Veganism is everywhere! It’s on our televisions, in our newspapers, on social media and in our local restaurants. For those who want to know why plant-based eating enjoys such stratospheric popularity, here is a brief description of veganism, what it is and why it is so important.
WHAT IS VEGAN FOOD?
Vegan food contains no animal products – that is, no meat, fish, dairy, eggs or honey. It may sound like a radically different way of eating, but vegans actually tend to eat very similar foods to meat eaters. Pizza can be vegan. Tacos can be vegan. And there are vegan versions of almost every product you can think of – from hamburgers and hot dogs to cheese and ice cream.
And when you add a wealth of fruits, vegetables, legumes and related products, nuts and nut butters, salads, herbs and spices, it’s easy to see why so many new vegans experience their new way of eating as expansive and abundant.
WHY ARE PEOPLE VEGAN?
There are so many good reasons to choose from! Obviously, a diet without animal products requires no industrial farms, long-distance transport of live animals or slaughterhouses, making it the most animal-friendly diet. Eating only plants is also much better for the environment as it greatly reduces our impact on the climate and also reduces deforestation, species loss and pollution.
This means that a vegan diet is good for wild animals and their habitats as well as farm animals. Since most of the antibiotics around the world are fed to farm animals – in an effort to keep these poor creatures alive in miserable farm conditions – animal farming is increasing antibiotic resistance, and that’s putting us all at risk.
Additionally, pandemic experts have long watched pig and poultry farms because they believe that’s where the next global pandemic is likely to originate. And of course, eating plants is also better for our health. A vegan diet is associated with a reduced risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers.
WHAT CAN YOU EAT AS A VEGAN?
Oh so much! Vegan food can be based on a “whole plant-based diet” that focuses on natural and unprocessed ingredients and recipes, including grains, vegetables, nuts, legumes and fruits. The possibilities are endless here. For example, vegans can eat grilled vegetables with a sweet chili dressing, herb garbanzo salad with protein-rich grains, cashew and tofu stir-fries, or homemade curries, soups, stews, tacos, or pasta sauces.
But vegans don’t just rely on primary unprocessed ingredients. We also eat vegan versions of anything a meat eater has, including vegan meats, cheeses, fish products, mayonnaise, yogurts, and desserts. So our meals can look and taste very similar to those of a meat eater.
Bread, Rice And Pasta
When we talk about grain, we don’t just mean grain! We mean all products that can be made from grain, including bread and pasta and other baked goods such as bagels, pretzels, cakes and cookies. And besides rice (Basmati, white, brown, black, Arborio and wild) we can choose from millet and quinoa, orza and amaranth, buckwheat, oats, corn, freekeh and others.
We can eat them as they are, make breakfast or risotto, stuff them into roasted vegetables or include them in a burrito.
Instead of dairy products, vegans eat plant-based alternatives. We choose from oat, soy, hemp, rice, almond or cashew milk. We eat yogurt, cream, cheesecakes and ice cream made from soy, coconut or cashew. There is also sour cream, whipped cream and cream cheese. As a vegan, it is a must!
Fruits and vegetables
Of course we eat fruits and vegetables! However, new vegans often feel inspired to significantly expand their food choices and seek out products they have never tried before. Maybe they’ll try okra, samphire, kohlrabi or celery. They can look for custard apples, dragon fruit, horned melons or persimmons. And don’t forget all the dried and canned varieties, which can also be affordable and convenient.
These are beans and legumes, and that means everything from fresh French beans to dried split lentils. Beans are a great source of protein and can be added to many savory dishes. Beans are the basis of chili; red lentils are a key ingredient in dahl.
Again, it’s not just the beans themselves, although there are so many types – kidney, black-eyed, black, for example adzuki, pinto, borlotti – but the products made from them. Soybeans can be used to make tofu and tempeh, milk, yogurt, cheese and many other products.
Nuts and seeds
Loaded with healthy fats and protein, nuts and seeds are a fantastic inclusion in many meals and recipes. Add them to granola, oatmeal, and other breakfast cereals; include them in salads and stir-fries; snack on them while you wait for the bus. And don’t forget nut butters, tahini and chocolate – made from cocoa beans.
Vegans choose from a range of vegetable oils – including olive, canola and hemp – and avoid lard, ghee and goose fat.
WHAT YOU CAN’T EAT
There are a huge number of plant products that we can include in our meals and they easily displace or replace the old animal foods that include…
Beef, pork, lamb and other red meat
No surprises here. Vegans do not eat red meat. It doesn’t just come from animals; they are animals and we don’t want any of that exploitation, environmental damage, and heart-clogging. But for those of us who like the taste of red meat without any of the downsides, there are plenty of plant-based products from pastrami, burgers and steaks to bacon, sausages and ground beef. So we can have our BLT, chili non carne, and pizza with all the flavors we love and nothing bad.
Chicken, Duck And Other Poultry
And as with red meat, vegans choose plant-based versions of poultry if we want flavor or texture without eating the animals themselves. There’s vegan fried chicken, hoisin duck, sliced turkey and more to satisfy those taste buds, so there’s absolutely and categorically no FOMO.
Fish Or Shellfish
Fish are animals too, so vegans who want the taste of the sea without the trawls that decimate the oceans get it from seaweed or artificial fish products, including vegan tuna, fish steaks and shrimp.
A lot of people think that because eggs come from animals rather than animals, there is no slaughter in the egg industry. Unfortunately, this is not true. Each hatchling in this industry has a 50 percent chance of being male, but of course males cannot lay eggs.
These chickens are considered worthless and are therefore gassed or macerated on the first day of life. And when the productivity of the hens is reduced – as a result of being forced to lay more eggs than is good for their bodies, along with the appalling and stressful conditions in which the hens are kept – they are also sent to slaughter. They are likely to be only two years old – a fraction of their natural age
There are many types of plant milks including oat, soy, cashew, almond, rice and hemp, so we try them all and choose the ones we like best. Maybe it’s almonds in coffee, soy in tea, and oats on cereal. Maybe rice is the only one for you and it works everywhere. In addition to plant-based milk, there are also many flavors of vegan yogurt and ice cream, and when we make a small transition from dairy products to their plant-based equivalents, the positive ripple effect makes all the difference in the world.
We firmly believe that there are very few dishes that wouldn’t be improved by a good dollop of mayonnaise. And so we choose from one of the many excellent brands producing vegan mayonnaise. Some are classic, some with flavor. We love them all.
Bees make honey for a reason, and that’s because they need its immune-boosting properties and rich nutrients to help them survive the winter. Since we don’t need it, vegans choose other sweeteners like rice syrup or agave syrup.