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Veganism 101: What Is It? – Part 1

A lot goes on when we talk about environmentally friendly ways of living and being respectful with our animals is one of the main concepts of that. Even though a lot of myths surround the term ‘veganism’, which should not be confused with ‘vegetarianism’, the reality is that its complexity embraces more than a diet, it’s also a lifestyle.

Stick around to know more!

Where It Started

Veganism has been around for a long time, previously existing only within the vegetarianism concept. Whether it was for religious, spiritual or nutritional reasons, in the late XIX century there were already debates about what was really the way to be vegetarian, especially when people started to adapt their diets to their health or personal interests. This extended to clothing and other aspects, and people who were not eating raw food or were using dairy products started to feel conflicted.

Donald Watson, the founder of The Vegan Society, defined a few times over the years this term, concluding in the one used since 1988: “A philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude—as far as is possible and practicable—all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of humans, animals and the environment. In dietary terms it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.”

What To Eat

Contrary to what some people might think, vegan diets are diverse and healthy. Appropriately planned meals, according to the American Dietetic Association, can provide health benefits and be nutritionally sufficient. A vegan diet consists on all kinds of fruits, vegetables, grains, cereals, seeds and beans that can be prepared in a infinite number of ways. Even food that’s originally meant to be made with animal-based ingredients, such as cakes, pastries or pizzas, can have some of the ingredients replaced with their plant-based twins, keeping the flavor and adding health and cruelty-free benefits.

Not Just Food

Living a cruelty-free life involves more than diet. Vegan products are everywhere, and depending on their origin or use, that badge means something different. Whether is on products, entertainment, movies, fabrics or stores, vegans avoid animal exploitation in any form, avoiding visiting zoos or aquariums, participating in horse racings or watching movies or shows involving animals. From makeup to clothing, from bathroom items to medicines, a lot of the products we use are not animal-based but are tested on them before they hit the market. Fortunately, right now is really easy to find vegan products that are also affordable and great alternatives for our skin, health or looks.

Is There A Risk?

There are some health risks regarding following a vegan diet but can be easily avoided with a balanced planification and a good set of information on nutritional facts. Among the health risks you can find low levels of protein -that can be obtained from beans, peas, seeds, nuts, soy products or oats-, vitamin b12, iron and zinc deficencies -for which doctors recommend taking supplements-, and osteoporisis caused by the low consumption of calcium -founded not only on dairy products but on bok choy, broccoli, collards, kale and Chinese cabbage.

Even when fruits and vegetables can contain these nutrients, they can also have other acids or oils that could avoid their correct absortion. The most important instruction in this case is to manage a balanced and healthy diet taking in consideration the different ways these chemicals and nutrients work together. Having a vegan diet won’t necesarilly mean is a healthy diet: portion control, label reading and pyshical activity must be part of the lifestyle as well, just as replacing saturated and trans fats with good fats.

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