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Practical Vegan FAQs

Vegan Frequently asked questions and answers: Your Guide to Plant-Based Living

When you first think about going vegan you'll have questions, what can you eat, what can you definitely not eat, are eggs vegan? There's the question of seafood, why isn't going vegetarian enough, can I still buy leather and what's wrong with butter? But, there are some questions that pretty much everyone has, the questions and topics of conversation that come up time and again.

classroom, children, questions, hand up
Even when you've been vegan for years you'll still have some questions

We've collected 12 of the common questions, the FAQs, that people ask about veganism. The answers are good for those that are considering, or are new to veganism, people who have been vegan for a while, or for answering the questions that vegans often get about the way that they live. Here are answers to some everyday questions about living a vegan lifestyle:

1. What is veganism? Veganism is a lifestyle and dietary choice that excludes all animal products and by-products. This means avoiding meat, dairy, eggs, and other animal-derived ingredients in both food and non-food products. The primary goal of being vegan is to live in a way that is least exploitative to both animals and the planet.

2. Why do people choose to go vegan? People choose veganism for various reasons, including ethical concerns about animal welfare, environmental sustainability and potential health benefits. Many people will go vegan for health reasons, maybe to clear up a skin condition, to lose weight or deal with chronic pain, but as they go on their journey they will explore other areas of vegan living, such as the trauma that animals go through to provide certain products. The truth of these exploitative systems can cause people to give up animal products for good. For some, knowing the truth of animal agriculture is enough.

3. What can I eat on a vegan diet? A vegan diet consists of plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, and plant-based alternatives like tofu, tempeh, and plant-based milks. Most food types will not be excluded in a vegan diet, just the animal based products. The problem comes when trying to choose processed foods as many will contain dairy, animal fats, gelatine or honey. Breakfast cereals, for example, can be fortified with vitamin D derived from sheep's wool, however, this simply means choosing a cereal that is marked vegan of which there are many.

4. Is a vegan diet healthy? A well-planned vegan diet can be healthy and provide all the necessary nutrients. It's important to include a variety of foods to ensure you're getting essential nutrients like protein, iron, calcium, vitamin B12, and omega-3 fatty acids. A vegan diet becomes less healthy and can become quite unhealthy when people have a diet that consists mainly of processed foods and snacks. Although these foods are more healthy than the animal based versions, they will generally contain less saturated fats, be dairy free, contain no cholesterol etc., they will still be high on other fats, high in salt and sugar and will contain very little in the way of the nutrients that your body needs.

5. Where do vegans get protein? Vegans can get protein from sources like beans, lentils, tofu, tempeh, nuts, seeds, quinoa, and plant-based protein powders. However, there is protein in everything to some extent, even foods like lettuce and cucumber, so supplementing your protein intake with protein powders or other alternative sources is rarely needed unless you require a high protein intake for sports or another activity. Provided that you are eating a varied diet with enough calories your protein intake will be fine.

6. What about vitamin B12? Vitamin B12 is primarily found in animal products, so many vegans take B12 supplements or consume B12 fortified foods like plant-based milks and cereals. You if don't want to supplement with vitamin B12 you can used fortified products as long as you monitor that amount of B12 each product provides and you make sure that you are eating enough to get the daily recommended amount of B12 everyday. B12 deficiency is dangerous and the effects can be irreversible. If in doubt speak to your doctor, but taking a daily supplement is cheap and easy and is the safest way to ensure that your vitamin B12 levels are adequate.

7. Is a vegan diet environmentally friendly? Veganism has a lower environmental impact compared to diets heavy in animal products. Plant-based diets generally use fewer resources and produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions. The production of animal products contributes to roughly 57%* of global food production CO2 emissions, plant-based food production emits half this amount. This doesn't take into account the CO2 emissions of products like leather and the pollution to the air, water and soil that this creates. Of the many diets that people can choose from, a vegan diet has the smallest carbon footprint and is the most environmentally friendly diet overall. With less CO2 emissions, less soil damage, water pollution and smaller production chains, plants don't require breeding, slaughterhouses or butchers.

8. How can I dine out as a vegan? Many restaurants now offer vegan options. When dining out, you can inquire about vegan menu choices or ask for modifications to existing dishes. There are very few restaurants that have no vegan options, this may mean that you are stuck with a salad, bread roll and a bowl of chips, but the majority of restaurants will have at least one vegan option and can often modify something that is on the men to make it suitable for you. If you have concerns you can call ahead and ask that a meal be prepared for you, but this is unusual these days. There are also apps and websites, such as the Happy Cow** that contain a database of vegan friendly restaurants around the world. Simply enter your location and they will give you a list of options in your area.

9. Are there vegan alternatives for dairy and meat? Yes, there are many plant-based alternatives available, including almond milk, soy yogurt, veggie burgers, seitan, and more. These alternatives can be found in grocery stores and health food shops. A lot of the meat alternatives are classified as meat substitutes, they are made to look, taste and smell like meat, this means that they are processed foods, so it is best to keep these foods to a minimum.

10. How can I ensure I'm meeting my nutritional needs? Consulting a registered dietician or nutritionist who specializes in vegan diets can help you create a balanced and nutritious eating plan. There are also many apps that can help. Samsung Health, Chronometer, My Fitness Pal and others can be used to log the foods that you are eating and show you where you need to make changes to meet all of your daily targets. Also, remember that not every nutrient needs to be eaten everyday, there are some nutrients that are fat soluble, allowing your body to store them for use when you needs, regardless, work with your doctor to avoid any deficiencies.

11. Can I still enjoy desserts as a vegan? 100% yes! There are plenty of vegan-friendly desserts made using plant-based ingredients, such as fruit-based treats, dairy-free ice creams, and vegan chocolate. Supermarkets are making their own brand vegan desserts and larger brands, such as Ben and Jerry's are making dairy-free ice cream. It's good to remember that some options are simply vegan, such as many sorbets.

12. Is veganism suitable for children and pregnant individuals? A well-balanced vegan diet can be suitable for children and pregnant individuals, but it's important to ensure they receive all necessary nutrients. In the UK the NHS states that a well planned vegan diet is suitable for all stages of life, but always consult a healthcare professional for guidance. This is particularly important if you have certain health conditions that will prevent the absorption of some nutrients, are highly inflammatory, or require low daily amounts of fibre.

Remember, transitioning to a vegan lifestyle is a personal journey. Take it one step at a time, educate yourself, and enjoy exploring new foods and flavours.. When going vegan you don't have to do it in one go, you can do it by elimination, for example you move to plant-based milks, then, when you've adjusted, reduce the amount of meat that you eat.

For more information and resources, check out previous blog posts about eating and living vegan.


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