Many people have taken the first step towards becoming a vegan. Some have failed and continued with their old meat habits, but many have succeeded. The ones who do swear that their life has changed positively and forever, and that there is no turning back.
A Point of Principle
The vegan lifestyle, which is free from violence against animals, can really do some incredibly positive things for our health, conscience and the world. The chances of food poisoning with this diet are reduced to a minimum. And of course, you are spared the chemicals, growth hormones and antibiotics given to animals
Cows are regularly fertilized, their calves either being killed at the age of one to two days, or they are grown for the production of veal, beef or milk again. Cows exploited for milk are killed at the age of five years and enter the food chain in the guise of burgers, sausages, and meat pies. In their natural state a cow would live to at least 20 years of age.
I could talk more about other animals, the conditions in which they are kept, and the manner of their slaughter, but in this article I’m assuming you want to know about what it means to be a vegan and maybe how to make the change.
Different to Vegetarians
Well, it’s true that vegetarians don’t eat dead animals or their parts. So that includes red meat, chicken and other poultry, fish and other aquatic animals (such as shrimp and crabs), and any by-products of these industries; gelatin, animal fat and rennet (part of the calf stomach) that serves for producing certain cheeses. Many vegetarians don’t eat eggs either.
Vegans also don’t eat animals, but they also avoid eggs and dairy products (cow, goat, sheep, or any other animal milk products). That includes milk, cream, yogurt, cheese and anything that contains these goods and their derivatives. They also avoid honey because of animal origin and because during its production bees are most commonly exploited and often killed.
Finally, we (as well as some vegetarians) don’t wear wool, leather, and silk, and avoid using the cosmetic and cleaning products that contain animal ingredients. In fact, often called the real vegetarians, vegans actually don’t eat or use anything that comes from animals, whether living or dead.
Vegans are people whose way of life includes avoiding to participate in the exploitation and slaughter of animals. Besides keeping track of everything they eat, carefully choosing the clothes they wear or any other products they buy and use, they also don’t purchase nor offer any products associated with cruelty to animals to their friends or relatives. They raise their children in that manner, teaching them compassion for all living beings. With their ethical way of life, they do so much for the preservation of natural resources, environmental protection, as well as for their own health and that of their children.
The food we eat is purely vegetable in origin, but with the full of diversity of tastes and smells. It is much richer and healthier than standard diets, especially when we look at some of the most common junk foods. Clothing and footwear we wear are tends to be made of plastic or natural materials of vegetable origin. We use cosmetic and personal care products that are not tested on animals but which are widely available on the market. Most vegans seek to gently advise others as to the connection between the life of the individual and cruelty towards animals, in order to make a better world for humans and all other species.
Food and Nutrition
Many people thinking about making the change are concerned that removing various foods won’t provide the optimal intake of nutrition they need. Actually, everything the body needs is found in the vegan diet – from vitamin A, iron, vitamin B12, to zinc. A vegan diet, like any other diet, takes a little thought but is complete nutritionally, and can provide a lot of health benefits.
The base of every healthy diet includes protein, carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
Proteins are found in virtually every type of food, and although it is possible to eat them less than we need, it doesn’t happen very often. Vegans get their essential amino acids (which build protein) from a wide range of food products such as soy, grains (rice, pasta), legumes (beans, peas, chickpeas), seeds and nuts. Having a balanced diet, we get all the proteins without unnecessary saturated fat.
Vitamins in this type of diet come from fruits and vegetables. Many vitamins are contained in green veggies such as various types of lettuce, or broccoli. Vitamin E is found in nuts, olives and foods such as soy, and the cereals that we eat for breakfast contain vitamin D and B12. Vitamin B12 is also readily available via fortified foods such as vitamin and dietary supplement.
Transition and Tips
This transition is not difficult as it seems. Becoming a vegan doesn’t mean becoming a freak; a person who’s giving up the pleasure of good food. You can’t spot a vegan from 50 meters! But if you’re thinking about making the change I suggest you say no to becoming a vegan overnight. It’s not just that your chances of failure is greater it is advisable because it can really shock the body. The change really needs to be introduced gradually. For a start, try eating lunch without any meat or dairy products and slowly build towards change. If you’re a regular meat eater it might be easier to transition to becoming a vegetarian first.
To keep things real, the best advice I can give you is to plan and prepare. When you go veg, everyone will have a lot of annoying questions for you: What do you mean you don’t eat any meat products!? No eggs? No cow’s milk? Well what’s left? Yes, expect hundreds of questions, especially in the beginning.
You mustn’t replace meat products with bad food. I know of some people who think you can adjust by eating more fries, for example. There is plenty of advice online and you won’t need to look hard to find books on the topic. Increasingly, restaurants are more tuned into the fact that people have different dietary requirements. You may still get a few frowns from some outlets but you may also be surprised just how much is available. Oh, and vegan wine is increasingly available.
At home this type of diet doesn’t need to be expensive. You’ll often hear that it is, but often this is during the transition period when you’re stocking up with different products. Once things are settled you may even find you save money.