Have you ever searched for a vegan diet, only to be shown a mix of vegan and vegetarian options? Or have you ever come across articles talking about how vegan diets are healthy, only to find out that food items like dairy milk and cheese are included in those diets? If so, then you are not alone.
There is a common misconception out there because of which people often use the words vegan and vegetarian interchangeably. There is a popular example that illustrates this theory very well.
Virat Kohli had to come out in early 2021 and clarify that he had only claimed to have switched to a vegetarian diet. He had to do so because he was being misquoted by various sites where they claimed that he had gone vegan and this created confusion amongst the media and his fans.
Therefore, to help everyone better understand the differences between the 2 lifestyles, let’s explore in detail the various ways in which these similar sounding terms differ.
Veganism and how it differs from Vegetarianism?
Beginning with their literal meanings, when the term Vegan was coined, Veganism was restricted to a dietary context, where it referred to the choice of abstaining from consumption of all animal derived products such as dairy, eggs etc, in addition to meat.
In the modern world, veganism refers to a way of living which attempts to exclude all forms of animal exploitation and cruelty, be it through food, clothing, or any other aspect.
Therefore, vegans are, as may seem obvious, the people who follow veganism as a lifestyle choice.
On the other hand, Vegetarianism refers to the choice of refraining from eating any animal products - meat. Therefore, in a sense, Veganism could be called a subset of Vegetarianism.
To drive the point home, let’s look at the list of foods that vegans avoid.
This list highlights the fact that while vegetarians refrain from eating animals/insects or any parts of their bodies, vegans, in a sense, go further and refrain from eating not just any animal, insect meat or body part, but also any products derived from animals or insects such as their milk or any other secretions which may be used in the creation of products such as cheese, or products which may otherwise seem vegan, but use any such secretions as binders or tighteners.
Seeing such lists of food items, many people feel hesitant about switching to a vegan diet due to some potential concerns. While one broad category of concerns is based around not being able to have some of their favourite foods, the other broad category of concerns revolves around potential nutritional deficiencies in one’s diet, of things like protein, vitamin B12, calcium, iron, zinc etc. Let’s first address the latter.
Concerns around Nutritional Deficiency
There is a misconception out there because of which people believe that high levels of protein can only be obtained from paneer, eggs and meat products. Whilst this statement is partially true, with all 3 of these having high levels of protein, there are a variety of vegan alternatives which also offer similarly high levels of protein such as tofu, tempeh, lentils, beans etc, with lesser fat content. You can also read our blog on the Misconceptions about Protein in Vegan Foods for a deeper understanding of the topic.
As far as lack of calcium, iron and zinc goes, this is also not completely true as there are a wide variety of vegan foods which are rich in these substances such as spinach and lentils.
Lastly, where vitamin B12 is concerned, it is true that a regular vegan diet would, in most cases, be short on this important vitamin. However, there are some vegan foods, which if included in your diet, could make your diet rich in vitamin B12 as well. These food items include
- Nutritional Yeast
- Fortified Vegan Foods like Vegan Milks and Cereal
Benefits of a Vegan Diet
A scientific study recently stated that rumours spread faster than the truth and that most definitely seems to be the case when it comes to the Vegan Diet. While consumers are made aware of the many myths about veganism (about which Veganfirst.com has written a great piece), seldom are they made aware of its many benefits, which have been proven by scientific research and can be grouped into 2 major categories.
Reduces cholesterol - A comparative study, published in The Journal for Paediatrics 2015 found out that when compared to an AHA diet, a vegan diet had a greater impact on reduction of cholesterol.
Reduces Blood Sugar Levels - A study, conducted on 106 people with type 2 diabetes, found out that while both diets helped with blood sugar management, the vegan diet had more impact than the conventional diet -
Reduces the chances of having heart diseases - The Journal for American Heart Association conducted an extremely detailed study and statistical analysis of people on plant based diets and came to the conclusion that Diets higher in plant foods and lower in animal foods were associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular morbidity and mortality in a general population.
Reduces symptoms of diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis - Studies conducted on patients with arthritis found out that people who consumed a plant based diet would experience reduced joint pain and inflammation, whereas people consuming animal based products would experience heightened pain and inflammation thanks to the pro-inflammatory effects of most animal based products.
Helps with weight loss - For people looking to lose weight, a vegan diet can be a boon in disguise. According to a study published in Nutrition 2015, vegan diets are more effective for losing weight than their vegetarian, pesco- vegetarian, semi-vegetarian or omnivorous counterparts.
