption and the calves are fed a powdered milk replacement.
- Calves born of dairy cows are used for different purposes depending on their gender. Females begin their lives as dairy cows at 13 months of age. Males are slaughtered for veal within anywhere from just a few hours old up to 4 months of age. The veal industry is a direct by-product of the dairy industry.
- To maintain milk production, dairy cows must be repeatedly and forcibly inseminated.
- While a cow’s natural lifespan can exceed 20 years, most dairy cows are killed by the age of 4 and sold as beef. The lifespan of a dairy cow depends on its ability to produce milk. 90% of dairy cows killed are for reasons such as infertility, mastitis (infection of 1 or more udders), lameness, and low production levels.
THE EGG INDUSTRY
I’ve covered the details on egg industry and chicken (meat) industry.
- Chickens are selectively bred, either for egg production or meat consumption. Chicks bred for egg production are separated by gender. Females become egg-laying hens, while male chicks are useless for both egg and meat production – they are killed immediately after hatching.
- While chickens can live for more than 10 years, egg-laying hens are slaughtered between the age of 2-2.5 years old as this is when egg production begins to decline.
- Egg-laying hens are kept in small, overcrowded cages that chickens can’t even turn around. Cage-free chickens are often kept in large warehouses, don’t even go outside (they’d die by heat if they go outside), and stressed out. So they are debeaked (cut the tip of beak to prevent cannibalism in the flock).
- Commercial egg producers sometimes practice “forced molting”: to remove food and water and have hens starved for 1-2 weeks, which results in better egg quality with only a slight reduction in the quantity of the eggs produced.
THE BEAUTY INDUSTRY
Boycott Animal Testing
While most people are against animal testing due to animal cruelty, many experts agree that tests on animals can’t accurately predict human response to a product. More than 95 % of pharmaceutical drugs test as safe and effective on animals but then fail in human trials, according to PETA. However, the practice is still common in the beauty industry. Since veganism doesn’t allow for animal exploitation, buying vegan beauty products equates that you don’t support animal testing.
Up to 60 % of the products you apply to your body are absorbed by the skin and enter the bloodstream.
Many cosmetics brands use phthalates and parabens that can cause neurological and immune system issues. Also, a growing number of studies link dairy products to skin problems like acne because dairy products contain growth hormones and are also treated with artificial hormones, which can interfere with your hormone system.
A vegan diet could boost your skin’s healthy.
Vegan cosmetic products are made with plant-based ingredients and processes that don’t involve animals. By using vegan products, you can avoid harmful chemical ingredients and obtain their natural health benefits. Oats have anti-inflammatory properties and can treat skin irritations like eczema. Witch hazel hydrates the skin, and high levels of antioxidants in green tea can help repair sun damage.
While not all vegan beauty brands use natural ingredients, but a growing number of them start using them. Now you have more vegan options.
Non-vegan ingredients: Beeswax, honey, lanolin, collagen, keratin.
THE FASHION INDUSTRY
Adopting a vegan lifestyle means not buying items featuring leather, suede, wool, or silk. The vegan fashion industry is booming now.
Boycotting the leather industry
Raising animals for leather (and food) accounts for 14.5 percent of all human-caused greenhouse gas emissions. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) said that “the greenhouse gas footprint of animal agriculture rivals that of every car, truck, bus, ship, airplane, and rocket ship combined.”
Leather is treated with 250 different substances including cyanide, arsenic, chromium, and formaldehyde. These substances pollute waterways and raise the risk of disease for workers and the locals. Vegan leather is just as durable and stylish as its animal-based ones.
Boycotting the wool industry
It’s easy to believe that wool can be collected without harming the animal. However, shearers are paid by the volume of wool collected, not by the hour, which often encourages the aggressive handling of sheep. The animals are beaten and when injured, their wounds are sewn up without pain relief. To prevent flystrike, workers will mule sheep — cut off pieces of the sheep’s hindquarter skin. This often has the opposite of the desired effect since flies are attracted to the open wound.
Vegan alternatives: hemp, linen, and organic cotton. Bamboo, seaweed, and wood are also used to make cruelty-free clothing.
Becoming More Sustainable
Many vegan fashion brands prioritize sustainability in their designs.
- No Saints: vegan leather sneakers out of uses food waste like pineapple leaf fibers, which are a by-product of pineapple harvests and would otherwise go to waste. Using these fibers offers extra income to farming communities and saves the waste from being incinerated, which creates toxic emissions. No Saints also uses apple peels thrown out by the juicing industry to make apple leather shoes.
- thies: vegan shoes
- Insecta: vegan shoes out of plastic waste.
- Adidas with Parley for the Oceans: vegan shoes with plastic waste from the ocean. Each shoe contains 12 plastic bottles worth of waste including discarded fishing nets.
What you can eat as vegan
Whole foods: vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, and products made from these foods – lots of choices.
Vegan dishes around the world
Surprisingly many cuisines offer various vegan dishes. Try to see whether if you like it or not. I only picked up a few, but there are so many dishes available to vegans. You can easily find many vegan options at various restaurants. Just watch out the ingredients and/or seasonings to make sure they are all vegan-friendly! Happy Cow is a third party site that vegans can post how vegan-friendly a restaurant is.
