What is a Vegan Diet. How to Define it and Adopt It

define vegan

How to define veganism? There are many definitions out there, and they range greatly in their accuracy and sophistication. Here we’ll look at some of the more common ones.

Veganism is a general term that applies to a number of related philosophies and lifestyles. Veganism is the abstinence from the consumption of animal products, especially in diet, and a related belief that opposes the commercial exploitation of animals. A person who adheres to this dietary philosophy or vegetarianism is called a vegan. Many other distinctions may be made between different types of veganism, however. Some vegans are opposed to consuming eggs, milk, honey, or other animal products entirely; others may not eat any animal product at all.

An Overview

A bowl of food on a table

The easiest way to define veganism is to assume that it is a lifestyle choice, which means that no animal products are consumed. Some people who do eat animal products may refer generically to the species they happen to eat, or to a few closely related species. Other people may not identify any kind of pet with their eating habits, even if they might have a dog, cat, or other animal companion. Still others may eat animals in conjunction with or instead of eggs, milk, or honey, depending on their beliefs.

A second common definition is that of a diet, or lifestyle, which regards vegetarianism as the most appropriate definition of veganism. This third, more specific definition may contain some overlap with the first two. A vegan diet may contain only a few animal products – for example, vegetables and fruits. It may also include a limited amount of legumes, grains, and other foods that have been cultivated by humans and contain animal products as a major ingredient. Finally, a vegan diet may contain a restricted amount of refined sugars and other foods that are derived from plants.

Vegan Diet Facts

A stop sign at night

There are a number of healthy reasons why a person might wish to define veganism, as well as unhealthy reasons. The healthiest reason for practicing veganism is that an animal product should not be a significant part of one’s diet. While a vegetarian may make excellent dietary choices, veganism does require a special care of the types of animal products that one consumes.

Vegans are often interested in the source of their food. Oftentimes, the ingredients that comprise a typical meal are those that were obtained through the exploitation of animals. Animal products such as eggs, milk, honey, bones, and other animal-derived ingredients can be listed individually or presented as an ingredient in a dish. A vegan diet may exclude all or some of these animal-derived ingredients, depending on the desires and tastes of the individual. A vegetarian may also want to exclude components that could be derived from animals (such as gelatin). In general, though, a vegan diet requires avoiding exploitation of animals.

A common question about veganism is whether or not it is okay to substitute animal products for a vegetarian version of a same-type dish. Often, the substitution is not a bad idea. However, one must take care when buying cheeses, eggs, cream cheese, milk, yogurt, ice cream, and other dairy substitutes. If a product is clearly labeled as vegan (and sometimes even if it is not), a vegetarian can simply substitute it with another type of dairy product without worrying about being guilty of exploitation. Some other animal-derived ingredients that can be substituted for dairy are soy milk and rice milk.

Bottom Line

The most important thing about veganism is not what one is eating, but what one is not eating. Animal-derived ingredients should not form a large part of the diet. They can be used in small amounts and adapted to the vegetarian diet. By eliminating these animal-derived ingredients, the focus turns to the much healthier group of “microingredients” in foods. The next time someone asks you what is in your food, chances are that it will be one of the many hundreds of helpful microingredients that make up a healthy vegetarian meal.

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