Increases consumption of fibre - One of the findings of the GEICO study, published in the European Journal for Clinical Nutrition 2013 showed a greater increase in fibre intake for subjects following a vegan diet in comparison to the subjects following a control diet.
Improves skin health - According to an increasing number of scientific theories, consumption of dairy products can cause issues such as acne, skin breakouts etc. The reason behind this is generally said to be the use of pregnant cows for milk. These cows are repeatedly injected with artificially high levels of hormones such as progesterone so as to increase their milk production. These chemicals make their way into the milk that we consume and could be the cause of many skin ailments.
Elimination of Animal Cruelty - The massive boom in human population over the years has led to an even enormous surge in the demand for animal meat. To keep up, humans have come up with the concept of factory farms. These factories are focused only on efficiency and profits and as a result treat living animals as nothing more than non-living resources. Chickens are kept extremely close together and in vast numbers. As a result, they never form the social structures they generally would and end up attacking each other, to prevent this, we cut their beaks and claws. Male chickens are gassed and shredded minutes after birth as they can’t give birth and are not suitable for meat production.
Pigs are raised in windowless sheds and sows are kept in small pens where they give birth to one litter of piglets after another until they are ready to be converted to bacon while this cycle is forced upon their piglets after them. Cows are injected with hormones to force them into breeding continually to in turn ensure a steady supply of both milk and calves, from whom they are separated hours after birth. Beef cattle are kept close together in confined pens where they can’t roam and hence get fat quickly. - An area of land used for crops will feed about ten times as many people as the same area of land used for grass-fed beef.” ― Peter Singer, Practical Ethics
Reduction in Greenhouse Gas Emissions - Switching over to a vegan diet would lead to a massive reduction in the amount of greenhouse gasses being emitted. This is so because of the total greenhouse gas emissions generated by humans, 15% is attributed to the meat industry. This number is greater than the greenhouse gasses emitted by all ships, trucks, planes and cars on the planet combined.
Reduction in Freshwater consumption - The freshwater crisis that we face today is very real. Of the total freshwater consumption in the world, 27% is used for meat and dairy production. Hence, another benefit of a vegan diet would be the freeing up of freshwater for direct consumption which would otherwise be used for meat and dairy production.
Reduction in Deforestation for Farmland creation - While common sense may suggest that the majority of earth’s farmlands are used for food production for humans, the reality is completely different. Of the total farmland available on the planet, a staggering 83% is used for livestock, either as pasture or to farm fodder crops such as soy and corn. With an increase in demand for meats, the farmland needed for them also increases which ultimately leads to deforestation. As a result, converting to a plant-based diet would reduce the huge burden that we are putting on our planet.
Reduction in Total Resource Wastage - Meat and Dairy production involve growing and feeding animals for their flesh and some of their by- products such as milk. However, the quantity of resources required to keep animals alive and grow them are immense and of these resources, very little reaches us in terms of essentials like protein and calories. For example, for creating 1kg of steak, a cow consumes 25kgs of grain and 15000 litres of water. However, the beef that we ultimately consume contains only 4% of the protein and 3% of the calories that the cow consumes during its lifetime. Therefore, if we switch to a vegan diet, not only could we reduce resource wastage, we could also nourish an estimated 3.5 billion people with the food that we end up saving from being used as fodder. Whilst these points speak to the nutritional concerns and many benefits related to veganism, the question that still becomes a problem for people is how they’ll be able to survive without their favourite juicy meats and creamy cheeses. Let us now try to answer this question.
What about the foods that we ate earlier?
The answer to this question would have not been positive in the early years of veganism. However, the recent surge in demand and popularity of both vegan food and of other vegan products has led to the advent of a large number of ingenious products, which work as perfect substitutes to their animal-based alternatives. These products broadly include meat analogues, vegan milks, cheeses, mayonnaises, chocolates, ice creams, nutritional supplements, sweets and even vegan honey. This means that people now get to go vegan without giving up on any of the foods, flavours or textures that they cherish. This is what some of our customers had to say about various vegan products.
- Feels like eating non-veg. This is amazing! - Vegan Mutton
- It's great. As good as any non vegan mayo! - Vegan Mayonnaise
- Love it . Best vegan cheese I have had so far .. taste and texture are so well done .. made cheese sandwiches and they were just awesome. MUST try vegan cheese! - Vegan Cheese
- Very good flavor and filling too - Vegan Protein Bars
- Subtle and fulfilling! - Vegan Chocolate
We'll also list a few brands which sell delicious and truly amazing vegan products so that switching to a healthier diet becomes even easier for you.
- Beyond Meat
- Bombay Cheese
- Hello Tempayy
- Artisan Palate
And many, many more