- Chinese: dumplings, noodles, vegetables – too many!
- Indian: curries, dal, samosa, masala dosa (fermented crepe made from rice batter and black lentils)
- Japanese: noodles, okonomiyaki (pancake without egg), tempra, rice dishes
- Thai: curries, Tao Hoo Song Kreung (Mixed Tofu), Pad Thai, Som Tum (Papaya Salad), Pad Phak (Stir-Fried Vegetables)
- Vietnamese: spring rolls, Bánh bột chiên chay (fried rice cake), Bánh Bột Lọc Tran Chay (clear dumplings), Banh Cuon (steamed rice rolls)
- Italian: bruschetta, pasta, pizza without cheese
- Mexican – tacos without the lard and cheese, tamales, fajitas
- Middle Eastern – hummus, tabouli, lentil soup, falafel, Baba Ghanouj
- Greek: Revithosoupa (chickpea soup), stuffed peppers, Tourlou tourlou
- Turkish: Dolma (stuffed food), Gözleme (pancake), Patlıcan Ezmesi (eggplant puree), Kısır (bulgur salad)
- Ethiopian: injera (flatbread), lentil stew
What you can’t eat as vegan
- Meat: Beef, lamb, pork, veal, horse, organ meat, wild meat, etc.
- Poultry: Chicken, turkey, goose, duck, quail, etc.
- Fish and seafood: All types of fish, anchovies, shrimp, squid, scallops, calamari, mussels, crab, lobster and fish sauce.
- Dairy: Milk, yogurt, cheese, butter, cream, ice cream, etc.
- Eggs: From chickens, quails, ostriches and fish.
- Mayonnaise (contains egg yolks)
- Bee products: Honey, bee pollen, royal jelly, etc.
Ingredients or Additives Derived From Animals
- Gelatin: Thickening agent from the skin, bones, and connective tissues of cows and pigs.
- Certain additives: E120, E322, E422, E 471, E542, E631, E901 and E904.
- Cochineal or carmine: Ground cochineal scale insects are used to make carmine, a natural dye used to give a red color to many food products.
- Isinglass: This gelatin-like substance is derived from fish bladders. It’s often used in the making of beer or wine.
- Natural flavorings: ex. castoreum – a food flavoring that comes from the secretions of beavers’ anal scent glands.
- Omega-3 fatty acids: Many products that are enriched with omega-3s are not vegan, since most omega-3s come from fish. Omega-3s derived from algae are vegan safe.
- Shellac: This is a substance secreted by the female lac insect. It’s sometimes used to make a food glaze for candy or a wax coating for fresh produce.
- Vitamin D3: Most vitamin D3 is derived from fish oil or the lanolin found in sheep’s wool. Vitamin D2 and D3 from lichen are vegan alternatives.
- Dairy ingredients: Whey, casein, and lactose are all derived from dairy.
Foods That Sometimes Contain Animal Ingredients
Some foods you might expect to be 100% vegan sometimes contain one or more animal-derived ingredients.
- Bread products: Some bakery products, such as bagels and bread, contain L-cysteine, which is an amino acid used as a softening agent and often comes from poultry feathers.
- Pasta: Some types of pasta, especially fresh pasta, contain eggs.
- Olive tapenade: Many of them contain anchovies.
- Deep-fried foods: The batter sometimes contains eggs.
- French fries: Some varieties are fried in animal fat.
- Potato chips: Some potato chips are flavored with powdered cheese or contain other dairy ingredients such as casein, whey or animal-derived enzymes.
- Candy: Some varieties of Jell-O, marshmallows, gummy bears and chewing gum contain gelatin. Others are coated in shellac or contain a red dye called carmine (made from cochineal insects).
- Some dark chocolate: Dark chocolate is usually vegan. However, some varieties contain animal-derived products such as whey, milk fat, milk solids, clarified butter or nonfat milk powder.
- Some produce: Some fresh fruits and veggies are coated with wax. The wax can be petroleum- or palm-based, but may also be made using beeswax or shellac. When in doubt, ask your grocer which wax is used.
- Roasted peanuts: Gelatin is sometimes used to help salt and spices stick to the peanuts better.
- Caesar dressing: some Caesar dressing uses anchovy paste as one of their ingredients.
- Pesto: Many varieties of store-bought pesto contain Parmesan cheese.
- Refined sugar: Manufacturers sometimes lighten sugar with bone char (“natural carbon”), which is made from the bones of cattle. Organic sugar or evaporated cane juice are vegan alternatives.
- Worcestershire sauce: Many varieties contain anchovies.
- Some bean products: Most baked bean recipes contain lard or ham.
- Non-dairy creamer: Many of these “non-dairy” creamers actually contain casein, a protein derived from milk.
- Beer and wine: Some manufacturers use egg white albumen, gelatin or casein in the beer brewing or winemaking process. Others sometimes use isinglass, a substance collected from fish bladders, to clarify their final product.
Vegan Foods You should Limit
Just because a food is vegan doesn’t mean it is healthy or nutritious. If you want to improve your health by a vegan diet, minimize processed plant foods and the following products:
- Vegan junk food: Vegan ice cream, candy, cookies etc. generally contain just as much added sugar and fat as their non-vegan counterparts. Plus, they contain almost no vitamins nor minerals.
- Vegan sweeteners: molasses, agave syrup, date syrup and maple syrup are still added sugars. Eating too much of them may increase your risk of developing medical issues such as heart disease and obesity.
- Fake meats and cheeses: These processed foods generally contain lots of additives and provide you with far fewer vitamins and minerals than whole, protein-rich plant foods like beans, lentils, peas, nuts and seeds.
- Some dairy-free milk: Sweetened dairy-free milk generally contains a good amount of added sugar. Opt for the unsweetened versions instead.
- Vegan protein bars: Most vegan protein bars contain high amounts of refined sugar and an isolated form of protein, which lacks the nutrients.
A vegan diet can be one of the healthiest ways to live. Plant-based diets consist of whole foods – fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. They tend to be higher in vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and fiber. Healthy vegan diets are abundant with vitamins B1, C, and E, folic acid, magnesium, and iron while also being low in cholesterol and saturated fats.
Vegan diet can reduce the risk of mortality from conditions such as:
- Type 2 diabetes
- Cardiovascular disease
- Ischemic heart disease
- Some cancers including prostate and colon cancer
- Hair fall
- Mood disorders
- Poor oral hygiene
Vegan diets can be healthy for anyone of any age, including children, pregnant and lactating women, and the elderly. It’s important to note that vegans need to pay special attention to their diets to avoid specific nutrient deficiencies. There is little risk of deficiency in a well-planned vegan diet.
You can find substitutes for most of these essential nutrients in plant-based foods like:
It is very easy for a vegan diet to meet the recommendations for protein as long as calorie intake is adequate. The key is to eat various diets.
Vegan protein sources: Almost all foods except for alcohol, sugar, and fats provide some protein.
Vegan diets are free of cholesterol and are generally low in saturated fat and reduce the risk of major chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer.
High-fat foods: oils, margarine, nuts, nut butter, seed butter, avocado, and coconut.
Omega-3 fatty acids: flaxseeds, vegetable oils, plant-based supplements.
In order to maximize the production of DHA and EPA (omega-3 fatty acids), vegans should include good sources of alpha-linolenic acid in their diets such as flaxseed, flaxseed oil, canola oil, tofu, soybeans, and walnuts.
Vitamin D is not found in the vegan diet, but can be made by humans following exposure to sunlight. At least 10 to 15 minutes of sun on hands and face 2 to 3 times a week is recommended for adults so that vitamin D production can occur.
Food sources: vitamin D-fortified soy milk, rice milk
Calcium, needed for strong bones, is found in dark green vegetables, tofu made with calcium sulfate, calcium-fortified soy milk and orange juice, and many other foods commonly eaten by vegans. Although lower animal protein intake may reduce calcium losses, there is currently not enough evidence to suggest that vegans have lower calcium needs. Vegans should eat foods that are high in calcium and/or use a calcium supplement.
- soy milk, fortified orange juice, tofu with calcium, broccoli, kale, almonds
- Fortified plant milk contains the same amount of calcium as cow’s milk
- fortified yoghurt alternatives
- calcium-set tofu
- a soya and linseed bread fortified with extra calcium
Vegan diets can provide zinc at levels close to or even higher than the RDA. Zinc is found in grains, legumes, and nuts.
Dried beans and dark green leafy vegetables are especially good sources of iron, better on a per calorie basis than meat. Iron absorption is increased markedly by eating with foods containing vitamin C.
- Soy products: Tofu, soy nuts
- Peanut butter
- Fortified cereals
- Beans: Soybeans, lentils, kidney beans, chickpeas, black-eyed peas, black beans, peas
- Blackstrap molasses
- Swiss chard, bok choy, kale, beet greens, spinach
- Prune juice
If you go vegan, it is important to get enough vitamin B12 – commonly found in meat, eggs, and fish – as without it, you will feel weak. But no worries. The requirement for vitamin B12 is very low and you can get B12 from fortified foods easily. It is especially important for pregnant and lactating women, infants, and children to have reliable sources of vitamin B12 in their diets. Always read labels carefully or write the companies. Vegetarians who are not vegan can also obtain vitamin B12 from dairy products and eggs.
- Dairy alternatives: fortified soy milk (check the label as this is rarely available in the U.S.)
- Breakfast cereal
- Yeast extract
- Vitamin B12 supplement
There are supplements that don’t contain animal products.
- Red Star nutritional yeast T6635 (Vegetarian Support Formula)
They are often labeled as having large amounts of vitamin B12. However, these products are not reliable sources of the vitamin because the amount of vitamin B12 present depends on the type of processing the food undergoes.
- vitamin B12-fortified meat analogs
Conclusion: Be healthier and save the earth - before too late! We can start small. But we're the ones who are responsible for other lives and environment. We can do it!
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